Do your visions of retirement include tossing out that winter wardrobe and heading to a retirement community in a Southern or Southwestern climate? Do you see yourself hitting the golf course in mid-December wearing the same polo shirt and golfing shorts which now spend eight months of the year folded away in a drawer? Perhaps you dream of basking in the late Indian summer sunshine of a quiet New England college town, catching up on a lifetime of reading and cultural pursuits.
Whether your retirement will be spent in some luxurious retirement homes distant place, or within an hour or two of your current home, choosing the right retirement community can be challenging. Thanks to millions of retiring Baby Boomers, there are more quality retirement communities than ever. With so many choices, how can you find the best retirement community?
Retirement communities fall into one of three categories; Active Adult; Active/Supportive (with both individual residences and healthcare facilities); and Supportive (for those who can no longer live independently). There are retirement communities in which you can own your home and those which are strictly rental communities. Most people joining retirement communities will purchase their homes and pay a continuing homeowners fee.
When choosing your retirement community, think about how you want to spend your time. Are you a golfer? Do you love to spend time on or in the water? Are you a fitness buff who thrives on regular exercise classes and a gym? Do you need to be near growing things? Would you be lost without a spectacular view? Are you concerned about having easy access to high-quality medical care? Are you a shopaholic, movie fan, or someone who loves to volunteer?
Choosing your retirement community is your chance to create the lifestyle of your dreams. Make your list of must-haves, and start thinking about your budget. Owning your retirement home requires a commitment, while renting allows you more flexibility. If you rent find out what your monthly payments cover– will you have to pay for utilities and access to the retirement community’s amenities separately? What about meals?
If you purchase, what will your homeowner’s fee cover? Does it include property taxes, utilities, and insurance? Or does it simply cover things like cable TV, and the use of the community’s fitness facilities? Is there a fee for keeping a pet? How about your transportation? If you find a facility with shuttle bus service to the local mall, theater, medical facilities, and grocery stores, you may be able to do without your own car. If you’re renting an apartment, will you have your own laundry?
Every retirement community will be happy to provide you with informational packets, so use them to narrow down your choices. Pay attention to the reputation of each community’s builder. Make appointments to see the communities at the top of your list. Arrive at each one prepared to observe how well the community is maintained. Don’t be afraid to talk to some of the residents.
Finally, ask if the community either allows potential residents to stay overnight, or has short-term rental units. If so, take advantage of the opportunity, because experiencing a retirement community firsthand can be the best way to keep your retirement dream from becoming a retirement nightmare!