By: Angie ChatmanThe author is not pictured. MoMo Productions/Getty Images
When thinking about retirement, the first concern of most people is, “Do I have enough moneyto cover my expenses if I live into my 80s? What about my 90s?”
However, another important question to ask is, “What will be my quality of life during retirement, and what do I need to do to increase that quality quotient?”
As our youngest child nears adulthood, my husband and I are imagining what we want our lives to look like once child-rearing is no longer our primary concern — and we’re not focused 100% on money.
There are seven other factors we’re considering as we imagine our ideal retired life:
We currently live in Boston and are considering moving to warmer, more affordable climes for retirement.
Snow is not pretty when you have to drive to work in it every day; it’s even worse when using public transportation. No matter how many layers of clothing you wear, -20 degree wind chill cuts through to your skin.
And while we’re still able to afford to live here, our basic needs are so expensive that we’re unable to enjoy many of the amenities Boston has to offer.
We’re not the only ones who feel this way.
Demographers have noted that there has been a reverse migration of African Americans from northern urban centers to the South for at least the last 30 years.
Atlanta, Charlotte, Tampa, and Austin have notably increased their populations, particularly of African Americans, as jobs in the steel, automotive, and textile industries have moved overseas, and white collar jobs in banking, media, and healthcare have moved and/or built a major presence in the South.
And even as these so-called stable middle- and working-class jobs have left, housing prices have skyrocketed in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
Indeed, Business Insider recently partnered with Trulia to compare what $250,000 could buy in the 25 largest cities in the US. In Boston, it’s a two-bedroom, one-bathroom condo. In Los Angeles, it’s a trailer, but in Charlotte it’s four bedrooms, three baths, and a large front lawn.
2. Close to a major teaching hospital
As we age, our bodies will wear out no matter how often we exercise or whether we maintain a healthy diet. For regular maintenance, as well as emergencies, it’s wise to live near a teaching hospital.
Because teaching hospitals partner with universities and other research institutions, they typically have greater access to state-of-the-art equipment, more experienced doctors on staff, experimental drug therapies, and research trials.
Of the over 6,000 hospitals in the United States, only 400 are teaching hospitals.
3. Access to the arts
According to a landmark study funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, engagement with the arts — music, dance, and the visual arts — improves quality of life for older Americans.
Whether it’s music therapy to slow dementia or dance to improve mobility, poetry readings or concerts, we want to live in an area where we can take advantage of arts performances and activities.
4. A like-minded community
It may seem like moving out of state would separate us from our community, but these days, with so many residents fleeing cold weather and high living expenses, we’re likely to find a like-minded group of fellow transplants wherever we go.
According to 2020 Census projections, states such as New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio will likely lose seats in the House of Representatives because so many residents of those chilly states are moving to warmer climates, while Texas and Florida will increase their representatives.
We will likely need to grow and build a new network of friends by starting with people with whom we already have something in common. Lucky for us, there are now groups of transplants who gather for sporting events and other social activities.
5. Alumni associations
Colleges and universities have alumni/ae chapters across the United States and around the world. These groups offer activities, social gatherings, and international and regional travel excursions to engage alums of all ages who live in the area.
Instead of recycling the alumni magazine, we’re following the reports of events and looking to attend one or more wherever we end up.
Similarly, fraternities and sororities are also national and eager to have a pool of mentors to support the local chapters and assist with community service projects. We’ll take the presence of these groups into consideration as we consider where to live in retirement.
6. ‘Returnship’ opportunities
For most people, a sense of purpose and community are obtained in a work environment, but after you retire, how do you obtain those feelings?
When he “retires,” my husband intends to continue to serve on various boards of directors; I plan to work as a freelance writer. In both cases, “retirement” means a flexible and light work schedule that we will control; gone will be the 60-80 hour workweeks.
Similarly, according to the Harvard Business Review, there are now programs being implemented called “returnships.” Companies like Boeing, Bank of America, and Walgreens are designing specific programs with shorter workweeks and flexible hours to keep older members of their workforces on staff. It allows them keep those experienced, talented workers and lower their recruitment and training costs.
Wherever we end up, we’ll want to know there are opportunities for us to continue working in whatever capacity makes sense to us.
7. Giving back to the community
If you don’t need or want to work for monetary compensation, volunteering also provides that sense of purpose and community.
There are many organizations that depend on volunteers for everything, from ticket-taking and tour guides at museums and theaters, to tutors, to painters, and homebuilders for Habitat for Humanity.
My husband and I are looking for local chapters of national organizations so that we’ll have some familiarity with the organization’s mission, and we’ll also get to know the charities that are doing good work in our new home, wherever that may be.