Where your clients retire may be as important as when and how they retire.

Many people equate the decision with preferences for vacation retreats, be it sunning at the shore or lake, hiking in the mountains, enjoying the amenities of urban life or the quiet of country living. Proximity to family and friends plays a big part. But those considerations are only a start.

Deciding where to live in retirement is a big decision, especially because it may dramatically affect retirees’ cost of living, taxes, access to medical care and long-term care, connectivity with family and friends, and a myriad of other personal and financial considerations. It’s an important question that financial advisors may help pre-retirees answer by starting a discussion as part of reviewing plans for retirement preparedness.

So what drives pre-retirees’ and retirees’ decisions about planting or pulling up stakes from their current residence? The top three influencers about where to retire are family (65 percent), general livability (36 percent) and desired weather conditions (32 percent), according to a recent survey sponsored by Age Friendly Ventures. Less important were health care, friends and employment.

Deciding where to retire may define how well someone lives in retirement, especially at older ages when variables such as the cost and availability of medical and long-term care are factored into the equation. After all, retiring to a cabin in the mountains far away from civilization may seem like paradise to some people. But if someone suffers from a chronic or acute disease, a lack of nearby medical care can be less than idyllic.

Many pre-retirees conduct their own due diligence before deciding where to retire. They start by checking out different locales while on vacations, weekend jaunts and even business trips. Advisors can help them go deeper by pointing pre-retirees to available resources to help with their decision.

Age Friendly Ventures, for instance, has introduced a website, Age Friendly Advisor that provides reviews of communities across the United States for their relative livability for older adults, including services for everyday living, caregiving, working and volunteering. The website contributes to Age Friendly Venture’s “mission to make aging easier and enable older adults to be more engaged in their communities,” according to the news release. MassMutual is a sponsor.

Age Friendly Advisor's ratings reflect how well communities support older residents and visitors by providing user reviews from local residents with data to identify and regularly update a community score. Every community in the United States—from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon—has its own page. Reviews may be posted to any town’s page.

Beyond the social aspects of retirement, financial advisors can encourage pre-retirees and retirees to review data for communities where they want to live and include it as part of any gap or financial analysis they conduct on retirement readiness. Location is essential for calculating expenses such as purchasing or renting a home, condominium or apartment, property and income taxes, medical and long-term care expenses, and even everyday living costs such as food, transportation, dining out and entertainment.

Crunching the numbers can help retirees avoid unpleasant surprises, especially when it comes to money. One in two retirees reported spending more than they expected to in retirement, according to the MassMutual Retirement Income Study. Forty-one percent said they spent about what they expected and 8 percent actually spent less, the study found.

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