Destination Retirement

We’re continuing our series about the book What Color Is Your Parachute? For Retirement by John E. Nelson and Richard N. Bolles. Today we’ll be discussing chapter six: The Nature of Space and Time. This chapter deals with your destination in retirement, or in other words, where you’ll be living.

Many people would like to relocate once they retire, and there are many reasons to do so: warmer weather, lower cost of living, to be closer to family or friends, etc. Maybe you would like to downsize but stay in the same city you currently live in. Or maybe you plan on staying in your current home for the duration of your retirement.

Whatever you may be thinking, especially if you have plans to move away from where you are residing now, don’t jump in blindly. Take small steps until you are sure you know what you want, as Nelson and Bolles discuss in the chapter.


According to Nelson and Bolles, there are “four layers of retirement geography” – “SALE.” Each letter represents an element of where you will choose to live in your retirement. They go into quite a bit of detail in the book about each, but we’ll just give a quick overview here:

  • S – “Sense of Place” – The “inner layer of your geography,” this is your own connection to a particular place. Maybe you have emotional ties to it. Maybe it reminds you of your childhood, or is someplace you’ve always loved and wanted to live. Everyone is going to have their own unique “sense of place.”
  • A – “Aging in Place”- Even though you will hopefully have a long, healthy, and active retirement during your “Third Age,” you will eventually reach the “Fourth Age,” a time when you are physically worn out and unable to do all the daily activities you used to be able to handle. Most people prefer to “age in place,” in other words, stay in your own home as you age.
  • L – “Livable Community” – Not all homes are located within a community. A “livable community” is one where you are going to be spending most of your time. It’s where you’re going to travel for activities daily. Some homes are located where the sense of community strong (everything within short walking/driving distance, many activities to participate in, etc), other homes have very little sense of community around them (isolated, located far from stores and activities, etc).
  • E – “Essential Region” – Many people already have an idea of what region they would like to live in. Maybe it’s right where you are right now, but it might be on the other side of the country. This place you’ve decided on becomes your “essential region,” and once you narrow down where that is, it’s becomes a matter of finding the home that is right for you.

Staying Put

If you decide you don’t want to move elsewhere, that you love the city you live in now, there are still some things you might want to consider:

  • Downsizing – If you still live in the house you raised your family in, it might be too big for you and your spouse to live in alone during retirement. It may make sense for you to downsize to a smaller, potentially less expensive house within your own community.
  • Travel – Nelson and Bolles discuss using your “home as base of operations”—the place you come back to in between your travels to rest.
  • Buying a Vacation Home – Not everyone will have the financial ability to do so, but if you like the idea of living elsewhere part of the year, but also want to stay where you are now, buying a vacation home may be a good option. Many people do this in their retirement, especially those who currently live in a colder area. They may buy a second home in a warmer climate to stay in during the winter months.

Finding the Right Retirement Home

Moving can be a stressful time at any age. But when you are deciding that you want to move during retirement, it can become even more stressful. There are so many different issues to consider, and many people will not be financially able to move again if they don’t get it right the first time.

If you know moving is something that you want to do when you retire, especially if you will be moving to a different part of the country than you live now, Nelson and Bolles have some excellent recommendations for you to help you consider your options:

  • “Identify your essential region” – Again, this will likely be your first step. You have to know where you want to live before you can actually move there. Nelson and Bolles have seven important questions you should ask yourself to help find your essential region. Please check out the book for more detail on these questions.
  • Don’t be fooled by community labels – There are many sub-divisions that label themselves a community but really are nothing of the sort, especially those geared for people in retirement. Don’t assume that just because somewhere is labeled a community that it really is.
  • Consider a self-contained community – There are many communities that would be considered “self-contained,” everything you might need or even want—stores, restaurants, banks, doctors, etc.—are all located within your community. This eliminates the need to leave the community and spend a lot of time driving elsewhere to run your errands.
  • Try before you buy – Even if you love vacationing somewhere doesn’t mean you’ll love living there. It’s important that you know what you’ll be getting into before you buy your own home there. If you have friends there, ask to stay with them for a time to get a feel for what’s it’s like to live there. If not, spend some time getting to know some of the locals to get a better feel for the community. If you can afford it, look into renting somewhere short-term within the community.

Additional Thoughts

When you are first retiring, you may not want to consider your own future. As Nelson and Bolles discuss, many people have a hard time facing the fact that they will get older and at some point may not be able to take care of themselves. This “Fourth Age” can often be overlooked and under planned for.

When you are deciding on where you will live in your retirement, it’s very important to consider this time in your life. Your perfect home in your “Third Age” may not be perfect for your “Fourth Age.” Maybe it’s far from your children, has too many stairs, or is too far from medical assistance. There are a number of reasons a house or its location may make your “Fourth Age” uncomfortable.

Don’t let yourself become too distracted by your “Third Age” and forget about what you might need later in life.


  • Disclaimer: The information on this blog is not meant for specific financial advice. The ideas/opinions stated are not suited for everyone, and readers should use their own judgment in applying them in their financial lives.