Enhanced by Friends and Trusted Representatives
The Best Retirement Location is the first of a three-part series on senior life planning:
- Best Retirement Location (this blog)
- Best Retirement Advice & Support (next installment)
- and Best Retirement Community (third segment)
The Best Retirement Location
An important first step in senior life planning is to find the best retirement location. And we don’t mean a sunny resort extolled in this year’s Best Places to Retire. Your very best retirement location is a city or town you can enjoy not only today, but for many years to come.
Finding the best retirement location for the long term takes only three steps, and here they are:
- Daily Friends – socialization for mental health.
- Trusted Representatives – to make decisions for you when you cannot.
- Optimum Geography – a location close to friends and trusted representatives.
1. Daily Friends
If we had to choose one senior life planning factor that is pre-eminently important for a long happy life, it would be friends. And for that reason, friends are an essential ingredient for our best retirement location.
Humans evolved as social creatures, and when we don’t sustain that we get into trouble. And it’s best if we see friends frequently or even daily, as the heading of this section suggests. Loneliness is a killer!
If you live with a spouse or other good friend, that promotes health and longevity for both of you. However, even if you have one or more good friends in your household, it’s also important to maintain frequent face-to-face contact with relatives or friends outside your home. “Friends” whom you only contact through social media are not enough! We all evolved with the need to smell, touch and hug other people.
A serious problem as we get older is that our friends become fewer and fewer. Either they move away, or we outlive them. In our best retirement location we must counter that trend, continually building our personal networks to sustain the socialization that our health requires.
Sad to say, I learned the consequences of isolation from a family member who lived in another state. In retirement he lived alone and many of his friends drifted away. Because of his relative lack of contact, he allowed both his house and his health to deteriorate. Eventually he had a medical crisis, fortunately in the company of friends who took him to a hospital. However, it was too late to repair his health, and he passed away within a few months.
Making New Friends
Fortunately, each of us has the ability to meet new people and discover that some of them become dear friends. And we can do this wherever we choose as our best retirement location. Here are some possible ways:
- Affinity Groups. Whatever your background and interest, there’s probably an “affinity group” that will touch your heart and mind. It may consist of high school or college friends, or former work colleagues. It might pursue a sport or pastime that you love. Or a social goal.
- Volunteer Work. Volunteering for a charity or church group brings you a two-for-one benefit. You make new friends while also supporting a worthwhile cause.
- Using Your Skills. Either of the foregoing gains additional meaning if you make your skills available to those in need. Even if you aren’t a medical professional or a social worker, you probably have shareable abilities. How about tutoring students in math or technology? Helping nonnative speakers improve their English grammar or writing skills? Think, and you’ll come up with options just right for you!
- Neighbors. There are good reasons to become acquainted with your near neighbors. For one thing, having each other’s phone numbers would be valuable in an emergency. Moreover, if you find you have interests in common, you might pursue a social friendship or a joint activity such as neighborhood watch.
2. Trusted Representatives
The “daily friends” are critical to our mental health while we are of sound mind and able to communicate our needs. However, if we live a long time there will come a day when we must rely on others to make medical or financial decisions on our behalf. Now, while we are competent, is the time that we must identify and formally designate representatives whom we trust in these roles.
In the next blog we’ll discuss the documents that define and authorize these people. But first, we must decide on whom we will rely.
Four Key Areas
Our best retirement location location needs to have trusted representatives to represent us in four different areas:
- Living Will (Healthcare Power of Attorney). Your Living Will or Advance Directive describes what kinds of medical help you want to have and what kinds you want to forbid. It also names a representative to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so.
- Financial Power of Attorney. Your financial POA authorizes someone whom you trust to use your assets for your benefit, such as using your bank accounts to pay your bills.
- Executor. This is the person you appoint to carry out the provisions of your will. If you have dependents or pets, your will should also designate who should act as their guardian after you pass. What about your digital “pets” – websites, social media, online accounts? Your will or other document needs to tell your executor how to access each account, and what you want them to do with it.
- Trustee. Some of your assets may already be held in a trust for tax or other reasons. It’s also common to create a trust when you die that holds additional assets. You may be the trustee of your own trust, but you must also designate one or more “successor trustees” who become trustee in event of your death or incapacity.
Finding the Trustworthy
Wherever you live, there are state restrictions requiring these designated representatives to act only on your behalf. However, that is not enough to protect you. You also want to designate people who have good common sense, and whom you trust to not take advantage of you. And for each designee there should be one or more backups in case they are unable or unwilling to serve. You do not want to “run out of names” in any category, because then a court may appoint someone you don’t even know to take over your affairs!
How and where do we find these trusted representatives, with whom we are trusting our lives and our fortunes? If you have a spouse or life partner, that person may play one or all of these roles. Other close relatives are possible, either as principal designees or as backups. Consider your siblings and your children. It’s desirable to have trusted representatives who are younger than you rather than older. You want them to outlive you!
What if your desired representatives don’t have the good judgment, or the confidence, or the skill to play some of these roles? Then you may need professional help. We’ll address this in the next installment of this blog, Best Retirement Advice & Support.
3. Optimum Geography
The Internet is full of articles about places to retire. And your best retirement location is very important.
Therefore, why did we first mention Daily Friends and Trusted Representatives? Because the best retirement location is not where the media or the HGTV episodes would put you. The very best place is close to where your relatives, friends and trusted representatives live. And because you need legal, financial and medical support as you get older, your best retirement location is probably in a city or metro area, not the boondocks and not in a foreign country.
Think about it this way. A serious illness or accident can happen to anyone at any time. If your relatives and trusted folks are more than an hour away from where you live, you are placing a big burden on them if you suddenly become dependent on them to make decisions for you. And the decisions they make for you will be wiser if they live nearby, because they will better understand your needs and desires.
If your heart is set on moving to that great retirement community in Florida or Arizona, OK. But make sure you can acquire both friends and trusted representatives close to where you will be living. Those goals are not easy to accomplish! And that explains why many thoughtful seniors decide that the best place to live is close to family, even if they don’t love the location or the weather.
The Decision About Moving
Whether you move to another city or decide not to move, go on and make that decision. Make it a decision that you can probably stick with “forever” because that will greatly simplify all your other planning. That decision defines the best retirement location, specifically the best one for you.
If your decision is to move, it’s better to do it sooner rather than later. After all, you are younger and healthier now than you will be in the future. Those factors make it easier to handle the details of moving, which probably includes downsizing your possessions. You could rent a home in the area you have chosen and start building a network of friends, activities, doctors and other professionals whom you will need in the future. And once you have chosen a future retirement community to live in, you can get on its waiting list.
If your decision keeps you in your present location, fine. But it wouldn’t hurt to plan ahead and even now, start slimming down your “stuff.”
In summary, your best retirement location is one where you can keep sustained friendships and find trusted representatives on whom you can rely. Once you make that choice, you can stop daydreaming and get busy planning a happy and fulfilling life! We’ll cover the next steps in the following blog, how to find the Best Retirement Advice & Support. These are both segments of the bigger topic Senior Life Planning.
– Paratrooper chibi from wsnaccad on openclipart.org
– Women of the Family from The Print Shop 2 Collection. Not for download or reuse.
– Three Women from Tim Gouw on pexels.com
– Village from pixabay.com on pexels.com
Acknowledgement: I thank my friend Zenon Neumark for suggesting the subject of this series of posts.