Where’s the best place for you to live once you retire? You can gain insights into that decision by reading the 2021-2022 Best Places to Retire report from U.S. News & World Report.

For most people, however, the rankings may not be the most important factor when it comes to choosing a place to live during retirement. Let’s take a closer look at the report results and other key factors that you might want to consider when choosing your retirement destination.

Learn how Best Places to Retire determines their rankings

The 2021-2022 Best Places to Retire report ranks 150 metropolitan areas in the U.S., using the following six indices: Happiness, Housing Affordability, Health Care Quality, Retiree Taxes, Desirability, and Job Market. Two indices seem obvious and don’t need much explanation: Housing Affordability and Retiree Taxes. The other four need a little explanation.

The Happiness index is a combination of three factors: crime rates, air quality index, and well-being. The Health Care Quality index looks at the availability of top-quality health care providers in each area.

The Desirability index reflects the results of an online survey of people age 45+ who were asked to indicate the places they thought were desirable to live in retirement. Finally, since many retirees hope to work part or full time during their retirement years, the Job Market index measures the strength of the job market in each metro area.

The Best Places to Retire report can provide useful information to consider about where to live in retirement. For many pre-retirees and retirees, however, the items measured by the six indices may not be their driving reasons for picking a place to retire.

What are the most important goals for your retirement?

The most important goals for many retirees include seeing family and friends, staying healthy, and being able to participate in meaningful activities, including travel.

As people age into their 80s and 90s, another goal emerges in importance: having a supportive community to provide you with both social contacts and instrumental support when you get frail. Think of the people who might take you to the doctor if you can’t drive, come over to visit when you’re recovering from an illness, or bring you a casserole because you can’t cook.

Of these goals, only the Health Care Quality index partially measures factors that are important to help you stay healthy. However, there are other factors not measured by that index that are also important to your health: social contacts, access to healthy food, and ease of getting the exercise that works best for you.

To help you evaluate your options, make a list of the goals that are most important for you in your retirement. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • You want to be near family.
  • You want to live close to friends.
  • You need to live close to dependent parents or grandchildren to provide care to them.
  • You need to be close to work or volunteer opportunities.
  • You have specific activities or interests you’d like to pursue.
  • You need to reduce housing expenses by moving to a less-expensive residence or an area with lower real estate costs.
  • You want to reduce the state and local taxes you pay.
  • You have specific health care needs that dictate your location.
  • You want better weather.
  • You want to take advantage of regional public transportation.

Prioritizing the factors on this list and any others you might also include can help you decide the general location that might work best for you. The Best Places to Retire report can help you with some of these factors, such as housing affordability, taxes, health care, transportation, and weather.

FYI: The above checklist comes from my book Retirement Game-Changers: Strategies for a Healthy, Financially Secure, and Fulfilling Long Life.

Once you pick the geographic location that seems best for you, you’ll want to consider the specific community and residence that fit your needs. Many people decide to stay in the general area where they currently live to be close to their family and friends, but they move to a community or downsize to a home, condo, or apartment that better meets their needs in retirement.

Spoiler alert: What are the highest-ranked places to retire?

Starting with #1, the 10 top-ranked places from the 2021-2022 Best Places to Retire report are:

1.     Sarasota, Florida

2.     Naples, Florida

3.     Daytona Beach, Florida

4.     Melbourne, Florida

5.     Lancaster, Pennsylvania

6.     Tampa, Florida

7.     Fort Myers, Florida

8.     Port St. Lucie, Florida

9.     Ann Arbor, Michigan

10.  Pensacola, Florida

It’s instructive to note that eight of the top ten locations are in Florida. And what if the family and friends who you want to be close to live far from Florida? Or what if you just don’t want to live in Florida? This illustrates why these types of lists may not contain the most important factors for choosing where you want to live.

Nevertheless, it might be smart to read the report and mull over your retirement. That can help you fine-tune your thinking about the best place for you to live for the rest of your life. And who knows, maybe your best place is on the list, just farther down? You’ll have to dig in to find out.