Today’s baby boomers are planning for retirement at younger ages than previous generations ever did, and many are considering non-traditional retirement destinations. But the choices of where to retire can be overwhelming. When you were younger, you went where the jobs were, but now all kinds of criteria must be weighed to find the best retirement spot. Affordability, climate, medical care, safety and recreation are all things to consider. There are a lot of “best places to retire” lists, but often things such as a town’s or city’s crime rate, access to medical care and transportation options are not covered even though these can be just as important as the number of golf courses. In our weekly newsletters, we cover not just recreation options and housing costs but safety, senior sources, air quality, volunteer opportunities and much more.

And while Florida, Texas and Arizona continue to top the list as retirement destinations, places such as Alabama, South Carolina, Nevada and Tennessee are gaining popularity with retirees. Some states, such as Kentucky, even have specific programs designed to attract the 55+ demographic because they know this group often brings stability and wealth to local communities.

There are some retirees, too, that plan to retire in a cooler clime, including places such as Colorado, Montana, Utah, Washington and Oregon. Because retirement is not what it used to be, we look at the best retirement spots to help narrow the possibilities.

And once you have chosen the best state for your retirement, you might want to think about retirement communities. We can help with that, too. They come in all sizes and shapes and are popping up all over the country, even during this real estate downturn. They can be age-targeted, age-restricted (usually 55+ but sometimes 62+) or all ages with a section for active adults. Amenities range from just a clubhouse to golf courses, activity directors, parties, equestrian facilities, lakes and boat docks. Most are fairly expensive because of the amenities they offer. Yet we find many that are quite nice and cost less.

As living expenses increase, many retirees consider retirement abroad, particularly in Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama.  Depending on the community, the living is often more affordable than in the U.S. or Canada (although coastal properties are often just as expensive or more so).  Generally in these countries the health care is good.   Taxes are low.  And the climate is great.   We look at some of the best destinations in our weekly newsletters.

One way to find the best place to retire is to start scheduling vacations in places you are considering for retirement. When in each town, visit the libraries, neighborhoods, churches, hospitals, the transportation system, senior centers, etc. to get a first-hand feel for the town.

And while affordability is an important criteria when choosing a retirement location, it is not the only one. Climate is often just as important (and maybe more so). Not everyone wants to live in balmy Florida – in fact, it is surprising how many people want to live in cooler climes. Often, though, with warm weather comes humidity, and that can be a deal breaker. Warmth, low humidity and affordability can be tough to find, but many spots in Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada fill that bill.

Plentiful recreation is also an important criteria for many people, whether it be boating, hiking, skiing or golf. Make sure that the destination you choose gives you plenty of access to the activities you love.

And don’t forget to consider how far away family and grandkids will be once you move to your new retirement spot.  Costs going one way or the other to visit can add up fast.

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