Public transportation. Retirees often reach a point when they can't or no longer want to drive. Consider the cost and quality of a town's public transportation system and how to get around without a car. AppalCART, a regional bus service in Boone, N.C., for example, provides free local transportation. And retirees who join Walnut Creek, Calif.'s Senior Club ($7 annual dues) are eligible for a minibus service that offers transport within the city limits for $1 each way.
Housing needs. Downsizing into a smaller house or condo goes a long way in stretching your retirement budget. "There's a lot of money tied up in your home, and sometimes there is someplace else you could buy a home and free up some of those assets," says Michael Goodman, a certified financial planner and president of Wealthstream Advisors in New York. Retirement communities and assisted living facilities aim to cater to baby boomers' changing needs and whims. "As you age, you are going to be less able to maintain a large home and [keep up the grounds], and you may be looking for a smaller place with less maintenance," says Fagan. "Rent in a place for a while to see how well you really like it."
Weather. To some, it's important to not have to shovel snow or defrost a car. But warm climates also come with the downside of larger air-conditioning bills. Think about whether you want four distinct seasons. Some retirees can get the best of both worlds by maintaining or renting a residence in the north and then heading south for the winter.
Amenities. Of course, you'll want to cover the basics, including the crime rate and quality of healthcare facilities. But don't forget about things like libraries, Internet and cellphone access, shopping, religious institutions, and senior centers. If you plan to travel on a regular basis, look for a place that's near an airport or train station. Some cities, including Boston, Princeton, N.J., and Washington, have developed nonprofit associations of seniors who pool their resources to stay safely in their homes longer. These aging-in-place communities typically provide a range of services, including affordable door-to-door transportation, home maintenance and meal services, and even a daily check-in phone call for an affordable annual fee.