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9 Questions to Ask Before You Relocate

Are pensions taxed in your prospective new state? Are health care and climate good?

You've made up your mind to move far away when you retire, to give yourself a fresh new start. You'll relocate to an affordable place of warm winters. There will be long leisurely readings of the newspaper over coffee, weekly tennis games and rounds of golf.

Wait, you're not thinking about doctors?

Senior couple in field with suitcases, tips on how to determine where to retire

Are you trying to decide whether you should move away to retire? — Photo by Dougal Waters/Getty Images

Maybe you haven't put "great health care" on your wish list when planning your move, but you certainly should. While your planned new home may be in your budget and in the right climate, it needs to fit into your life in many other ways.

"It's not always about the money when it comes to deciding where to live in retirement," says AARP work expert Kerry Hannon, author of the forthcoming book AARP's Great Jobs for Everyone 50+. "Money does matter, but what's really key is living in a place that makes you feel comfortable."

That means finding the ideal mix of crucial ingredients for a good new life — including nearness to family, safe streets, cultural events and, of course, those doctors.

So if you've started thinking about relocating in retirement, make sure you ask yourself these nine questions before you pack up and move:

1. How does the cost of living compare?

There will be a vast difference between, say, Beverly Hills, Calif., and Boca Raton, Fla. So take a hard-nosed look at what you can afford. Will you take out a mortgage or will you rent? Can you handle the price of gas and food?

And don't just consider essentials. Price out the activities that are dear to you in particular. Are golf green fees affordable? "That could be a big factor depending on what your interests are," says Jean Dorrell, president of Florida-based Senior Financial Security Inc. "Look for retirement communities that offer incentives."

2. What's the income tax burden?

Federal taxes won't differ much no matter where you live, but your state and local tax will. Nine states, for instance, have no income tax at all, while others can take a real bite — California, for instance, charges 8 percent on taxable income over $38,004.

3. Are pensions taxed?

A number of states, such as Alabama and Massachusetts, exempt federal, military and in-state pensions from income tax. See Kiplinger's 14 most pension-friendly states to get started.

Next: Should you rent or buy your next place? »

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