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Best Places to Retire

Places to Retire: Popular Doesn't Always Mean "Best"

Las Vegas, Nevada; Phoenix and Yuma, Arizona; Las Cruces, New Mexico; and Ocala, Florida-just a few names that rank among America's most popular retirement destinations. Unfortunately, their popularity doesn't necessarily mean that they are especially appropriate choices for astute consumers. Among these five locales, only Las Vegas with its great strength in cultural and recreational activities, retail services and health care, and fairly good quality of life factors proves to be a good and economical choice for retirement. The others all suffer from a number of serious defects that may make them sub-optimal choices for some.

So how are 86 million North American baby boomers going to decide whether they should relocate for retirement? Award winning geographer and professor at California State University, Warren Bland, Ph.D. has some suggestions. Drawing on the professional research he has done during the last 20+ years, Bland has identified the 12 criteria most important to retirees (landscape, climate, quality of life, cost of living, transportation, retail services, health care, community services, cultural activities, recreational activities, work/volunteer activities, and crime).. According to AARP, today's retirees are living longer and more actively, and are demanding a different mix of opportunities than did earlier generations. For many, upscale retirement no longer implies country club or beach resort living, but rather an active lifestyle in a safe, friendly, community that is rich in amenities.

So get a pencil ready and following Bland's advice.

1.Stay put or venture far? Do you prefer something close to your present hometown or do you want to see what else is out there?

2.What do you like? Do you want the structured and secure atmosphere of a retirement community or would you prefer a city or town with diverse groups of people, more entertainment, and wider cultural advantages?

3. Do your homework! You can never have too many facts and stats before making such an important move. Check books, magazines and the Internet for material you can use.

4. Less is better-Reduce your list of possible places to a manageable number, five or six at most.

5. Hit the road- visit each place for three or four days to get a feel of the area and general ambiance.

6. Don't rush into anything! You are moving toward a serious decision. Decide wisely and slowly, not on impulse.

7. Pack a big suitcase. You are close to the final cut. Eliminate all but two or three places. Visit the areas for at least three weeks each. Weigh the pros and cons carefully, including climate, cost of living and especially the people who will be your new neighbors and friends. Meet with Realtors and make sure the home you want is within financial reach. There are Realtors who specialized in retirement living called Senior Real Estate Specialists.

8. Trust your instincts. Take your time; get advice and opinions from friends and family members. But remember, the ultimate choice is yours.

So what are some of Bland's picks? If you are looking for a stimulating and active retirement, consider communities as diverse as Boulder, Colorado; Boca Raton, Florida; Pittsburgh, Pa; Victoria, BC, Canada; San Luis Obispo, CA; and Ithaca, NY.

Warren Bland released his second retirement book in February. "Retire in Style, 60 Outstanding Places across the USA and Canada" is published by Next Decade, Inc. (www.nextdecade.com), and retails for $22.95. It is available through all major wholesalers, at leading bookstores and on the Web at a variety of electronic bookseller sites, or direct from Next Decade at (800) 595-5440.

Barbara Kimmel is an award-winning book publisher, publishing consultant and publicist. She is the publisher of Warren Bland's book, Retire in Style 60 Outstanding Places Across the USA and Canada. Books are available through all major bookstores, at Amazon.com or direct from the publisher at http://www.nextdecade.com

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