Choosing a place to retire can be an exhausting task that requires months or even years of research and travel. While many physicians know the area of the country in which they would most enjoy living, it's much more difficult to narrow the field to a specific town and community.
Experts list a number of factors that weigh heavily in choosing a retirement destination. A warm climate tops the charts for obvious reasons; the latest statistics from the National Association of Home Builders bear this out, showing Florida, Arizona, and California as the states with the largest populations over age 65.
Top medical and recreational facilities attract many retirees as well as issues related to safety, tax laws, and housing. Friends and family are often another significant factor for individuals seeking the ideal spot to retire.
"Physicians are no different from others in terms of searching for privacy, comfort, safety, and a compatibility with their financial reserves," explains S.R. Goodkin, president and CEO of Sanford R. Goodkin & Associates. An expert in strategic planning and financial analysis, Goodkin also consults with builders on elderly housing issues. He gives the highest retirement destination ratings to Florida, California, and the Carolinas. He notes, however, that "most people look around the county in which they live and work and retire in place."
Goodkin's advice to individuals who choose to live further afield? Use vacations to locate and rate potential retirement destinations. "A timeshare is a good technique to test many areas with little dent to your wallet," he adds.
FLY SOUTH FOR RETIREMENT
In Vero Beach, an affluent seaside town on the mid-Atlantic Coast, Indian River Club is one of many popular retirement locations in Florida. The 300-acre Audubon Sanctuary community with single-family homes ranging from $195,000 to more than $500,000, all with golf or water views, has a Ron Garl-designed course and is attracting physicians.
Raul J. Hernandez, MD, a retired anesthesiologist from Atlanta, has lived in one of Indian River Club's popular courtyard homes since 1997. "My wife and I looked at the West Coast of Florida first, but we had friends in Vero and wanted a smaller town with a less heavily trafficked golf course. We weren't interested in a bigger club where it's hard to get a tee time."
Retirees want to maintain an active lifestyle and settle in areas where they can play golf and enjoy boating and fishing. Sandestin, another Florida community, located on the Panhandle, is a resort and private residential area with 63 holes of golf, tennis facilities, a marina, and a wide variety of properties available.
COLLEGE BOUND RETIREES
There has been a recent trend for retirees toward relocating to college towns for access to superior library facilities, cultural activities, and sporting events. Some individuals even audit classes.
Marina Ringstom, marketing director of Glenmore, a 1,100-acre golf and equestrian community nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains just outside Charlottesville, Virginia, has seen this trend affect her community's growth in a very positive way.
"We have retired and active doctors associated with the University of Virginia living at Glenmore," says Ringstrom. Golf Digest ranked Charlottesville's Albermarle County number one in 1997 as the "Best Place for Golfers to Retire," while Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine named Charlottesville in the "Top 10 Healthiest Places to Live" category in 1996, a kudo seldom lost on medical professionals.
At William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, retirees enjoy a wide variety of continuing education opportunities and can audit classes for free. William Luce of Ford's Colony, which has 54 holes of golf and an outstanding culinary program, notes, "Our community has quite a few retired physicians among its residents who enjoy living in the 'historic triangle' of Jamestown, Yorkstown, and Williamsburg."
The Governor's Club in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, can boast a close proximity to Duke University and the Research Triangle Park with mountain and lake view. Dan Whalen, vice president of sales and marketing, recently conducted a survey which found that 12% of Governor's Club residents were in the medical or dental field. The superior medical facilities, climate, and unusual visual topography were all named as considerations in their decision to settle in the Chapel Hill area.
MORE COMMUNITY ATTRACTIONS
Communities across the country are offering a variety of perks to draw visitors. At StillWaters Resort, just 70 miles from Birmingham, Alabama, the on-site guest house is available for prospective buyers to use.
The resort is especially popular with physicians-five live there as a primary residence, 15 more have vacation condominiums or homes, and 20 have retired there on a year-round basis. "Alabama's attractive tax laws, moderate climate, and the community's close proximity to the Birmingham Medical Center, with its many health-related industries, are all factors," explains Michael Butler, StillWaters' marketing director.
At the Greens at Seven Oaks in Bakersfield, California, a new community for 55 and older active adults, "Great Escape" weekends are offered, which include superior hotel accommodations, a round of golf, and dinner for two.
The western states continue to draw a multitude of retirees, from Scottsdale to Sausalito and as far north as the Big Bend and Sun River areas in Eastern Oregon. Jack Middlewood, whose California-based firm specializes in database marketing to households for high-end retirement and golf communities, explains that "doctors have the cash reserves and want the lifestyle these types of communities can offer." He has found a high concentration of physicians in such areas as Napa Valley, Carmel, San Diego County, Lake Tahoe, and Palm Springs.
RETIREMENT LOCALES ON THE INTERNET
For physicians seeking the ideal retirement destination, the Internet is another research tool that is rapidly growing in popularity. One of the leading online resources for retirement locations is Private Communities Registry (www.PrivateCommunities.com) The site currently details more than 50 retirement communities located throughout the United States, providing in-depth information on properties and locales and even offering users the opportunity to view communities online.
According to founders Lil Miller-Fox and Marie Roberts, Private Communities Registry serves as a central spot in cyberspace featuring up-to-the-minute information. The site currently represents more than 70,000 acres of prime real estate and attracts approximately 38,843 visitors and 151,817 hits per month.
"Our service streamlines the retirement location search," Roberts explains. "Information acquired online allows the consumer to be well informed prior to visiting a community, which can make the decision process easier and much more enjoyable."
For more information, contact Private Communities Registry by mail at 3211 Ocean Drive, Vero Beach, FL 32963 or by phone at 800-875-3072.
Kyle T. Ball has written freelance travel and real estate-related stories for Town & Country and the New York Times. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org