Where should you live after retirement? A guide to finding your new home

Finally deciding to retire is an exciting period of your life, and it means something different for every Australian. It could be the start of a years-long caravan trip around the country. Maybe it will free you up to spend more time with the grandkids. Or it could simply provide you with enough hours in the day to return to your hobbies.

But it’s also a time to consider your future plans. Specifically, where you spend your golden years. Maybe the beach calls to you, or you’d prefer to be with friends and family in the city. Maybe you want to stay put and just renovate your home. Whatever the case, you’ll need to think about the financial implications.

Do you have enough superannuation to retire comfortably for the next few decades, or will you need to supplement your super with part-time or casual work? That might impact where you decide to put down roots.

There’s also the cost of living to consider. Moving to Sydney’s eastern suburbs, for example, is one of the most expensive places in Australia. Alternatively, you might be able to stretch out your super if you downsize to a smaller home in a regional town. It all depends on two factors: your financial situation and your dreams for the ideal retirement.

How the figures stack up

3.6 million Australians have retired from the workforce, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The average age of those who have retired in the past five years is just under 63, which would give you years ahead to enjoy your freedom. 

Those same ABS figures reveal that most people stop working when they either reach retirement age or become eligible for superannuation or a pension. So money is an important factor if you plan to find a new home, especially when you consider that the main income for both men and women during retirement is a government pension or allowance, along with your superannuation, annuity or allocated pension.

Whether you’re single or have a partner, your amount of super will likely narrow down your options about where to live. After all, women currently retire with around half the super balance of men ($230,907 and $454,221, respectively), according to MoneySmart, so it’s a wise idea to plan out your finances, or even call upon the expertise of a financial advisor.

What to look for in a location

Once you understand your finances for the coming years – including how much you’ll have from your superannuation, savings, assets (including your home, if you currently own it), investments and any other allowances – it’s time to think about where you want to retire.

Maybe you love the surf and the sand, so the coast is an ideal choice. Or if the country life has always seemed idyllic, it could be worth investigating some options away from busy city living.

It can get quite confusing when there are so many options to choose from, which is why we’ve compiled some of the best places in Australia for your wants and needs.

Your retirement living options

Relax on the coast

There’s nothing quite like the coastal life – from the picture-perfect sights to the warm weather and immaculate beaches, it’s no wonder so many Australians choose to retire near the ocean.

In terms of areas with the oldest median ages (58 to 62 years old), retirees are most drawn to Hawks Nest, Tuncurry, or Berrara in New South Wales, and Bribie Island or Cooloola in Queensland, according to ABS figures.

While these are quieter suburbs, there’s still plenty of attraction to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Geelong or Barwon Heads in Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula, and Merimbula on the South Coast of New South Wales.

Cost of living: Unsurprisingly, coastal living is at the upper end financially for retirees. The median house price on the Sunshine Coast, for example, is more than $100,000 higher than Queensland’s median. However, settling on the coast will give you access to all the amenities of city living without being confined to the CBD – this includes retirement villages, healthcare facilities and community groups at your disposal.

Escape to the country

After years spent commuting into the city for work, many Aussies decide to pack up their belongings and escape to the country when they retire. What’s not to love about fresh country air, sprawling countryside and no traffic jams?

Dubbed a ‘tree change’, moving to a regional town is a hugely popular choice for retirees, with some of the most popular areas at the moment including the Southern Highlands or Hunter Valley in New South Wales, as well as the southernmost place in Australia: Tassie’s Huon Valley.

Unlike coastal or city living, there will be fewer nearby amenities with limited access to public transport and farther distances to travel, but perhaps solitude and room to move is exactly what you’re looking for.

Cost of living: Depending on your location, you could enjoy lower real estate and general cost-of-living prices in a regional town. Although with the popularity of places like Hunter Valley on the rise, everyday expenses in those regions are also rising. Living in a more remote country area like Echuca in Victoria, however, means you can enjoy median unit prices ($273,500) at almost half the state’s median ($518,000).

Everything you need while still near the city

While some retirees will still want to revel in the buzz of the state capital’s CBD, whether it’s Sydney, Melbourne, Perth or otherwise, most Australians who still want access to all the amenities are choosing smaller, nearby cities.

Swapping a big house in the suburbs for a smaller place in inner-city suburbs allows you the freedom to walk to most places without the hustle and bustle of a capital city’s CBD. A few popular options include ‘bigger’ cities still within 90 minutes’ drive of the capital, such as Wollongong in New South Wales, Toowoomba or the Gold Coast in Queensland, and Perth-adjacent Fremantle in Western Australia. Those looking to travel south can even experience CBD living with all the comforts of a smaller city in Hobart, Tasmania.

Cost of living: While general expenses such as food, utilities and petrol are quite similar in these cities, compared to their equivalent state capitals, buying or renting a home is often far cheaper. In Toowoomba, for example, you can expect to pay around half the rental price for a one-bedroom apartment compared to the same size apartment in Brisbane.

Moving abroad

Anyone who’s travelled to Southeast Asia will know how far their Australian dollars can go. And it’s the same if you decide to retire there. Countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia (Bali) have an extremely low cost of living, which means your retirement dollars can stretch much further than in Australia. So it’s no surprise there’s been a 47% increase in Aussies retiring overseas in the last decade.

There’s also the added bonus of warm weather, pristine beaches and a wealth of sights and islands to explore. Even Portugal is becoming a popular destination for Aussie retirees to spend their golden years, with a low cost of living and easy access to the rest of Continental Europe.

Cost of living: Even in major cities, retirees will generally enjoy cheaper accommodation, food and utilities, especially in Southeast Asia. In Portugal, if you settle in a suburb just half an hour from capital city Lisbon, a couple can expect to live comfortably on a monthly budget of $2,500 (down from $3,000 to $3,800 in Lisbon).

Staying put: Downsizing, renovating or choosing a retirement village

If you couldn’t dream of leaving your current home, or you simply thrive in your local community, then it makes sense to stay put. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make plans for the future.

Downsizing could keep you in the same suburb but in a more appropriately sized home now that the kids have flown the coop. Or maybe your home could do with some renovations to accommodate your changing needs in retirement. And if you really want to embrace the community spirit and freedom of retirement, you might consider moving into a nearby retirement village.

Cost of living: Downsizing may allow you to have a much bigger pool of money to draw from in retirement, while renovations – such as a more accessible kitchen or bathroom – will make life easier as you age. Those who want to spend their golden years in a community environment may decide to live in a retirement village, which can range in price from $350 to $1,000 per month depending on your location, on-site amenities and whether you live independently in a basic unit or in a resort-style apartment.

 

Wherever you decide to spend your retirement, make sure your home is insured. You can get a quick quote online today, or learn more about our home and contents insurance policies.