When Lois Fink (pictured at top) took an early retirement to escape a stressful job, she did what many new retirees do: head toward better weather.
“The rain and clouds were really getting to me,” said Fink, who had lived in Seattle, WA, for over 20 years and worked in patient services at a university clinic. “I wanted sun.”
So 66-year-old Fink decided to move back to a state she’d lived in and loved when she was younger: Colorado.
She didn’t want to trade one big city for another, so Denver, CO, was out. And Boulder, CO, was too expensive. Fink settled on Fort Collins, CO, a college town west of the Rocky Mountains that has more than 156,000 residents.
“I wanted something different,” Fink said.
Relocating on a budget
Because she was living on a pension and was watching her money, Fink shopped around for the most affordable way to move.
First, she got three in-home quotes from full-service movers, a practice recommended by the American Moving & Storage Association. She learned it would cost $3,000 to $4,000 to hire a mover to shuttle the contents of her two-bedroom condo 1,000 miles, so she decided on a DIY move. “I did it for less,” Fink said.
To make the move, Fink enlisted help from family. Her cousin flew from San Francisco, CA, to Seattle and drove the moving truck while she took her car. “We caravanned for three days,” Fink recalled.
In Fort Collins, Fink rented a condo for a year so she could spend time getting to know the city and deciding exactly where she wanted to live. “Get a feel for what each neighborhood is like,” she said.
She ultimately chose a central neighborhood across the street from a park and within walking distance of an exercise club.
Right around the time Fink was moving, CBS Money Watch named Fort Collins one of the 10 best places to retire. “For the most part, I’m really, really happy with my choice,” she said.
Moving on to a new phase
On her way to Colorado, Fink learned a lot about moving after retirement. Here are five moving tips for retirees.
1. Scout out your new digs.
If you’re going to rent at first, take a trip to your new town to tour your apartment, condo or house before you sign a lease, Fink recommends. She picked a condo from afar and was shocked to find scruffy landscaping, dirty windows and a greasy stove.
“Don’t rent a place sight unseen — even if you have pictures,” she said.
She wanted to ask for her deposit back, but the movers had left. So Fink had her landlord scour the place, and she stayed a year.
2. Pack for your new life.
Moving after retirement is a good reason to shed stuff you no longer need, said Ann Bass, president and owner of A Lighter Move, which specializes in helping seniors move. For example, a retired music teacher could sell the grand piano, a professor might donate some of his books and a geologist could offload part of her rock collection, she said.
“Take only the things that are pertinent to your new life,” Bass said.
3. Shop for moving deals.
When pricing moving services, look for discounts, Fink said. She scored AAA and senior citizen discounts on her truck rental.
“If you’re a senior citizen, ask for a discount, even if you have oodles of money,” she said.
4. Check out your mover.
If you hire a mover, make sure the company is licensed and fully insured, said Michel Keaton, a spokesman for the American Moving & Storage Association. The association offers a list of movers certified through its ProMover program, Keaton said.
Fink recommends reading online reviews of moving companies. She cancelled one truck rental reservation after discovering a slew of online complaints.
“You don’t want to put your furniture in a smelly truck or be stranded on the side of the road because the truck broke down,” she said.
5. Join the club.
If you’ve moved to a place where you don’t know many folks, join the local newcomers’ club, Fink recommends. The one in her new city offers book discussion groups, a hiking group, a “Lunch Bunch” and more. Many places have newcomers’ clubs, and they’re a good fit for retirees.
“It’s a great way to meet people,” Fink said.