Living a fulfilled life in retirement
Retirement can be whatever you want it to be. Today’s older Canadians are living longer, more mobile, and in some cases, healthier lives than ever before. Excluding COVID-19 peak times, life expectancies have steadily risen for years with Canadians living longer than those in the United Kingdom and with more healthy years than their American counterparts.1 Plus, the ease and availability of travel means you can pick a new home with the click of a button. As a result, it’s normal to consider a new adventure for retirement. Already, thousands of retirees have made the move abroad for a warmer climate, lower cost of living, and other factors. While such a move can be exciting, it also has far-reaching financial effects that every Canadian should consider before making a decision.
Ready to retire and run? Review these key considerations before packing your bags
As you begin to weigh your options for retirement, you may want to first consider these five important factors.
It’s popular for Canadian retirees to become snowbirds and move to warmer climates with more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and escape the ice, snow, and slush. Sunny destinations in the United States. like Florida and Arizona have large communities of Canadians who travel back and forth between countries.2 There are plenty of resources to help you find places to stay along with retiree-centred activities.
On the other hand, because retirement itself is a big change, you might want to avoid making too many permanent plans, at least in the first few years. You may decide that you prefer to stay closer to home or that you want to travel across multiple locations.
2. Quality of healthcare
Yes, we’re living longer, healthier lives. But still, as we age health issues unfortunately may become more common, so you may also want to look into the availability and quality of healthcare where you plan to retire. How far is the nearest doctor’s office? Are they accepting new patients? The nearest hospital? If you have a health condition, are there specialists in the area? Research nearby hospitals, long-term care homes, and doctors to make sure you have options where you plan to retire.
You'll also want to consider your out-of-province insurance. Coverage rules vary by location, but you may want to secure additional insurance for illness and travel. Some insurance is designed specifically for snowbirds and allows for flexibility if you decide to extend your trip or travel back and forth more frequently.
3. Cost of living
The cost of living varies greatly from province to province, not to mention by country. Each location will have its own mix of expenses: housing, food, healthcare, transportation, and entertainment. In some places, housing costs might be high, but taxes low—and others might have high taxes but cheap public transportation. There are online calculators to compare the cost of living in different locations.
One thing many forget? The cost of dental care and prescription drugs once workplace benefits end. After decades of coverage, you might be surprised by how quickly these costs add up, especially if you have an unexpected hospital visit. You may want to research medical insurance plans before your employee benefits end to ensure you’re always protected. Some plans allow you to customize your benefits and add travel coverage without filling out a medical questionnaire. You should have a general estimate of all critical expenses before you start packing.
While escaping frigid Canadian temperatures may be alluring, it’s not as simple as booking a flight to a sunny destination. Depending on the specifics of where you settle, you may have to file foreign taxes, pay a nonresident tax on benefits, or pay a hefty nonresident tax on purchased property. You may want to consider the total cost of such a move, along with foreign exchange rates and currency volatility, before packing up.
5. Availability of public services
In your retirement years, you may be interested in using public services more often. Public transportation is important—if you can’t drive, will you be able to visit friends, go out to eat, and get to doctors’ appointments without breaking the bank using taxis or other private transportation services?
How about amenities? Is there a community center where you can get together with a book club or play cards? If you were unable to leave your home due to illness, are there programs to deliver food or organizations to keep you company?
When you first settled in your home, you probably checked out the transit, school system, or other services before buying a house. Now it’s time to make sure the public services you’ll need are available before you move.
Where should you live in retirement?
Warmer weather, affordability, access to nature, golf or hiking, shorter commute times, city restaurants, proximity to family, access to airports—there are as many reasons to move (or stay put). Whether you decide to move or not, you’ll want to be sure you’re happy with the combination of these five factors, among others, as you prepare to live—and enjoy—more of what life has to offer in your retirement years.
1 Health of Canadians, Statistics Canada, 2024. 2 "Boosting the Economic Impact of Canadian Snowbirds in Arizona," Maricopa Association of Governments, 7/22/2022.
The content of this document is for general information only and is believed to be accurate and reliable as of the posting date, but may be subject to change. It is not intended to provide investment, tax, plan design, or legal advice (unless otherwise indicated). Please consult your own independent advisor as to any investment, tax, or legal statements made.