Matt Herndon- Today, some young people begin planning for retirement before they go to college. With all of the financial and practical considerations to take into account, it’s easy to see why. Although you may have planned for your retirement throughout the bulk of your life, the ever-changing state of the economy and standards of living across the country can cause you to change your plan a bit as the years go by. If you intend on retiring in another state and want to have all your ducks in a row before you go, consider the following factors before heading out to enjoy work-free living:

1. Your 401(k)

If you were expecting to live solely off of your 401(k), you might want to have a backup plan. Your employer’s 401(k) is not the same thing as a pension. It will only provide stable income if you invested regularly during your employment and earned good returns on your investment. Although the 401(k) has high potential for savings, tax deferment and opportunities for employer contributions, your benefits at retirement are capped precisely at the total amount of the money you put in over the years. Before you retire, check on the amount you currently have stored in your 401(k) to determine if this is enough. If not, it’s never too late to increase your monthly contributions.

2. Health care

As we age, health care becomes more and more important in maintaining happiness and well-being. This is especially true for those who have a chronic health condition or a genetic history of medical problems. Before you move to another state, determine where you could acquire care from a variety of health professionals, including general practitioners, specialists, dentists, optometrists, home health aide and so on. Talk to your insurance provider about how extensive your coverage is for the locations you are considering, so you can be sure that you’ll always have affordable access to the health care you need.

3. Recreation, culture and entertainment

It’s your retirement, so you should enjoy yourself with your new free time. Before moving to a new state, determine if the environment fits your needs when it comes to recreational activities, cultural atmosphere and entertainment venues. Essentially, every state in the country has retirement communities that you should aim for to enhance your social life while you’re out of work. These recreational scenes will help you have fun during your retirement, while putting you in a position to meet others just like you.

4. Cost of living

The cost of living for a certain environment should play a major role in whether or not this is a good option for your financial needs. For example, the cost of living in a large, dense city like New York can be almost twice as high as living in a smaller, more rural city. In addition to the cost of renting or purchasing a home, consider state taxes, insurance costs and other expenses that vary from state to state. Online tools can help you calculate the cost of renting, versus owning.

5. Tax-free gain on home sale

One tax perk of selling your residence is that you can exclude up to $500,000 in capital gains on your taxes next April, if you’re married (single retirees can exclude up to $250,000). This benefit is especially helpful for retirees who have owned the same property for a long period of time, since longer periods increase the appreciation value of the property. At a minimum, homeowners must have used the home as their primary residence for at least two of the past five years to be eligible for the exemption. This means that home “flippers” may have to look into other options.

Your retirement is supposed to be the period of your life where you’re able to relax without a care in the world, but this relaxation is only earned through years of hard work and meticulous planning. The five considerations above can help you better prepare, so you don’t come up short five or ten years down the road. Long-term planning is difficult, but it’s not impossible when you take the right steps and make decisions as economically cautious as possible.

Matt Herndon (@Just_Matt_) is a father who loves spending as much time as possible with his three kids. When he’s not rushing from sports activities to dance recitals, he’s gathering materials to build his retirement boat. He enjoys working with families to bridge the generation gap

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