Many of us have a vision of living somewhere completely different when we retire. Whether it’s a move to be nearer family, to trade city life for somewhere more secluded, or perhaps further afield in another country.

“Our research at Legal & General found that in the UK more than 3 million people who are 50 and over are thinking of relocating as a consequence of Covid,” says Andrew Kail, CEO of Retail Retirement at Legal & General. “We are seeing a migration away from cities, and I think with the ability to operate remotely, that trend will continue.”

The positive impact of moving in retirement

Whether it’s the desire for more space or more sunshine, being closer to hills or closer to the sea, it’s clear the over-50s are looking for a change. That’s entirely understandable, according to Celia Dodd, author of Not Fade Away: How to Thrive in Retirement.

“Life is full of possibilities,” she says. “People can think of retirement as quite passive, a pipe-and-slippers phase of life.

In fact, you’ve got to be more proactive than perhaps you ever were at work. You’ve got to look at all the possibilities – and maybe make mistakes. But see those ‘mistakes’ as experiments, it’s a way of working out what you want to do next.”

Someone who’s 60 could still have another 30 years ahead of them, and a lot can happen in those three decades. Relocating is an excellent way of shaking up your life and reinventing yourself, she believes.

“Identity is a big issue in retirement, and when you move house you can reinvent yourself,” Dodd points out. “People don’t know you as the person who used to go off to work on their bike every day, they don’t have preconceptions of you. Your new surroundings will encourage you to think differently about things.”

Moving house can also be a good bridge into retirement, with the practicalities of finding a property, maybe doing it up or redesigning the garden, being a clever way to transition to your new life. “One of the people I interviewed for my book said it took up a lot of time, but at the end of it he’d forgotten all about work,” says Dodd.

“Before you retire it can be quite hard to know how you’re going to feel or what your needs are. I don’t mean in terms of infirmity or stairs – I’m talking about finding the new thing that gets you out of bed in the morning. This should be the best time of our lives; I think there’s a mistaken link between ageing and retirement, when actually retirement is about changing, it’s not about ageing at all.”

How to plan your relocation

So, how do you choose where to go? You need to think about the mundane as well as the inspirational. Will your friends be able to come and visit easily? How will you build new social networks? What is the Costa Brava like in the dark days of winter, rather than the sunshine of summer?

“It’s vital you think about the cost of living, especially health and travel,” says Kail. “If you’re moving abroad, you need to understand how your pension will translate; make sure you get proper advice from a financial adviser to think this through.”

If your finances will stand it, try renting for six months or a year in an area that attracts you (you could rent out your home to fund such an experiment). A “gap year” can give you time to decompress and look carefully at your dreams; you may well find that what you want is different from what you thought.

Set realistic expectations

Too many people are unrealistic about their own needs, says Dodd. “Couples move to the middle of nowhere with a beautiful view, but if one of you can’t drive, it’s a problem. Living on your own when you’re going out to work every day is different from living on your own when you’re not.”

She advocates a flexible mindset, a “try it and see” approach.

“People at this age are adaptable and resilient,” says Dodd. “We’re not given enough credit for these qualities, which have been learnt over years of crises and disasters in our lives. We’ve learnt that you might not be very happy when you first move – you might take a couple of years to find the right place, but you’ve got the resilience to cope with that.

“Just get out and try things, as you might have done in your 20s. There are so many wonderful possibilities out there.”

Later life can be the perfect time to try out a new place. With a bit of careful research you may find your “forever home” sooner than you think.

To hear real stories from people who have moved somewhere completely different in their retirement, listen to our Rewirement podcast episode, Relocation, relocation, relocation.