How to work out where not to retire

Plain empty building up for sale or lease.

Image: snoopydog1/

We’re often asked, ‘Where is the best place to retire in Australia?’ Rarely are we asked, ‘Where is the worst place to retire in Australia?’ That is, until early one morning when we had a telephone call from a radio station.

The question came from the breakfast host, ‘Is there one place you would not retire to?’ My husband (and co-author of Where to Retire in Australia and Retire Bizzi) answered and spoke of an area of Australia that had quite a few problems, was quite isolated, and we had seen no evidence of progress.

Such places may be attractive for some who plan to ‘get away from it all’ in their retirement. To others, however, such places have no attraction.

It’s worth noting that some towns and areas that have seemed ‘dull and lifeless’ can have a renaissance. Places can reinvent themselves. As comedian Brian Doyle once said, ‘When I was a boy we lived on “Goat Hill”, now that the Yuppies have moved in it’s called “Angora Rise!’”‘

What are indicators that a town is ‘dull’? If, when driving in, you see quite a few shops for lease, that’s a red flag. Why have these businesses closed? Is there a problem attracting people to the area?

What types of shops and businesses are present in the town? It’s worth noting the various traders. For example, a town we visited in rural New South Wales has a magnificent ladies shoe shop, a cookware shop that would rival any in a metropolitan area, and an upmarket-looking jewellery shop.

There was, however, no bookshop—although it did have a small newsagency with a limited selection of newspapers and magazines. The library also had a limited range of material. Perhaps people in the area are keen on outdoor activities such as sport, rather than reading.

Have a look in the local newspaper. What are the issues mentioned in the paper? Is there a variety of cultural and sporting events? Also, what type of advertisements are listed? Are there events and activities that would appeal to you and your partner?

Go and chat to the editor of the newspaper. You may be surprised at what they tell you.

The cost of living may also be an issue in towns with limited grocery stores. We’ve been surprised when comparing groceries around Australia. For example, a basic bottle of mineral water seems to take on the status of French Champagne in some areas!

It’s wise to think that areas will change over time, it’s also wise to think that not all areas will change for the better.

Jill Weeks is the author of 21 Ways to Retire and co-author of Where to Retire in Australia and Retire Bizzi. She is a regular contributor to ABC radio.

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Category: Where to Live

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