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Where Should You Retire?

Have you always dreamed of moving to a house by the sea, or are you happy staying where you are? Diana Clement looks at where’s cheapest, what you’ll need – and we rate popular Kiwi retirement spots.

18 October 2021

Summer 2021

Choosing where to retire is a very personal decision.

Some of us want to be close to family, or even move in with them. For others, that idea’s a nightmare.

Some find that downsizing to the provinces releases capital.

You may dream of the retirement village social life, bowls on the green, and Friday happy hours. Or you like the idea of a far-flung retirement overseas.

Meanwhile, some retirees are quite happy to rattle around the family home and welcome the grandkids for visits.

Which house?

Love where you live? If you’ve paid off your mortgage, staying in your family home works for some retirees and their whānau. It also makes living costs cheaper.

It’s possible your house’s value will go up, which is a real plus, but remember that costs such as rates and insurance can add up.

If money’s an issue, you can get a reverse mortgage and use it for living or renovations. It can release capital that doesn’t have to be paid back until you move or die.

Downsizing is another way to turn your home into cash. If that downsize includes moving to the provinces, you’ll most likely release even more money to fund your retirement.

If retirement village life suits, you can buy a ‘right to occupy’ lease from around NZ$200,000 to NZ$1.5 million.

You’ll pay a weekly fee, which can range from around NZ$90 up to or even more than your full NZ Super payment.

Renting takes away the worries of maintaining a house. On the other hand, your home could be sold from under you, or the rent could rise sky-high. If your income is truly low, then you might qualify for a state or council flat.

Great places to retire

When choosing where to retire, older people are looking for a different lifestyle to younger, child-free couples or families.

Suddenly other factors start to matter, like long-term costs, rates, sunny weather, crime statistics, access to healthcare, big-city amenities, and the number of over-65s in the area.

Grey Power’s Bill Rayner warns retirees to consider their social life before moving.

Originally from Opotiki, Rayner considered retiring to Wairoa, but found the blokes in the local pub only talked about farming, a subject he was no longer interested in.

In its latest New Zealand Retirement Expenditure Guidelines, Massey University’s Fin-Ed Centre found a couple would spend on average NZ$1436 a week in a metropolitan areas for a “choices” lifestyle, compared to the much lower $1135.70 in the provinces.

On a ‘no-frills’ budget, that came to $898 for cities and $639 for the regions.

Rayner says some smaller towns and suburbs are popular retirement hubs. For example, the Orewa/Hibiscus Coast area just north of Auckland, Mt Maunganui, Blenheim, and Marlborough all have thriving clubs for senior citizens, but groups like this struggle to survive in many areas.

Top 10 Kiwi towns

We ran a comparison of Kiwi towns and rated them on how attractive they are to retirees, based on climate, crime, availability of health services, housing affordability, and the cost of living.

Some of the winners we predicted, but others were a surprise, shooting to the top 10 for different reasons.

Winners, listed from north to south:

  • Whangarei
  • Thames
  • Whakatane/Ohope
  • Rotorua
  • Gisborne
  • New Plymouth
  • Napier-Hastings
  • Masterton
  • Blenheim
  • Nelson

Here or overseas?

New Zealand’s not a cheap place to retire. And the winters in some places can be bone-chilling.

That’s why retired bakery owner Don Brown, known to his friends as “Bali Don”, retired to Bali with his wife. Even with medical insurance premiums factored in, the couple lives comfortably on NZ Super.

It’s a great life for the retirees: sunny and warm every day.

Brown says anyone looking to retire overseas should track down those already living in the place they’d like to live, to ask advice.

Like Brown, some retirees choose to go to countries such as Thailand, where the living is cheaper. Others move overseas to be nearer the grandkids.

In pre-Covid times, many countries, such as Thailand, Malaysia, Tonga, Mexico, and Spain offered retirement visas.

Some Kiwis choose to do six months in New Zealand and six months overseas, to follow the sun, but still ensure they keep their full NZ Super payments.

They often rent their houses out while they’re away.

Tanya Aitken, House of Travel’s Bay of Plenty owner-operator says some of her clients buy gîtes in France because they’re cheaper than baches, and it brings them closer to their children in London.

“That’s my retirement plan,” she says.

But healthcare can be a big issue when you move overseas. Take Brown, who has learned a lot about Bali’s medicinal plants and keeps himself healthy.

There are medical facilities locally in Bali, should he need them. But some retirees may find themselves moving back to New Zealand if they become frail.

What’s important to you?

Consider what’s important to you. Do you want to be surrounded by chickens on a lifestyle block, or within walking (or electric bike) range of parks, beaches, supermarkets, banks, cafés, and entertainment?

Do think about what happens when you’re 80 or 90. That move to Rotorua for the mountain-biking and great outdoors life may no longer work.

Would a gap year work? Sometimes it’s worth renting for a few months or even a year and trialling the lifestyle before buying. Too many people sell up and move, just to find themselves returning a few years later.

The reality may not match your expectations, or one partner may die, leaving the other feeling lost and lonely.

Wherever you move, get out, join clubs and organisations. Volunteer, and become part of the community.

Research shows that having great relationships and interests in old age will pay off in an improved quality of life.

JUNO’s content comes from sources that JUNO magazine considers accurate, but we do not guarantee its accuracy. Charts in JUNO are visually indicative, not exact. The content of JUNO is intended as general information only, and you use it at your own risk.


Informed Investor's content comes from sources that Informed Investor magazine considers accurate, but we do not guarantee its accuracy. Charts in Informed Investor are visually indicative, not exact. The content of Informed Investor is intended as general information only, and you use it at your own risk.