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Help Me Retire: I’m in my 60s with almost $1 million. My home is paid off. I’d like to move but am afraid of the high prices elsewhere: ‘Will I be OK?’

Dear MarketWatch, 

I’m in my early 60s, and I have a paid-off home, valued under $200,000, in a rust-belt city that I’d like to move out of. On the upside, I’ve saved $950,000, which is invested with an investment firm, in taxable accounts. The firm has a good record and serves as a fiduciary. I receive a small amount of alimony and will continue to receive it for the next eight years. I’m trying to live only on the alimony so that I can keep my money invested in the hopes that it will grow — although right now, it seems to be going nowhere.  

I’m able to get discounted health insurance through the government marketplace. I have no children. I worry about my finances, particularly when I see the price of real estate in desirable areas where I’d have relatives nearby. I worked for many years in a high-education-required/low-wage-provided career (I know, I know … it seemed to make sense at the time). I’ll receive only about $20,000 a year from Social Security. I keep my costs low — no cable is no problem — but I’d love to travel at some point. Any advice for me?  

Thank you,

Will I Be OK?

See: We’re in our 60s, have almost $3 million and want to buy a new home. Do we tap into our savings or take out a mortgage?

Dear reader, 

It sounds like you’ve got your mind on the right track, so it will really just come down to crunching the numbers and finding something that fits your budget. 

Trying to rely on your alimony alone so that the rest of your money can grow is a fantastic strategy. What would help even more, of course, is if you were to continue contributing to that account, or to another type of account. You didn’t mention if you’re already retired, but if you are, is there any work you could do, even part time, to help boost your savings? That could help you with your ultimate goals. 

As for moving to a new place, it’s totally natural to be nervous about that, but the move itself should be possible, as long as you’re flexible. If your goal is to live closer to family members, first consider just how much closer you want to be. For example, do you want to be in a five-block radius? Or a 30-minute drive? The wider your net, the more options you’ll have, and thus the more possibilities for finding an affordable home. 

This isn’t just about the price tag of the home, although that can vary even from block to block. Each town or neighborhood could come with different expenses, like taxes, homeowners-association fees, cost of living and so on. 

I know you’re worried about the finances — and that’s totally justified — but what you really need is a financial plan. You’re in a great situation with your home paid off, manageable spending habits and so much money stashed away. If you create a solid financial plan, especially with the help of a qualified financial planner, you could absolutely make the move work.

When making this plan, you should be sure give yourself an extra cushion, such as an extra-large emergency savings account, so that you don’t have to tap too heavily into your investments should an unexpected expense arise. And as you look for a place to live, you should also make a list of every single potential expense you can possibly think of. Ask your loved ones who live in those communities to help you come up with that list. 

Also see: ‘I will work until I die’: I’m 74, have little money saved and battle medical issues. ‘I want to retire so I can have a few years to enjoy life.’

Be extra cautious as you consider the home you will live in, too. If it’s a house, how old are the roof and boiler? What will you pay for snow removal or lawn care? And if it’s a co-op or condo, how often and by how much can maintenance fees go up? Does the board often tack on assessment fees for building projects, and how are those handled month to month?

Also think about whether there are the kinds of doctors and medical facilities you currently or may eventually need nearby, and whether they’re in network. And what are the options for entertainment and staying active, and how much do those cost — things like a community center, fitness club, pool, golf course, etc. 

It sounds like what you truly need is a plan that incorporates all of the money you have coming in and going out — that is, a rough budget you can adhere to every month that takes into account what the cost of everything could be, along with a hefty liquid reserve, just in case. With all of that, you may not feel quite as nervous. I wish you the best! 

Readers: Do you have suggestions for this reader? Add them in the comments below.

Have a question about your own retirement savings? Email us at HelpMeRetire@marketwatch.com

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