Embracing the California Lifestyle: How to Choose the Right Community for Retirement

September 8, 2023

Embracing the California Lifestyle: How to Choose the Right Community for Retirement

September 8, 2023

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When the golden years approach, and the hustle and bustle of workdays fade into the rearview mirror, the dream of many retirees is to settle down in a place that promises a perfect mix of relaxation, adventure, cultural vibrancy, and natural beauty. California, with its diverse landscapes, Mediterranean climate, and rich cultural tapestry, stands out as an ideal destination for many seeking that perfect retirement haven.

However, with its vast expanse (California is the third-largest state by land area and largest state by population) and sheer number and variety of communities, choosing the right spot in the Golden State can be daunting. Here’s a guide to help you embrace the California lifestyle by selecting the ideal community for your retirement.

What Is the California Lifestyle?

The “California lifestyle” is a multifaceted concept that has been romanticized, envied, and emulated around the world. It stems from the state’s unique blend of geography, climate, attitudes, and cultural influences. Here’s a deeper dive into what makes up this iconic way of life:

  1. Diversity of Landscape and Activity
    California offers everything from sun-kissed beaches to snow-capped mountains, from sprawling urban centers to serene vineyards. This means Californians can surf in the morning and go snowboarding in the afternoon. The state’s vast and varied terrain supports a lifestyle that can be as active or as laid back as one wishes.
  2. Health and Wellness Focus
    California has always been at the forefront of health and wellness trends. Think of yoga studios, organic food markets, juice bars, and vegan restaurants. The state’s emphasis on physical fitness, healthy eating, and holistic living is a hallmark of its lifestyle.
  3. Outdoor Living
    With predominantly mild weather year-round, Californians spend a significant amount of time outdoors. Activities like hiking, biking, beach volleyball, or simply dining al fresco are all integral to the state’s way of life. The ability to enjoy the outdoors more throughout the year can help boost your mental health, with exposure to nature and natural environments helping to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. The combination of fresh air, sunlight, and engaging with nature can contribute to improved mood and overall well-being.
  4. Cultural Melting Pot
    California is home to a rich tapestry of cultures, thanks in part to its history and its role as a major entry point to the U.S. This diversity is reflected in its festivals, food, music, and art. From the tech hubs of Silicon Valley to the film studios of Hollywood, and from the historic missions of San Diego to the Chinatown of San Francisco, California is a blend of traditions, cultures, and innovations.
  5. Relaxed Attitude
    There’s a laid-back vibe associated with California, especially in coastal cities. This relaxed attitude is often symbolized by the state’s surf culture, but it permeates many aspects of daily life. Whether it’s the casual dress code (where flip-flops can be considered almost formal) or the open-minded approach to new ideas, there’s a certain “chill” factor to the California ethos.
  6. Environmental Consciousness
    California has been a leader in environmental initiatives. From the redwood conservation efforts to stringent emission controls to the push for renewable energy, a love for nature and a sense of responsibility towards the environment are integral to the California lifestyle.
  7. Innovation and Entrepreneurship
    From the Gold Rush of the 1800s to the tech boom of the 21st century, California has always attracted dreamers, innovators, and entrepreneurs. This spirit of innovation is deeply woven into the fabric of the state’s identity.
  8. California Cuisine
    One of the most enticing factors to consider when choosing a retirement community in California is its rich and diverse culinary scene. The Golden State is renowned for pioneering the farm-to-table movement, emphasizing fresh, local, and sustainable ingredients that celebrate the state’s vast agricultural abundance. From the seafood treasures of the coastlines to the fruitful vineyards of wine country, California cuisine is an ever-evolving tapestry of flavors, cultures, and traditions.

In essence, the “California lifestyle” is not just one thing. It’s a dynamic blend of activities, attitudes, and atmospheres that cater to a wide range of personalities and preferences.

How to Choose the Right California Community for Retirement

When searching for the best California community for your retirement, consider the following:

  1. Identify Your Priorities
    Every individual’s idea of a perfect retirement is unique. Some envision beachside homes where they can listen to the waves at dawn, while others dream of tranquil forest retreats or even vibrant urban communities. Determine what your priorities are:

    • Scenery and Landscape: From the beaches of San Diego to the vineyards of Napa Valley and the forests of the Sierra Nevada, the state offers diverse natural beauty.
    • Cultural Activities: If theaters, museums, and art galleries are high on your list, you might lean towards cities or towns with a thriving arts scene.
    • Outdoor Activities: Whether it’s golfing, hiking, or boating, ascertain what activities you want to indulge in regularly.
    • Healthcare: Availability of premium healthcare facilities is crucial. Make sure the community you choose has easy access to good hospitals and clinics.
    • Cost of Living: California is diverse in this respect, too, though well-known for being one of the priciest states to live in. While areas like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other coastal cities might be pricier, other regions offer more affordable living. One tip we recommend is to research the latest cost of living data for the area you’re interested in. Forbes offers an online cost of living calculator that’s completely free to use. Try it out here.
  2. Do Your Research
    Having narrowed down your priorities, it’s time to start researching communities that match your criteria.

    • For Beach Lovers: Consider communities in Orange County, Santa Monica, or even smaller towns like Carmel-by-the-Sea.
    • Wine Enthusiasts: The Napa Valley and Sonoma County offer serene landscapes coupled with world-class vineyards.
    • Nature Aficionados: Look towards towns nestled in the Sierra Nevada like Grass Valley or those near national forests.
    • Urbanites: San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego have diverse neighborhoods each with its own charm and all the amenities you would expect in large urban areas.
  3. Visit and Immerse Yourself
    Before deciding, it’s essential to visit these communities. Spend a week or two and rent an apartment for a more realistic experience, if possible. Engage with locals, visit community centers, and check out the amenities. This will give you a genuine feel of the community’s lifestyle and provide a glimpse into the climate of the area.
  4. Assess the Local AmenitiesChoosing the right retirement community is about much more than just finding a pleasant home; it’s about securing a lifestyle that aligns with one’s desires and needs during the golden years. One of the key elements in shaping that lifestyle is the range and quality of local amenities available within or near the community.Amenities play a pivotal role in daily convenience, social interaction, and overall quality of life. Think about it: would you rather drive miles for basic services or have them available within walking distance or a short drive? The presence of nearby amenities can greatly reduce the stress of daily errands and improve overall satisfaction with your living situation.Key amenities include:
    • Healthcare Facilities: Proximity to hospitals, clinics, and specialized medical services is essential, especially since health needs can become more pronounced with age.
    • Recreation Centers and Clubs: These can offer opportunities for physical fitness, hobbies, and socializing.
    • Shopping Centers: Having grocery stores, pharmacies, and other essential shops close by can make daily errands quicker and less burdensome.
    • Public Transport: For those who may prefer not to drive or want an alternative, accessible public transportation is a boon. Even if you drive, having good public transport can be handy, especially as you age and may drive less.
    • Cultural Venues: Proximity to theaters, museums, libraries, and art galleries can enrich life, offering entertainment and avenues for continuous learning.
    • Parks and Green Spaces: These not only provide a space for relaxation and exercise but can also become social gathering points.
    • Dining: Proximity to good restaurants and shopping centers can add to convenience and enjoyment. Retiring in a community that prioritizes the California culinary ethos not only ensures access to healthy and delicious dining options but also fosters a vibrant cultural experience. Weekly farmers’ markets, food festivals, and gourmet restaurants become gathering points, enriching the social fabric of the community. Moreover, being near such diverse food experiences can inspire home cooking, local culinary classes, and wine tasting excursions. In essence, California’s culinary landscape offers retirees not just nourishment for the body, but also a zest for life and a connection to the land and its people.
    • Community Centers: These can be hubs for various activities, workshops, and socializing.
    • Airports: If relocating to California means moving away from your loved ones, you may want to consider retiring in a community that’s close to an airport. This will allow you to easily travel or have your friends and family hop on a flight to visit you in your new home.
  5. Safety First
    Safety is paramount. Research crime rates in the areas you’re considering. Towns with active neighborhood watch programs or gated communities might offer an added layer of security. There are plenty of online resources—such as virtual crime maps— that are free and easy to use so that you can get the information you need to achieve peace of mind.
  6. Think About Future Needs
    While it’s great to choose a community based on your current interests, it’s wise to consider what you might need 5–10 years down the line. This includes proximity to healthcare facilities, ease of mobility, and even the potential for assisted living.
  7. Consider Taxes
    When considering retirement in California, taxes emerge as a crucial factor that demands careful consideration. While California does not tax Social Security benefits, other retirement income sources could be subject to taxation. It’s essential for retirees to thoroughly assess their financial situation, including potential tax liabilities, in order to make informed decisions about their retirement plans in the Golden State.


Embracing the California lifestyle in retirement is a dream for many—and rightfully so. The state offers a myriad of experiences and environments. By carefully considering what you want and doing thorough research, you can find the perfect community that aligns with your vision of retirement. Here’s to your golden years in the Golden State!

If you need help planning your retirement in California, we’re here for you.Contact our team today to get started on your retirement journey.


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