Thursday, March 28, 2013

Where to Retire in the West


     I write weekly articles for U. S. and World Report retirement site, and I'm supposed to come up with one of those lists of ten best places to retire. The twist to this list is that it's not supposed to take cost of living into account, as most lists do, but instead offer nice, friendly retirement destinations for people who are fairly affluent. Not the Warren Buffetts of the world (after all, he lives in Omaha, and who wants to retire in Omaha?), but not people living solely on Social Security either.

Nicer than this
     I'm asking your help. I know the East Coast. I've been researching retirement locations on the East Coast for years. One of my favorites is Cape Cod, even if it is a little cold and windy in winter.

     Another is Naples, Florida. Now I know some people prefer the east coast of Florida -- say, Jupiter or Vero Beach -- and others aspire to retire in Sarasota, for its relatively upscale environment and its cultural attractions. But I've spent plenty of time in Florida, and for me the east coast is too crowded, and on the west coast I prefer Naples to Sarasota. So I'm going to include Naples on my list -- and, yes, there's a certain degree of subjectivity to my list, as there is to any other list. (I know, there's a degree of silliness to these lists as well, but what are ya gonna do?)

But not ridiculous
     Here's what I'd like some opinions on. Where to retire in Texas, in New Mexico or Arizona, and in the Pacific Northwest.

     I know an old colleague who retired to Tucson, and she seems to like it. But I've only been to Tucson once in my life -- and I don't know anything about it. Sedona is beautiful, but seems too small-townish. What about Scottsdale? It has the advantages of being near Phoenix, without the noise, traffic, dirt and heat of actually being in Phoenix. Plus, I went to someone's house in Paradise Valley last year. Boy, I would retire there in a minute . . .  if I could afford it.

     It seems there are a few people out there who live in Oregon (though not as many in Washington, I wonder why?) so I wonder where you'd find paradise in Twin Peaks territory. I've been to Eugene, which seems nice but not particularly retirement-oriented, and to Portland several times, and once to Seattle. But I don't know the area very well. I've heard that Bellingham is a nice retirement town, with a university that offers courses for retired people. Any opinions on that?

     Anyway, thanks for your help and advice. Gee, I just thought of a bonus for me: if someone offers me a really super idea I've never heard of, maybe I'll start packing my bags!

16 comments:

Barb said...

There are lots of retirees in the dallas area. That said, the hill country of Texas or the area around Port Aransas or port Isabel on the coast seem to have lots of retirees. I plan to check out the texas coast soon.

Anonymous said...

Having lived in Texas for many years, and now in New England, the only place we'd consider retiring back to in Texas would be in the Hill Country -- west, northwest of Austin. Rolling hills, reasonably dry weather.

Otherwise, Texas is just too hot and wet with too many bugs.

Douglas said...

San Diego,Ca; Santa Fe, NM (though it gets cold in winter); San Antonio and Corpus Christi, TX; San Francisco (if money is no object) and Santa Barbara, Ca There are a number of other places in California where the weather is good, the amenities rife, and the people are friendly. Mostly within 30 miles of the coast. If I could afford it, I would live in Encinitas, Ca.

denise said...

In Washington state you could check out Port Townsend or Sequim. If money were no object, I'd buy a condo in Kirkland with a view of Lake Washington and a wide variety of restaurants within walking distance. The San Juan Islands would be good choices, too.

In Oregon I'd choose almost any small town along the gorgeous coastline.

The Carlsbad area near San Diego is a bit more doable financially than Monterey, Carmel, Santa Barbara or La Jolla.

Warren Lieberman said...

I think I'll retire where I have spent the last 35 years. Where I live now: I know the shops, services, streets, restaurants, doctors, have loads of friends etc.

I'll feel comfortable there(here)!

Janette said...

Flagstaff - four seasons, small town atmosphere, loads to do and close to Phoenix, hiker's paradise and gateway to the Grand Canyon. Bisbee- southern, great year round climate, growing communit- close to Tucson. Athem - outside of Phoenix without the big city mess, about 10 degrees cooler then Phoenix, planned community, tons of amenities, great mix of ages. . Arizona
Taos- mountains! Artists, great things to do year round
New Mexico
Padre Island ( except the hurricanes) Texas I have friends who lived there for years. They loved to natural beauty and wonderful weather.
Carlsbad or Pacific Grove CA - but there is no way I could afford either. i cannot afford any of the mentioned CA cities. The taxes are unstable as are the services. Still, I would live in the first two in a heart beat. Excellent ocean towns.
Have fun investigating!

DJan said...

I live in Bellingham, retired here from Boulder, Colorado, where I couldn't afford to live on Social Security. I also have annuities, but I love it here, if you can deal with the rainy gray days of winter. It's got two big cities within a short driving distance (Vancouver, Canada and Seattle), the most amazing bay filled with islands to discover, and the mountains are just a short drive away. But please don't tell anybody! :-)

schmidleysscribblins,wordpress.com said...

Wow, if i could persuade David to move, I know where I would go, but I'm not sharing the information as you might tell someone and the place would look like the East Coast of Florida.

One thing that would be helpful to many senior, would be if you rated retirement facilities. Dianne

b+ said...

I can speak to both Arizona and Oregon because we split our time between the two places (something a more affluent person can do). In Oregon we have the Portland metro area that is very cosmopolitan and chic. If you love great food, opportunities to mingle with people that love books and travel this may be the place for you. A mass transit system second to none allows you to live out and ride in.

Tucson is very laid back and does have some very nice locations for retirees. A community built around the intellectual's life style is just outside the city. Beautiful developments by companies that specialize in 55+ living are located N_S_E_W. South of Tucson, Green Valley, AZ is all about senior living. If you never want to see a child (or very few of the little darlings) this is the place for you.

We live in a small RV resort in a tiny park model here in Tucson. Our beautiful larger home in Oregon is our primary residence.

Be sure to send me the link to this article Tom. I am interested.

b+

Kathleen McCoy said...

In California, the entire area around San Diego is wonderful and so is Santa Barbara if you're wealthy or not adverse to living in a mobile home park. That city is so delightful with great culture and restaurants and art galleries and is quite walkable.

The Palm Springs/Palm Desert areas are also a good bet for retirement with lots of recreational/resort amenities, a tram to take you to a lovely mountaintop for hiking, dining and just enjoying the cool air during the very hot summers, regular and upscale shopping and fine dining and some lovely homes that range in price from affordable for normal people to the millions. An over 55 community to take a lot at: Sun City Palm Desert. It has wonderful restaurants within the community, name entertainment and lots of sports and fitness activities.

Another very nice place to live for those who are reasonably affluent, but not rich, is the Santa Clarita area north of Los Angeles, particularly Valencia. While there are a few over 55 communities in the area, the all ages community there is vibrant, the home prices fairly reasonable (for California) and everything -- from shopping to movies to restaurants to libraries -- is five minutes away. Valencia is a wonderful walking city with beautifully landscaped "paseos" where you can walk or run or bike for miles without crossing a street because of the overpasses and underpasses. My husband and I lived there very happily for 29 years and sometimes wonder what we were thinking when we moved to Arizona in retirement!

But speaking of Arizona, there are a lot of great places to retire. Someone mentioned Flagstaff --and for those who love four seasons, that's a great place to be. (Some mountain communities like Show Low are also delightful, though a bit more remote.) Sedona is beautiful, but very pricey -- as is Paradise Valley. Scottsdale has a lot of charm and resources -- great restaurants, medical facilities (like a branch of the Mayo Clinic), but some neighbors we have here who moved from there found it a bit snobby.

In terms of over 55 communities, Sun City Grand in Surprise, which is northwest of Phoenix, is beautiful and close to a lot of shopping and entertainment. The same is true of nearby Pebblecreek in Goodyear.
There is also a large, well established Leisure World in Mesa that is very close not only to excellent hospitals but also to a major mall and restaurants and movie theaters.

We live in Sun City Anthem at Merrill Ranch and like it a lot, but, frankly, it's an acquired taste. The community itself is lovely, but it's in the middle of nowhere and the closest town is Florence, best known for its 9 prisons. If I were looking again and wanted to stay semi-rural, I would head for Tucson. At the northern end of Tucson is the large and beautiful community of Saddlebrooke -- right up against the Catalina Mountains with breaktaking views and a bit of four seasons weather. The same is true of the new community of Saddlebrooke Ranch in nearby Oracle, near the Biosphere. This community is brand new and like a resort with wonderful amenities and a small town feel, but is 15 minutes from major shopping centers, movie theatres and the like.

For those who don't prefer over 55 communities, there are many pockets of vibrant neighborhoods in Tucson, Mesa, Gilbert (Val Vista Lakes is gorgeous) and historic areas of Phoenix.

Hope this helps, Tom!

Dick Klade said...

Wow! Everyone missed the best retirement place in the West--Utah. You may have to adjust to being a minority, but the majority runs things rather well. So if you are willing to go with the flow, it is the ideal retirement place.

Good weather, low cost of living, excellent big-city attractions(symphony, theater, pro basketball) in Salt Lake City.

We lived there for 35 years and enjoyed almost every minute.

Olga said...

Well, I have visited many places in the west and loved them, but it was limited experience. I vote for Naples, FL. Also--I have some land for sale in that area. If you push it, maybe we could work out some kind of finder's fee??

Anonymous said...

We live in Washington state, no income tax, but a retail tax of 8.4percent..Beautiful weather if you enjoy about 200 days of clouds and rain for the next 165 days of scorching humid hot, it doesn't go moderate, but the cost of living is not high, we live in Vancouver, Washington a border city, and boy you would know it, people run to Oregon because they have no retail sales tax, but their property taxes and the state income tax is a big big turnoff, plus the fact in my opinion not progressive at all they fund prisons but won't pay for public education, I graduated from high school in the late 60's like my husband in the largest city in the state Portland, since then schools have gone to hell in a handbaskedt. Washington funds their schools differently 180 days of classes no ands if or butts..running start programs here so a student can graduate from high school in Washington state on say a Tuesday night and that Saturday night graduate from college junior college free, only costs are books but one can get them used.No Oregon is not the place to retire, it is even colder than Washington to people who want to retire there at all..Seattle is spendy but it is the jewel of the pacific northwest it has e everything for retirees, excellent public transportation for a monthly pass of little money called the Orca Pass, oh, my and affordable housing if one lives outside of Seattle proper..but it has everything one could hope for..we love to visit, could never afford a place in the city to live, spendy and few places are even for sale at all, it is full of wealthy weathly people from all stages of their lives..give Washington a lookie loo, there is eastern Washington which is dry all the time and lovely to retire, cheaper and lots of places to see, Wine growers, artisan places, and homes are affordable and lovely!

Anonymous said...

Just read where DJanity typed in Bellingham, it is a college town, but lovely, if you enjoy nearly 300days of clouds..WWU Western Washington University is the university our only child graduated from there, it is bitter cold in the winters there and snowed a lot the days she graduated from that lovely university, but the summer it was only nice for about a month, if you enjoy living with Alaska conditions than visit, wealthy people retire to Bellingham so there are lots of fine activities, but a lot live there in july august and September only and go to Arizona and Florida the rest of the year..brrrr....Nice place to vist but not to retire to~

Anonymous said...

No one has commented on Cape Cod..... Seriously, it is wonderful near the ocean. Clean air, a bit pricey real estate, but there are still bargains if you look. It is only crowded for really two months of the year. The rest are absolutely heaven. True four seasons

Anonymous said...

WARNING! DO NOT CONSIDER MOVING TO THE WEST COAST IF YOU NOW LIVE ON THE EAST COAST! While it is true that you will live longer on the west coast, it will only be 3 hours longer due to the time difference. You will be forced to learn a new form of English. Westerners actually use their ahrs he-ah. The sun never rises over the ocean in the west. There is a tremendous infectious disease on the west coast. It is called Californians! They are politically void and they drink too much water. Citizens of Oregon and Washington have tried to keep them out as they spread their views taught by the California school system which is yet to be discovered. Oregonians do not like Californians because the Cals are after their, you guessed it, water. Washingtonians don't like Oregonians because they send the Cals to them because of all the, you guessed it, water in Washington. Heck, the first four letters of the name of the state says 'wash', and the first four letters of the big mountain says 'rain'. And if you pronounce the name of that big mountain a certain way, it says,"rain-i-er". Well of course the Cals want up there! So, please do yourselves and us a favor. Stay home! You get the sunrise first, we get what's left. You get the nightfall first, we get what's left. Hey, every year you are in bed already while we are still waiting to say "Happy New Year". It's old news to you. Listen, we know that the only real reason you come here is to get the next flight to Hawaii. We're used to it. We don't care. Look you have all been moving to the west side of Florida for years. It works. Don't try to fix it. If all I have said doesn't convince you, let me remind you that we are still waiting for the 'big one' from the San Andreas fault that starts in California and runs all the way up to Washington. I know, I know the fault doesn't run all the way up to Washington but we have to use every means to keep them out of here. Oh yeh, people in Oregon and Washington are allowed to have guns! People in California don't need guns because they are constantly shooting their big mouths off which causes them to require more, you guessed it, water. However, if you do have to visit here, get your shots updated, bring your passport, and bring your own, you guessed it, water. If you are just passing through... Aloha!