"For better or worse, we are what we learned as children." -- Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

10 Best Places to Retire … If You Can Afford It

     If you remember, a couple of weeks ago I asked for ideas and suggestions about good places to retire for this article I was doing for U.S. News retirement site. So here are the results based on my own experience, some research I did, and the input from you guys. 

     I did get some comments. A few of them were nasty (as they always are on the Internet), including one that said the writer is mentally handicapped (and people wonder why I don't use my real name on my blog). Some other comments were helpful, a couple were funny. I've added a selection of choice responses, in italics, where I thought they had any informative or entertainment value. Although several people offered a general comment, like: "Coincidentally, this is my exact top ten places not to live or retire in."

     Um ... maybe you have a few choice comments of your own, which is okay, because as many people have emphasized time and time again, the best place to retire is always up to the individual, and where their family lives, and what climate and activities they enjoy.

     Anyway, for your consideration . . .

     Most retirement sites use affordability as a top criteria in choosing best places to retire – as though retirees are spending their last dollar. But recent figures show the over-60 set is among the wealthiest groups in America, with lower levels of poverty than average and greater numbers of millionaires.

Quaint Cape Cod
     Of course, plenty of Baby Boomers may never want to move, either because they can't afford to, or they want to stay near children and grandchildren. But many are eager to relocate, and don't want to go economy class. They know a high cost of living often indicates that a place is desirable, so people are willing to pay top dollar to live there.

     You don't have to be a 1 percenter to consider the following retirement destinations. But they all sport a cost of living above the national average of 100, so you should have a few extra dollars in your pocket.

      Cape Cod, MA. Located less than a hundred miles southeast of Boston, this spit of sand where the Pilgrims stopped off before continuing to Plymouth Rock offers many miles of seashore and over a dozen charming New England towns. CC enjoys mild winters (for New England), cool summers, and lots of golf, boating, art, history and summer festivals. The town of Chatham, for example, has an upscale main street, picturesque lighthouse and local airport. Cost of Living Index: 145.

      New York, NY. You don't need a car in this mecca for the culturally inclined, and there are plenty of elevators which makes the city surprisingly accommodating to the disabled. The Upper West Side, between Lincoln Center and Columbia University, offers all the culture you could want, including Tom's Restaurant of Seinfeld fame. Cost of Living Index: 170.

     One person responded simply: "Who would retire in New York?" The person got a number of "Likes" and only one or two responses extolling the virtues of New York. The simple fact of the matter is that New York is a unique place, and some people love it, a lot of people hate it, and even more people (like me) think it's a great place to visit but they wouldn't want to live there.

What's wrong with Washington?
      Washington, DC. Summers are hot and muggy, but that's a small price to pay for the cultural, educational and historic attractions available at no or low cost. The Metro doesn't go everywhere, like the New York subways do, but it provides fast, comfortable transportation. Cathedral Heights and Cleveland Park both offer high-rise apartment buildings on the avenues, and charming old houses on tree-lined streets. Cost of Living: 145.

     I expected some blow back on New York, but was surprised at the enmity toward Washington (a place I would love to retire ... if I could afford it, which I can't). One reader said: "Being retired in NYC or DC is great motivation to die quickly." And an anonymous person replied, "I would rather spend the rest of eternity in hell than retire in either New York or DC." Yet another commented wryly: "I especially like New York and Washington. Why not Detroit?"

     Hilton Head, SC. The island, 40 miles from Savannah, GA, features beautiful wide beaches, lots of golf, and a series of upscale retirement communities. HHI is a bit off the beaten track, but there's a branch of the University of South Carolina in nearby Beaufort, and your family will surely beat a track to your door come spring break. Sea Pines Plantation is host to the annual Heritage Classic golf tournament. Cost of Living: 135.

     Naples, FL – Some people tout upscale Sarasota a hundred miles to the north for its cultural attractions, but Naples is even more upscale, with its own botanical gardens, museum of art, philharmonic center – and more golf holes per capita than any other town in America. Naples is not as remote as many people think: less than two hours by car to Ft. Lauderdale, and nearby Marco Island offers a high-speed ferry to Key West. Cost of Living Index: 160.

     Several people agreed that Naples would be a wonderful retirement destination; many offered other Florida alternatives such as Clearwater, Venice, Vero Beach. So why is it that I can't get my beloved B to even visit Florida? She hates Florida. Some people do.

Skies Over Scottsdale
     Austin, TX – Located on the edge of the beautiful Texas Hill Country, Austin is known for the University of Texas, the state capital, and its world-class music scene. Georgetown, 30 miles north, features Victorian architecture, picturesque walking and biking trails, and the Center for Lifelong Learning at Southwestern University. Cost of Living: 105. 

     Again, nobody objected to Austin. Several people also suggested South Padre Island and other spots along the Texas Gulf coast ... and who could argue with them?

     Scottsdale, AZ – A perfect place if you like a desert climate, with plenty of golf, tennis and hiking. Bonus: it's near Phoenix, but not in Phoenix. Arizona State University is located in Tempe, just south of Scottsdale, offering cultural and educational opportunities as well as Pac-12 athletics. Paradise Valley is home to famous retirees Muhammad Ali and Sandra Day O'Connor, while Anthem to the north is ten degrees cooler than the city. Cost of Living: 120.

     San Diego, CA – The climate offers mild winters, with an average high of 50 degrees, and equally mild summers, with an average high of 76. The downtown Marina district
Sunset in San Diego
has been revitalized with a new stadium, an art museum, and a lively theater and restaurant scene. La Jolla, Encinitas and Carlsbad are jewels that dot the coast north of the city. Cost of Living: 145.

     Everyone loves San Diego -- even the person who said he was a native of Northern California and would never leave.

     Bellingham, WA – This city, 90 miles north of Seattle and 50 miles south of Vancouver, Canada, boasts more sunny days than Portland or Seattle, yet also offers a mild climate that rarely brings a frost. It has fewer doctors per capita than its larger neighbors, but boasts better air quality and less traffic. It's also the home of Western Washington University, and near the beautiful San Juan islands. Cost of Living: 125. 

     One person objected, saying Bellingham has a high crime rate. Another responded: "No it doesn't." 

     Hawaii – It's a long way from San Jose, but as one person said: “How long does it take to get used to living in Hawaii? About 20 seconds.” Honolulu, with a population of about 380,000, spreads along the coast on Oahu. The island of Maui offers a more laid back lifestyle. Best place to live? Anywhere near the ocean … again, if you can afford it. Cost of Living: 185.

     So, go figure. Opinions are like noses. Everybody has one. Which all circles back to the truism that the best place for you to retire is where you have friends, family, and a reason for being there. But still, there's no harm in making some suggestions, throwing out some ideas. Just because we're getting older doesn't mean we're still not restless Americans, ready for the next adventure.


schmidleysscribblins.wordpress.com said...

My son and his family live in San Diego, and it is lovely. As for DC...to know it is to love it. Ditto New York City.

I've lived in FL, CA and Hawaii, but always moved back to DC. Every place I traveled (I've been all over the US (all states) and Europe)I have never seen a place I liked better. Call me demented if you want, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

That's why we're aging in place...slowly. Dianne

Kay Dennison said...

My dream would be Sanibel Island -- I love the beaches but alas it's on the pricy side. I guess I'll prolly just stay put.

Olga said...

I am very happy with the part time in VT/part time in FL arrangement. When the time comes to choose one, it won't be VT. At least that I what I am thinking now.

stephen Hayes said...

I hear Costa Rica is a good place to retire. The beaches are hot and sticky but San Jose in the mountains has a nice climate.

Douglas said...

Many people say Hawaii induces something called "island fever". You eventually realize you can tour your entire island in one day and feel penned up.

If I could afford it, however, I would love to live there. Maybe after I win the lottery.

Anonymous said...

Two seconds after Hunky Husband's death, should I be still alive, I'll be packing to move back to New Mexico!
Cop Car

Going Like Sixty said...

Your premise seems to be that money is no object, so why not have multiple homes in any of these locations? That's my dream. (Along with a private jet to whisk me away on a whim.)

@Stephen Hayes: I live in Costa Rica. What you say is true. Where we live the temp range is 65-85 year around.

Anonymous said...

I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii and love it here. I also lived in NYC for 5-1/2 years, Europe for 3 months, Thailand for 10 months, and California for 6 months. I prefer Hawaii for its climate, ethnic restaurants, and the fact my kids and grandkids live here.

Janette said...

I would choose DC first. My family lives nearby. If I could do anything with my life at this point it would be to docent at National Gallery of Art or Smithsonian (African or Natural History).
My second choice would be Hawaii. I won't live there simply because I would be missing my grandchildren way to much.
Fun post!

Tom said...

Kay, I would love to retire on Sanibel Island. Alas, it's even more expensive than Naples! Besides, as mentioned, B doesn't like Florida, so I guess I won't be retiring anywhere in the Sunshine state, at least not in this lifetime. (I won't even tell you where B wants to retire ... it's more along the lines of Detroit.) However, by coincidence, we'll soon be making a trip to Hilton Head, SC. So, just maybe ...

DJan said...

I moved from sunny Colorado to Bellingham and love it there. It's got a bit of everything, and I feel blessed to have found it. Boulder was way too expensive to retire there. :-)

Madeline Hill said...

Just about all of those places seem like good places to retire, to me! All for different reasons. I love the beach but my family landed here in Arizona and I have grown to LOVE the desert. The mountains are only an hour and a half up North and San Diego is a 6 hour trip by car.

I'd like to point out you can have most of the amenities of Arizona living in a smaller,less expensive town such as Chandler or Gilbert, not Scottsdale.

Great post, thanks!

Dick Klade said...

Ah, to be able to afford any of that stuff. Sounds wonderful.

joared said...

I've lived, visited around the country. Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Phoenix and a number of other cities there all run together. The locale has become so congested, has too many golf courses so more humidity than once was. We lived in Scottsdale the first year they finally admitted smog had come to the valley. I used to love that area we vacationed in from the Midwest -- spectacular Sedona up to Flagstaff.

I'll settle for where I live now in Southern California -- a small community an hour east of L.A. with easy access to everything, including transportation if I cease to be able to drive. Can live richly or more frugally as the need arrives.

The most desirable place to retire has significantly changed for me (and my husband when he was still living) through the years as our interests, activities, health needs and family numbers altered. Immediate limited number of family members still living are scattered about the fifty states, so visiting, rather than living with or near any of them, is preferable for me -- besides they might move.

Babbalou said...

I just found your blog today, am 60 years old and have been jotting down retirement destinations. My list also has Austin, the Scottsdale/Tempe area (I have a kid in school at ASU right now)and I would add San Diego if I thought I could afford it. NYC would be a dream, I've lived there in the past, but I am not willing to pay the price of housing. Florida - maybe the Keys, I need to go back for a visit and check it out. We're also considering Ecuador but haven't been there yet - maybe this year. I'd move to Cozumel in a minute, it's my happy place. And perhaps other Mexican locations in the Yucatan area. Or we may just wander around Latin America and South America until we're both eligible for Medicare. We are as yet undecided about retaining our home in Minnesota - despite the weather, the quality of life is very good in the Twin Cities. If we could live here but leave for a big chunk of time in the winters, that wouldn't be a bad option.

Anonymous said...

I would love to live near the beach. That would be really awesome but that would also mean a lot of savings. I am now considering the long island retirement community because of its amenities and beautiful condominiums.

June Calender said...

I actually know a lot about your two first choices. I moved from NYC to Cape Cod and I'm delighted to be here. Admittedly part of it is my family is here including three great-grandchildren. There was a period of culture shock: I had to get a car as public transportation isn't great. But I discovered good art, music and increasingly good theater plus an adult education branch of the Cape Cod Community College with lower fees than most such groups and a wonderful social milieu that fulfills my needs. Plus the ocean, excellent sea food and stars which I never saw in NYC. (I mean the kind in the sky, of course.)

Unknown said...

A couple of months ago I retired and was looking for a new home in warm, sunny Florida. I wasn’t sure where to start, then a friend suggested I look at the Ocean Reef Club, he had worked in the past with Bob at Swenson & Ecuyer Realty. Bob and his team were excellent! They helped me find the perfect home right on the a golf course with ocean views. Now Howard can have fun with his new golf buddies. You should check them out at www.swensonrealty.com or call (305) 367-3600.

AnxietyDreams said...

I will be retiring in three months, but I started planning years ago. I created a matrix to evaluate possible retirement locations. The names of the communities went down the left side and across the top were the factors I considered important: Climate, Public Transportation, Culture, Tax Status, Crime Rate, Proximity of Major Airport, Shopping, Restaurants, Demographics (age, gender, ethnicity), Available Medical Care, People I Know, Cost of Living. That ultimately helped me focus on what was most important to me (Climate, Culture, Crime Rate) and I have just sold my house in Ft. Lauderdale and bought one in lovely, peaceful Ocala, FL, some 4.5 hours northwest of Lauderdale. It's never too early to start planning and it's important to be organized and analytical!

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Linda Myers said...

We decided to stay put after retirement - in a suburb of Seattle - but spend our winters in a 55+ resort near Tucson. We get the sun and good temperatures most of the time that way.

Unknown said...

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Unknown said...

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Anonymous said...

DC has too much to offer, San Diego is the best weather in the Nation, and Vermont, not on this list is the most gorgeous and friendly place! What would factor most into the mix with weather, family and friends, and entertainment (museums .. ect.) is health care and other services.

Rian said...

If I had the option to live anywhere... at the moment I would pick the hill country of Texas in winter and somewhere on the coast of Maine for the summers. But... I do think that the areas around Oregon and Birmingham look inviting. However, more than likely we will stay here - a little NE of Dallas, TX - at least for the next few years. But I did enjoy reading about your selected places to retire.

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