Choosing a Retirement Location

When researching retirement options, it doesn’t take long to come across an article that touts the best places to retire, based on taxes, home prices, activities, most sunny, least sunny, or some other criteria. As an example, not so long ago, U.S. News offered the ‘10 Best Places to Retire on $100 a Day.’

I’ve always found the lists somewhat silly for a couple of reasons. First, as just noted, there are literally hundreds of these ‘best’ lists out there based on pretty much any and everything imaginable. Second, everyone’s situation is unique – the factors so personal – no single list can hope to be truly useful to individuals.

The wife and I have two overriding priorities with respect to where we will retire. First, we have to enjoy the climate and environment. With a population of about 45,000 and situated in the high desert of Southeastern Arizona, surrounded by multiple mountain ranges, Sierra Vista meets that requirement.

Mountain Views

To our joy, the city has a fairly stable climate with very little humidity. Fall and spring, like most other parts of Arizona, are very dry. Winters are cool to cold with frosts which can occasionally be hard freezes; frost can be expected to stop in mid to late April.

Spring, like fall, spends about half of itself within the frost season. Summer, when the daily high temperatures average about 92 °F, starts off dry, but progressively gets wetter as the monsoon season approaches. The torrential rains in July and August produce almost half the yearly rainfall.

The second requirement is that we will not go into retirement with a mortgage. Staying in our present home, which will be paid off about a year before retirement, makes staying put a pretty easy decision.

Back Yard

In addition to those two primary reasons, the taxes are not onerous, the crime rate is reasonably low,  and veteran’s facilities are nearby. There is every reason to stay put and use Arizona as our home base when we travel, a retirement priority.

While retirement has taken on a lot of different meanings lately, for us it means the traditional definition … completely leaving the workforce! After leaving the workforce, in addition to traveling, we plan to stay actively engaged in our community and physically active by working out, hiking, biking, engaging in yoga, and playing golf.

Airport - Travel

Along with traditional trips to national and international destinations, we plan to enter into short-term leases – 6 to 12 weeks – for apartments or homes in cities that interest us, immersing ourselves in the culture/lifestyle of the location, enjoying new restaurants, museums, local theater, sporting events, etc. offered in the area.

An example of our plan. One year we might take traditional (fly in, rent a car and stay for a week) vacations to Rome and Seattle; as well as lease a home for six weeks in San Diego, enjoying all that the city – and the region – has to offer. At the end of each type of vacation, whether it be three days or three months, we will return to our home base in sunny Arizona.

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.

13 Comments

  1. Sounds like you settled prior to retiring in the place you love. Those 10-best-retirement sites make it sound like you retire, pack up and move. I wonder about the cost involved with that :-0. Sierra Vista looks great. Maybe when we grow up, we’ll find a place to call our own. I’ve always though of Portland as a place to settle. I hate to think of the Mid West as our final destination.

    • We love it here, particularly the weather and reasonable traffic. The thought of shoveling snow, being cold, and spending a considerable part of each day sitting in traffic doesn’t appeal to me in the least. I’ve heard great things about Portland. Definitely one of the cities on our list for an extended visit.

  2. That’s awesome, James! You have given retirement a lot of thought. Sierra Vista looks great. We have a target date set. Other than that, we have not given much thought about the destination just yet.

    –Michael

    • I have no doubt you’ll slowly develop your plan as you draw closer to your desired retirement age. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, my friend.

  3. Love the plan, James. And if it weren’t for my family being situated in Wake Forest, NC, I think Mrs. Groovy and I would very much like Sierra Vista to be our home base as well. It’s freakin’ beautiful. Just promise me you’ll let me know whenever your travels bring you to the Southeast. Mrs. G and I would love to meet you and the misses. Cheers.

  4. Sounds like a plan, James. If you are happy with where you are living, mortgage is paid off and it’s close to friends, family, and all of the amenities that make life worthwhile, you’re on the right track. Since travel features highly on your post-retirement to-do list, having a firm base that you can return to will be quite comforting as well.

    Travel is what we plan to do in a few years time, once Ms MM retires, but we are planning to go and live in SE Asia and travel out from there. I’ve previously written about what we are going to do but, since we don’t own our place here in Oz, and there are no real ties keeping us here, we’ll sell off what we don’t need, pack our bags and go and live a completely different lifestyle until we grow tired of it (if we ever do), then move somewhere else. Like yourself, I can’t wait.

    • Your plan sounds intriguing as well. As we both know, there isn’t right or wrong plan; or best or worst plan. The key, as with most things, is to have a plan that works for you.

  5. This is a great plan and not very talked about frequently. I’ve never heard of Sierra Vista but just from the pictures it looks nature-friendly and a great retirement spot. I still have a long ways to go before I retire and this post gave me something to think about!

    • Big enough to have most of what you need with respect to shopping and dining choices, yet small enough where you’re not always dealing with lots of traffic, a huge pet peeve of mine. Also great, great weather. Other than a few colder months, late November thru late February, it’s perfect for those that like to engage in any outdoor activities such as bike riding, hiking, or running.

  6. Sounds like a good way to enjoy retirement to me. We have a couple priorities. We’d like to be in a climate we enjoy and that primarily means no more crazy winters we would experience in the upper Midwest. Currently we are in Charlotte which is much more tolerable. Secondly, living close to a good airport to facilitate our travel. Similarly to you, spending weeks or months in certain locations is a great way to go…no second home but just a number of different vacation spots.

    • Indeed. Sounds as if your plan closely resemble ours.

  7. Sounds like a great plan, James! My wife and I have similar ideas, and have considered doing Home Exchanges with folks in addition to spending several months a year traveling with our 5th wheel. We’ll keep in touch – would be fantastic to meet you somewhere along the way!

    • Indeed, my friend. If you ever make it to Arizona or if it looks like our paths might cross elsewhere, would love to make the time to meet.

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