I recently came across an article that talked about the best places to retire. It piqued my interest as Mrs. SavvyJames and I have been discussing this very topic recently.
Before I share our plans for choosing a retirement location, I thought I would take a moment to look at the results of the top 10 states according to Bankrate.com. I was not surprised to see that two states long associated with attracting retirees – Arizona (my home state) and Florida – failed to crack the top 10.
While warmer weather often draws people to locations such as Arizona and Florida (and California and Nevada) there are a number of other factors to consider. Likely chief among them for the financially savvy are factors such as taxes and cost of living.
The Bankrate methodology for ranking the best states involved collecting the latest available statistics on cost of living, violent and property crime, health care quality, state and local taxes, wellness and weather (humidity, percent available sunshine and temperature). The states were then given standardized scores, with more points going to a lower cost of living, lower crime rate, lower tax burden, stronger health care, better wellness grades and better weather. The scores were combined to create a composite score.
Using that methodology, the Bankrate top 10 are as follows:
The first two things that jump out at me when I look at the list are that none of the states are traditionally thought of as retirement havens and outside of the bottom two – Iowa and Virginia – these are all Western states…or at least west of Iowa. Interesting to me as I have always preferred this part of the country, particularly after living in a number of different places – in the United States and internationally – during my 21 years in the Army.
I much prefer more wide open spaces and the warmer (and drier) weather offered by Western states generally in the 30°N – 40°N latitude range, which leads back to the conversations being held in my house.
While we may move to an active adult community we are familiar with, about an hour away from our current home, it is just as likely that we will stay in our current home. In either case, we plan to stay in Arizona. Taxes are not onerous, the crime rate is reasonably low, veteran’s facilities are nearby, and the weather is great. There is every reason to stay put and use Arizona as our home base. Home base you might ask?
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 we plan to stay actively engaged in our community and physically active by working out, hiking, biking and playing golf; and we plan to travel quite a bit.
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 Arizona.
And you, SavvyReader, what are your criteria for choosing a place to retire?