I am a single 54 year old woman who wants to retire in the next 10 years but wants to move to my future retirement location in the next two years. I love dry summer weather, hiking, biking, water sports, outdoor living all year round. I don't like cold, snowy winters unless I go skiing there!
I like to be close enough (within a few hours) to art and culture, but every day I want close access to hiking trails and lakes. I don't want to be too withdrawn, but neither do I want to be packed into a subdivision.
My monthly retirement budget will be between $ 3,500 and $ 4,000. I will also have money from the sale of my house.
It sounds like a dream moving to your retirement location well before you retire, especially if, I hope, you are able to telework to your current job.
No snow, no summer rain – or even a lot of humidity? That pretty much rules out the eastern half of the US, though you might want to look into western North Carolina (an option here) and eastern Tennessee (no state income taxes) if you're willing to compromise a little.
Otherwise we go west.
There you will find some of our most impressive national parks and so much public land to play with. You don't want to be fenced in, so go beyond the city limits in the following suggestions. Given the variety of neighborhoods you will find, don't assume that a more urban setting means you will be wrapped up in a subdivision. (One reader calls Albuquerque an "adorable, quirky hidden gem".)
Don't worry wherever you go finding ways. The National Trails System exceeds 193,000 miles (mostly hiking), and the nonprofit Rails to Trails says America has more than 24,000 miles of railroad tracks that appeal to both cyclists and hikers.
Here are three options to get you started. As always, make sure the age budget is realistic and spend some time exploring an area in all seasons before committing. A bad move is an expensive mistake.
Read: Choosing a retirement location is more than low taxes – avoid these 5 costly mistakes
Likewise: 4 questions you need to answer before you make fundamental changes to your retirement life
Elephant arch in the wilds of Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, part of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve outside of St. George, Utah.
St. George, Utah
This fast-growing city of nearly 90,000 in the southwest of the state is on the edge of the 60,000-acre Red Cliffs Desert Reserve and an hour from Zion National Park. If you're looking for a city less than a quarter of its size, head east to the Hurricane for half an hour. Head southwest for a little over 2 hours and you will be in Las Vegas. It is 2½ hours to the north rim of the Grand Canyon.
They know there are great hiking opportunities in this area. There are lakes (fountains, reservoirs) nearby, however, and the 14-mile Virgin River Trail runs through town for an easy bike ride. At Brian Head Resort you can reach the slopes in 90 minutes.
The climate is hot like Vegas, with average summer highs of over 100, but you have no rain or snow. If you cross the state line into Nevada, you won't pay state income taxes. Talk to a tax professional if government taxes are an issue.
Much smaller Moab, Utah, was another tempting choice as it's just outside Arches National Park and not far from Canyonlands National Park. Housing costs are similar to St. George's, but there is a little more snow. Grand Junction, Colorado would be your big city.
Read: Can i afford to retire? Not until you know the answer to that big question
With Realtor.com, which, like MarketWatch, is owned by News Corp. is, you can see what homes are currently in the market in both St. George and Moab.
Here, California's Central Valley merges into the foothills of the Cascade and is home to 92,000 people. (A similar number live elsewhere in Shasta County.)
It's essentially surrounded by national forests – so much outdoor life – except in the south, where the I-5 will get you to Sacramento in about 2½ hours. Shasta Lake, the state's largest reservoir, is your water playground, 10 miles north. The city has 225 miles of hiking trails within a 15 mile radius. Orbitz has called Redding "California's Best Kept Secret".
There is no rain in summer (and essentially no snow in winter), but this area experiences a lot of rain in winter. Skiing is nearby, however, including at Lassen Volcanic National Park.
A pair of cross-country skiers in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Courtesy of the Redding Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The average highs in July are 101 degrees. Average winter lows remain above freezing.
Here you can get an idea of what is bringing in your money in terms of housing.
California is known for its high taxes, but it does not tax any Social Security income.
Outside the mountain. Vernon, Washington, are fields of yellow daffodils.
Mount Vernon, Washington
If this all sounds too hot for all the outdoor living you want to do in the summer, continue on I-5 to Mount Vernon, the county seat of Skagit County, home to 36,000 people. You're on the edge of the Cascade Mountains, less than 30 minutes from Anacortes and a ferry to the San Juan Islands, an hour from Seattle and 90 minutes from Vancouver, BC. The Northern Cascades National Park is to the east. You can reach the Mount Baker ski area in less than two hours.
For the bicyclist in you, you're minutes from Adventure Cycling's Northern Tier and Washington Parks cross-country trails, and not far from the Pacific Coast. Cycle (or bike) 10 miles to Sedro-Woolley and you can hop on the 22.5 mile Cascade Trail.
A lone cyclist pedals along the Washington Parks Route.
Alex Strickland / Adventure Cycling
Since this is northwest Washington, the average summer highs won't be reached until the mid-1970s. In July it will rain a little more than an inch. Winters are approaching freezing. While you might get an inch of snow a month, it will rain (albeit less than Redding.)
Mount Vernon is a more affordable housing market than Anacortes, and there are other towns in Skagit County or even Whatcom County to the north that are worth checking out. Here's what's for sale right now in Mount Vernon.
An added bonus: no state income tax here.
Reader, where do you think Alice should retire?
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