5 Unlikely Retirement Locations
Where would you like to retire?
Stereotypes about retirement and retirement locations abound. Florida, Arizona and Southern California are well known destinations for older Americans freed from having to go to work every day. However, according to the AARP, a prudent 21st century evaluation of potential retirement locations must consider more than average winter temperatures and the distance away from grandchildren.
As people have begun living longer and spending more time in retirement, the AARP pointed out retirement location evaluation needs to include factors such as housing costs and tax structures as much as climate and recreational facilities.
The organization identified some places that have a good mix of both. When evaluating locations, the AARP did not ignore things like climate or the potential for outdoor or other social activity, but made sure to collect information about housing markets and tax policies as well.
Looking through these broader lenses, the organization identified some places as good retirement locales that might surprise some people.
Here are some of their choices.
With a population of 120,000 together, the two small communities of Sherman and Dennison, Texas, have a lot to offer retirees, according to the AARP. The organization said the area’s median home price was a little more than $79,000 and its median mortgage payment was just $303 per month. In addition, the median property tax was only a little more than $1,150 per year and Texas does not tax either social security or pension payments.
The AARP also liked the neighborhoods in both towns, and noted the presence of Dallas/Fort Worth 70 miles to the south provides a location for big city visits. Dallas offers as number of different perks such as symphony performances, parks and other free amenities, the AARP said.
The AARP drew particular attention to the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and Lake Texoma (pictured above), each known for their large number of animal and plant species and reputation for relaxing sports in the great outdoors.
Stephanie Singleton, president of the $20 million, 3,100-member CICOST Federal Credit Union, headquartered in Sherman, Texas, agreed the two communities are good for retirees, but confessed she was surprised to hear the AARP had singled them out.
“I guess it must be because I grew up here and have lived here all my life,” Singleton said, chuckling. “It’s like they say, you never really appreciate what you have until you don’t have it anymore.”
She acknowledged, however, that the two communities have long welcomed older Americans and that there was a lot to do in the community, even if sometimes she forgot to do it.
Relatively compact among Colorado’s more sprawling cities, Pueblo’s 158,000 residents enjoy a variety of different economic and recreational factors that make the community attractive to older Americans, according to the AARP. Among these were median home prices of roughly $103,000 and median mortgage payments of $392 per month, along with a median property tax of $756. However in Colorado, unlike Texas, Social Security pensions are taxed under some circumstances, the AARP reported.
Among the positive recreational elements in Pueblo, the AARP cited a mild and temperate climate, even though major ski resorts are only two hours away by car, as well as the Historic Arkansas River Project, which runs through the center of Pueblo and provides miles of walking trails and scenic riverside venues.
Lynn Morrison, CEO of the $111 million Sunwest Educational Credit Union, headquartered in Pueblo, said she was both surprised and not surprised by the news the AARP had put a spotlight on Pueblo. On one hand, she agreed the area deserved the attention, so it wasn’t a surprise to hear of AARP’s interest. But on the other hand, she said she was surprised it had actually come. “We are so often overlooked,” she said.
Pueblo has a great many things going for it, Morrison said. Many of the best elements of Colorado cities, like the climate, access to outdoor activities and cultural offerings, are offered in Pueblo, but without the problems of much bigger cities.
Morrison said she was nearing retirement and predicted when she took the plunge she and her husband would remain in Pueblo.
“It’s a great place to be,” she said. “My husband is from Seattle and he just loves it out here.”
Many people, afraid of winter, might suppose anywhere in Maine would be among the last place they would want to retire, but people who pass by Bangor without a second glance would be making a mistake, the AARP said.
The organization acknowledged the area experiences winter. City-data.com, a website that tracks data about different communities around the country, reported that the average temperature in January is 18 degrees Fahrenheit and 68 degrees Fahrenheit in July, and the town averages 71 inches of snow per year.
However, the AARP also pointed out Bangor’s utility companies have budget plans that help older residents pay their heating bills. In addition, median home prices of $110,000 and median mortgage payments of only $421 per month, combined with no state tax on social security, help make those payments easier. Maine taxes pension payments in some circumstances and the median property tax bill is roughly $1,300 per year.
The AARP noted Bangor is situated near Acadia National Park and Baxter State Park, and each provides a wealth of both summer and winter activities. The community also has a strong cultural scene, the AARP reported, as well as nearby universities.
Steve Clark, CEO of the $127 million Bangor Federal Credit Union said he was not surprised that AARP would choose Bangor as a good place to retire, provided the researchers had some direct experience with the city’s winter.
“If they haven’t vacationed here in the winter, they might want to rethink that,” Clark said, noting that “winters can be long and dark” for people who were not used to them.
Clark, a Maine native, said he is used to the state’s winters and added that Bangor has a lot to recommend, particularly now that the community has transitioned from a primarily industrial economy into one based more on tourism, banking and health care.
The city and its suburbs boast several areas that have become popular with older residents and retirees, though he noted that a significant percentage of them often winter in warmer locations, spending 7 or 8 months per year in Bangor.
Daytona/Deltona/Ormond Beach, Fla.
Not all Florida locations were too expensive to get the AARP’s attention as a good buy for older Americans seeking and affordable place to live. Daytona Beach, with its nearby communities of Deltona and Ormond Beach, has more going for them than Daytona’s famous race in October each year, the association said.
AARP praised the area’s relatively low median home price of $108,900, as well as a median monthly mortgage payment of $416. Median yearly property taxes came in between $1,100 and $1,200 and the state does not tax social security or pension benefits.
Proximity to the Atlantic Ocean as well as the Gulf of Mexico make the communities a great place for older Americans who like to fish, the AARP said. The area also has several state parks that provide more outdoor activities. These, combined with several different cultural organizations in the area, give older residents a wide variety of different options, many which can be reached on foot, the association noted.
Russ Morin, CEO of the $17 million Financial Educators Federal Credit Union, headquartered in Daytona, said he could understand why AARP chose Daytona and surrounding towns, but he also noted that not everything in the area is as inexpensive as people might suppose.
Morin cited higher prices for some grocery items and a higher local gas tax that might tap the wallets of older residents on fixed incomes, but overall he said home prices in the area have been – and remain – very reasonable.
Morin said Financial Educators recently sold a property it held as an REO.
“It was a good house in a well-established neighborhood,” Morin said. “About the right size for a two person household, either a young couple just starting out or an older couple whose kids have moved out. We sold the house for $65,000, a very good deal for the buyers and an indication that good buys can still be found here.”
Morin, who is 34, said he was not contemplating retirement yet but said that he expected he would retire to the area when that time came.
“Except for when I left to go to school, I have grown up and spent my life here. I think it’s a great place to be,” he said.
With Idaho State University located there and recognition as a one of the best locales for small business and entrepreneurship, Pocatello already had some significant things to offer older Americans seeking a good place for affordable retirement, the AARP reported.
The organization also noted the area has a median home price of $127,500, a median monthly mortgage payment of $487 and a median yearly property tax of $1,179. In addition, Idaho does not tax social security, although it does tax pension benefits under some circumstances, the AARP reported.
Idaho State’s presence helps seniors because the university allows older Americans to take university classes at a much-reduced cost, AARP said. The recognition that Pocatello is a good place for entrepreneurs makes the city a more welcome place for older Americans who want to start second careers working for themselves.
Jamie Simmons, vice president for operations at the $138 million Connections Credit Union, headquartered in Pocatello but with branches in the Boise area, said she was not surprised the AARP considered Pocatello a good place to retire.
“I am not close to retirement age myself, but I have lived here all my life and I think our community has a lot good about it,” Simmons said, pointing out with 88,000 people, Pocatello provides enough to do but without all the traffic and congestion you can find in other places. “It’s a very livable city,” she said, “but it’s not so far from other bigger cities, like Boise and Salt Lake, that you can’t go there if you want.”