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Where Is The Best Place To Retire?

fall color in Colorado

Could we leave all this?

A few years ago, we were in so much debt that the thought of retirement was as far away as Siberia. We drank the Kool Aid, worked really hard to keep up with our payments, and had distant hope that we’d eventually get to quit the work force, maybe by age 65 if we were lucky. Well, the philosophy that society holds as normal is just bunk. There are many ways to retire early. They all involve what some might call sacrifice, but if living below your means, purposeful spending, and doing without all the latest and greatest is sacrifice, then I’m in 100%. Now that we can see retirement on the horizon, I’m wondering, where is the best place to retire?

Our Retirement

When I say retirement, I don’t necessarily mean not working. I will consider us retirement eligible when our rental and passive income can cover our monthly expenses. That should happen in about 5-7 years, depending on how fast we decide to pay off our house. At that point, we’ll probably continue to work, at least until our daughter graduates from high school in another 11 years.

After that, we can choose to stay put or move to a different forever location. With our career choices, I can always do fill in work, and Jim can substitute teach if we want a little extra income boost. We also might want to work in a low paying, but fun job to keep our minds and bodies occupied.

Our retirement ideal might not be yours, but it’s never a bad idea to make plans. I’ve found we do much better if we have a goal in place. Here are some ideas we have about life in retirement. I’d love to hear feedback from anyone who has retired or who has retirement on the horizon.

Staying In Our Current Location

Pros

  • Southwest Colorado is pretty sweet. Within a two hour radius, we can be high up in the mountains, out in the desert, or visiting one of three national parks. We live close to, but not actually in one of the pricey resort towns. We can be skiing in Durango or Telluride but back home for dinner. I can’t tell you how many tourists have told me how lucky we are to live here.
  • Summer and fall are usually spectacular. September and October make me never want to live anywhere else.
  • Our house is in a great neighborhood, and we have awesome views of Mesa Verde and the La Plata mountains from our back deck.
  • While we don’t have family in the area, we’ve made many good friends over the last 15 years of living here.
  • Our property taxes, insurance, and basic cost of living is very cheap compared to much of Colorado and many other places in the US.

Cons

  • We live in a small town without much diversity as far as culture, entertainment, and shopping.
  • Winter is cold and long.
  • The closest major airport is 4+ hours away.
  • If we have health problems as we get older, the availability of medical care is limited.
  • We could never have my dream of ย being able to walk everywhere without using a car very often.

Moving

Several times a year, we think really hard about moving to a bigger city. Raising a kid out in the country is the bomb, but we might not be so in love when we’re empty nesters and able to actually have a social life again. I’d love to live by the ocean with warm weather year round, but I’m afraid that would wipe out too much of our retirement income, and we’d have to get real jobs ๐Ÿ™ I also can’t see us moving to another country. The logistics seem more complicated that I want to deal with. Since we don’t love humidity or long, cold winters there are a few places that appeal to us that would allow our retirement dollars to go a long way.

Phoenix

I imagine winter in Phoenix is as appealing as fall in Colorado. We’d have a few really hot months, but those would be good times to take a vacation. Cost of living is reasonable, and there would be tons of outdoor things to do with all the city amenities nearby. We are spending several days there this Thanksgiving and plan to check out some of the towns in the area.

Las Vegas

I get sick of the Strip in about 2 days, but there are areas around Las Vegas that have good weather, access to recreation, and lots of options for concerts and entertainment. Nevada also has no state income tax.

Grand Junction, CO

Grand Junction is a small city that has most of the amenities we’d be looking for. The airport isn’t huge, but it has many more options than where we live now. The winter is also a bit milder. We’d still be close to skiing, and there is amazing mountain biking in the area. Cost of living there is cheap.

Moab, UT

Delicate Arch in Moab, UT

I could be a park ranger!

OK, Moab is not a city by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s only a two hour drive from Grand Junction. Jim and I both love Moab. I always seem to feel at peace there with all the wide open views and red rock. Winter is mild, and there would be tons of fun retirement jobs in the tourism industry. Can’t you see me as a park ranger or camp host?

Becoming Nomads

This option is perhaps the most appealing but would likely be the most expensive. Maintaining a home and renting somewhere would certainly add to our housing expenses, but I think it would be amazing to travel around the country, staying a month or two in places that strike our fancy.

Spending September in Maine or November in San Francisco would be amazing. Living in one of these places full time does not appeal to me in the least, but wouldn’t it be fun to spend enough time in a place to really live like a local? We might even find a forever home destination we haven’t considered.

We could sell our house before hitting the road and pick a place to land at a later date. We could also try house swapping or care taking to lower expenses. I don’t know how long I’d want to be a nomad, but it’s something that’s pretty high on our list to try.

Financial Independence Offers Choices

The fact that we have all these choices is not lost on me. I know that if we’d kept living the life of monthly payments and mindless spending, our choices would have been broke and stuck. Financial independence offers tons of options for how you’d like to spend the years after leaving the traditional work force. Whether we stay put, move, or become nomands is really not the biggest point of this post. The fact that we get to choose is worth much more than any material thing I can think of.

Are you planning for retirement? Where would you love to live?

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.

48 comments

  1. Could it be any more perfect?! More than anything, financial independence gives you the *freedom* to choose what you do and where you do it. People who subscribe to the retire-at-65 philosophy often don’t have any more of a plan for what to do in their retirement than they have when they’re working. It seems retirement itself is the goal. Freedom to do what you want should be the goal, with your biggest problem being TOO MUCH choice. It’s a nice problem to have.

    • You are so right. I see patients who are about to retire and I always ask what their plans are. Many of them have no idea. I find that amazing. I have so many plans it’s not even funny.

  2. I like living in Central Indiana, but we mainly live here because my parents are here. Once my parents are gone, I could see us being nomads or moving somewhere different altogether. I also want to live near my kids and grandkids, wherever that might be =)

    • I would love to be one of those Grandmas who moves closer to help out with the kids. We’ve tried to get Jim’s parents to move closer but without success.

  3. Isn’t it amazing to literally have the world at your fingertips, to know that you can move anywhere your heart desires? My financial freedom goals, like yours, are not about not working – I actually love working – it’s more about freedom. I think sometimes people don’t understand that – they think I just like money, which is not completely false, but I would be nice to have the world at our fingertips!

    • Money buys freedom and choice. We lived for years with few choices other than full time work, and now I know there is a better way. I wish I’d seen that from the beginning of my career.

  4. I’m in Pagosa Springs right now, visiting my Mom. I would live in SW Colorado in a heartbeat if I could live here! Pagosa may be small, but Durango would be an ideal retirement community.

    • We live in Cortez. We could also live in Durango, but housing is much more expensive there and it’s only a 45 minute drive if we want to visit. I like Pagosa alot, but the sulphur smell would get old. Have fun on your visit. I bet Wolf Creek Pass was amazing with fall color this year.

  5. I always think about where I’d want to live when (and if) I can ever retire. For me long cold winters would probably very difficult now that I’m used to great weather, but the COL if Cali is pretty crazy. But I also think the heat of Phoenix and Las Vegas would get to me too. I guess you can never have quite everything you want. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • We love the San Diego area, but just would never move there because it would be triple or quadruple just to live as we do now. It would be nice to be able to spend a month of so there during the worst month of wherever we end up happens.

  6. This is something we discuss from time to time. We know we will move away from NYC to a LOC state or perhaps even relocate back to Canada. Time will tell but we are focusing on reaching FI in 12 years or less. I am all about having as many options as possible.

    • We are on a similar time frame. It’s fun to plan and have the option of changing our minds if something better comes along.

  7. Love this post because these are all areas that we are debating about right now when it comes to where we want to live. It can be such a hard decision!

    • It is hard. I think that’s why I’d live to try the nomad lifestyle for a while to make sure we like a place before deciding to move there. Everywhere is fun on vacation, but I want to spend a bit more time to see the pros and cons.

  8. I’m much more open to the idea of moving in order to retire earlier than my husband!

    Thanks for showing us some awesome places in the States to live. I’ve considered moving south, but I think we’ll probably end up staying in Canada.

    • I think it would be hard to change countries, especially with the health care differences. I certainly would move somewhere warmer if we do move.

  9. When we finally retire, we’re moving some place where there is warm weather and water. So long cold winters!

  10. I feel like retirement is so far away that I try not to think about it much. I make consistent payments to my retirement account, but that’s the extent of my planning at this point. Whether or not I move in retirement would depend on a few factors – where my kids/grandchildren live (assuming I have them), the friends/family/community I have where I live (how much of that will I lose by moving), as well as whether I’d be able to afford to live where I am and still travel to, say, a condo in Florida when I want to escape the cold. Gosh, so hard to think about at this point tho!

    • I think you have to be closer to 30 to really start thinking about it all the time. It’s good that you’re already socking away money and earning side income. You’ll be that much closer when you do start to think more seriously about it.

  11. First, I have to say that I love that it was only a few years ago you were hip-deep in debt and retirement seemed like a fuzzy possibility and now – you’re thinking about how you want to live your retirement. Debt can be conquered! ๐Ÿ™‚ We will likely stay where we are because it is home to us, but we could possibly downsize. We plan to travel significantly and may do some house swapping. It’s one of the great things about living in LA and within walking distance to the beach – people want to come to you. That might be an option for you while you live your nomad lifestyle. You’re so close to Telluride, I bet you could easily find people in warm locations or places you’d like to visit who would swap with you for weeks/months too. Right now our plan is to continue working until the girls leave for college too. We both enjoy our work so we might as well continue earning and saving money while we can.

    • I used to think our town would not be a popular vacation destination with Durango and Telluride nearby, but I think AirBnb and VRBO have really changed the way families look for lodging. I know a few people who rent out their homes for tourists, and it works pretty well. We are not really right on top of anything too special, but we’re close to lots of special things and would be a good home base to explore the area. That’s what I’m hoping for anyway. We will look at it harder in the future. We aren’t allowed to have renters in our neighborhood, but I’m not sure about a VRBO type thing. I don’t think anyone has ever brought it before the HOA.

  12. We talk about this all the time. Retire at a cabin in the mountains or the beach house in San Diego. We go back and forth all the time and then laugh because we know we will do neither. It is so outside of who we are and what we do. I imagine we’ll stay where we are because this is where my wife’s friends are at and that matters a lot. Plus when we retire we plan on having lots of money which instead of using it for a second home we’ll use it to travel and spend a month or two at a cabin or at the beach. Why be confined to one spot when we can still have our home and then travel wherever we want. That is the plan for now, we’ll see what happens, but it’s fun to think about the future when you know money isn’t going to rule your life and decisions.

    • It is fun to think about the future. We might totally change our minds too and that’s OK. It’s all about the options.

  13. We don’t know where we are going to retire; however, we do know that we plan to rent and travel more than worry about where we call home base. It is amazing for us, though, to see how much cheaper it is to live in other places and we are excited about taking advantage of those savings once we are in a place to move, which will be when my son graduates high school.

    • We also plan to stay where we are until after our daughter graduates from high school. I know parents take their kids on the road, but I want her to have the experience of participating in school activities and be part of a community.

  14. MomofTwoPreciousGirls

    LOVE your idea of being nomads. Maybe for like a year or two. Keep you home as a rental (you’re landlords anyway!) and then use Airnb or a similar site to rent houses in each destination. I always thought I did not really want to retire but that sounds awesome!

    • I think we could work when it suited us. There are lots of jobs I think I’d like to do, but probably wouldn’t support my financial goals at the moment. When we have our basic expenses covered by other means, we can afford to do those. I meet retirees all the time who work for the national parks or for campgrounds. We met a lady this summer who lives very close to us but spends summers in Yellowstone as a seasonal employee. I think that would be very fun. On vacation, you really don’t get a sense of how locals live. I’d like to do that.

  15. Our plan is to travel. I don’t mean keep flying to places every week or month. I mean go and live somewhere for a year (maybe two) and then go somewhere else. We still have a long way to go before we can accomplish that, but at least we’re working towards it.

    • Having the goal is a huge component to retirement planning. I don’t know how long I could stay nomadic, but I bet it could be much longer than I might imagine.

  16. NV has no income tax but you wouldn’t be working so isn’t it better to be in a state with no sales tax or the lowest property tax possible?
    You could keep the house once it is paid for and easily rent it during winter if you want, like to skiiers, then go somewhere for 3-6 months a year, like Mexico, or Thailand, to get some sun and still have a place to come back to. In Guatemala that is pretty frequent so the rental market has options for winter rentals with western standards. Those countries are cheap so it shouldn’t be much more expensive than living at home.

    • We would have to pay income tax on Jim’s pension and any withdrawals from 401k type accounts. You don’t pay tax on the contributions but you do have to pay it on withdrawals in most states. We were not smart about planning for the future when we selected our neighborhood. Our HOA does not allow renting, so we’d either have to sell or find a way to go around the rules. Who knows, though, they might change in the next decade. I hope so. I’d have to learn some Spanish to winter in Guatemala. Do you include lessons with your vacation rentals?

      • I could try to get the SPanish girl who lives in the village on board to give lessons, because I think she would be the only one qualified and she speaks a bit of English. There is a Spanish school 7 miles away which is where I send people usually, they take 20 hours a week so that is every morning and then they relax in the afternoon. The school also offers volunteering in the afternoon if you want to fill the whole day.

  17. Those all sound like great options. I like your idea of a nomadic lifestyle. Seems like you could take advantage of the best of every area and just leave before the bad comes in (winter, high home prices, etc). We’ve been concentrating our homestead search on Vermont, but, who knows, it could change! Colorado is really appealing…

    • I had a 91 year old patient yesterday who is visiting or could be moving here permanently to live with his son. He has lived his whole life in Maine or New Hampshire. I was asking him all about the differences between New England and Colorado. He waxed nostalgic about fall and how beautiful it was then he also said how nice Colorado was. I don’t think you could go wrong either way with what you’re looking for. I will say you’d have to be pretty hearty to live 90 winters in Maine, though. I think it gets lots colder than here!

  18. Grand Junction and Moab both sound like perfect retirement places for you guys, Kim! I’m guessing that we’d stay here in MN, but definitely have a vaca/winter home somewhere like NC, TN or KY. If I could get out of Polar Vortex Hell for Jan and Feb each year, I’d be happy to stay here. ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. I imagine living a bit more removed when you have children is easier. For me, I gladly accept the higher cost of NYC living because that kind of culture and diversity is paramount to me- at least before I settle down (plus NYC is the center of professional theatre).

  20. Interestingly, my husband subscribes to a magazine “Where to Retire” yet we have chosen to retire where we’ve always lived. We have considered moving closer to our son, or to a no state income tax state but as long as my mother is alive, we will stay put. On the dreaming end of the spectrum, if our son would re-locate to Alaska, I’d move there in a New York minute. The summers are like being in paradise, great scenery, great wildlife and lots of things to do. But they do have those pesky long winters….. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  21. We are saving for retirement but can’t say we have actual plans. It will all depend on where the kids are. I do love the idea of a nomadic lifestyle! We love to road trip and explore!!!

  22. They all sound like great spots. I do envy you American’s who have a wide range of options with alternate weather factors. We have only ranges of cold to choose from in the winter. ๐Ÿ˜‰ And some of those cold’s are actually warm by our standard where I live. The nomad lifestyle also appeals to me but you need to have a property to rent out and return to or the cash put aside because you can’t do this forever. Good luck with your planning and decision, though you’ve got lots of time.

  23. No where near retirement but I imagine I’d go wherever my family was, which is likely right where we are. I would however like to live in Europe for a while..

  24. Good question. We currently live in Northern Nevada so we are close to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but do get less snow. There’s no way for us to walk anywhere from our house which I would like when we are older. Right now I am thinking that when we are a lot older we will move close to wherever our daughter finally ends up (right now I have to drive a long distance to help my older mom and don’t want to make our daughter do that). If I had my way, we would sell our house and move to Hawaii for a few years after we retire (early). After we are tired of that then we could decide where to settle down. (We have friends that live in Hawaii and it sounds like there are reasonable prices if you know where to look. )

    • I think I’d also like to spend some time in Hawaii. I bet there are some places off the beaten path that are affordable.

  25. We all should seleck a suitable place where we are going to retire. I think sometimes people donโ€™t understand that think. But it is important and good idea.

  26. I’ve thought about this about a hundred times. One thing that I think will clear our mind is getting the travel bug out of our system in that first year of early retirement. Golf with Dad in Arizona for a month, Sleep on the Couch of my best friend for 2 weeks, etc then after that make a choice, we most likely will lean towards 3-6 months in 2 or 3 locations, the triangle of Miami, Phoenix, Chicago.

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