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My wife and I live in San Diego and find the cost of living too high. Our ideal retirement place would be a moderate-cost-of-living small or midsize city with shopping and so on. We also want a moderate climate, and lower danger of natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes. Another requirement would be to stay in the U.S.
After we sell our home, our net worth would be approximately $1 million. My yearly Social Security income is $18,000. Within two years my wife will receive her Social Security of $7,000 a year.
Dear Fleeing San Diego,
Congrats on the nest egg. That plus your Social Security will likely be enough for you to live somewhere great in America that meets most of your criteria. In fact, I have a few spots in mind for you to consider from different parts of the country. While they might not all be perfect fits — note that I point out their downsides, like summer humidity or higher crime — they should meet most of your needs and lead to a fun, good-weather retirement. And we’re opening up the comments section below so readers can make their own suggestions to you, too. Good luck on your retirement adventure!
Wondering where to spend your golden years? Email Catey Hill at email@example.com with your wish list, and she’ll recommend spots for you. Letters may be edited for clarity and length. Look for MarketWatch reader suggestions in the comments.
Winston-Salem’s central business district from afar.
This college town — home to the selective, private Wake Forest University — “blends the past and the present nicely, creating a pleasant and low-key place,” Fodors writes — with U.S. News noting that, though it is “traditionally Southern in its friendliness, it has an international feel.” And Where to Retire magazine recently highlighted the city, writing that though Winston-Salem is overshadowed by popular spots like Asheville, it “has caught the attention of many folks looking for a vibrant, affordable New South city with a climate that involves minimal snow shoveling and 100-degree days.”
Indeed, in many ways Winston-Salem, which has a population of roughly 240,000, offers the best of both worlds: a small-town, know-your-neighbors feel with plenty of shopping, recreation such as golf, arts, restaurants and more. On the shopping front, you can find everything from a large mall (Hanes Mall has about 200 stores) to local boutiques, antique shops and galleries in spots like the Downtown Arts District.
Speaking of the arts, this town delivers, with Southern Living writing that it has a “thriving arts community.” It is home to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, art museums, a symphony, a film festival and more. On the dining front, “you’ll find restaurants serving everything from traditional North Carolina barbecue to Indian curries and Greek pastries,” U.S. News reports. And Annette Fuller, the editor of Where to Retire magazine, adds that good hospitals are a further attractive feature.
Winston-Salem comes with a cost of living that is below average for the U.S., with median homes prices coming in at under $150,000. However, Winston-Salem does have downsides, getting more rain than the U.S. average, and the area has been hit with tornadoes in the past (here is your risk of natural disasters).
By the numbers: Winston-Salem
Median home price: $136,500
Average January low/July high: 28°F/88°F
Source: Sperling’s Best Places
Albuquerque skyline panorama.
This midsize, multicultural city is perhaps best known for its annual hot-air-balloon festival and as the setting for the hit AMC show “Breaking Bad,” but it’s got far more to offer than that (which is one reason Travel & Leisure put it on its list of best places to travel in 2018).
For one, the arts offerings are strong: There are hundreds of galleries and art studios; monthly arts crawls, exposing participants to the works of local artists; and a robust performing-arts scene, with performances at spots like the New Mexico Philharmonic, Keshet Dance Company and the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Plus, you can hop over to nearby Santa Fe or Taos, which are also known for their arts scenes.
You’ll also find all the shopping you could ask for here, from malls to independent boutiques selling everything from contemporary art to Southwestern jewelry. There are four major shopping districts in the city: Old Town, Nob Hill, Downtown and Uptown. And then there is “incredible Southwestern food,” says Where to Retire’s Fuller.
The weather in this high-desert location is a real plus (300-plus days of sunshine annually, along with low humidity and a fairly low risk of extreme-weather issues), but we will admit that December and January temperatures can be pretty cold (in the mid-20s), you will see some snow, and there is wildfire risk in the state. Plus, the crime rate is high, though Where to Retire’s Fuller points out that there is “much less crime in the areas where active-adult communities are.” (This map shows neighborhoods considered safer and less safe.)
The cost of living and property-tax rates are slightly below average, according to Sperling’s Best Places, and the outdoor offerings are strong, too. Hiking and biking trails abound in the nearby Sandia and Manzano Mountains, where you can enjoy gorgeous pink sunsets.
If you’re a biker, this city might be particularly appealing: Sunset magazine named the Paseo del Bosque Trail — 16-mile trail that looks out over the Rio Grande — one of the 10 best bike trails in the West, adding that you should not miss the Rio Grande Botanical Garden, “a 20-acre desert oasis that includes a butterfly pavilion and is bordered by the world’s largest cottonwood gallery.”
By the numbers: Albuquerque
Median home price: $196,800
Average January low/July high: 24°F/92°F
Source: Sperling’s Best Places
Potted flowers brighten the downtown area of Medford, Ore.
This small city just north of the California border is one that MarketWatch wrote about as being among the 10 best spots to retire if you seek good weather (it gets less rain than many other parts of Oregon). And it’s got far more to recommend it than just mild climate.
For one, it’s got a plethora of outdoor options. There are more than two dozen parks in Medford, and southern Oregon offers gorgeous hiking options. Among the hikes not to miss: Table Rocks, a series of gorgeous cliffs formed over seven million years ago from a volcanic explosion, and the Sterling Mine Ditch trail, which is great for seeing wildflowers and birds. You’ll also enjoy other outdoor pursuits like fishing and golfing. And you’re just about 15 miles from Ashland, which offers excellent restaurants and a popular Shakespeare Festival.
While you won’t get quite as many shopping options here as in the other towns on this list, you aren’t without good choices (see details here) in this town of over 75,000 residents. That includes everything from the Rogue Valley Mall to independent boutiques and artsy shops.
And if you like wine, you’re in luck: This area is an up-and-coming wine region with a growing artisan food scene. The San Francisco Chronicle recently noted that the area has “some legitimately impressive wines” and highlighted five of the area wineries that you don’t want to miss, including Cowhorn Winery, a biodynamic vineyard that “delivers articulate, dialed-in, Rhône-inspired wines that speak quite well for themselves.”
However, the cost of living here is higher than the U.S. average, but only slightly, with median homes under $300,000. Plus, property taxes are reasonable, there is no sales tax in Oregon, and Medford has an international airport. Still, some may be put off by Medford’s lack of diversity.
By the numbers: Medford
Median home price: $279,000
Average January low/July high: 31°F/90°F
Source: Sperling’s Best Places