Where To Retire? How To Decide?

As we get older, I hear the question more and more frequently:  “Where will you live when you retire?”  I’m pretty sure the answer is fairly easy for us, because we have a high concentration of family and friends in just two places, and family and friends are quite important to us.

Many people, however, are starting with a blank map.  How do you decide?  The first step is to figure out your priorities.  Is it a job?  Is it the weather?  Are you like us, and want to be near family?  What about taxes?  Commissary?  Medical?

I watched my parents go through this process about 15 years ago, and they are quite pleased with the choice that they made.  It took a lot of research and many trips up and down the East Coast of the US, but they found a community that fit their primary needs.

Since then, many resources have become available to help make the decision a little more clear.  Or more overwhelming, if you find that extra information puts you into paralysis.  I’ll warn you – I don’t think any of these methodologies are perfect.  You have to know yourself, and the people writing these reports sure as heck don’t know your values and priorities.

10 Best Places for Veterans Jobs

USAA and Military.com team up each year to publish the 10 Best Places for Veterans Jobs.  It is a good analysis for people who are primarily concerned with post-military employment.  In addition, there are complimentary “medium metro” and “small metro” for people who don’t want a huge city.

There is also  a “create your own list” questionnaire that is supposed to help you find the right city for you.  I was a little turned off by the first question being about climate, but I might just be odd.  I thought the results that the tool provided were pretty good.

2014’s Best and Worst States for Military Retirees

WalletHub has recently released its 2014’s Best and Worst States for Military Retirees.  While it is interesting, the 19 metrics used to create the list seemed to be very focused to the point of redundency.  I think this may well have skewed the results significantly.  For example, it counted each of the following criteria separately, while any thoughtful person will see that there is a cause and effect relationship between most of them.  If you have a higher score in one, you are significantly more likely to have a higher score in another.

  • Veteran-Owned Businesses per 1,000 Inhabitants: 0.5
  • Veterans Job Opportunities: 1
  • Number of Military Major Bases and Installations per 10,000 Veterans: 1
  • Veterans per 100 Inhabitants: 1
  • Number of VA Benefits Administration Facilities per Number of Veterans: 1
  • Number of Homeless Veterans per Number of Veterans: 1
  • Number of VA Health Facilities per Number of Veterans: 1

In addition, WalletHub’s methodology gave value to state tax on military pensions and sales tax rates, but no value to overall income tax rates, property tax rates, or other important taxes.

Consumer Reports

Perhaps the best analysis comes not in the form of a list, but in an article about how and why these lists are compiled.  How To Choose The Best Place To Retire suggests that you use Top 10 lists as a place to start your thinking and your research.

Thankfully, we don’t have to make a decision today, but you know I’m a planner.  A little advance thinking can make the decision so much easier when the time comes.


About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • guest

    Key West, that’s our plan. Neither one of us is really close with our families and our siblings live all over the country so we are going for weather. We plan to have enough saved so that between interest and dividends and his pension we won’t have to work unless we want to. We have 10 more years to hit our goal but we are already half way there financially.

    Hubs wants to be a bartender…he’s spec ops now so I sometimes wonder if the change of pace will kill him or if he is going to love it lol

  • Sometimes the center of gravity are post or VA hospitals.

  • Catherine

    Hoping for Lancaster, PA area. We have family in the area and a friend who lives at garden spot village retirement community in that area. Looking forward to a change of pace and a quiet life in that area.