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Overlooked Retirement Towns
Many retirees used to be looking for a place to lie in the sun and maybe play a little golf. But that is changing, as retirees increasingly want to stay active, both physically and mentally. They also often want to – or need to – keep working. But they still are looking for a retirement city that is a good bargain. And Smart Money magazine offers some suggestions for options you might have overlooked:
Santa Fe, New Mexico. The capital of New Mexico has lots to recommend it, including a vibrant art scene, plenty of entertainment options and easy access to beautiful landscapes. Plus, unemployment is only 5.3 percent, with government and tourism as the main employers. Santa Fe is also home to the Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, which serves northern New Mexico. The cost of living is 17.9 percent higher than the national average. But it is still a lot lower than in nearby Sedona, Ariz., which has many of the same amenities but a cost of living that is 36.8 percent higher than average.
Lincoln, Neb. Lincoln is home to the University of Nebraska, including its big-time college football team that recently joined the Big Ten Conference, as well as to lots of outdoor recreation opportunities, including 10 lakes. The unemployment rate is only 3.6 percent, with the major employers being the university and corporations including Kawasaki and Assurity Life Insurance. The city also has excellent medical facilities and a cost of living that is 6.7 percent below the national average. Compare that with another Big Ten college town -- Ann Arbor, Mich. – where the cost of living is 36.8 percent higher than the national average.
Manhattan, Kan. Another college town, Manhattan offers retirees the ability to audit classes through Kansas State University and to enjoy outdoor delights such as a 12,500-acre reservoir and the Flint Hills nature preserve. If all that makes you hungry, there are 130 restaurants in town. Plus, the cost of living in this Manhattan is 8.9 percent below the national average. In contrast, the cost of living in Athens, Ga., which offers similar opportunities, is only 3.9 percent below the average.
Portland, Maine. Portland has tons of scenic beauty, including both the Atlantic coastline and the inland Sebago Lake. Plus. Bon Appetit recently selected Portland as one of the best small towns in America for food. Like many places on the East Coast, Portland has a relatively high cost of living – 10 percent higher than the national average. But that is significantly less than the cost of living in Northampton, Mass., a similar location with a cost of living that is 19.8 percent above average.
Santa Maria, Calif. For years, retirees have been flocking to the wine country of California, and that has driven the cost of living through the roof; it is 44.8 percent above the national average in popular Santa Rosa, for example, But Santa Maria, which is part of the Santa Barbara wine country, offers plenty of tastings as well as beautiful weather at a relatively modest cost of living that is only 20 percent above the national average.
Jupiter, Fla. Florida has long been a retirement mecca, although the recession has hit hard in the Sunshine State. Despite that, though, the cost of living in popular Naples is a whopping 84 percent higher than the national average, driven largely by housing costs. Jupiter is a comparative bargain at only 21.3 percent above the average. Plus, it has beautiful beaches, warm winter weather and, like the rest of Florida, it has no state income tax.
Ithaca, N.Y. Ithaca has plenty of natural beauty – so much so that its tag line is “Ithaca is Gorges.” And it is the home of Cornell University and Ithaca College, where you can enjoy a plethora of educational and entertainment opportunities. Cornell also was named by AARP as one of the top employers for people over 50. The cost of living in Ithaca is fractionally lower than the national average. But the cost of living in the comparable Eugene, Ore., is 12.2 percent higher than average.