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Where Should I Retire?

June 18, 2022, 5:31 p.m. EDT

I want to retire in ‘a liberal-thinking area’ on $3,000 a month, including rent — where should I go?

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By Silvia Ascarelli

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If Oberlin doesn’t appeal, I’ve previously suggested other affordable Midwest college towns, such as Columbia, Mo. ; Bloomington, Ind. ‘ and Iowa City, Iowa

Read: MarketWatch’s “Help Me Retire” columns for the financial side of retirement decisions

Las Cruces, New Mexico

If the Midwest isn’t for you, what about the Southwest?

Albuquerque and its suburbs have been suggested by MarketWatch many times, and that area might be a good fit here. Or consider Las Cruces, which, with about 100,000 people, is less than one-fifth Albuquerque’s size and has a lower cost of living.

Yes, it can get hot — summer highs average in the mid-90s — but the desert climate means some of that is offset by low humidity. Winter highs average in the upper 50s or low 60s. The tourist office says the city gets 320 days of sunshine annually.

The city’s urban trail system is 24 miles long and growing. You’d also have many hiking options , especially in the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument , but with fewer people on the trails than around Albuquerque or pricier Santa Fe. White Sands National Park is a half-hour away.

New Mexico State University is here, with its 14,000 students. Dona Ana County went blue in 2020; its congressional district, which includes more conservative areas to the east, did not. 

Living here would put you in green chile country. While Hatch, 40 minutes away, is known for its chile festival, there are plenty of growers around Las Cruces. You can taste your way through the “Walk of Flame” Green Chile Trail , sometimes together with pecans, the area’s other big agricultural product. Or just head to the twice-weekly farmers market , considered one of the best in the Southwest.

Here’s what the rental market looks like in Las Cruces and across Dona Ana County , also using listings on Realtor.com

Memphis, Tennessee

Here’s a big-city option in between Oberlin and Las Cruces that is still affordable. You may know Memphis for its barbecue and music. You may not realize that the cost of living here is 20% below the national average, as the local chamber of commerce likes to boast.

You may still have to nudge up the rent budget compared with my other choices. Start your housing search in the Midtown neighborhood, one of the most diverse and inclusive areas in the city. The big university — the University of Memphis, formerly called Memphis State — is further east.

True, you won’t have the hills of northern Ohio or the mountains near Las Cruces. But you would have Shelby Farms Park , one of the largest urban parks in the country and more than five times the size of New York City’s Central Park. Reach it using the Shelby Farms Greenline , a trail that runs 10.65 miles from Midtown through the park to the community of Cordova. Those seeking steeper trails favor the 8-mile Chickasaw Bluffs Trail near Millington. And, of course, you can always explore the urban terrain on foot.

You can walk or bike along the 70-mile Big River Trail on Mississippi River levees on the Arkansas side; reach it by crossing the Mississippi under your own power using the spectacular Big River Crossing .

Shelby County votes blue, unlike Knox County, home to Knoxville and the University of Tennessee.

Memphis will be much warmer than Ohio; winter highs average in the low 50s, while summer highs average in the low 90s and with more humidity.

Here’s a look at the rental market , again using Realtor.com

Readers, where should Ken retire? Leave your suggestions in the comments section.

More retirement suggestions on MarketWatch

I’m a ‘young 68’ with $3,200 a month in Social Security and don’t want it taxed — where should I retire north or west of Colorado?

I’ve got a budget of $3,300 a month and want to be near some ‘wild’ areas — where should I retire?

We want to retire somewhere in North Carolina or South Carolina on $3,400 a month in Social Security — where should we go?

This 57-year-old said ‘screw this’ to San Francisco — and retired to ‘delightful’ Albuquerque, where she slashed her expenses by 70%

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