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Where Should I Retire?

Nov. 4, 2020, 2:08 p.m. EST

I’ll retire with a military pension and want to move to a bicycle-friendly, beer-loving place — so where should I go?

Looking for ideas on the best place for you to retire? Email HelpMeRetire@marketwatch.com

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By Silvia Ascarelli, MarketWatch


Courtesy Visit Knoxville
A beer garden at one of Knoxville, Tenn.'s craft brewers.

Dear MarketWatch,

I have five years until I retire. I have a nest egg of $1 million and will also have a monthly military pension of approximately $6,000, and Social Security on top of that.

I like cycling 60 miles a day and want to retire in a place that is known for good, safe cycling. I hate hot humid weather and don’t want a lot of snow. I love craft beer. And I would prefer a place with limited or no income tax on a military pension.

Where should I retire? Fort Collins, Colorado, and Asheville, N.C., seem like good places, but the cost of living in Fort Collins seems above average, and I am told Asheville has a lack of housing.

What other places should I consider and how do they compare with the two locations already mentioned? My wife likes the sound of “<CROSSREF GUID="{2F55CCCC-D66F-11EA-BF8C-CCE9C7BFEA26}" DOCTYPEID="" FILE-NAME="" ENCODING-DATE="">the Hill County in Texas</CROSSREF>,” but she knows the heat is bad.

Charles

Dear Charles,

The Fort Collins and Asheville areas sound lovely. And popular places tend to be more expensive — that’s just the reality of supply and demand. If that’s where you want to be, the trade-off might be as simple as a smaller house/condo/rental.

You also could seek cheaper housing a bit further from these two cities — Greeley, Colo. ( don’t believe everything about the smell ), or Hendersonville, N.C. (recommended here), for example. Or what about Raleigh-Durham, with the American Tobacco Trail as the trail network’s spine ? You’d have to accept more humidity with that one, however.

I started my search by looking at the League of American Bicyclists’ bicycle-friendly communities . Five, including Fort Collins, are platinum. Housing in only one is cheaper than Fort Collins, but I don’t think you’ll appreciate the snow in Madison, Wis. I ruled out Davis, Calif., because the state is one of seven that taxes military retirement pay in full . (It doesn’t tax Social Security checks, though.)

So I looked further down the list while taking weather and taxes into consideration. You can estimate your state taxes using this calculator , but you may want to verify that with a tax professional.

I’ve described three suggestions for you below. Boise (a silver-level BFC) and Corvallis, Ore. (a gold BFC), recommended here and here, may be other places to consider.

As always, taxes, housing costs, the number of craft brewers and even bike-friendliness can change over the next five years. And some of these places may not mesh with whatever your wife’s wish list includes.

Another piece of advice: Be sure to experience a place in all weather, or at least the worst season, to make sure it’s a fit. Data can only tell you so much. Consider renting, at least at first. Your pension and Social Security may cover your regular expenses, but don’t make yourself house-poor.

Equally, state income taxes aren’t always everything. Virginia, which does tax retirement pay, is rated the best state for military retirees according to this survey and scores second-highest for the “economic environment,” behind Alabama.

Why not check out your shortlist on a bike tour?


Justin Fe/Visit Knoxville
A kayaker and a paddleboarder in Mead’s Quarry, part of the Ijams Nature Center in the South Knoxville section of Knoxville, Tenn.

Instead of Asheville…Knoxville, Tenn.

Asheville is one of America’s premier craft beer destinations, but Knoxville has an above-average number of breweries too. By moving here, you’d get a city twice the size (nearly 190,000 people) and the state’s flagship university (33,000 students and the potential for practically free classes starting at age 65 ). You’d be in a valley with the Smoky Mountains visible to the east; Asheville’s elevation is more than 1,000 feet higher. Average July highs would be a couple of degrees warmer than in Asheville, and January highs would be a couple of degrees cooler, but a little less snow.

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