By Silvia Ascarelli
I’m looking for advice on where to live in retirement.
I’m a disabled veteran, my spouse is retired/disability military, and we have a combined monthly income of $4,200 a month. It may eventually rise to $5,400. We have no debt and about $75,000 in savings.
We’re in our 40s and looking to live in a state that does not tax military retirement and offers a lot of veteran benefits. We want to buy a house with at least 10 acres in a rural location no more than one hour from a large town/small city that has great health care, shopping, restaurants, and a college/university. We don’t own a house now that we could sell. We also love to travel, so a major airport within a three-hour drive would be a bonus. We’d also love to be near some kind of water, a large lake or river.
The climate is the issue. We lived in Texas and hated the extreme heat, but we also despised the freezing Wisconsin winters. We love the feel of drier areas, but the look of places that get more rain. Finally, as odd as this last request is, it is extremely important: somewhere with open spaces with a view of the horizon. Enclosed spaces — deep valleys, too many trees, etc. — make me claustrophobic.
West of the Mississippi River would be ideal, but not required.
Any suggestions would be welcome!
You’ve got an interesting climate and geographical conundrum.
But the bigger issue is budget. Congratulations on being debt-free — that’s huge. Beyond that, though, it’s going to be hard to afford those 10 acres and a house on an income of $50,000 and savings of $75,000. (Let’s not count on the extra money until it happens.) That, more than anything else, will decide where you live. I cast a wide net in several states, searching what’s listed for sale on Realtor.com (which, like MarketWatch, is owned by News Corp.) by state — not county — and there isn’t much in the way of single-family homes, a minimum of 10 acres and a price limit of $180,000. And that’s before we think about proximity to the right kind of town or city or where the water is.
I know you didn’t give me a price tag, but that seems like a generous amount given your finances. Please don’t stretch your budget for a house and land only to wind up cash-poor.
You say you like the feel of dry areas but the look of green areas. I initially thought of the Pacific Northwest given the low humidity there. Unfortunately, it’s essentially unaffordable for you. My search turned up 15 options in Washington state, almost all in forest areas (that sounds like a no for you), and just four in Oregon. It doesn’t get much better if mobile homes are added.
Of course, housing markets may change. But based on today’s realities, you may need to choose between more humidity or the brown of the desert. Or you may need to reconsider how much land you want.
If this is the dream and you want it now, I suggest you start with the states that appeal and do the same search. I found more properties that met the price and acreage criteria in eastern and southeastern Ohio, for example; would that be wide open enough for you? Even if it’s not west of the Mississippi? And regardless of whether it’s Ohio or another state, you may have to compromise on the town and its amenities.
Or you may decide to stay put for a while, look for ways to earn more money, save the additional income so that you have more options, and then revisit. If you’re thinking a decade out, getting a better sense now of what your dream will cost can clarify how much extra you need to save each year. You can spend some of your travels exploring your shortlist. The MarketWatch retirement tool may help you refine your options.
You also mentioned state income taxes, especially tax breaks for retired military. Not only do tax rates change, but they are only part of the picture. Don’t overlook property taxes as well as the cost of any services not covered by your taxes. All those repairs you never have to deal with as a tenant don’t come cheap either, let alone any upgrades.
Still, you want to know. This SmartAsset retirement tax calculator will give you a sense of what you’ll pay in state taxes. Here’s a separate state-by-state look at military retirement pay and taxes .
If you are planning to work remotely, ask about the quality (and price) of internet access. Unfortunately, high-speed internet isn’t a given in rural America.
With all that said, I’ve got some cities that could be the starting point for your search for a more rural spot. I sought out those that have or are close to Veterans Administration medical centers, not just outpatient centers or clinics. And thank you for your service; I’m sorry it led to disabilities for both of you. I wish you the best.