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Where Should I Retire?

Feb. 12, 2022, 4:51 p.m. EST

I’m done with Illinois! I want to retire in a small town in a neighboring state — so where should I go?

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By Silvia Ascarelli

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Here’s what’s on the market now in Monticello , using listings on Realtor.com (which like MarketWatch is owned by News Corp); the median list price in October 2021 was $226,000. This is the market in Chesterton , where the median list price was $304,900.

Iowa

Davenport and Scott County, part of the Quad Cities area, come up on the “Where to Retire” tool. It’s just across the Mississippi from Illinois and gets an average of 26 inches of snow each year, so close to what you want. It’s also a touch warmer than Wisconsin. While Davenport is too big for you (just over 100,000 people), LeClaire, on a bend in the Mississippi, might be an option.

This town, less than 15 miles from Davenport, has been growing quickly but still has fewer than 5,000 residents. You may know LeClaire as the home of Antique Archaeology, the store behind the “American Pickers” television show. It’s also the birthplace of Buffalo Bill. Nearby are popular winter roosting sites for bald eagles.

One other thing it’s known for: a tug of war with Port Byron, Ill., across the river. The rope stretches from one side to the other, but, no, the losers don’t actually fall into the water.

The town will attract more day-trippers than you might expect, but that means you also get more restaurant choices. 

If LeClaire doesn’t have the small-town feel you want, look at Eldridge, with close to 7,000 people and north of Davenport. The surrounding area is more farmland than woods, though. Underscoring the agricultural focus is the grain bin downtown.

Both small towns are close to Scott County Park, with 1,280 acres and lots of trees. Scott County went blue in 2020 by a relatively small margin.

Home prices may surprise you. Here’s what’s listed for sale right now in Le Claire , where the median list price was $319,900 in October, and in Eldridge , with a median list price of $305,000.

If neither is right, keep driving toward Iowa City, which is about 2½ hours by car from your family. The home of the University of Iowa ranks highly on lists of great places to live, and I’ve suggested it here . Given that it is too large based on your criteria, look for an appealing spot between it and Davenport.

Wisconsin

I’m struggling to find a place that falls under your desired snow ceiling. 

The retirement tool suggests Winnebago County (the area around Oshkosh), three hours straight north, and you’ll find a marina but also 3 feet of snow. (Fond du Lac to the south is smaller and may be a better fit, but 43,000 people isn’t small.) There are plenty of lakes around that area, so that might be worth exploring.

I chose to follow the route south and came to Edgerton, a town slightly larger than Monticello and mostly in Rock County (which went blue in 2020). One attraction is Lake Koshkonong, a 10,595-acre lake no more than 7 feet deep. A big bonus is that Edgerton is only about 75 minutes from your family.

Warning: Average winter highs will be below freezing, and you can count on 3 feet of snow. You’re also about a half-hour’s drive from Madison, which could boost prices. Indeed, the median list price in October was $275,000, according to Realtor.

A more affordable option could be similarly sized Prairie du Chien, on bluffs above the Mississippi River and across the Wisconsin River from Wyalusing Hardwood Forest . But this more conservative area is 3½ hours away from family and gets similar weather.

Here’s what’s on the market now in both Edgerton and Prairie du Chien .

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

More from Marketwatch’s ‘Where Should I Retire’ column

I want to move to a walkable, historic, four-season town and have a budget of $30,000 a year — where should I retire?

We want to live in a small town where we can bike, hike and kayak — so where should we retire?

I want to get out of New York state and retire to a rural location with four seasons — where should I go?

We are conservative Christians looking for our utopia: a friendly, safe and affordable small town. Where should we retire?

We want to retire to a small mountain town on $18,000 a year — where should we go?

We want to retire in ‘an area like the Berkshires, but warmer’ — where should we go?

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