By Silvia Ascarelli, MarketWatch
I want to retire within a one day (about 10-hour) drive of my family in Northern New Jersey. I want to be on the water, fresh or salt, and near some “wild” areas like national or state parks, wilderness areas, etc. My retirement income will be about $3,300 a month before taxes and I’d like to keep those to a minimum. Obviously, a good hospital and airport are important and I like local theater, live music and a college town is a plus.
What have you got for me?
Natural beauty, low taxes and access to good medical care and entertainment options — you’re hardly alone. Your budget of just under $40,000 makes it more of a challenge, but here are some strong suggestions. Given how housing costs and crime rates can vary, don’t forget to check out the nearby towns.
Morgantown, West Virginia
That request for “wild” areas grabbed me, and my first thought was West Virginia, specifically Morgantown, a river town of 30,000 nestled in the Appalachian foothills and home to West Virginia University and about 27,000 college students. As you’ve figured out, a college town punches above its weight with amenities, in this case a teaching hospital as well as theater and music.
You’ve got water — especially the Cheat River to the east and its whitewater rapids. Cheat Lake and Copper Rock State Forest are less than half an hour east of the city, so there are plenty of outdoor opportunities. Plus Morgantown is in the middle of the 238-mile Parkersburg to Pittsburgh (P2P) Rail-Trail under development (overlapping in part with the Great Allegheny Passage) that will open up even more options.
Taxes are relatively low; the National Tax Foundation says the state ranks 19th for “ Tax Freedom Day ” — how long it takes to pay all federal, state and local taxes for the year.
You didn’t mention whether you’ll be selling a house and using the proceeds for housing. So I’m assuming you’ll be renting. The median rent, including utilities, is $821, according to the Census Bureau, or about 25% of your budget. You can see what’s available now on Realtor.com (owned, just like MarketWatch, by News Corp.).
Overall, the cost of living here is lower than in my other two suggestions.
The airport isn’t great; flights are only to Pittsburgh and BWI airports. Or you can drive two hours to Pittsburgh (an area you may also want to check out, but affordable housing will be harder to find). The drive to northern New Jersey is about six hours.
If Morgantown doesn’t appeal, what about Roanoke, Va., with the Blue Ridge Mountains and the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests as your playground and the Appalachian Trail around the corner? You’d have some great hiking and mountain-biking options. Plus there’s Smith Mountain Lake with 500 miles of shoreline an hour away.