We are looking for a balance between culture, dining and wilderness in areas with homes for $300,000 – so where should we retire?

We want to retire in about three years. I will be 67 years old and my wife 62. We do not want to have to remove snow or worry about a significant accumulation; but we want to be away from home all day long and all night long.

We can rent, but if we decide to buy a home, our budget will be about $ 300,000 in cash for the sale of our existing home. Other than that, our budget is about $ 8,000 a month.

We plan to spend a few years exploring areas before making a decision and settling down permanently. We seek a balance between culture, dining and wilderness. Add panoramic views and space between neighbors (not isolation) to complete the package.

Can you suggest some options for us to explore? Neither too hot nor too cold.


Dear Frank,

What a wonderful combination!

Of course, it all depends on what you mean by each of them. When you think of wildlife, are bears and moose and such, or national forests and other conserved areas, including wildlife management areas and state parks, for hiking? Are those food opportunities, white tablecloths, places for special occasions that need a larger population to thrive? Or just locally owned sites? Are you good with snow-covered places and there is no shortage of people you can hire to shovel, or do you prefer those who get it infrequently to fight to clear the roads when it happens?

And will you compromise the space to pay for the area you want?

No matter how you define your criteria, you have so many great options in the United States and its more than 3,000 counties that it’s smart to spend a few years exploring. Think about trying your shortlist on what you think is the least enjoyable time, so make sure you do it right. Wrong move is a costly mistake.

Finally, think about how you will find your community, whatever you choose; this is more important than the landscape, as this person found it.

Month: Choosing a place to retire is more than just low taxes – avoid these 5 costly mistakes

I’ve suggested many places along the Blue Ridge foothills in Virginia that you might like: Roanoke, Blacksburg, Harrisonburg, and Lexington. In North Carolina, Asheville, Hendersonville, and Brevard have sprung up, as well as lakes near Charlotte. In Tennessee, there are Johnson City, Knoxville and Chattanooga, just to start.

The MarketWatch Retirement Tool also featured Carbondale, Illinois, and Athens, Ohio, which have also been suggested in previous articles.

Since I don’t like to repeat myself, here are three new tips to get you started. You can find all the “Where should I retire?” columns here.

Tacoma, Washington

Tacoma Boardwalk is in the foreground; Mount Rainier is in the distance.

Getty Images / iStockphoto

The area around Aberdeen, Washington, appeared in the “Where Should I Retire” tool, but I thought this other gateway to the Olympic Peninsula suited you better. You would be closer to both Mount Rainier and Seattle. And Tacoma, with 220,000 people, has its own cultural offering, including three theaters that house eight arts organizations.

Summer highs are around 75 and humidity is low; Winter highs average 45. Instead of snow, however, you will have rain in the winter.

As you know, Washington State does not tax revenue. The other side is that Tacoma sales tax (state, county and city combined) is above 10%.

While the average home price here is above your target price, the size of Tacoma means there are a wide variety of properties on the market. Or go beyond the city limits and look around Pierce County for more space among the neighbors.

Listed below is a list of those currently available on Tacoma and listed on Realtor.com (which as MarketWatch is owned by News Corp.).

Not quite right? One option at the other end of the state, but with snow, is the Spokane area, suggested here. If you are intrigued by tax arbitrage, here’s what we suggest Vancouver, Washington.

Oak Ridge, Tennessee

The Obed National Wild and Scenic River Visitor Center is half an hour from Oak Ridge.

Getty Images / iStockphoto

This option puts you across the country and in a city of 31,000 people about 25 miles west of Knoxville. This should give you a little more space between neighbors, while a city with 190,000 people within driving distance will give you the culture and variety of dining options, including a restaurant run by a James Beard winner.

Oak Ridge was part of the Manhattan Project during World War II, when 100,000 people landed in an area that did not appear on the maps. He still likes the nickname “secret city”.

You’ll like that the average area only receives about 10 inches of snow each winter. But, and there’s always a compromise, it gets 51 inches of rain, well above 30 inches more or less than the contiguous U.S. averages and more than reputable places of rain like Tacoma or Portland, Ore.

July highs average over 80; in winter, daytime highs averaged in the mid-1940s, but average lows are below freezing.

For your outdoor solution, start with Loan Mountain State Forest west of Oak Ridge. Melton Lake Park, with 173 miles of coastline, is at the eastern end of the city.

The Chamber of Commerce boasts that the cost of living here is 8% below the national average. Tennessee has no income tax, but the other side is a strong 9.75% sales tax.

The average list price of a home was $ 284,900 in April 2022, according to the real estate agent, so within your budget. Here’s what’s on the market right now.

Montrose, Colorado

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is located outside of Montrose.

Getty Images / iStockphoto

This option on the western slopes of Colorado offers you stunning scenery. Start with the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park on the outskirts of the city. Then there are the San Juan Mountains to the south, the Curecanti National Recreation Area to the east and then several national forests.

This is the smallest of my three options: Montrose has about 20,000 people and about as many others live in the rest of the county as 2,200 square feet. So you can find space among the neighbors if you want. You will also find many other retirees; 25% of the city is 65 or older. The downside is that you may need to head to Grand Junction an hour away (and suggested here) to find some of your cultural and dining options.

Montrose has more than 300 days of sunshine. You will only have modest amounts of snow (about 20 inches a year) and almost no rain. Winters will be colder, with highs averaging over 30s. Average summer highs in the 80s.

I’ll be honest: Montrose could be a budget for you, depending on how much space you want. House prices have risen since the pandemic, although this city is still considered affordable by Colorado standards. That’s what’s on the market right now, according to Realtor.com.

Readers, where should Frank and his wife retire? Please leave suggestions in the comments section for everyone to see.

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