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Looking for a place to retire-Find the sweet spot

Updated on June 16, 2011

I have had the good fortune to have traveled widely across North America, 47 American states (Vermont, Alaska and Wisconsin remain unexplored) and 7 Canadian provinces that I have physically visited, not just passed over by air. They say that we are all over crowded, but when you drive across the continent and see mile after mile of open space you begin to wonder. It was all lovely, all of it. Well, being retired is like being “ a kid in a candy store”, you can live anywhere you want, within reason of course, as Beverly Hills and Lower Manhattan is probably a bit outside my budget. But that is fine; I have plenty of room in the rest of the country.This is when no serious consideration has to be given to being able to obtain employment in the places that you select to live.

So what is the ‘sweet spot’? I have to confess that each of us may have differing standards as to what that might be. Before I was dragged, kicking and screaming to Hawaii by my current spouse, I contemplated what would be a nice place to settle after retirement if I sold the house and was clear and free to navigate. I compare it with a star, our sun, and with a planet in the temperate zone, the earth. That zone is conducive to life as we know it, as within it water can naturally exist in the liquid state. Well, using that analogy, I needed a “star”, a medium to large urban area to orbit as the place of dominant influence for the area. That temperate zone was identified as far enough from the city to keep commuters out, but close enough to where I can reasonable travel and return within the day without having to bring suitcases. That ‘star’ is a source of warmth, theatres, and other things to do that you wouldn’t find in smaller towns

Denver Skyline

I am most familiar with Denver and will use it an example. Denver is a great place to be from, there is no denying that. I could probably draw a 100 mile circle from with the city limits as the center point and just outside the circumference would be the beginning of the ‘sweet spot’. I would rule out the west, going into the mountains, as too expensive. On the north would be Cheyenne, Wyoming, on the south this area would correspond to Pueblo, Colorado, and to the east would only be half way to the Kansas state line. It is one thing to have to go to Denver periodically and quite another to drive the distance everyday back and forth. With the region’s heavy snowfall, who is going to travel that far everyday to go to work? It always gets too hot when you are too close to any “star”. I wanted to avoid the smog, traffic, and the nuts that drive icy roads at top speeds and think that the laws of physics have been repealed just because they have a four-wheel drive. I am on a retirement income, I wanted more for the money, and the more people piled in one area, the more competition for resources, thus the higher the prices. I did not want all the ticky-tacky housing developments, the zoning rules etc. They all have to live with that, but I didn’t. The cost of living is lower in Cheyenne than in Denver. Cheyenne is big enough to have important services, but not so big as to be unmanageable. That is what I wanted. I’ve got my Wal-Mart’s and a plethora of necessary shopping outlets and my satellite dish within a market that I could well afford. Denver is just one hour and a half to the South when I was bored and wanted something more exotic, yet I could return easily within the same day. While I am not particularly fond of winter, it is less problematic when you do not have to negotiate the weather and slushy traffic getting to work everyday. That Norman Rockwell image comes to mind of watching the snowflakes outside the window fall from the comfort of home with a fireplace having your feet propped up with a hot cup of ‘joe’, watching the “Today Show”, so what’s not to like? Some stars burn hotter than others and are larger or smaller. For instance, Los Angeles is a big ‘star’ that burns hot. To get away from the congestion in that area one would have to consider Barstow, halfway to Las Vegas or approach the Arizona state line to the east.

A few other interesting areas that I passed through in the United States came to mind.

Sierra Vista, Arizona. This spot in southeast Arizona had the advantage of a small town feel with the associated costs. It has a dry climate, but because of the elevation, the summer heat, while a bit hotter than Denver in the summer, was not like living in the valley of fire, Phoenix andTucson. But the winters, unlike Denver did not involve living with temperatures consistently falling below freezing.Tucson is my “star” at 70 miles away, so Sierra Vista is the perfect “sweet spot”.

Sierra Vista, Arizona

The area surrounding Olympia, WA caught my eye. I have always adored Washington State as a lovely place. A rural place maybe 20 miles west of Olympia, would be ideal. Located close to the mountains and the sea, what could be better? I would become a part of a binary star system with Seattle the dominant star at 80 miles north, and Portland Oregon about 120 miles to the south.Seattle is a great city to orbit, with a laid back and progressive persona, I am home! I am not an outdoors type and therefore do not require incessant sunshine for my comfort. So, let it rain! Summers are cool and winters are mild when compared with that of the Denver area. That is what I call a ‘sweet spot’

Olympia, Washington

The one place that stood out in my travels with my spouse when we went east of the Mississippi, we are primarily ‘western people’, was the visit to Myrtle Beach,
South Carolina. It was surprising to us, how close we could actually live to this community and still enjoy a reasonable cost of living. While there is no dominant ‘star,’ there are plenty of medium sized and small communities. Myrtle Beach is too small to be a‘star’ in itself, but the entire area is not too overwhelming and they have great ocean views and some of nicest tourist provisions, (seafood restaurants) that one could enjoy. Twenty to thirty miles away from the city center is enough to escape the hubbub. Of course, the area comes with the milder climate that I prefer.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

There are many things to consider that contribute to your finding your own ‘sweet spot’. These can include proximity to family, health care facilities and the existence of state income taxes. Your tolerance for urban life may well exceed my own, or you could consider a place in Montana or the Dakotas, where there are no large urban areas, within the ‘temperate zone”

Unfortunately, here in Hawaii, we are outside of my ‘sweet spot’. Honolulu is too far away for anything less than an effort equivalent to a ‘moon shot’ to visit. The 250 miles represent an interisland hop that would require our packing bags. So we are at the equivalent of Jupiter or Saturn, in our solar system, considerably outside of my temperate zone. Honolulu is still the nearest ‘star’, although quite faint from here.

Well, to each his own, and may you find your journey as pleasant.

Honolulu Skyline


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    • Credence2 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Wildey, thanks for dropping by.

      To each is own, and I certainly wanted to make that clear in the article. There are plenty of places of splendid isolation available and you do not have to look too hard to find them.

      We had great fishing in Southeast Montana, not too far from the Wyoming line.

      Peace and solitude has to be the linchpin of a satifying retirement. I stayed in Boise for a few days on assignment back in 2008, all of the great outdoors was pretty much available from most any exit. I am going to guess that the 'real city' that you refer to may be either Reno or Portland, that could be considered a 6 hour drive?

      You could do a heck of lot worse. When your retirement time comes, if it hasn't already, have a pleasant journey. Believe me, it is worth it

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 

      6 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      LOL People are certainly different. I've at least visited all of your sweet spots except Honolulu, and wouldn't live in or near any of them!

      My idea of a retirement is peace and solitude; the large city has nothing to offer. Mountains, a place not too far to park my RV for a few days, and a stream with some fish - that's what I want.

      I've chosen the small city/large town of Boise Idaho (or at least a suburb). The mountains are just outside town and the nearest real city is 6 hours away. Family is close, which is very important to me.

    • Credence2 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Well, AC, you are most welcome, thanks for reading and commenting.

      Well, Sierra Vista seems to have much more of the positives and few of the negatives.

      Come and check in with me again before you make that jump. I had no problem finding plenty of room for a body to stretch out and have the best of all possible worlds. As 'retirees' we have it made!

    • American_Choices profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      What a wonderful article to bring to light so many great places to choose from. Nothing in America or the world is boring, we have so many choices and the world is so vast. I play with the thought of snow birding but alas haven't committed to that leap.

      My family is in San Diego, I love the flavor of Sausalito but the weather is so critical. The spot in Arizona fascinates me - great tip.

      You are encouraging me to take that jump. Great article. Thank you!

    • Credence2 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Hi, Jillian, this is a classic, it was funny, I guess that was the last straw?

      "The year we left, the kids and I were sitting in our favorite Italian restaurant having dinner. It was mid-April, still raining, and all of a sudden I broke down in tears and blurted out, "I need to go home!"

      I heard about the record cold in Southern California, I lived in the San Bernadino, Riverside area back during the late 1970's, so much time has past.

      As for the cost front, I am finally getting my wife's bucking bronco of a purse under control. I don't want to scare you off, because it is liveable here if you take certain precautions, there are lot of people who use palomas to heat hot water as propane is very cheap. Electric bills start to come down into the range of reason. Not as cheap as Olympia, but comparable to anywhere in California, if not better.

      It is an extended community in a sense that there is more bartering for goods and services.All the 'free love' hippie/Jamaican rastas types, descendents of the "Summer of Love" folks that are plentiful around here, recognize that even in an idyllic work free paradise, they need to earn a little hard currency, every now and then. I have starving artists doing my tree work, as they have had experience and not being a company is costing me a fraction of what I would pay if I called some corporate entity to do the work.

      It is boring, though. I would miss the bright lights and action of America's favorite city and certainly its most temperate, San Diego. It is almost too quiet here. You should have been here on January 1, the air was choked with smoke from firecrackers and fireworks which are not banned here as is the case in most of the lower 48. It is that Chinese tradition and all of that. If you ever reconsider about coming here, remember that you have a friend with a roadmap to help you avoid the landmines of life here.

    • Jillian Barclay profile image

      Donna Lichtenfels 

      6 years ago from California, USA

      Hi, Credence!

      You know that I love the big island! To me, that would be the sweet spot if money were not a consideration- As for Olympia, yes, it is totally different from the rain in Hawaii- and the Olympia natives always told me that there is always 3 to 4 weeks of actual summer every year, usually coinciding with the 4th of July! The first year we were in Olympia, we arrived during what was called the worst blizzard in 20 years- It was funny, visiting the docks on the Puget Sound and seeing the area blanketed in snow, but the kids and I loved the snow! That is also when we discovered the Olympia Oyster House-best food in the world!- I must also confess that Washington was where I bought my first and only floor length mink coat(don't tell PETA!), but it kept me warm-no glamour involved-and by the time we moved home, we had at least 20 umbrellas.

      Don't get me wrong! I loved it and the kids loved it, except for the never-ending rain-The rain never kept us from doing anything, it was part of everyday life. The kids still played outside and the roads were usually fine.

      The year we left, the kids and I were sitting in our favorite Italian restaurant having dinner. It was mid-April, still raining, and all of a sudden I broke down in tears and blurted out, "I need to go home!" The kids started laughing, but we were packed and moved within a few weeks- all 3000 square feet of furniture- I remember closing my last escrow (was a realtor there) and leaving the next morning-had to close that last deal!

      By the way, as for cold- we live about 25 miles north of San Diego and are 15 miles inland-This weekend, the night temps went down to 25 degrees-coldest I can ever remember!

      I miss my mink right now- once we moved home, I gave it to my aunt who lives in NY, and she uses it! But the cold is rare-The prices here are much higher than Washington state, but lower than Hawaii and I would love having you as a neighbor!

    • Credence2 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Thanks, Jillian, as for the weather, I did not think that it could get that cold having much more of a maritime climate rather than Continental one that might be found east of the Cascades, like Spokane?

      Gee, that would put a damper, that is a little too much cloudy and rain for my tastes. It rains a great deal here as well, but the rains are intermittant and sky is not a gloomy gray all day long. I would want to stay in the region but find sunnier areas. And yes, the missus would complain about San Diego being chilly at times, she is truly a 'fair weather friend'. But if it were not for the costs of living in the area and the costs associated with living in California, I could consider it.

    • Jillian Barclay profile image

      Donna Lichtenfels 

      6 years ago from California, USA

      This is a very well thought out article and makes great points for all. Olympia, Washington is a beautiful town. It has the small town feeling, but at the same time, is the state capital. I did not think that the rain would bother me and when we moved there, I took great pains to furnish my house in light colors, and made sure, before we bought the house, that our windows would bring in the maximum amount of sunlight.

      The final year we were there, we went 252 days without seeing the sun. Yes, I counted! The rain, which created the beautiful trees and forests that I fell in love with, was also what did me in.

      My kids, though, had great times, learning to fish in any one of the lakes that were within walking distance. Everyone we knew had a boat and the kids also enjoyed fishing in the Sound.

      It used to be great sending my daughter down to the blueberry farm and come home with the sweetest blueberries ever! The kids even learned how to pick wild berries that grew along the side of the road.

      The cost of utilities was a shock! To someone from California and used to $300.00 per month gas and electric bills, the first winter we were there when it hit temps of 20 below zero, our monthly electric bill never went above $40.00. I kept calling the electric company and saying, "I think you made a mistake."

      Olympia might be your sweet spot, but if your wife finds San Diego too cold, Olympia will not be hers- I miss so many things about it, but do think that my kids would have eventually come home to California and without them, I could have never been happy.

    • Credence2 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Hi, AC, thanks for reading and commenting. Savannah would certainly be a "sweet spot" in itself. Big enough to have the things you want without all the nasty things that you don't need and probably would find, in say, Atlanta or Jacksonville. I have been through there and the ante-bellum architechture, the plant and trees suggest in themselves that it is time to relax. It has a mild climate. Jacksonville, would be my "star". It has a reasonable cost of living, I think that you will like it, that nice meandering pace of life that many of us are looking for.... You could do worse, let me know how it turns out Cred2

    • American_Choices profile image


      7 years ago from USA


      Oh, the "sweet spot" - fantastic hub! We have been reviewing. A business associate maintains a place in Hawaii and San Diego. He imports wood flooring and interestingly, his wife finds SD too cold. For him, he is a body surfer so anywhere he can surf is his sweet spot. For our family, so far, we have chosen to live between states and continue to travel allot. I don't have many regrets in my life but for college, I wish I had spent my years in Washington DC - oh, well, next lifetime. I suspect the traveling will turn more international here shortly. I love the Midwest but I do need 2 months outta here for the winter. Any thoughts on Savannah Georgia?

    • Credence2 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Hi, TLW, thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, indeed, you will have to come to the Rockies and get a little of the "mile high". Aspen is gorgeous, but expensive. These mountain towns, especially ski resorts are pricey. Everybody has his or her own "sweet spot".

      Back in 2006, we travelled back to eastern Kentucky and parts of West Virginia. Those 'hollars' seemed so snug and insulating around their respective neighborhoods. The cost of living is great, the quiet and relative isolation and peace a definite plus. We were not that far from Washington DC. The missus is more sensitive to the cold than I. As long as I don't have to be out and about in the snow everyday, I certainly could live with it. You sound like you are doing pretty well where you are presently, and you could do a hell of a lot worse.

      All the Best Cred2

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 

      7 years ago from West Virginia

      Up and all across but funny Cred2. Enjoyed this article very much and I believe it is very important to find a good place to settle down for retirement, somewhere peaceful first comes to mind. I am very fond of Denver, although I haven't been there. I always wanted to live in that area or Aspen. My wife as well. I really do enjoy West Virginia though. I love the seasons very much. As long as there are 4 seasons, I could retire happily there. Hope all is well, very good points, and take care Cred2.

    • Credence2 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      D, I am glad that you enjoyed the article. It is a highly individualized perspective. We are stuck here as well, like birds in the guilded cage. But it could always be worse. We are waiting for housing values to rebound, but it looks that this wont happen soon. I value solitude and a little peace, you would like it here, the year round summer weather without the swelter. But if you have to be stuck somewhere, you could do worse than Florida, or the quiet areas of Maine, not far from the New Brunswick line.... Thanks Cred2

    • d.william profile image


      8 years ago from Somewhere in the south

      Good article. I love your analogy to the solar system. I had every intention of returning to northern Maine for my retirement, but with the real estate at a total stand still i am stuck in a little one horse town in Florida. i can't sell my property here, so i can not afford to move on. My home here is peaceful, quiet and isolated. The one great drawback is this extremely hot and humid summer that keeps one indoors during the summer months. My family equates the discomfort to summers here, to the discomforts of winters there. But it is certainly easier to put more clothes on when you are cold than to have none left to take off when you are too hot. Thank God for a/c. So, i make the best of my solitude, and spend way too much time on hub pages these days.

      Happiness certainly is where the heart is, not in the desires for something more.

    • Credence2 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Thanks Justsilvie, for reading. I hope that you enjoyed this as much as I did writing it.

      You know, I thought that all of Europe was relatively expensive compared to the U.S., you could certainly educate all about the reality in regards to that.

      Austin, would make a great sweet spot, I understand that Austin is the progressive garden spot in the state. You will certainly have plenty of room to stretch out, with an affordable cost of living to boot.

      And then, there is the Old Dominion, I have been through the state and it is lovely But of course, we will more than extend the red carpet if you decide to make Hawaii your home. It has its pros and cons, but the positive has outweighed the negative so far.

      The south is incredibly inexpensive, believe me on this annuity of mine I could live like a king there.

      your time is coming fast and I bet that you are 'chomping at bit'

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Nice Hub Credence!

      Still thinking about the "sweet spot"!

      Vienna Austria would be on my list if I could talk the kids into coming along. Have missed them too much to keep missing them. However it is really geared towards older Adults and it’s much easier here to keep your independence and offers much to do and a lot of it for very little money.

      Austin, Texas would be my second choice. Love Texas, even though it seems overpopulated with nuts. Must be genetically predisposed to this feeling.

      It will probably be Virginia and since Sweetie has put in for a transfer to Fort Lee it might be doable, without costing an Arm and a leg and the kiddos live there.

      Or we may just stay in Huntsville, Alabama. A long but one day doable drive to both sides of the family, no income tax and a house with low payments are the drawing card.

      Or maybe we will win the lottery and will become your neighbors in Hawaii!

    • Credence2 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Hi, Nonna, I am with you regarding Santa Fe. I am fond of New Mexico for all its open spaces. If it wasn't for the heavy snowfall, I had considered living in Alamosa, with Albuquerque as the nearest star. Texas does have the advantage of low cost of living. I read an article that spoke of a place called Harlingen as the lowest cost of living area in the country. Retired people are looking for such a place. Thanks for your comments Cred2

    • Dee aka Nonna profile image

      Dee aka Nonna 

      8 years ago

      Hi, I loved this hub. I too have traveled extensively (work and pleasure) and have lived all over the place (work) South, North, East, West and Midwest. If I had the money one of the places I would really love to try is Santa Fe, New Mexico. I lived in Houston for about 15 years and I loved it. But it wasn't until I lived in California did I really appreciate how low cost Houston really could have 3 or 4 times the house in Houston for what a little cottage would cost in California. Insane

    • Credence2 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Hi, FrugalFamily, thanks for reading and weighing in. You are right about Hawaii, it is difficult and it is expensive, try $7.50 for a darned box of cereal!! I am still freaking out!

      Cheyenne may be smaller than I thought, it has been a while since I have been through there. So you lived in Montana, so did I, for three years. The transition from LA to this little town was quite a culture shock. I tell it in

      Have alook if you have a moment. I am averse to large urban areas, although Houston has a temperate climate if not just a bit muggy. My brother lives there, so I know a little. Houston is a big hot star, I would need a many miles between me and the city to be comfortable.

      It is true that we all have differing "sweet spots' depending on any number of factors.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting, I will see you around the hubs!! Cred2

    • frugalfamily profile image

      Brenda Trott, M.Ed 

      8 years ago from Houston, TX

      I get it. I have been asked to move to Hawaii and I refuse because it is too difficult and expensive to fly in and out. Cheyenne has the same issues...and limited medical facilities. You might enjoy the outskirts of Nevada, I stayed a stent outside of it. The trouble there is the housing is too high and the economy too vol ital. I have lived in Chicago (too big and cold) Billings (MT WAYYYY too cold) Nevada (too rural) and I think I have found my sweet spot..Houston. You might laugh but I love the weather (ok not this year) the cost of living is low (no income tax, kinda high property tax) it has #1 hospitals in all the right major specialties, it is close to the beach (a dirty one) and it has sky scrapers..but most importantly it is a HUB so I get the lowest airfare to anywhere! Thanks for sharing!


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