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Looking for a place to retire-Find the sweet spot
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
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’
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.
- So you want to retire in Hawaii I
The move was nuts, see how it started!