Money Magazine has just released their annual list of the Top 100 Places to Live. I'm always attracted to the list because as I get closer to my military retirement I'm often asked where I'll live. For many this question is a foregone conclusion. They'll return to their home of record, closer to family, their follow-on job, or to a home they've purchased years ago.
For others, there is uncertainty. They aren't tied to any particular area and are flexible to choose a home based on their tastes and experiences.
So, what criteria can you use to select the best places to retire?
Let's consider Money Magazine's list. The magazine considers criteria like average income, cost of a family home, weather, access to health care, education, entertainment and recreation.
For military retirees, access to military bases and facilities must be considered. Access to healthcare, commissaries, exchanges, fitness centers, and other benefits unique to military retirees is a huge factor in selecting a home.
Consider Cheyenne Wyoming, for example. While not ranked in the top 100 cities on the Money List, it is easily within driving distance to the number 2 city, Fort Collins Colorado. With F.E. Warren Air Force Base located in the city, a low cost of living, no state income tax, almost no crime, and clean air, Cheyenne offers the military retiree a great place to settle down.
If you prefer a warmer climate, consider Peoria Arizona. Close to Luke Air Force Base and Phoenix, Peoria ranked number 55 on the magazine's annual poll. It was highlighted for it's access to professional sports teams, cultural events, large parks and access to recreation. While exceptionally hot in the summers, you won't see nicer weather than Arizona in the winter.
The Money Magazine list provides military members considering retirement a good resource to explore as they narrow down their choices. It's interesting to note, I think, that the list is different every year. The bottom line is that America is full of great places to live. For military members, the added factor of living in reasonable proximity to major military bases helps narrow down the choices.
I am from Vermont, for example. Vermont doesn't have a military facility, but nearby states like New York and Massachusetts do. By mapping out bases and then determining the distance you'd be willing to travel to get there on a regular basis, you can begin to create short lists of places to investigate.
For me, I am willing to drive 40 minutes to reach a base. While Vermont is out of reach, I could live in New Hampshire near the Portsmouth Naval Yard, and still be close to family while taking advantage of New Hampshire's reasonable taxes.
Everyone has their own criteria, but a military retiree must consider access to services as an important resource. A good reference is About.com's list of U.S. Military Bases and Installations.