I am about 6 years away from retirement and like millions of other Baby Boomers in America, I didn’t save enough money to maintain a middle class quality of life in my retirement years. According to retirement statistics collected by Business Insider, over 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 each day starting January 1, 2011. Most of us lost about one-fifth of our retirement savings in the 2007-2010 recession. Social Security and state pension programs are underfunded and Medicare/Medicaid face possible cuts.
So, my Plan B to the not-so-golden years is to pick a city for retirement based on beautiful places that I have lived and visited that are affordable. I want access to good medical care, good free entertainment, an airport, a cool climate most of the year, and friendly people. My pick city for retirement will have free resources for helping to stay healthy like wonderful hiking trails, parks and recreation centers, and community resources for socializing and exercising.
My favorite pick cities for retirement are all surrounded by beautiful mountains. I am not a beach person, but each of these best retirement cities are close to rivers and lakes. Each of these best retirement cities has plenty of summer and winter activities that are free or discounted for senior citizens. I have lived in all these retirement cities except for Sedona, Arizona. I recently visited Sedona to experience the world famous vortex and take in the pure beauty of the high desert on my way to the Grand Canyon. I have to admit it is easy to find the meaning of life and true happiness in Sedona!
All the demographics, economics, and highlights of these best retirement cities can be found using the links to the city web sites below. I will share some of my own experiences that make these five cities my pick cities for retirement. Since I am planning my retirement party already, I also provided some of my favorite retirement party songs! Life may not have turned out exactly as we Baby Boomers expected, but life is still worth living every moment to its’ fullest.
Best Retirement Cities
There is a magical, spiritual energy in Sedona that is referred to as the vortex. The Native Americans believe Sedona is nestled on sacred ground and when I visited, I can understand why. The unusual red dirt and red rock formations in Sedona are hypnotizing. Frank Lloyd Wright was so enchanted by Sedona that he designed a church that was built right into the rocks. There are hundreds of hiking trails throughout the countless canyons of Sedona. When in Sedona, it feels as if you are insulated from the rest of America’s woes and your personal financial challenges.
There are four popular meditation sites in the vortex of Sedona: Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, Airport Mesa, and Boynton Canyon. Some new age viewpoints describe the Sedona vortex energy as having a positive or negative influence on consciousness and introspection. If that is too wild and weird, there are hot air balloon rides, jeep tours, train tours, rafting tours, helicopter tours and horseback tours to help you experience life!
Almost everyone in Sedona seems happy and believes life is good. I stopped at a Circle K convenience store and when entering the restroom, the clerk greeted me with a mop in her hand and jubilantly said, “You have a nice clean bathroom to use. I just scrubbed everything, so it should be great.” I’ve never seen a person so excited about just having cleaned a toilet! We also stopped at the nearby casino about 30 miles away and had prime rib dinner for $14.99.
Sedona is two hours from Phoenix, two hours from the Grand Canyon, and one hour from beautiful pine trees in Flagstaff. The average high temperature in the hottest month of August is 93. The average low temperature in December and January is 31.
Sandy, Utah is a beautiful, affordable middle class city in between Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah. It is spread up the side of the majestic Wasatch Mountains and is home to the Sale Lake City Real pro soccer team. They have a brand new stadium for the Real team and they also use it for concerts like The Eagles. Almost all of the streets in “Happy Valley” cities around Salt Lake City are on a grid, making it extremely easy to get around. It does snow in Salt Lake City, but it is usually a wet snow and is cleared or melted by the end of the day.
When I lived in Sandy, I loved driving 45 minutes to Sundance Resort, 45 minutes to Park City for the Sundance Film Festival and 20 minutes to Snowbird Ski Resort. We also drove two hours to Wendover, Nevada for some casino action and live music concerts like The Beach Boys, Styx, Willie Nelson, and others. Antelope Island is a cool place to have picnics out in the middle of the Great Salt Lake.
The Intermountain Healthcare System in Utah is the best medical care I have ever had, and the most affordable, too. My husband had fusion surgery on his C5 and C6 and the total out of pocket expense was $100. He had a private room with a couch that made out into a bed so I could stay the night. It is an HMO system that should be replicated in every state!
I went to college in Denver, so I spent a great deal of time in the college student party scene of Boulder. But Boulder offers a living paradise for retirement, too. Camping and fishing in Estes Park, just outside of Boulder, is like being in Heaven. The air is clean; there is no hustle and bustle; and the lakes have pure spring water that soothes the skin. The highest road in the United States is near Boulder, where the drive will take you high above the tree lines. The vegetation and wild life in pure nature is amazing.
Boulder gets a much colder, drier snow than Sandy, Utah does, but the road crews are very good about clearing the major highways and streets. I liked the fact that I was only an hour from Denver where I could attend pro sports games, live music concerts at the old Mile High Stadium, and attend Broadway touring shows. I was also an hour away from my favorite concert spot on earth, Red Rocks Amphitheater. There is also some great casino action about an hour away in Central City and Black Hawk.
I was stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington and lived there for two years. Spokane is surrounded by beautiful mountains, lakes, and small towns with fun festivals. Aside from Lake Tahoe, the most awesome lake I have ever seen is 30 miles from Spokane in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. There are casinos throughout the area, and I loved every kind of outdoor sport and lake tour I could take in over a weekend. We went on hay rides, gondola rides, and boat rides all in one day. During the winter, we rented snow mobiles and rode all through the mountain trails surrounding the giant lake.
Spokane is only 100 miles from the Canadian border and we took full advantage of that by camping in the Canadian Rockies near Banff. We saw long-horned while sheep grazing on the sides of cliffs as we were driving to the hot springs. The rivers are beautiful with lime green glacier water that is freezing cold, but totally refreshing. Spokane is about a four hour drive from Seattle, so we had a lot of ocean fun, too.
Ruidoso, New Mexico
My Dad retired in Ruidoso, started an office supply business there, and lived there for 30 years before his passing. I lived there for a while helping him with his business and working at the Elks Lodge where my Dad was the Bingo caller. Ruidoso is the quintessential small mountain town with flavor and personality.
Ruidoso is close to the Apache Mescalero reservation and many of my Dad’s friends were Native American. It has a rich culture and amazing history. The Lincoln National Forest where Smokey the Bear was found, surrounds the village of Ruidoso. It is about a three hour drive from El Paso and a five hour drive from Albuquerque.
Ruidoso is one of those towns where everyone knows everyone and helps take care of each other in a very special way. The rainbow trout in the town stream makes for a great Saturday night grilling feast. Ski Apache and the horse racing track are among the best attractions in Ruidoso. The Inn of the Mountain Gods has great golf and casino action. I love Ruidoso.
Now that I have my best cities for retirement narrowed down, I am going to sit back and count the months with my MP3 playlist of best retirement party songs. Enjoy!
Best Retirement Party Songs
Enjoy Yourself by Todd Snider
My Way by Elvis Presley
Take This Job and Shove It by Johnny Paycheck
Happy Trails by Van Halen
Celebrate by Kool and the Gang
Friends Never Say Goodbye by Elton John
I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton
It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere by Jimmy Buffet
King of the Road by Roger Miller
I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair by George Jones
It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday by Boyz 2 Men
Seasons In The Sun by Terry Jacks
Time Of My Life by Green Day
It’s My Life by Bon Jovi
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