Mary and Harold Hunt had lived in Southern California for years, but like many Americans, the mortgage payments on their home were too great to continue paying through retirement. They soon realized they had to make some drastic changes in order to retire happily. Here's what they learned.
One of the first things that became clear to the Hunts is that you need to own your house free and clear before you retire. "This was our dream home," Mary says of her west coast abode. "It was the house we wanted to live in the rest of our lives and we had to just look at that and say, 'That can't happen.'"
So the couple put their house on the market and looked for a new home to buy outright with the cash from the sale. "We had to come to terms with the fact that we probably wouldn't be able to do that where we live here in Southern California," she explains.
In order to save, the Hunts took their real estate search to Colorado. With cheaper homes and lower property taxes, they were able to find a house that was comparable to the one they were living in. Relocating to a different market allowed them to stretch their money, and save more of the profit they made from the sale of their dream home.
"The choice that we made to move out of state is going to have its challenges -- completely starting life over again in an area where you know very, very few people -- but we're getting out of our comfort zone and looking at this as an adventure," Mary remarks.
The Hunts weren't quite ready to move yet, so they leased their Colorado house for a year and downsized by converting their California office into their home. While the couple had to give up quite a few comforts, they know their living situation is temporary. Mary adds, "We are saving so much money, and the sacrifices that we've made have been so small compared to the positive aspects that we have gained from it."
25 Best Places to Retire
A Home to Retire In
Whether you dream of retiring to a big city, small town, resort area or college town, these great places offer reasonably priced homes, low crime and tax rates, quality health care, and more.
Best if you're looking for:Resort area Median home price:$156,000 Top state income tax:None
Legend has it that explorer Juan Ponce de León set foot in St. Augustine nearly 500 years ago and discovered the elusive fountain of youth. Alas, a move to the city today probably won't turn back the clock (in fact, de León may not have ever been in St. Augustine).
But St. Augustine's fantastic weather, beautiful beaches, and world-class golf will certainly do a body good. Although this small city 38 miles southeast of Jacksonville is a popular tourist destination, it has an active year-round community and lots of housing options. Its Flagler Hospital ranks among the top in the nation for clinical excellence and patient safety.
Best if you're looking for:Resort area Median home price:$259,000 Top state income tax:7.4%
Visit Coeur d'Alene and you'll immediately understand why this northern Idaho outpost is known as "Lake City." That lake, also named Coeur d'Alene, stretches 25 miles and has 109 miles of shoreline.
During the summer, it's a flurry of sailboats and cruise boats, paddlers and swimmers (even the 14th hole of the Coeur d'Alene Resort Golf Course sits amid the lake on a floating green).
Winters are chilly, but when locals aren't spending time in the three nearby ski resorts, they can be found warming up in the city's numerous restaurants and breweries or making the quick 30-mile trip to Spokane for more urban pleasures.
Best if you're looking for:Resort area Median home price:$195,000 Top state income tax:4.35% (4.25% in 2013)
Retiring to the water doesn't have to mean giving up four seasons or downsizing to a tiny condo. In Traverse City, residents enjoy miles of sandy beaches and all the spoils of Lake Michigan and nearby inland lakes-where waterfront homes can be found for less than $200,000.
Moreover, despite Traverse City's location on the northwestern side of the state, it has fairly urban-like amenities, such as the 391-bed Munson Medical Center, which consistently ranks among the 100 top hospitals in the country. And the nearby Interlochen Center for the Arts brings in hundreds of concerts, art exhibits, and theatrical and dance productions each year.
Best if you're looking for:Resort area Median home price:$264,500 Top state income tax:5%
Two hours northeast of Las Vegas, St. George is a favorite spot for both snowbirds and full-time retirees. Golfers can play on a dozen different courses in more than 300 days of sun. Hikers can traverse any number of trails in or near town, or take an hour's drive to Zion National Park.
While nature has carved monolithic masterpieces in the surrounding countryside, area artists are just as prolific; St. George's Tony Award--winning Utah Shakespeare Festival runs from June through October.
Meanwhile, the Tuacahn Amphitheatre in nearby Ivins brings Broadway shows and other big acts to its $25 million venue.
Best if you're looking for:Big city Median home price:$129,000 Top state income tax:7.75%
This central North Carolina city has a longstanding tradition supporting the arts. Its symphony, founded in 1947, is the oldest in the state; its arts council was the first in the nation; and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is among the most prestigious in the country.
The city also plays host to an internationally recognized film festival.
More draws for retirees include affordable housing (downtown townhomes can be had for $200,000) and tremendous health care, thanks in part to university teaching hospital Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
Best if you're looking for:Big city Median home price:$215,000 Top state income tax:None
Austin's relatively strong job market has made it a top destination for young folks in recent years. But retirees also feel at home in this vibrant city; of the more than 20 city-run recreational centers, three cater specifically to seniors.
There's something for everyone here whether you're looking to consult with a startup, hear live music on Sixth Street virtually every night of the week, or volunteer at South by Southwest's lollapalooza of music, independent film, and technology.
Meanwhile, the city boasts terrific health care and a performing arts scene that runs the gamut from ballet to the Shanghai Quartet.
Best if you're looking for:Big city Median home price:$116,000 Top state income tax:6%
The first Saturday in May, all eyes are on Louisville, home to the Kentucky Derby. Yet there's also plenty else to do and see year-round.
Residents can hear live bluegrass music, museum hop on West Main Street downtown, attend a concert or festival in the 85-acre Waterfront Park, and see local and Broadway shows in the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts.
Keep in shape by biking or strolling the Louisville Loop, a pedestrian path that will eventually span more than 100 miles, connecting many of Louisville's parks, neighborhoods, and attractions.
Best if you're looking for:Big city Median home price:$272,000 Top state income tax:9.9%; no sales tax
Famous for its food and bike cultures, Portland is a thriving but manageable city that gives retirees easy access to just about anything.
To see a revolving door of art exhibits, performing arts, and festivals, look no further than downtown and the nearby Pearl District.
No need to leave the city for outdoor adventures; Portland has one of the largest urban forests in the country (wine country and beaches are just a short drive away). It's also home to several award-winning hospitals, including the Oregon Health & Sciences University, whose research center attracts experts and patients from around the country.
Best if you're looking for:Big city Median home price:$174,000 Top state income tax:4.9%
There is much to be said for a place where you can ski in the morning and golf in the afternoon; drink Italian-style espresso at breakfast and eat homemade sopapillas for lunch; see ancient petroglyphs one day and gallery hop the next.
With the Rio Grande river near downtown and the Sandia Mountains to the east, Albuquerque is as diverse in its landscape as it is in culture. Downtown revitalization projects have added considerably to the appeal.
One caveat: Crime is on the high side, though locals say it's easy to avoid the problem areas.