Editor’s note: Robert Bruss is temporarily away. The following column from Bruss’ “Best of” collection first appeared Sunday, March 19, 2006.
If you or your parents are nearing retirement age and are considering a move to a new location, “50 Fabulous Places to Retire in America, Third Edition” by Arthur and Mary Griffith is a great place to start your quest. The authors list their top 50 favorite retirement spots, followed by six pages to explain the pros and cons of each town.
As you might expect, the list is weighted toward the Sunbelt. But, surprisingly, three of the best-rated retirement havens are in Alaska. One is in Minnesota, and two are in Montana. The authors don’t say these are inexpensive places to retire; just that they are “fabulous.”
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At the end of the book, after describing all the 50 locations plus nine “honorable mention” towns, the authors finally reveal where they retired. I’ll give you some hints: median home price $112,400; population 5,332; closest big city 200 miles away; lots of privacy and scenery; great fishing and hunting; and a nickname, “The End of the Road.”
The reports for each retirement town follow a repetitive formula that includes the cost of living, climate, medical care, available housing and costs, recreation, services just for seniors, education resources, and transportation. Having visited most of the places described, I found the reports for each town remarkably complete, even including “nice-to-know” information, such as community special events and state car-registration rules.
For retirees who want to keep busy with full- or part-time employment, or perhaps start a business, each town description includes “earning a living” resources. Especially valuable are the latest unemployment statistics and growth information. There is also extensive real estate information for both house and condo buyers, as well as prospective renters.
If the book has a fault, it is that much of the statistical information is from 2003 and 2004, rather than more up-to-date 2005 information.
A strange feature of the book is the authors recommend a local real estate agent for most, but not all, towns. Readers can’t help but wonder how the individual realty agent was selected and whether there are any “referral fees” involved. A disclaimer explanation would have been useful.
But this isn’t a “chamber of commerce” book that reveals only favorable information about the 50 towns. The authors don’t hesitate to disclose negative information. Each town description includes crime-rate information, including whether the crime rate per 100,000 population is above or below the national average.
For example, a few weeks ago I visited Raleigh, N.C., which I thought was a very friendly, affordable and interesting city with lots of diversity. However, I was shocked to learn this “fabulous place” has a crime rate far above the national average and the violent crime rate is extremely high.
In addition to the 50 descriptions of each retirement town, there are three fascinating short chapters with lots of valuable information and suggestions for retirees. They are titled “Facts, Numbers, and Tips”; “Friendly Internet Websites”; and “Moving is: Worse than a Root Canal, but More Fun Than a Water Slide.”
After having visited all 50 fabulous retirement locations, you are probably wondering where retirement location experts Arthur and Mary Griffith live. The book cover shows a color photo of them enjoying an obviously summer day near Homer, Alaska, where they live on (unpaved) North Fork Road. On my scale of one to 10, this well-researched book earns a solid 10.
“50 Fabulous Places to Retire in America, Third Edition,” by Arthur and Mary Griffith (Career Press, Franklin Lakes, NJ), 2006, $24.99, 340 pages plus CD-ROM; available in stock or by special order at local bookstores, public libraries, and www.amazon.com.
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