Where Should I Retire?: We’ll retire at 60 with about $2.5 million and want to ditch high-tax California — but still want great year-round weather. Where should we retire?

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Dear Catey,

My wife and I are 53, our kids are out of the house and we are living in San Jose, California. We have $1.5 million in investible assets and save around $100,000 a year. We want to retire in seven years or so. We love it here, but don’t want to commit ourselves to the expensive housing and taxes. My wife wants to retire someplace where she can work outside (in the barn or garden) year round, so not too hot nor not too cold. I’m a violinist (although not playing as a profession) and my only requirement is that the place have a vibrant classical music and opera scene and people with whom I can play music, like in a quartet. Where can we retire? Thank you.


Dear S.M.,

You’ve presented me with a tough question, seeing as many areas in California are known to have the best weather in America. But I know weather is important to many readers (and they have a point: weather does impact our moods, research shows), as is a lower cost of living, so I’ll gladly tackle your question. (I’ll be the first to say, it’s hard to beat, say, San Diego weather — some people say it’s the best in the world — but when you’re paying a ton less, you can probably deal with a little cold or humidity sometimes.) Here are some suggestions:


A colorful pot of flowers line the downtown area of Medford, Oregon.

If you want something close to home: Medford, Ore.

Medford weather isn’t perfect, but it’s very good: Your wife will be able to work outside most of the year here (temperatures rarely climb above 93F or below 32F) — and Medford gets less rain than many other parts of Oregon, and less than the U.S. average.

The Rogue Valley area, which includes Medford, also has lots to do in the way of arts and music. The Rogue Valley Symphony has been around for more than 50 years with shows in both Medford and nearby Ashland (roughly a 20 minute drive), and Medford has its own opera company. Ashland also offers a renowned Shakespeare Festival.

Though it isn’t dirt cheap to live in Medford, it’s a far cry from the prices you’re probably paying in San Jose. The cost of living is only slightly higher than the U.S. average and median homes are under $300,000. Plus, property taxes are reasonable, and there is no sales tax in Oregon. Added bonus: Medford has an international airport, though, as I reported here, “some may be put off by Medford’s lack of diversity.


Reynolda Gardens in Winston-Salem

If you want to stretch your dollar further: Winston-Salem, N.C.

This suggestion comes from Annette Fuller, the editor of Where to Retire magazine, who says she “heartily” recommends Winston-Salem “for excellence in music, opera and arts overall.” Indeed, it is home to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, which is famous for its music program (and offers more than 200 recitals, concerts and operas each year) — and includes the Chrysalis Chamber Music Institute of UNCSA and the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute. And you’ll get to see plenty of concerts downtown at the Stevens Center, which is the primary performance space for UNCSA and the Winston-Salem Symphony, Piedmont Opera Theatre and other regional music and arts programs.

The weather is pretty good in Winston-Salem, which is located in central North Carolina, too: “It has mostly mild four-season weather; it does snow here, but not very often, and rarely blizzard-like. It’s usually a few inches and it melts in a day or two. The area does not have extreme heat or humidity,” explains Fuller. However, it does get a bit more rain than average for the U.S.

You can live here on a lot less than you’re spending now, as the cost of living is below average for the U.S., with median home prices coming in at under $150,000. Other perks: You’ll enjoy a downtown that’s been “rejuvenated with al fresco dining, shops and craft cocktails,” Fuller adds. You can read more about Winston-Salem here.


Malaga, Spain

If you’re up for an adventure: Malaga, Spain

The weather here is pretty ideal, with temperatures that typically vary from 45°F to 88°F, and there are plenty of other perks to Malaga.

“If you think the Costa del Sol is soulless, you clearly haven’t been to Málaga. Loaded with history and brimming with a youthful vigour that proudly acknowledges its multilayered past, the city that gave the world Picasso has transformed itself in spectacular fashion, with half a dozen new art galleries, a radically rethought port area and a nascent art district called Soho,” writes Lonely Planet. Plus there’s the music scene you were hoping for with opera and symphonies performed at popular spots like Teatro Cervantes, a gorgeous 19th century theater.

There’s also a good food scene — that “encompasses both Michelin stars and tastefully tatty fish shacks,” writes Lonely Planet — and friendly residents. “If you enjoy big-city life with laid back charm and a side of seashore, give Málaga a whirl. You can even get by in English,” writes International Living. They add that you can likely get by spending about $2,300 a month. A big downside for you, of course, is that it’s far from the States.

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