Moving from relatively pricey Seattle to a cheaper locale is one key way for retirees to stretch a buck. Drier climates and dreamy settings...

Moving from relatively pricey Seattle to a cheaper locale is one key way for retirees to stretch a buck. Drier climates and dreamy settings can beckon, too.

When Washington retirees pull up stakes, they favor nearby states — 13 percent pack their bags for Arizona, California, Oregon, Hawaii or Nevada.

Like most West Coasters, though, Washingtonian retirees mostly stay put (81 percent).

Still, snowbirds who flock south in winter are an increasing trend, says Bert Sperling, co-author of “Cities Ranked and Rated.”

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Here are three locals who followed different maps on their route to retirement.


Cynthia and Dean Hunter of Lakewood, Pierce County and Palm Desert, Calif.

Karen and Ellery Berg of Kenmore and Black Butte Ranch, Ore.

Pete Johanson of Skagit County’s Lake Cavanaugh and Mexico’s Lake Chapala

How to pick the best place for you

Looking for the best
place in the world to retire? Try Florence, Ore. Or Boulder, Colo. Or Costa Rica. All three rank at the top of one list or another. But finding the right place involves researching the quality-of-life issues most important to you.

Test the waters.
Vacation for at least a week during different seasons anywhere you’re considering retiring. Check out recreation, senior services, entertainment, health care and possible social connections. Then, rent or lease before buying.

Consider college towns,
because “these are entertaining, recreational and cultural places that bring visiting lecturers, world-famous people, concert series and college sports,” says relocation researcher Bert Sperling. “Some let seniors attend classes without any charge.”

Two homes?
Low interest rates might allow you to buy a second home as an investment, renting the property out before retiring to help it pay for itself. Keeping a hometown place, too, maintains ties to family and friends. Pay off your mortgage before retiring or at least reduce payments to 25 percent of your retirement income.

Seek financial advice
on the economics of a big move; don’t rely just on advice from friends and family.

Five factors for finding a favorite

Aside from basic cost of living, check out state and local property taxes.

Getting around: Good mass transit, pedestrian-friendly shopping and services, and proximity to airports make a big difference.

Staying healthy: Access to good clinics and hospitals grows increasingly important in later life.

Climate: Want four distinctive seasons or more temperate weather?

Culture: “We find people who think they want to move to some remote place,” says location researcher Bert Sperling, “and later discover they’re bored to tears.”

Sources: Bert Sperling, president of Sperling’s Best Places and, which research, rate and rank U.S. cities for real-estate and relocation purposes; Seniors Real Estate Specialists, an international group of real-estate agents certified to handle senior housing issues; Rick Spellman, John L. Scott Real Estate agent and partner in Able Environments, a consulting company on senior, retirement and disabled-housing issues.

Where we’re going

Of the 172,142 Washingtonians age 65 or older who moved between 1995 and 2000, folks flocked to:

Elsewhere in Washington: 139,419

Arizona: 7,643

California: 6,616

Oregon: 4,676

Hawaii: 1,832

Nevada: 1,318

— Source: U.S. Census, 2000

On the Best Lists

From: “America’s 100 Best Places to Retire” by Elizabeth Armstrong

Best Art Town

No. 1:
Ashland, Ore.

Best Undiscovered Town

No. 9:
Sequim, Wash.

Best Beach Town

No. 10:
Whidbey Island, Wash.

Best College Town

No. 6:
Eugene, Ore.

Best Small Town

No. 8:
Port Townsend, Wash.

Best Four-Seasons Town

No. 1:
Bend, Ore.

From: “Retire in Style: 50 Affordable Places Across America” (West Coast spots) by Warren Bland

No. 1:
Boulder, Colo.

No. 2:
Portland, Ore.

No. 8:
Eugene, Ore.

No. 12:
Medford/Ashland, Ore.

No. 23:
Bellingham, Wash.

No. 33:
Olympia, Wash.

No. 42:
Bend, Ore.

No. 48:
Palm Springs/Palm Desert, Calif.

Find your own “best place” to retire with these books and Web sites:

Web Sites CNN and Money magazine pair to compare costs, weather and more for more than 1,200 U.S. retirement places. Web extension of popular “Cities Ranked and Rated” book compares taxes, food, housing and more for U.S. cities. Retirement Living Center: Membership-based Web site evaluates places to retire, including 125 locations in 28 states.


“America’s 100 Best Places to Retire” by Elizabeth Armstrong, Vacation Publications, 2002, $18. Strong emphasis on culture and lifestyle in smaller towns.

“Cities Ranked and Rated: Your Guide to the Best Places to Live in the U.S. & Canada” by Peter Sander and Bert Sperling, Wiley, John & Sons, 2004, $25. User-friendly and thorough on day-to-day essentials.

“Retirement Places Rated: What You Need to Know to Plan the Retirement You Deserve” by David Savageau, Wiley, John & Sons, 2004, $24. Financial comparisons for 203 retirement hot-spots.

“50 Fabulous Planned Retirement Communities for Active Adults: A Comprehensive Directory of Outstanding Master-Planned Residential Developments” by Robert Greenwald. Career Press, 1998, $20.

“America’s Best Low-Tax Retirement Towns: Where to Move To, and From, to Slash Your Taxes in Retirement” by Eve G. Evans and Richard Fox. Vacation Publications, 2002, $17.

“Choose a College Town for Retirement: Retirement Discoveries for Every Budget” by Joseph Lubow, Globe Pequot Press, 1999, $15.

“Live Well in Mexico: How to Relocate, Retire and Increase Your Standard of Living” by Ken Luboff, Avalon Travel Publishing, 1999, $16.

“Retire on Less Than You Think: The New York Times Guide to Planning Your Financial Future” by Fred Brock, Henry Holt & Company, 2004, $15.

“Retire in Style: 60 Outstanding Places across the USA and Canada” by Warren Bland, Next Decade Publishing, 2005, $23.

“Where to Retire: America’s Best and Most Affordable Places” by John Howells, Globe Pequot Press, 2003, $18.

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