The question of where to retire once you reach financial independence has come up several times in the last month. It started about a month ago when my big sister in spirit sent me an email. I’ll call her Buffy in keeping with a longstanding tradition of naming anonymous people after Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters. Her family’s location in Silicon Valley is high cost of living… perhaps the highest in the country. If you aren’t working for Big Tech, it probably doesn’t make sense to live there. We saw the writing on the wall around 2011 and realized that I can blog from anywhere and my wife’s military pay won’t adjust for geography when she’s retired.
Trying to find the best place to retire is an interesting exercise. It’s so interesting that Money and Kiplinger’s magazines seem to put together new “Best Places to Retire” every 4 months. Maybe it just seems that way to me. Anyway, Buffy is an A+ planner and she had already sent a list of things they’d be looking for in a new place. I like that it started with a list they wouldn’t be looking for:
Things NOT to look for retirement
- Jobs – No need for a job if you are financial independent
- Perfect weather – They reasoned that they could travel during bad seasons. In New England we call the winter relocation to Florida second homes, snowbirding.
- Schools – Their kids will be out of school, so this isn’t a consideration. I pointed out that there might value in a nearby university for things to do.
- Profitable housing prices – Buffy has experience in real estate investment. I think she wanted to point out that this was not really a concern. This makes sense if you are just looking for a primary residence to spend your days
Things REQUIRED for early retirement
- Nice, low maintenance house – Not everyone can put this on their list, but moving from Silicon Valley opens up a lot of options. When the average house there is probably going for $2 million, you start to think what $400-500K buys you some place like Texas… or Rhode Island.
- Decent medical facilities – Seems like a reasonable request as one hits retirement age
- Nature, but no wildfires – Clearly the wildfires last month in Northern California is a factor here.
- Low disaster risk – The hope is to avoid earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, etc. I think Buffy is concerned that climate change will only get worse.
Obviously everyone will have different lists of what they want in retirement. I would say that the first list is about avoiding paying a premium for things you don’t intend to use. The second list puts a premium for safety and security. There’s also a touch of scaling back and enjoying simple things like a nice evening stroll or maybe a day of hiking.
So Buffy’s husband was thinking about New Hampshire or Vermont, while Buffy was thinking about Oregon or Colorado. Then Buffy’s husband brought up Rhode Island… where we live.
Before I got to the last part of the email, I was already thinking about Rhode Island. It’s natural to think of your state and see whether it is a fit, right?
Here’s Why to FI in RI
It’s very easy to check off most of the first list.
Rhode Island is the 50th best state for business. The schools need $2.2 billion in urgently needed repairs. That kind of shortfall could be negative, because property taxes might need to be raised. That’s one of the things Buffy wants to avoid. However, overall jobs and schools are not great here.
Rhode Island doesn’t have perfect weather with a few months of snow, but it’s not bad. My area, Newport, RI gets less snowfall as it’s closer to the coast. The rest of the year the weather is pretty good, including the recent fall foliage. I never know where housing prices are going to go, but usually jobs and schools are an indicator. However, since this isn’t a big consideration we can just move on.
Moving onto the list of positives for Rhode Island, it looks like a good fit for Buffy. Housing prices are higher than much of the country, but still a fraction of what they are Silicon Valley. It’s a relatively short drive to Boston’s medical facilities which has some of the top hospitals in the world. Rhode Island is aptly named The Ocean State for a reason. Our nature is miles and miles of coastline and beaches, but that qualifies as nature, right?
The disaster risks in New England are largely related to snow storms. Disasters like earthquakes and tornadoes are black swan events and generally very tiny even then. We do get hurricanes, but they are usually fairly weak by the time they’ve traveled up the Atlantic coastline. I don’t want to minimize the snow, but we still have plenty of homes built in the 1600, 1700, and 1800’s, so that’s an indicator that they may be around for another hundred years.
That’s not to say that New Hampshire, Vermont, Colorado, Oregon are bad options either. I can certainly see why some people would consider them. There’s no right answer and it’s highly dependent on the individual. For example, the popular financial independence blog Frugalwoods wrote about Vermont. Similarly, Tanja from Our Next Life wrote about why California is right for them.
I’m not really convinced that Rhode Island is our final destination either. With two kids 5 and under, we’ve got another 12 years to gather more information. Twelve years ago I would have told you that the Boston suburbs would be my forever home. We’ve been to California for 5-6 and to Rhode Island for almost that long. Rhode Island certainly checks off a few boxes for us or we wouldn’t be here now.
What’s your best state for early retirement? Let me know in the comments.