With all the attention on Seattle during the Super Bowl, it got us thinking about what it's like to retire in the Pacific Northwest. We polled some Boomer friends from Washington State who seem devoted to their rainy environs to see if people stay and retire there, or if they all flee like snowbirds on the East Coast to more southerly climes. Given that our retirement planning site, GangsAway!, needs to be up to snuff on this information, we needed to know.
We were surprised. Which doesn't happen a lot! Turns out a lot of people not only stay (though many do head for sunnier places), but even more strangely (to me), people actually chose Seattle and other towns up and down the Puget Sound as their retirement spot.
While Seattle isn't for everyone, and California immigrants, as a general rule, need to think long and hard before taking up residence in the land of mist and slugs, there is a lot to recommend the Pacific Northwest.
For people who love to be near water, who are boaters, hikers, skiers, walkers, or just generally enjoy the outdoor life, Seattle is a dream. The rain isn't always so much rain as mist, and that doesn't stop anyone from biking the Bert Gilman trail or going out for a coffee in one of the million coffee joints, or cheering on their football teams, either the Seahawks or the Sounders.
It certainly does rain in Seattle, but it's the gray over cast in winter that is a serious challenge for some. If you are one of those who find gentle rain and the greenery that comes with it comforting (think Ireland without the brogue), you'll also appreciate the mildness of the climate. It doesn't generally get too cold and in the summer it doesn't get much higher than 80 degrees on a regular basis.
And the summers are (this is where one of my friend's gets a far-off look in her eyes when describing them) glorious. "You forget everything when the weather turns to perfection. You can't describe a perfect Seattle summer. You can only feel it as an emotion after having experienced it," she says, and then she has to stop talking because she gets a little choked up.
Okay, so let's narrow down some of the other key reasons why retiring in Seattle or western Washington is so attractive.
• Washington has no state income tax, so your retirement job paycheck and any other income will go further.
• The cost of living may be higher than the national average, but it's a lot cheaper than California or East Coast cities like New York, Boston, or Washington, D.C.
• The climate is mild, so you don't have to spend money on air conditioning in the summer, or shovel snow in the winter.
• A lot of entertainment is free, meaning the great outdoors is accessible and varied and the mild climate makes is available all year round.
• The pace of life is also more laid back, even with all the caffeine in people's systems.
In addition to Seattle, itself, check out these other towns around the area that could be perfect for your retirement dreams.
Tacoma: Great urban cousin to the south of Seattle. Maginificent glass museum and endless antique shops.
Bellingham: Cozy university town in the north that overlooks the water and loves its hippies.
Edmonds: Overlooked waterfront hamlet, not far from Seattle, and a short drive to the mountains.
Issaquah: Affordable, close to Seattle, in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.
Bainbridge Island: A short ferry-hop from Seattle with small-town charm.
Vashon Island: The rural island of Puget Sounds' past, a short ferry ride from downtown Seattle.
Poulsbo: Across the bridge from Bainbridge Island, this Viking Village by the sea is an affordable gem on the Kitsap Peninsula.
Kingston: Affordable old-fashioned town, connected to Edmonds by car-ferry and a short drive from there to Seattle.
Vancouver: Your money goes further in this southern town just across the river from Portland. No state income tax in Washington, no sales tax in Oregon.
Bellevue: The smaller, but bustling sister city of Seattle on the east side of Lake Washington.
Sequim: All the charm of a Washington seaport on the Olympic Peninsula, with half the winter gloom. This town has more sunny days than any other town in the state.
School: University of Florida Team Mascot: Albert & Alberta Gator Median home price: $118,900 Start practicing that gator chomp! Home to the University of Florida, Gainesville offers local Boomers priority access to some of the most rip-roaring football match-ups in the NCAA. But Gainesville’s more than just a sports fan’s town. Each year, nearly 60,000 people drop anchor at the Hippodrome State Theatre – a.k.a. The Hipp to locals – to check out professional stage productions as well foreign, limited release and avant-garde films. With a tropical climate, bustling downtown, world-class fishing and the lowest median home price on the list, Gainesville will keep almost anyone busy without taking a big bite out of retirement funds.
School: University of Texas at Austin Team Mascot: Hook ‘Em & Bevo Median home price: $220,700 Music lovers. Foodies. Artists. City slickers. Austin’s got something for everyone. With a thriving music scene, food truck paradise, vibrant arts community and downtown appeal, the Live Music Capital of the World is culture-rich and brimming with a soulful quirkiness that’s uniquely Austin. For adventure-seekers, retirees can choose from more than 5,000 educational trips around the world offered by the “Road Scholar” program through the University of Texas at Austin.
Schools: Cornell University, Ithaca College Team Mascots: Big Red Bear, Bomber Median home price: $178,600 Ithaca is gorges, literally! Located at the southern tip of Cayuga Lake -- the longest of the Finger Lakes -- Ithaca’s gorges, forests and more than 100 waterfalls complement its small town ambience and pedestrian-friendly communities. More than just a nature enthusiast’s dream, Ithaca is also home to not one but two colleges, both of which allow Boomers to audit classes. If you’re over 60, Cornell University’s Senior’s Program offers discounted rates -- up to 90 percent per credit -- for classes taken during the summer sessions.
School: University of South Carolina Beaufort Team Mascot: University of South Carolina Cocky Median home price: $168,300 Name that movie: "Life is like a box of chocolates." If you guessed, "Forrest Gump," then you know Beaufort, South Carolina. More than just home to the University of South Carolina Beaufort, this moss-covered antebellum beauty help set the stage for the Tom Hanks blockbuster as well as "Prince of Tides" and "The Big Chill." Located in the heart of Lowcountry and surrounded by barrier islands, Beaufort's ecological majesty, rich cultural heritage and proximity to Hilton Head Island -- a prime resort town -- have made it a hit for retirees. But if all that Southern charm doesn't whet your whistle, South Carolina residents age 60 and older who do not work full time can qualify for free tuition at the university.
School: University of Oregon Team Mascot: The Oregon Duck Median home price: $192,200 While it’s true the University of Oregon posed as the fictional Faber College in “Animal House,” that’s not all the “U of O” is famous for. The birthplace of Nike, Eugene has a rich track and field history -- the iconic runner Steve Prefontaine is an alumnus -- and often hosts Olympic Team Trials for Track & Field. As one of America’s most bicycle-friendly cities, Pedaling for Pinot on the Eugene Wine Trail -- part of the burgeoning Willamette Valley vineyards -- makes for a stunning excursion for wine and outdoor-enthusiasts alike. Retirees can also enjoy unlimited access to college courses thanks to The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Oregon (OLLI-UO) partnership. Although the cost of living is above the U.S. average, no sales tax in Oregon helps make Eugene an affordable option.
School: University of Mississippi Team Mascot: Rebel Black Bear Median home price: $169,700 If you’re enchanted by the written word, Oxford’s prize-winning literary community -- past and present -- won’t disappoint. Former home to Nobel prize-winning author William Faulkner and current home to best-selling writer John Grisham, Oxford hosts two major international literary conferences a year -- The Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference and Oxford Conference for the Book. But like any college town, Oxford is about more than just its academic accolades. Nicknamed “The Little Easy” due to its cultural richness, eclectic shops and ornate balconies reminiscent of New Orleans, Oxford is also home to one of the fiercest football teams in the Southeastern Conference -- Ole Miss --whose match-ups make for a thrilling weekend outings.
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