By Julie Provost
The time has come for your service member to retire. . . but where will you go? You can stay at your last duty station, go back home, or–as many people do–find a new home somewhere else.
There are plenty of lists about the best places to live after military retirement and so many factors that go into the decision. We looked at the cost of living, taxes, job rate, VA hospitals in the area, military nearby, and things to do in the area.
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio has a rich military history and offers affordable living, in a place with plenty of things to do. . . all while being surrounded by military installations. Their cost of living index for 2016 was 87.4 out of 100. There are four military installations located in San Antonio, two outpatient VA clinics, and one community-based outpatient clinic.
There are some amazing places to explore in San Antonio including the Alamo, the Westin Riverwalk, and the San Antonio Zoo. The unemployment rate is 3.5, and there are 20 colleges in the area. As far as taxes go, Texas does not have any state taxes. There is also a property tax exemption based on your disability award. Texas also has the Hazelwood Act, which offers educational benefits.
Jacksonville is a major military and civilian deep-water port and has the 3rd largest military presence in the US. The military is the biggest employer in the city which means that Jacksonville is going to be an ideal spot for military veterans. The cost of living index for 2016 is 88.3. There is a VA clinic as well as a VA outpatient clinic in the area.
With a couple of water parks, plenty of museums, and about a two-hour ride to Walt Disney World, Jacksonville will have plenty for you and your kids to do. The unemployment rate is 5.3 and there are over 20 colleges in the area. There are no state or retirement taxes as well as the Congressman C.W. Bill Young Veteran Tuition Waiver program which waives out-of-state tuition and fees for honorably discharged veteran of the US Armed Forces. This also includes the Reserves and National Guard.
If you want a western feel in your new home, Tucson might be the right choice. It is the second largest city in Arizona and well allows you to enjoy a bit of the Old West. The cost of living index for 2016 is 88.5. Davis-Monthan AFB is in Tucson and Fort Huachuca is just 1.5 hours away. There are two VA clinics and a hospital close by.
There is a wildlife park, Old Tuscon to explore, and plenty of desert-themed activities to do in the area. The unemployment rate is 6.0, and the University of Arizona calls Tuscon home. There are state taxes in Arizona, and military retirement pay is not exempt, but you can subtract up to $2,500 for military pensions. Veterans who are honorably charged shall be granted immediate in-state student rates as well.
If you are looking for something entirely different and enjoy the outdoors, Anchorage might be the place for you. This city contains about 40 percent of the population of Alaska and is home to Joint-Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The cost of living index for 2016 is 102.7. There is a veterans’ center as well as the Alaska VA Healthcare system in Anchorage.
There are plenty of opportunities to ski, hike, and explore the outdoors when you live in Alaska. The unemployment rate is 4.7, and there are four colleges in the city. There are no state taxes in Alaska and no sales taxes in many places in Alaska, including Anchorage.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Colorado Springs is home to the Air Force Academy and four other military installations. You will be right in the middle of a military community if you decide to retire there. The cost of living index for 2016 is 97.7. There is a community-based outpatient clinic and a veterans’ center.
With Garden of the Gods in your backyard and plenty of parks, trails, and areas to explore, Colorado Springs is an excellent choice for those who love the outdoors. The unemployment rate is 4.6, and there are 20 colleges in the city. There is state tax in Colorado Springs with a flat rate of 4.63 percent on your taxable income. People who are 55 to 64 years of age as of December 31 may exclude up to $20,000 of their military retirement benefits received during the calendar year and people 65 years of age or older may exclude up to $24,000 of their military retirement benefits received during the calendar year.
St. Louis, Missouri
With Scott AFB 30 minutes away, this family-friendly city is the perfect choice for some military families. The cost of living index for 2016 is 90.3 There is a VA St. Louis Health System, three community-based outpatient clinic locations and two veterans’ centers in the city area.
One of the most amazing things about St. Louis is all the free activities there are for children, including the zoo and the science center. You also have Six Flags in the area to enjoy. The unemployment rate is 5.7, and there are about 13 colleges in the area. The state tax rate is 6 percent for anyone making over $9,000 a year, but there is a tax exemption for military pensions. They also have a Wartime Veterans Survivors Grant program and the Missouri Returning Heroes Act that provides reduced tuition for certain combat veterans.
Julie Provost is an associate editor at Military One Click and a National Guard spouse. She can be reached at [email protected]