December 9, 2023

I’d like to find a liberal-minded area to retire in on $3,000 a month, including rent. Hiking, biking and gardening are priorities.

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dear ken,

You’re open to where in the country you can retire, which makes it easy to find an affordable and interesting place. My first thought is appreciating Midwestern college towns. They lead to that blue spot you’re looking for but are much less expensive than the coasts. Obviously you will have much colder winters than further south.

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As I’ve written many times, I’m a fan of college towns because they punch above their size on amenities. So start your search in whatever part of the country you’re thinking of. One tip: The rental calendar in college towns can be tied to the academic year, given that students look in the spring and sign leases for the fall.

But they aren’t your only option.

The Marketwatch “Where Should I Retire” tool can help you narrow down your list (aside from politics, which can vary among communities within a metro area). I asked for an average rent of less than $850 so you’ve got more cushion, a city with public transportation (if you need it) and above-average cost of living — and, if possible, a major university. Then I started doing research and being a little flexible. (I ended up with colleges that are not large research institutions used to the Marketwatch tool.) You may want to add more criteria.

You’ll be able to garden almost anywhere, although what you grow may be different than what you’re used to. All three of my suggestions are master gardener programs that need volunteers.

You’ll find a bike club to ride (and make new friends in) almost anywhere; You may want to refine your shortlist by comparing it with League of Bicycle-Friendly Communities of American Bicyclists, All three of my suggestions are bronze-level communities by that group’s metrics.

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Before you commit to a location, please spend time there, pretending you’ve already moved instead of just vacationing. Moves are expensive; One wrong move is a costly mistake. And, whatever you decide, leave yourself a financial cushion.

With all that said, here are some suggestions to get you started.

Oberlin, Ohio

Brandywine Falls Trail in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.


The MarketWatch retirement tool suggests the Cleveland metropolitan area. I’m choosing Oberlin, a city of 8,300 in the southwest part of that region, 40 minutes from Cleveland and home to a 3,000-student liberal-arts college and renowned music conservatory. There’s no shortage of free concerts by talented musicians during the season.

The city is politically blue, although Lorain County as a whole is red. The city does not have a bus system, but the college operates Saturday Afternoon Shopping Shuttle-Bus Service Which anyone can use.

Lorian County Part of the North Coast Inland Trail, only 19 miles away, goes through Oberlin. when completed, Biking and running trails will run for over 100 miles From Toledo to Lorraine. You’ll be within 25 miles of picking up an almost-finished Ohio-to-Erie TrailBooked in Cincinnati and Cleveland.

You may also spend a lot of time searching Cuyahoga Valley National Park Its about 45 minutes away, including 125 miles of hiking and paddling along the Cuyahoga River.

And when you want the amenities of a big city, go to Cleveland.

There is no avoiding the snowy winter here. But in winter the average day temperature is above freezing point. Average summer highs are in the low 80s.

is here what the rental market looks like, using listings on (which like Marketwatch is owned by News Corp.). You may also want to check Craigslist and other sources.

If Oberlin doesn’t appeal, I’ve previously suggested other affordable Midwest college towns like Columbia, Mo.; Bloomington, Ind.’ and Iowa City, Iowa.

Marketwatch’s “Help Me Retire” column for the financial side of retirement decisions

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Las Cruces, New Mexico

Organ Mountains Desert Peak National Monument outside Las Cruces, NM

Courtesy of Las Cruces

If the Midwest isn’t for you, what about the Southwest?

Albuquerque and its suburbs have been suggested several times by Marketwatch, and that area may be a good fit here. Or consider Las Cruces, which, with about 100,000 people, is less than one-fifth the size of Albuquerque and has a lower cost of living.

Yes, it can be hot – summer highs average in the mid-90s – but the desert climate means that this is offset by low humidity. Winter highs average in the upper 50s or low 60s. The tourist office says the city receives 320 days of sunshine a year.

of city urban trail system 24 miles long and growing. you would have many hiking optionsespecially in Ang Parbat Desert Peaks National MonumentBut there are fewer people on the trails than in Albuquerque or expensive Santa Fe. white sands national park It is half an hour away.

Here is the New Mexico State University, where it has 14,000 students. Dona Ana County turns blue in 2020; Its congressional district, which includes formerly more conservative areas, did not.

Staying here will transport you to Green Chile country. While Hatch, 40 minutes away, is known for its chile festival, there are plenty of producers around Las Cruces. you can taste it through “Walk of Flame” Green Chile Trail, sometimes with pecans, the other large agricultural produce of the region. or head for the bus Twice Weekly Farmers MarketConsidered one of the best in the Southwest.

Here’s what the rental market looks like in Las Cruces And across Dona Ana CountyAlso using listings on

Memphis, Tennessee

Shelby Farms Greenline in Memphis.

Courtesy Memphis Tourism

Here’s a big city option between Oberlin and Las Cruces that is still affordable. You may know Memphis for its barbecue and music. You might not understand that the cost of living here is 20% below the national average, as the local Chamber of Commerce likes to brag about.

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You may still have to lower the rental budget compared to my other options. Begin your accommodation search in the Midtown neighborhood, one of the most diverse and inclusive areas of the city. The larger university – the University of Memphis, formerly called Memphis State – is further east.

True, you won’t have the hills of northern Ohio or the mountains near Las Cruces. but you will have Shelby Farm Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country and more than five times the size of New York City’s Central Park. access it using Shelby Farms Greenline, a trail that runs 10.65 miles from Midtown through the park to the community of Cordova. Steep path seekers love the 8-mile Chickasaw Bluffs Trail near Millington. And, of course, you can always explore the urban area on foot.

you can walk or bike together 70-Mile Big River Trail the Mississippi River levees on the Arkansas side; reach it by crossing the Mississippi under your own power using the magnificent big river crossing,

Shelby County votes blue, unlike Knox County, home to Knoxville and the University of Tennessee.

Memphis will be hotter than Ohio; Average winter highs are in the 50s, while summer average highs are in the 90s with more humidity.

is here A look at the rental marketUsing again

Reader, where should Ken retire? Give your suggestions in the comment section.

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