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Where You can Live Well in Retirement for Less Than 40,000

Living Large for Less

There have been a number of articles written recently about how to live in America on less money. Whether it is a function of the unemployment rate, the populist counter-Corporate movement, or a back-to-basics philosophy of consumption vs. value, these articles seem be be getting a lot of attention.

There’s the story of the school teacher who makes less than $40,000 a year who still has money to save for the future. Or the college graduate who plans of living in 10 cities in 10 years…just to experience them, on about $20,000 a year. US News ran a story last year about living abroad in order to live life on Social Security payments alone.

Of course all of this is relevant to a military retiree who either is planning for transition to civilian life or hopes to retire completely when their military service is complete. I recently corresponded with a military retiree who moved to Mexico to live after they left the service. This gentlemen encourages anyone interested in doing so to learn the language and adapt to the culture.

He wrote:

“Living on my pension here in Mexico wasn’t difficult since rent and food is inexpensive away from the international communities; however, one needs to speak the language and respect the culture. Of course, now that I’m also getting social security, it’s much easier.

If another retired AF member were to do what I did now, he or she could find an apartment or a small house for around $150 in a small community. Groceries would run around another $150. Miscellaneous costs would probably be around another $100. Since there is adequate public transportation, there’s no need to buy a car–so add in another $50 a month. As for medical, one uses TRICARE Standard; however, a lot of people buy the Mexican socialized medical package which costs less than $200 a year if you’re under 50, and after two years, you’re fully covered. Our little clinic here in Santa Cruz Tlaxcala, Tlaxcala is quite nice and the staff is adequate for normal medical maintenance. Looking at what I’ve given here, it looks like a person could live quite comfortably for less than a $1,000 per month. But you would have to be ready to accustom yourself to a retired life.

I’ve been here going on 18 years now, and I’ve found the Mexican people to be quite congenial and welcoming, especially after they find out you speak their language. Of course, one needs to be outgoing, respectful, and kind and always remember that you are an outsider even if you feel totally integrated. If one finds it difficult to meet people, then integrating him or herself in Mexican culture probably wouldn’t be his or her cup of tea. Interestingly enough, I’ve read that there are approximately one and a half million Americans living in this country. And I’ve found them everywhere.”

For those who choose to remain in the United States, millions of American’s live for less than $40,000 a year, and they don’t live in crime infested ghettos. US News ran an online article recently of ten additional choices. They included:

Auburn, AL
Blacksburg, VA
Boone, NC
Cheney, WA
Mount Pleasant, MI
Murray, KY
State College, PA
Sunland Park, NM
Syracuse, NY
West Lafayette, IN

In each case, affordable housing is the key to stretching each retirement dollar. So, where you decide to be is the key to living well for less money. This issue is so important that we launched a new page to focus on the best locations for military members to consider for their retirement. Click this link to learn more.

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Inexpensive Areas to Purchase a New Home

Marketwatch recently posted a story listing ten cities that feature some of the lowest priced real estate in the county. Those cities were:

    • Niagara Falls NY
    • Riverdale, GA
    • Coolidge, AZ
    • College Park, GA
    • Detroit, MI
    • Hastings, FL
    • Cleveland, OH
    • Lithonia, GA
    • Trotwood, OH
    • Sioux City, IA

For retired military members, these cities can be an option, but some are better than others. If you pair low real estate costs with availability of military facilities for health care, commissaries, and fitness centers, then you have a real opportunity to live well on a retired paycheck.

So I offer suggested alternative cities that have similarly priced real estate, but have better access to military facilities.

I welcome your impressions of these cities and your recommendations for locations for military retirees to consider when deciding on where to live.