May/June 2016

May 2, 2016


10 Best Cities for Retirement

If you want to find some of the best retirement spots in America, read what has to say. They suggest you head outdoors.

Many of the cities that made their list of the top “10 best cities for retirement” list offer residents plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature. Even in spots that have extremely cold winters, retirees are still able to leave their homes and enjoy a breath of fresh air. In turn, many of the most active communities tend to have the happiest residents. ranked 196 of America’s cities in terms of walkability, cost of living, crime rate, health care quality, tax rates and weather. The ranking also incorporated a specialized wellness score for seniors from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

The top 10 cities weren’t clustered in any particular region; some of them were coastal cities, while others were smack-dab in the middle of the country. Most of them had an affordable cost of living — which is essential to retirees who have to live on a fixed income — and most offer their residents an ample amount of sunshine.

Here are the best cities for retirement according to

Franklin, TN:  There’s more to Tennessee than whiskey and country music. Just take a look at Franklin. Only 20 miles south of Nashville, Franklin is experiencing a revitalization, with brewing festivals and free “art crawls” on the first Friday of every month at galleries along Main Street.

Franklin also is a relatively affordable place to live. The Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness, or CREC, ranks the Franklin-Nashville metro area as 52nd out of 308 metro areas in terms of low cost of living. Tennessee also has no state income tax, and overall it has the sixth-lowest tax rate in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation.

Franklin may not be as walkable as some other cities, but FBI data shows that in 2013, there wasn’t one murder in the entire city.

Colorado Springs, CO:  Hiking, biking, whitewater rafting. If it’s the outdoors you will love Colorado Springs.  It  has a lot to choose from, especially in the nearby Garden of the Gods Park and Pikes Peak, a mountainous area once popular with miners trying to strike it rich during the gold rush.

Colorado also has a good health care system — a feature that should be on the minds of anyone who plans to retire there. The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality says the state enjoys above-average health care, citing good communication with patients and the prevalence of computerized patient documentation systems.

It’s also worth noting that residents who are of retirement age have expressed a strong sense of well-being and enthusiasm for their surroundings. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which tracks these sentiments around the country, scores Colorado Springs as above average for senior well-being.

Cape Coral, FL: This Florida city  bills itself as a “Waterfront Wonderland,” and for good reason: With more than 400 miles of navigable waterways, the city on Florida’s west coast has become a haven for the boating crowd.

Retirees have many choices for how to spend their time. Sunbathing, fishing and golfing are all popular activities. With so much to do, it’s easy to see why residents gave the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area the fifth-highest well-being score among seniors, according to Healthways.

Located between Miami and Tampa, Cape Coral gets a fair amount of rain and experiences the occasional hurricane. But its relatively warm year-round temperatures make it a welcome destination for many retirees from the Northeast. The city’s crime rate also is well below the national average. Neighboring Fort Myers also ranks high on the list for many of the same reasons.

Austin, TX:   Breakfast burritos, brisket and queso — the capital of Texas has all the fixin’s if you want to eat your way through your golden years. While summers can be muggy in Austin, the city makes up for that with plenty of outdoor escapes, including miles of trails, bike paths and parks.

Texas residents also benefit from the absence of a state personal income tax, and the overall state and local tax burden is the fourth-lowest in the country, according to the Tax Foundation. Healthways also gives seniors in the Austin area high well-being scores, which usually means residents are relatively happy and satisfied with their surroundings.

Monthly rent in Austin runs around $1,037, which is more expensive than the national average of $919. But that’s still cheaper than Houston, Texas’ most populous city, where the average rent is around $1,427. And you’re in luck if you’re planning to host a barbecue: A T-bone steak costs $9.82, below the national average of $10.40. Round Rock, by the way, also ranks high on our list for many of the same reasons.

Denver, CO:  If your  ideal retirement involves the slopes and a post–ski-pint, there’s really no better spot than Denver.  Residents love the community in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains.  Many locals spend the weekends hiking or skiing in the mountains.  Vail is only a two-hour drive away.

The cost of living in the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood area is a little high compared to the national average, but the city has a lot to offer too.  Its crime rate, walkability and weather all rank favorable compared with other cities around the country.  Colorado also places a lower tax burden on residents than the national average.  The state has the 13th-best health care system in the country.

Des Moines, IA: The city at the center of America’s heartland might just be the best place you never thought of for retirement. Not only is it home to an increasingly vibrant downtown, complete with an excellent Farmer’s market and foodie festivals galore. Des Moines also is a great jumping-off point for the outdoors, with more than 600 miles of trails.  It also has a 4-mile long enclosed skywalk – one of the largest in the U.S. – that connects shops and offices downtown, which is a plus, especially in winter when the temperatures drop.

Iowa also has Americas sixth-best health care system.  And like much of the Mid-west, including neighboring West Des Moines, the cost of living is relatively low.

Tucson, AZ:  If it’s the outdoors you love, look no further than Tucson, which is surrounded by five mountain ranges, a variety of flowering deserts, hundreds of miles of trails and the southernmost ski area in the U.S. Bikers can rejoice too. There are miles of paths around the city known to locals as “The Loop.” And the city continues to add more bike lanes and routes.

Southern Arizona’s climate is also postcard perfect. It is slightly cooler than Phoenix to the north, and you’ll rarely need to stay indoors because of a rainy day.

Tucson also ranked high for happiness among residents. Healthways, which scored 105 metro areas in terms of senior well-being, ranks the Tucson area in its top 20. The cost of living is relatively modest, too.  When it comes to homeownership, Tucson homeowners pay around $249,959 – below the average U.S. price of $305,838.  Arizona places a below-average tax burden on residents.

Prescott, AZ:  Located about two hours north of Phoenix, Prescott is known as everybody’s hometown.  Much of downtown Prescott can be found on the National Register of Historic Places. Whiskey Row, which was once lined with saloons but now showcases hotels, cafes and bars, is a must-see for anyone passing through.

Healthways gives Prescott high marks for well-being, meaning that residents who are 65 or older are generally happy in their surroundings.  There are five golf courses nearby.  The city gets a fair amount of rain but winters are mild and the average temperature in August is around 72 degrees.

Arlington, VA:  Arlington offers more than 100 miles of trails, bike lanes and routes throughout the city. It’s not surprising that residents embrace a healthy lifestyle and rank high on the wellness index.  The city has a low crime rate, and locals can get by without a car.  Much of the city is walker-friendly including Crystal City, Rosslyn and Ballston.  The city has ample public transportation with a handful of metro stops in the area.

Virginia also has one of the better health care systems in the country.  And when compared with other states, Virginia’s tax rate is more favorable than the national average.


U.S. Reins in Financial Advisors on Retirement Accounts

The rules governing how financial professionals handle the trillions of dollars they invest on behalf of Americans saving for retirement are about to get a lot tougher. The Labor Department, after years of battling Wall Street and the insurance industry, issued new regulations that will require financial advisers and brokers handling individual retirement and 401(k) accounts to act in the best interests of their clients.

The government move is expected to encourage a shift in retirement funds to lower cost investments — potentially saving billions of dollars for many ordinary investors – while setting off the biggest upheavals in the financial services industry in decades.

The new regulations, which may be challenged in court, were proposed a year ago by the Labor Department which oversees pensions and retirement accounts and were modified after hearings and industry criticism.  They are not expected to take effect until next spring at the earliest.

Many consumers assume the individuals and firms investing their money are operating under the same sort of ethical and legal standards as a family doctor – someone who is obligated to provide the very best advice.


New Study Questions Retirement Planning Calculators’ Accuracy

That online retirement planning tool just might be hazardous to your financial security in later life.  A new academic study of 36 such tools – many of them widely used – concludes that “in most cases, the available offerings are extremely misleading” and generally not helpful to consumers trying to figure out if they will have enough money to cover their expenses for the rest of their lives.

The study was conducted by three researchers at Texas Tech University, including  well-known financial adviser Harold Evensky,and a fourth researcher from Utah Valley University.  They looked at the guidance the various free low-cost calculators provided to a hypothetical couple in their late 50s earning $50,000 each and aiming to retire at ages 65 and 63.

Using software for financial advisers by MoneyGuidePro.the researchers concluded that the couple has only a 53% probability of having enough money—which they termed “a less than acceptable probability of a successful retirement.” Yet more than two-thirds of the retirement tools indicated that the hypothetical users could retire with a hypothetical confidence – defined as 70% or greater odds – and having enough money or they made statements such as “Congratulations, you can retire,” the researchers write.

The researchers didn’t identify the 11 tools that passed their test based on the hypothetical users.  The 36 they tested range from simple, free calculators that asked just a few questions to more robust offerings that require more extensive inputs and charge and charge small fees. They include tools from Fidelity Investments, Vanguard Group, T.Rowe Price Group, AARP, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and Market Watch owned by Dow Jones & Company.

One of the challenges for companies offering planning tools is to find the right balance between creating a quick and easy experience for users and building a tool that is sufficiently rigorous to be truly helpful. The researchers identified more than 20 inputs they believe should be included in any publicly available retirement planning tool. They range from estimates of personal health and family longevity to pension and Social Security income, expected inheritances and 401(k) savings.

“In trying to make a tool simple, it often destroys the validity of the analysis,” says Mr. Evensky, who also believes the programs should disclose the assumptions they make about factors including inflation rates, returns on stocks and bonds, and longevity. While some tools disclose their assumptions, others are silent, he says.

Even among the tools that passed the test, some failed to include more than a few of the recommended inputs, says Mr. Evensky.  For example, one critical component of longevity – a history of smoking – is routinely overlooked by even the robust tools, he adds.

“Our hope is that the creators of retirement planning software for the public will modify their programs to incorporate these kinds of inputs so that we have a large universe of good quality tools, he says. Our goal is to improve the quality of the software out there.”

Mr. Evensky recommends steering clear of relatively simple calculators that ask few questions. Pick a tool that is relatively robust and plan to spend some time on the inputs, he says.


How Technology Will Transform Retirement

For the next generation of retirees, the question that will trump all others will be a simple one: How do you add life to longer lives?

As people live longer, and spend more time in retirement, the challenge will be to get more out of those years. How do you find a rewarding second career? How do you stay close with friends and family? How do you maintain independence and mobility? How do you embrace new experiences?

The equally simple answer: technology.

The next-generation retiree will have an unprecedented array of technologies and tech-enabled services to invent a new future for working part time, remaining social, having fun, living at home, staying healthy and arranging care.

Many of the solutions will be driven by the “Internet of Things”—where household objects can use Internet connections to think, talk and communicate with one another, enabling an entirely new on-demand service industry for older adults. Kitchen appliances will monitor a person’s diet and relay that information to a doctor. Older people will order up services they need to handle chores that have become too difficult, everything from housecleaning to car rides. Even clothing will connect people to a larger network of services that will monitor, manage and motivate them well into older age.

This new world of retirement will come with plenty of challenges—among them, costs and possible loss of privacy. But if the challenges can be met, these innovations could transform retirement into a new and vibrant period of life that is about living better as much as it is about living longer.

Here’s a closer look at one of the innovations: Staying on the job

Retirement was once a clear line between work and not working. Today, a career may be completed, but work is not over. Recent AARP research suggests that nearly four out of 10 baby boomers are planning to work in retirement. Some over-50s report that they plan to work until they drop.  These days, that’s easier hoped for than done. Not only do older people battle the preconceptions of bosses and co-workers about older workers, but they also face a rapidly changing work environment that demands new skills. And they’re often forced to think of work in a new way, as a series of contract projects rather than a regular job.

Now technology is offering new options and flexibility. Telecommuting isn’t a new idea, but it’s crucial for retirees who want the freedom to accept whatever opportunities suit them without disrupting their lifestyle. With smartphones and tablets, the newly retired can be productive from home, beachfront or grandchild’s playground.

The Internet also frees retirees from having to seek out colleges to brush up on job skills. Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, let retirees learn what they need to stay competitive or enter a new field.

The available training isn’t just for work skills.  There’s also help available online for retirees who want to practice their interview technique.  Artificial-intelligence-based coaches will help retirees test themselves with a variety of virtual interviewers.  An avatar will shoot tough questions their way, readying them for the interview with a potential boss who is younger than their own children.

All of that applies to retirees who will want to seek out a traditional professional job behind a desk.  But the Internet is opening up options for retirees who don’t want to be confined to an office, who want a sort-of retirement.  Consider peer-to-peer companies, which let people connect with other people to order services.  It often doesn’t take special training or experience to hire oneself out to these services, and they provide the ultimate in flexibility.



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