Where should I retire? I want “good weather, lower taxes and access to ethnic groceries – why is it so hard to tick all the boxes?

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My parents are between 70 and 80 years old. My siblings and I will be in our 40s and 50s, and we are lucky enough to be able to relocate the entire extended family. I am planning my semi-retirement in my early 50s and am looking for a place with favorable taxes, outdoor activities, good weather and access to Asian food. My brother will have two children under 5 and will need access to good schools.

My total budget of $10,000 per month is just right for me. My siblings can work from home, so they are mobile. We all contribute to take care of our parents.

We are Asian and as such would like to move to a place where we can access Asian groceries. We moved from Long Island to California to get away from the snow, but would like to retire somewhere with lower taxes.

Shouldn’t that be what everyone asks for? Good weather, good schools, lower taxes and access to ethnic groceries? Why is it so hard to tick all the boxes?

Moe

Dear Moe,

Congratulations on the flexibility you and your extended family have to work from anywhere. Building a retired (or semi-retired) community is so important to our happiness. Yet the need to build that social network is often overlooked at the expense of beautiful scenery or good weather, as this person discovered.

Likewise, please don’t fall into the trap of obsessing over low taxes. Tax laws change. And the focus on income taxes overlooks the fact that state and local governments must fund services one way or another. So if it’s not income tax, it’s something else. Property taxes. (See Texas and Nashville, for example.) Or HOA fees. Sales tax. Toll roads. Or just less services – but you want a nice community. (And yes, I realize the Northeast is expensive.)

More: It’s not enough to choose a place to retire that low taxes – avoid these 5 costly mistakes

Plus, your income and sources of income change in retirement, potentially putting you in a lower tax bracket. Most states already do not tax Social Security, and others also provide exceptions for retirement income. (The last two: Iowa, which exempts all retirement income starting in 2023, and Maryland, which adopted an income-capped credit in 2022.)

Use this retirement tax calculator from Smart Asset to see how state income taxes compare, but be sure to check with a tax professional.

If you still focus on low property taxes, Montgomery, Alabama tops the list. Unfortunately, you may be disappointed with the number of Asians and therefore the size of Asian supermarkets compared to what you currently have in California.

You will also need to define good weather. I know San Diego is beautiful. Hawaii too. (Oahu was suggested here.) Neither are cheap. And if the COVID pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that home prices in attractive locations have risen the fastest. If these are not in your budget, how are you willing to compromise?

Likewise, don’t underestimate the public recreation facilities you’ll find in the United States: swimming pools, tennis and pickleball courts, walking trails, and unspoiled woods and forests. You don’t need a beach or mountains to enjoy the outdoors.

More: You can assess the quality of a school in 2 ways – the less popular option is the smarter one

In the meantime, I repeat the advice I gave to a couple here: start by looking for the big Asian grocery stores. My example was Patel Brothers; you might have another one. H-Mart? 99 Ranch Market? The company’s website will list the location of their stores. Then start looking in those areas.

The good news is that you don’t have to be in California or near the Flushing neighborhood of Queens to have a large Asian supermarket nearby. Here are three new suggestions to get you started; I hate repeating myself, so watch all the “Where Should I Retire?” columns for other ideas.

Carmel, Indiana

Carmel’s Midtown Plaza

Courtesy of Hamilton County Tourism

Indiana will give you low taxes (a 3.23% fixed income tax), Food & Wine calls Indianapolis, a city of nearly a million, a booming food city, and this suburb has one of the best high schools in the state. , as judged by US News & World Report. Additionally, about 10% of Carmel’s population of 100,000 described their ethnicity as Asian, according to Census Bureau data, well above the national average.

Patel Brothers, an Indian supermarket chain, has two stores in Indianapolis and will offer Asian ingredients and more unusual vegetables. Near one is the 62,000-square-foot Saraga International Grocery, which tops this list of the best Asian supermarkets in Indianapolis. Some of the other seven are closer to Carmel.

For your outdoor recreation, start with the 27-mile Monon Trail (connecting the 9-mile Indianapolis Culture Trail Loop) and the 25-mile White River through Carmel. When you want wooded stretches, head an hour or more south to Bloomington, suggested here, and the hilly Brown County State Park, the state’s largest, and some of the forests in nearby state.

Weather is a trade-off if your heart is set on pleasant all year round. The Indianapolis area receives two-thirds the amount of snowfall you’ve experienced on Long Island; you’ll have to decide if that’s too much or if it’s a good time to travel given your semi-retirement flexibility. Winter highs average in the upper 30s; average of summer highs in the mid-80s.

The median list price for a home in Carmel was $475.00 in April 2022, according to Realtor.com, which, like MarketWatch, is owned by News Corp. Indianapolis is cheaper. Here’s what’s currently on the market in Carmel.

If the Indianapolis area isn’t quite right, consider the area around Columbus, Ohio suggested here. Franklin County has a population of 1.3 million and the share of Asian Americans is in line with the national average.

Gaithersburg, Maryland

A shopping and dining center in Gaithersburg is built around a lake.

Courtesy of Visit Montgomery

Here, you’d be living on the outskirts of Washington, DC, with both 99 Ranch and H Mart in Gaithersburg as well as Patel Brothers outposts in two neighboring towns.

More than 15% of Montgomery County, home to 1 million people, is of Asian descent, and it’s 20% heavier in Gaithersburg, a city of about 70,000. In 2018, Livability rated Gaithersburg as one of America’s Best Cities for STEM Workers.

Start exploring the outdoors along the Muddy Branch Greenway Trail and C&O Canal National Historic Park, which runs through Montgomery County and extends into Cumberland, Maryland, as well as Rock Creek Regional Park 1,800 acres (it includes two lakes).

When you want the big city, you have several public transit options to get to Washington: either use the New Brunswick MARC system line that runs during commute hours and stops in Gaithersburg, or drive a few miles to the Shady Grove stop. on the Washington Metro system.

Winters are warmer than in Indianapolis; average highs are in the 40s. Average summer highs are a few degrees warmer. Expect similar amounts of snow and rain.

On taxes: Maryland’s top tax rate is 5.75%, less than half of California’s top rate, and is $250,000 for single filers.

The median list price for a home in the city was $510,195 in April 2022, according to Realtor.com, when it was an outsized seller’s market. Here’s what’s currently on the market.

Are you interested in another location on the East Coast? About 20% of the residents of Cary, NC are of Asian descent, and there is both an H Mart and a Patel Brothers. I suggested the search triangle region here.

Chandler, AZ

Getty Images/iStockphoto


This option brings you closer to California. Chandler, with a population of 275,000, is No. 29 on Livability.com’s 2021 list of the best small and midsize places to live, using criteria that emphasize the ability to work remotely (it was 22nd on the 2020 list, with slightly different criteria). You will know Maricopa County because of Phoenix; almost a third of the county’s 4.5 million people live there.

Nearly 11% of Chandler’s residents are of Asian descent, a much higher percentage than in Phoenix County or Maricopa as a whole. You’ll find both 99 Ranch and Patel Brothers here as well as HMart near Mesa. Plus, many other Asian supermarkets, including Lee Lee International Supermarkets, which bills itself as the largest international (not just Asian) market in Arizona. Again, you will have no problem getting ethnic groceries.

You will definitely avoid snow here; average winter highs in the 60s. You won’t get much rain either, but be prepared for the monsoon season between June 15 and September 30. Average summer highs here are over 100.

For your dose of the great outdoors, start at Tonto National Forest.

Arizona’s top tax rate is 4.5%. SmartAsset ranks Arizona as moderately taxable for retirees, along with Indiana and Maryland.

Given Chandler’s size, there are multiple high schools, so your brother will need to explore which might be best for his kids.

This is the most expensive option among my suggestions. Prices have climbed since the start of the pandemic, and the median list price for a home in April 2022 was $575,000 in another popular seller’s market. Here’s what’s currently on the market, again using Realtor.com.

Another wrinkle: A retirement sheltered from climate change? Ask the tough questions about real estate and property insurance

Readers, where should Moe and his extended family move? Leave your suggestions in the comments section.

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