Once you’ve made the decision to retire from the military, you may find yourself with more questions than answers. Deciding if you should start a second career, purchase a home or stay close to a military base are all legitimate concerns. Of course, all of these are directly linked to one decision that you haven’t had much control over for years – location, location, location.
Here are the top four duty locations for soon-to-be retirees based on employment rates, quality of life and proximity to military installations.
4. Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma
While the idea of living in Oklahoma (Tinker Air Force Base) may elicit groans from some, Oklahoma City is actually a great place for soon-to-be retirees. The unemployment rate is low at 4.6% and last year the rate of job growth was 1.7%. There are a high number of jobs that use military skill sets, a large number of veteran-owned businesses and many companies in the area were awarded defense contracts. The cost of living is low and the median price for a home is $105,800. There’s also a local Veterans Affairs medical center and four military bases in the area, making military amenities accessible for retirees. And for those interested in furthering their education, there’s the local University of Oklahoma. However, one drawback is that military pensions are taxed.
3. Fort Carson & Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado
Although Colorado Springs (Fort Carson / Peterson Air Force Base) isn’t as affordable as say, Oklahoma City, it remains a popular place to work and live. Some of the city’s largest employers develop high-tech weapons, aircraft and electronic equipment making it an easy fit for those with prior military experience. The unemployment rate is on the high side at 7.5% and the job growth rate was a low 0.4% at the end of 2013. The median housing price is around $195,000 and in most cases, military retirement pay is taxed by the state. However, those that choose to live in the area will have easy access to military amenities as well as a VA outpatient clinic, with the closest VA medical center in Denver. There are also education opportunities at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and plenty of entertainment with outdoor activities like hiking, biking and camping.
2. Fort Hood, Texas
If there’s one installation with lots of opportunities in all directions, it’s Fort Hood. Dallas, San Antonio and Houston are all within driving distance and the nearby city of Austin is a great retirement location. Austin has a high number of federal jobs, defense contract awards and military skill-based positions. The unemployment rate for 2013 was 5.3% with a job growth rate of 3.4%. The cost of living is average with the median housing cost at $186,800. And one huge perk is that there isn’t any state tax on military retirement pay. What’s more, The University of Texas is located there and the city offers lots of entertainment, especially for music fans. One drawback is that there isn’t a VA medical facility in the local area, but with Fort Hood only an hour’s drive away, there are still accessible health care options.
1. Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia
Virginia – Located on the coast, Norfolk has always been a desirable location. However, for soon-to-be retirees it could be a great place to unpack for the last time. There are a large number of federal jobs, positions that need military skills and a significant number of defense contract awards. The unemployment rate last year was 5.7% with a job growth rate of 1.7%. Retirees in the area have access to base amenities as well as a VA hospital. The area is considered affordable with the median housing price at $194,700. For education seekers, the College of William and Mary, Old Dominion University and Hampton University are nearby. One drawback is that the state does tax military pensions.
Overall, choosing a retirement location often comes down to personal reasons like having family in the area or moving back to your hometown. However, if you’re in the market for a second career the duty locations above are great options when it comes to launching your new civilian life.