States – Colorado

colorado

Colorado ranks fourth among states for population increase, rising from 4.3 million people in 2000 to 5.4 million in 2014. The same amenities that attract people generally to The Centennial State also attract retirees: good weather, spectacular scenery, and a low tax burden.

 Yes, it can be cold and snowy in the winter, but this is mainly in the ski resort areas. The climate in general is sunny and mild much of the time, with summer highs in the 80s to low 90s and low humidity.

It does have a relatively high living cost, 8% above the national average and #22 in the nation, but the taxes are below average, and there’s high quality healthcare. The residents are among the most content in the country, according to a Gallup survey. Colorado residents have the second lowest obesity rate in the country at 20%, and retirees take advantage of the outdoors, active lifestyle. Population growth in the state is among the highest in the nation, increasing over 17% since 2000.

Colorado’s state and local taxes at 9% are below the national average of 10%, and the first $20,000 of Social Security benefits and pensions are exempt from taxes ($24,000 for those 65 or over).

The average cost of living is higher than the national average, mainly because of popular areas like ski destinations Vail and Aspen and high-end towns like Boulder. But there are other places where you can enjoy the mountain views and active lifestyle without depleting the bank account. Here are three.

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs combines the big-city environment with a rural, outdoors lifestyle. It is near Denver but less congested and cheaper, and has access to one of the country’s leading cardiovascular hospitals as well as parks and trails.

Warren Hill, a retired National Park Service employee who has lived in many of the country’s most beautiful places, chose to settle in Colorado Springs because of its unique environment. “It’s 15 minutes to get downtown but it’s also 15 minutes to the mountains,” he says. Hill can hike five miles before lunchtime, and in 13 years of hiking each week he has found a different trail each time.

With all this, the living cost is well below the national average. There are many parks nearby to enjoy and also for volunteer opportunities, and with 300 days of sunshine per year, the weather offers many chances to enjoy them. Among the city’s many parks is the 1,300-acre Garden of the Gods, which has free public admission.

With a population of over 400,000 Colorado Springs is the second-largest city in Colorado and has many big-city amenities like shopping malls and cultural activities. There are also many open areas, local parks, and walking and biking trails. Nearby is famous Pike’s Peak, which rises over 14,000 feet over the city. Colorado Springs is home to several military bases, Fort Carson, NORAD headquarters, and the U.S. Air Force Academy, as well as a U.S. Olympic Training center. It was named the best big city to live in by Money magazine in 2006, and WalletHub ranked it #11 of 150 large cities as a good place for retirees in 2014.

The political environment is generally conservative and several national evangelical organizations, including Focus on the Family, have their headquarters in the city. But there are many diverse political and cultural views represented, according to Chelsy Murphy of the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau. Home prices are below the national average and range from downtown condos to suburban homes in gated communities in a wide span of price points.

Durango

Durango is a popular retirement destination and has many amenities for seniors. This includes an active senior center and several senior groups like Senior Outdoors!, a social and outing group with skiing and other activities. There are also continuing education classes at Fort Lewis College, and medical care at Mercy Regional Medical Center.

With a population of 17,000, Durango is a quaint small town but has an active restaurant, beer and wine, and art community. There are 88 food establishments just in the historic downtown area. Some are nationally known, including casual fine dining eatery The Palace, owned by Oprah Winfrey’s former personal chef Paul Gelose. The bustling craft beer culture has led to the town’s moniker the “City of Brewery Love”. There is also an active wine culture, marked by the Durango Wine Experience festival each spring.

There are 12 art galleries in town featuring works by Native American artists. The town also has specialty boutiques and independent bookstores and cinemas. Other attractions include the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, and the annual winter Snowdown Festival, featuring fireworks, a parade, hot wing eating contest, beer plunge, and other events.

The town is surrounded by the San Juan mountains which provide skiing, and hiking and biking trails. Winter temperatures go down to the 40s and 50s and snowfall in town averages 50-70 inches per year. Up in the mountains, snowfall averages 260 inches per year.

Aurora

Aurora ranked #15 of 150 cities as best for retirees in a 2014 analysis by WalletHub. The city of 325,000 is the third-largest in Colorado and part of the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metropolitan area. It has over 30 independent living, senior, and retirement communities.

Aurora offers a wide range of activities to suit most any preference. There are several malls and many shopping centers, numerous pubs and wine tasting rooms, over 100 local parks and 6,000 acres of open areas with hiking and bike trails, and six award-winning municipal golf courses and several private golf courses.

The environment is very conducive to outdoor activity (ranked #1 for air quality in the WalletHub analysis).  Fishing is popular in the area at the Aurora Reservoir and Quincy Reservoir (ranked #20 for fishing facilities).  Area farmers and ranchers display and sell their products at many farmers markets around town.

There is also live theater at the 245-seat Aurora Fox Arts Center, located in the Aurora Cultural Arts District. The Aurora Symphony Orchestra offers full seasons of concerts annually and smaller chamber performances. Those who want to learn about local history and culture can visit unique museums like the Aurora History Museum, which has permanent and changing exhibits on Aurora history and arts.

The Morrison Nature Center is a wildlife habitat and has several nature trails. DeLaney Farm has 130 acres of open space and trails and an organic garden. The Plains Conservation Center features 1,100 acres of prairie and a number of educational programs.


For more information about retirement in Colorado:

State overview in facts and figures

State taxes

State services for senior residents

Profiles of major cities

Retirement communities

Best regions for retirement