As a retirement destination, New Mexico offers a lot of the attributes that retirees are looking for – pleasant weather, nice scenery, good healthcare, and low living costs.
Many retirees who are considering settling in the American Southwest look to sunny Arizona, but New Mexico has a lower cost of living, as well as a variety of landscapes, outdoor recreation, and artistic and cultural attractions. The Land of Enchantment has snowy mountains and lush forests in the north, and colorful deserts in the south. So your outdoor recreation options range from skiing and snowboarding, to mountain biking, rock climbing, and water skiing. The scenic landscapes inspire many artists who settle in the area.
The state is also a popular vacation destination which means there are tourists, but that also means there are many local shops and restaurants. Those interested in exploring historical sites will find many in New Mexico, including Spanish buildings and Native American settlements from centuries past. If you like wide open spaces and acres-large properties, there are many of those too – the entire state has a population of only two million people.
The tax structure is not favorable to retirees though. Social Security benefits are taxed, and there are state and local sales taxes that can add up to 8 percent. Some other disadvantages of New Mexico are the shortage of physicians, relative to the rest of the U.S., and a high poverty rate. The poverty contributes to a high crime rate, both for personal and property crimes. These disadvantages led Kiplinger’s to rate New Mexico as the third worst state to retire to.
Nevertheless, there are places in New Mexico where you can enjoy the benefits of living there with little of the downside. Here are several.
Los Alamos is known as the home of Los Alamos National Laboratory, where classified work on nuclear weapons research is done. This lab contributes to a high median income (over $100,000) and low unemployment rate (around 2%). About half of the town’s residents are employed at the lab. The town has a low crime rate, an average summer temperature of 69 degrees, and good air quality.
Many employees stay after retirement, so the town has a high proportion of well-educated retirees. Those interested in the history of the area can explore the Los Alamos Historical Museum, Bradbury Science Museum, and the Anasazi ruins at Bandelier National Monument. There are several retirement communities in town.
The capital of New Mexico is known for its artistic community and beautiful natural scenery. Its desirable location makes it more pricey (median home price above $300,000) than some other areas of the state.
But the town of 75,000 is home to hundreds of art galleries, many innovative and award-winning restaurants, live theater groups, a symphony orchestra and opera troupe. The annual Art Santa Fe art festival brings dealers and art lovers from around the world, and there is also a well-known chamber music festival, a festival for folk and bluegrass music, alternative theater, and a Native American art exhibit that features over 1,000 artists.
The New Mexico History Museum is one of a dozen museums in the city. Near the town are the Santa Fe National Forest and the Rocky Mountains, offering mountain climbing, hiking, biking, and skiing.
Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center is a major hospital in town, and there is also a cancer center. There is a shortage of inpatient space, so many residents seek major treatment in Albuquerque, 55 miles away. But there are many physicians in town so routine care is readily available. Santa Fe was selected in AARP’s 2008 list of the 10 healthiest places in the U.S. because of residents’ long life expectancy.
Las Cruces regularly appears on lists of the best places to retire in America. For example, it was on AARP’s list of 10 great sunny places to retire in 2012. It does have 350 days of sunshine on average per year.
The town is 45 miles north of the Mexico border and shows its Hispanic and Native American influences. It was named by Hispanic magazine as a particularly livable city for Hispanics. Spanish is heard as often as English, and local restaurants pride themselves on the authenticity of their Mexican cuisine and the hotness of their chiles. Meanwhile, Apache and Pueblo Indians lived in the area centuries ago, and local shops display Native American arts and crafts.
The cost of living is 6% below the national average, and the median home price is around $180,000. The unemployment rate is low, but many jobs are low-paying, and a fifth of the population is below poverty level. With New Mexico State University located in town, Las Cruces has a college town atmosphere. The university supports an orchestra, performing arts center, and many continuing education classes.
There are two major hospitals; however the number of physicians is lower than average. But life expectancy is higher than average. Outdoor recreation is big in Las Cruces. The town is at the intersection of two deserts and two mountain ranges, and the local office of the Bureau of Land Management maintains 45,000 miles of roads and trails that go all the way to Arizona. In town, golf and tennis are popular outdoor hobbies. For those looking to contribute to the community, there are many volunteer organizations.
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