Today, I’d like to take some time to talk about the top 20 military friendly places to retire. I am by no means an expert on this topic, so I decided to do a bunch of research on this topic online and compile the information into a simple and easy to read article.
If you’ve spent any amount of time in the military, and you are approaching your retirement years, there are definitely some places you should consider. There are certain communities that are very military friendly. They are affordable, have ample VA facilities, and great community support. What you will see below are the best of the best.
Top 20 Military Friendly Places to Retire
I’ll start with # 20 and my work my way to # 1. Keep in mind this list is very subjective and is just my opinion. I’ve also quoted what the experts had to say about each location I chose.
# 20: Wyoming
Coming in at # 20 we have Wyoming. This is one of the few states I have not spent much time in. What I have heard most about Wyoming is the beauty! They also cater to the military!
The Wyoming veterans home is located three miles west of Buffalo. You must have an honorable discharge and be a Wyoming resident. Charges are based on a your ability to pay.
There’s a $3,000 reduction in the assessed value of your home or vehicle licensing fee is available for veterans who served overseas during an armed conflict and received an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal or equivalent, are a disabled veteran with VA or military disability, or are the un-remarried surviving spouse of a qualified veteran.
They have a Military Assistance Trust Fund that provides emergency monetary grants in support of service members and/or families whose financial hardship relates directly to state or federal military duty.
Veterans get a five point advantage over any non-veteran competitor for a state job position. Wyoming National Guard members can get free tuition and fees at the University of Wyoming, the seven community colleges, and the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy. Members may get partial payment of tuition at private colleges in Wyoming.
A free lifetime day use and camping pass to all Wyoming state parks, recreation areas, archaeological sites, and historic sites is available to Wyoming resident veterans with at least a 50 percent disability.
# 19: Clemson, South Carolina
Great weather and great football. Clemson comes in at # 19 on our list of the top 20 military friendly places to retire.
Clemson offers a small-town atmosphere and relatively low cost of living. You can find a good three-bedroom ranch home here for $150,000 and up.
Clemson University, which enrolls around 18,000 students, is right in town. If you love watching college football, this is the place for you. There’s an energetic and passionate football culture, and over 80,000 fans crowd Clemson Memorial Stadium during home games to cheer on the Tigers.
The university also ensures that there are ample cultural events and intellectual opportunities throughout the year. Residents are highly educated; almost 40% have a master’s degree or higher, and close to 25% have a bachelor’s degree.
Clemson’s climate is humid subtropical. Summer temperatures typically climb well past 90 degrees with high humidity, and winters are very mild, generally getting no colder than the low 50s.
South Carolina does not tax Social Security income, but it does tax other retirement income, such as IRA distributions and military retirement. However, there is a $15,000 deduction per spouse starting at age 65.
Source: Money Crashers
# 18: Grand Rapids, Michigan
If you enjoy the midwest and cold winters, you should consider Grand Rapids, Michigan. What stands out the most is their affordable housing and cost of living.
Along the Grand River—Michigan’s longest waterway—you’ll find the hidden gem of Grand Rapids. With the weather being quite cool during much of the year, getting outside and enjoying nature is a great option. Plus, the city is known for its breweries—in part because there are tons of them! Grand Rapids has an affordable cost of living, which means things like groceries and health care are cheaper than in other cities. There’s also affordable housing for retired folks and a growing health care industry.
Source: Dave Ramsey
# 17: Washington
The pacific northwest is one of the most beautiful regions in the United States. While it is known to be quite expensive, compared to other areas on this list, it still has a lot to offer.
The state of Washington runs four state veterans homes, they are located in Ortig, Port Orchard, Spokane, and Walla Walla. There is a cost for care, you must have an honorable discharge, spouses, surviving spouses and gold star parents are eligible for admission.
Veterans with a 100% service-connected disability and an income of less than $40,000 (not including VA disability payment) may be exempt from paying property tax on their home. Surviving spouses may also qualify.
Honorably discharged combat veterans or those with a campaign ribbon, and their surviving spouses, get preference for state jobs. People with military training and experience may count it towards certain civilian healthcare profession credentialing requirements if the state determines it is substantially equivalent to standards.
Disabled veterans with at least 30 percent disability can get a free lifetime pass which offers free camping, moorage, campsite reservations, watercraft launching, trailer dump, and day use at all state parks.
# 16: Maine
This is where I grew up. Maine is very beautiful. Yes, the cost of living is quite high, along with the taxes, but they do cater to veterans.
Maine has become a popular retirement destination for many, including military retirees because of its attractive beaches as well as practical resources.
Maine retirees are people looking for an affordable and active lifestyle. In fact, the senior population out number all other age groups in this state. With an increase in older population, it is evident that this New England state offers a friendly environment for anyone to spend their golden years there.
For military retirees, here are more reasons to choose Maine as your retirement destination – honorably discharged Maine veteran are eligible for property tax exemption, state employment preference points are added to examination scores for state and public jobs for honorably discharged veterans, Maine offers waiver of tuition at state schools for dependents of veterans, any Maine veteran gets free admission to all state’s historic sites and parks.
# 15: Madison, WI
If you’re looking to work, after you leave the military, you should consider Madison, Wisconsin. They have a strong job market, low sales tax and affordable housing.
Madison’s low unemployment coupled with abundant federal and medical job opportunities contribute significantly to its popularity with retired military families. It is one of the most budget friendly options on our list thanks to low sales tax, very affordable housing and no state tax on military retirement pay. Although there are few military installations, there is a local VA facility as a medical care option.
# 14: Costa Rica
I couldn’t resist. I had to add Costa Rica to my list of the top 20 military friendly places to retire. Not only is the country beautiful, but your US dollars will stretch pretty far over there, especially when compared to the other places on this list. Many retirees realize this and move there.
Costa Rica is where you go to live the lush life. It is lush with nature—misty rain forests, extraordinary wildlife, active volcanoes, and fabulous beaches—as well as such comforting amenities as malls, supermarkets, restaurants, museums, and social clubs. U.S. retirees have flocked here for years, drawn by its mild climate, its prosperity (relative to other Central American republics), its literacy rate, its health care, and, significantly, its stable government—with no army. Another plus: Costa Rica’s commitment to a thriving natural park system that is second to none in Latin America. This is as bio-diverse a country as you’ll find anywhere.
# 13: Montana
Montana might just be the most popular place for veterans to live. You can see the stats below to see what I am talking about. Plus, they have the beautiful outdoors, plenty of jobs and affordable housing.
Montana has 87,936 veterans or 11.1 percent of the adult population, according to Census figures. The United States has 19.5 million veterans, for about 8 percent of the adult population.
The analysis used 27 key metrics to reach its findings, ranging from veterans per capita to number of VA health facilities to job opportunities for veterans, WalletHub said.
According to the study Montana was second with most veterans per capita. Finished fourth with most Veterans Affairs health facilities per number of veterans, ranked third for tax friendliness, 8.72 percent of its businesses are owned by veterans, ranking it 25th. And Montana also ranked 40th when it came to job opportunities for veterans, WalletHub said.
Source: Great Falls Tribune
# 12: Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is very military friendly and very expensive. They do have something for everyone though. Great food, great resorts and great fishing.
The island of Puerto Rico boasts a full-service VA Caribbean Healthcare System facility in the capitol city of San Juan as well as five VA outpatient clinics in communities throughout the country. From the beaches and nightlife of San Juan to the hiking trails in the El Yunque rain forest, Puerto Rico is a tropical paradise of a place to retire. Puerto Rico is famous for its local restaurants called mesons that serve traditional and contemporary cultural food, its friendly people, western coast surfing beaches, quaint mountain villages and Caribbean-style east-coast resorts. As of 2010, an average four-bedroom house was priced at $330,000. Retire to Puerto Rico to feel like you’re always on vacation.
# 11: Virginia Beach, Virginia
I was fortunate to visit some friends in Virginia Beach many years ago. There are many veterans in Virginia Beach, plus there are many civilian and government jobs.
The city of more than 460,000 has the thickest concentration of veterans in the country, yet the thinnest concentration of homeless veterans. Three of the top 500 highest-grossing companies have headquarters there, including retailer Dollar Tree, railroad company Norfolk Southern and military shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls.
# 10: Omaha, Nebraska
Go Big Red! I was born in Nebraska and raised in Maine. Omaha is one of the nicest cities in the country. I think so anyway. They offer affordable housing, plus they have local bases.
Omaha is another Midwest city that offers medical, federal and defense industry job opportunities. Coupled with a very affordable cost of living and revitalized down town, it makes for an underrated option for military retirement. There are local bases that make receiving services simple and accessible.
# 9: Norfolk, VA
Similar to Virginia Beach, I had to add Norfolk to this list. They have a ton of federal jobs if you are looking to work post retirement. They even have a VA hospital.
Veterans love the Norfolk area because of the oodles of federal and government contract jobs and because the people there are as patriotic as can be. Veterans can zip right over to one of the bases and enjoy access to base amenities and a VA hospital.
The climate is temperate and the housing is downright affordable. The state does tax military pensions (shame on you, Virginia!) but they make up for it by having some great restaurants and shopping, beautiful beaches and a super-convenient location that makes it easy to visit friends in family in both the northeastern and southeastern states.
# 8: Alaska
The great outdoors. I could definitely see myself living there. Good fishing and hunting. You can live in a city or somewhere quiet. However, the job market there isn’t very good.
This state has the highest per capita population of military veterans in the nation, and it ranked second in the nation for the quality of life it can offer military retirees. It may not be the best choice for military retirees looking to continue working in retirement, however, as Alaska ranked 48th in the nation in job opportunities for military retirees.
# 7: Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA
The Harrisburg-Carlisle area is beautiful. They have affordable housing, plenty of employment opportunities and several military facilities. As a result, they take my # 7 spot for the top 20 military friendly places to retire.
A smaller market that’s been able to avoid the boom-and-bust turmoil of recent years, Harrisburg is also a state capital. Like universities, state capitals are partly shielded from economic swings by their government job bases. The area also features Carlisle Barracks, home of the U.S. Army War College and extensive base and medical facilities.
Source: U.S. News
# 6: South Dakota
This is one of those tax friendly states for military retirees. Although the winters are brutal, this state has a ton to offer.
Popularly known due to Mount Rushmore, the state of South Dakota was made it to this list of best places to retire in thanks to its great healthcare. It boasts of a significant number of VA health facilities per 10,000 military retirees and has the most veteran job opportunities. Payment for military retirees is also exempted from taxation as well as inheritance and estate taxes.
Here are more benefits of spending your retirement years in South Dakota – eligibility for state veterans home for nursing care, property tax exemption for totally disabled military veterans, honorably discharged military retirees who resides in SD are eligible for free education at state colleges, free admission to state parks for SD resident veterans and burial allowance for honorably discharged military retirees.
Not only is South Dakota one of the best states for homeowners, it is an attractive state for veterans. This state does a good job at caring and supporting its veterans. With the highest rate of military retirees enrolled in VA health facilities in the country, you will feel at home residing here for your post-military life.
# 5: Panama
Panama is a hot spot for expats and military retirees. They have affordable housing, a great climate and a great culture.
In Panama retired Veterans, and any Veteran who was honorably discharged with a VA awarded disability of 0% to 100%, are covered under the VA Foreign Medical Program (FMP) in Panama. These Veterans are eligible for VA-FMP covered medical care and medication prescriptions in Panama at certain locations. In many cases, a Veteran’s spouse, dependent children, widows and widowers are also eligible for medical services and prescriptions. Assistance will be provided to verify eligibility.
Source: Panama Relocation Tours
# 4: Jacksonville, Florida
Jacksonville has a HUGE military presence. If you enjoy being around the military community when you retire, you should definitely consider this city. They have a VA clinic, military bases, museums, entertainment, a good job market, plus much more.
Jacksonville is a major military and civilian deep-water port and has the 3rd largest military presence in the US. The military is the biggest employer in the city which means that Jacksonville is going to be an ideal spot for military veterans. The cost of living index for 2016 is 88.3. There is a VA clinic as well as a VA outpatient clinic in the area.
With a couple of water parks, plenty of museums, and about a two-hour ride to Walt Disney World, Jacksonville will have plenty for you and your kids to do. The unemployment rate is 5.3 and there are over 20 colleges in the area. There are no state or retirement taxes as well as the Congressman C.W. Bill Young Veteran Tuition Waiver program which waives out-of-state tuition and fees for honorably discharged veteran of the US Armed Forces. This also includes the Reserves and National Guard.
# 3: Colorado Springs, CO
Fort Carson, CO was my first duty assignment as an Army Officer. What an amazing city! This is definitely one of the most friendly military places to retire. They have a large military, veteran and retiree community. There are lots of federal and state jobs, beautiful mountains, a nice climate, lots to do, plus good tax savings on military retirements.
Colorado Springs is home to the Air Force Academy and four other military installations. You will be right in the middle of a military community if you decide to retire there. The cost of living index for 2016 is 97.7. There is a community-based outpatient clinic and a veterans’ center.
With Garden of the Gods in your backyard and plenty of parks, trails, and areas to explore, Colorado Springs is an excellent choice for those who love the outdoors. The unemployment rate is 4.6, and there are 20 colleges in the city. There is state tax in Colorado Springs with a flat rate of 4.63 percent on your taxable income. People who are 55 to 64 years of age as of December 31 may exclude up to $20,000 of their military retirement benefits received during the calendar year and people 65 years of age or older may exclude up to $24,000 of their military retirement benefits received during the calendar year.
# 2: Texas
Everything is bigger and better in Texas. This is another popular place to retire. Texas has it all. Lots of cities, amazing football, no state taxes, great weather, lots of jobs, and beautiful scenery. If I didn’t live in Florida myself, I would probably retire in Texas.
Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and San Angelo.
These cities make the top 10 of nearly every ‘best places for veterans’ list – and with good reason: Texas is home to several large military installations, so veterans have easy access to DoD healthcare, pharmacies and on-base shopping, as well as civilian jobs on the installation. Moreover, Texans tend to be on the patriotic side and they love them some veterans. The state has no income tax and enjoys a great sunbelt climate.
# 1: Oklahoma City, OK
Taking our top spot for the top 20 military friendly places to retire is Oklahoma City, OK. They have it all: a good job market, military bases, affordable housing, great people, great colleges, and so much more!
With a significant number of military bases, the Sooner State is proud of its residents who have retired from armed forces. Military veterans in Oklahoma enjoys many benefits including financial incentives.
The military installations in this state means that residents have ready and consistent access to any offices and services located in a military installation. In addition, there are plenty of government sector and defense jobs for retired military members looking to keep working in the field.
Another perk of living in Oklahoma is that it has low unemployment rate and thus your chances of landing a job are high. It also has exceptionally affordable housing as well as low cost of living which allows military veterans make the most out of their retirement.
Here are more benefits military retirees enjoy in Oklahoma – there are seven state veteran homes in Oklahoma which are open for honorably discharged military veterans in need of nursing care, property tax exemption for permanently disabled veterans and free admission to state owned museums and parks.
Bonus Place: Florida
I had to add Florida to this list. This is where I live now. We have a ton of retirees here. Florida is quite perhaps the number one place in America to retire to. You can live near the ocean, in the city, or in the country. There are beautiful beaches, lots of jobs, affordable housing, plenty of military bases and VA hospitals, great entertainment and NO state income tax. Plus, the weather is out of this world.
In conclusion, this is our list of the top 20 military friendly places to retire. I hope you will explore each of these cities and states to see if you can find something that best fits your needs.
What are your thoughts? What do you believe are the most military friendly places to retire? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you.