Opinion: Grand Junction is a top place to retire on a budget
CONNECTING THE DOTS
Free Press Opinion Columnist
If you’re thinking of retiring soon, consider Grand Junction as the place. The area recently received national recognition as one of the best places in the whole nation to live in later life. Wow!
In case you haven’t seen it, our very favorable listing is courtesy of Kiplinger Magazine, where author David Muhlbaum culled through data from 200 metropolitan areas all across the country. He was looking for some unusual criteria, more than just the cost of living on a fixed income. There are lots of those.
What about safety, economic stability and actual livability? Or health care, housing, and how states tax retirees? Oh, and just in case you need to work to boost your income, he looked also at economically healthy areas. His final trim was to cut out cities with above-average crime rates. He additionally favored areas where other seniors already live.
The top three were Punta Gorda, Fla., Roanoke, Va., and Pittsburgh. Then heading the rest of the Top 10 is Grand Junction, Colo.! It listed the metro population as 146,562. The share of the population over age 65 is 15.1 percent, with the national average being 13.2 percent. The cost of living for retirees is 4.6 percent below the U.S. average. And Colorado’s tax rating for retirees is considered “friendly.”
This small Colorado town offers retirees some big advantages. Residents 55 and older get a generous retirement-income exclusion from state taxes, and there is no inheritance or estate tax. Plus, living costs are comfortably below average. The city’s median home value is $217,700, compared with $236,200 for the state as a whole, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Active retirees in Grand Junction will especially enjoy the free amenities afforded by nature. The weather is mild, and the landscape offers plenty of opportunities for scenic hiking and biking, as well as fishing. Numerous national parks and forests are a short drive away.
Colorado Mesa University, located in the heart of downtown Grand Junction, adds to the local attractions with its intellectual and cultural events. Take advantage of the Golden Scholars Program, which offers courses at the university for just $25 per credit hour (down from about $329 per hour for in-state undergrads). By auditing classes, you also gain computer and library access and receive discounts on sporting, music and theater events.
Other cities listed in the Top 10 list included St. George, Utah, Prescott Ariz., Decatur, Ala., Vero Beach, Fla., Pittsfield, Ma., and Sherman, Texas.
Not to quibble with the nice recognition, but I’ve been to Punta Gorda, Vero Beach, Pittsburgh, Prescott and, of course, St. George. Other than Prescott, I’ll pick our little town over all of them. Florida has been so discovered, it now houses over 20 million people. This includes a huge percentage of retirees. It is growing too fast for comfort, and it is smaller only than Texas and California.
I’m just plain tickled to see some national and international exposure for our burg. Surely we can have some fun with it, and build on it. You can bet the Grand Junction Economic Partnership will find a way to use it.
More than just a “feel good” for us, it’s a nice validation of what we already know — we live in a great place!
Free Press columnist Ken Johnson is founder of the Grand Junction Free Press and former owner/publisher of The Daily Sentinel. He spends his time between the Grand Valley and California.
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