Where Do We Go Now, Sweet Spouse of Mine?
As military spouses we’re accustomed to being told where we’ll live. From the desert to the mountains, Alaska to Arkansas, we get orders and make the best of it.
But then the day comes when our spouse’s military career ends and we finally get to choose where to live.
When it comes to post-military life, not all cities and states are equal. With that in mind, we’ve scoured the internet for information on the best places for veterans and retirees to call home, and came up with this list.
10. Your Home or Your Spouse’s Home Town
Yes, it may not provide the best tax breaks or jobs, but the best place to call home is often the place where you grew up.
“We decided to settle back home in Indiana,” said Sarah Austin, whose husband previously served in the Army. “After living all across the country, we learned that the cliche ‘there’s no place like home,’ rang true.”
But if you’re not inclined to move to your home town, or you grew up in a military family and don’t think of any city as your home, you might consider settling in …
9. Your last duty station.
Odds are, you’re already living near a military installation now, which means there are likely government jobs and a civilian population that likes having veterans around.
“We’ve decided to settle in Fayetteville, N.C., (for now) as my husband was accepted into the Physicians Assistant Program at Methodist University,” said Ashlee Cleveland, whose husband left the Army after serving last at Fort Bragg, N.C. “It is nice to work with a school who appreciates veterans. That, and I love my job – so Fayetteville was an easy choice for us!”
After Heather Sargent’s husband was medically retired from the Marine Corps, her family decided to stay in Carteret County, N.C. – between Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point – because they had so many good friend and connections there. “We didn’t move back to Connecticut because we wanted to make sure he was close to veteran support systems that would know what he was dealing with and there was no way we could afford to move back North on his disability pension,” she said.
8. Manchester, N.H.
The only New England city that repeatedly makes ‘best for vets’ lists, the experts say Manchester is a great place to settle down because there are plenty of defense contract jobs there and the city has an extremely low unemployment rate.
There’s also no state tax on military retirement pay, very low sales tax, and many affordable housing options, which can be hard to find in New England.
And not just for the cheesesteaks (but, oh how we love the cheesesteaks!). The City of Brotherly Love has about 4 million residents, so you’ll find every big city amenity in Philly and you’ll find lots of federal and government contract and military skill jobs.
The area also offers military retirees local access to a VA medical center and a nearby military base, and there’s zero state tax on military retirement pay.
Karen Francis’ husband retired recently from the Army and they’re currently planning a move to Pennsylvania. She explained their decision, saying, “We found a perfect house for my husband’s new photography business and Pennsylvania doesn’t tax military pensions. Plus it is more affordable than here in Maryland or Virginia.”
6. Madison, Wis.
With a low unemployment rate, low sales tax, no tax on military retirement pay and low housing costs – what’s not to love about Madison? (Well, the weather … it gets really cold there in the winter!)
Madison also offers a number of federal jobs and has a VA medical center. And we suspect – but we don’t know for fact – that the locals have really great senses of humor. Madison is the birthplace of The Onion.
5. Florida – Specifically Orlando, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and the Panhandle region.
Though people joke that the Sunshine State is “God’s Waiting Room” because so many older people like to retire there, it’s also a great place for young military retirees and veterans to establish themselves.
With no state tax and lots of military installations, veterans will find plenty of federal jobs, easy access to healthcare and base amenities, a balmy year-round climate, more than 600 miles of beaches and more golf courses than any other state.
When Nathan Ferguson retired from the Air Force, he and his wife Lisa decided to settle in Florida’s Space Coast, near where Nathan was raised. For them, the warm weather, no state income tax and great schools were the most compelling reasons.
4. Norfolk/Hampton Roads, Va.
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.
3. Colorado Springs, Colo.
If you like the outdoors, you’ll love Colorado Springs. Skiing, mountain biking, rock climbing, they’ve got all of that and then some.
Add in that the city is home to several military installations and Colorado Springs gives veterans a vast support network and potential job market.
Yes, we know it’s a state (and a darn big one, at that!) and not a city, but so many Texas cities make the “best places for veterans” lists that we thought we’d roll them all into one and save some space on our list for other places.
The best cities in Texas for veterans?
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.
Navy spouse Loree Tillman’s husband is getting ready to retire and she says Houston is calling them home. “It’s where I’m from and my family is here,” she said. “I’ve seen reports that Houston is great for veterans and the job market.”
1. Oklahoma City, Okla.
Maybe you’ve never considered settling in the Sooner State. Maybe you don’t even know what a ‘Sooner’ is (that’s okay, we don’t either), but OKC regularly tops all the lists of the best places for military veterans and retirees because of the city’s extremely low unemployment rate and the fact that Tinker Air Force Base is the area’s largest employer, which means there are a plethora of government jobs there.
Better still, the cost of living there is about 9 percent lower than the national average.
*The states that don’t tax military retirement pay are Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey (if someone is over 62), New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. Many other states have some type of tax credit for retirees, but are not fully tax free.
Something else to consider transition out of military life – help your spouse with the best resources possible, especially if he or she is wondering what the heck to do next as a veteran. Visit GIJobs.com for jobs for veterans and resources for your transitioning veteran!