Retire Here, Not There: New Hampshire «
As the first presidential-primary state, New Hampshire plays a bellwether role in campaigns, with candidates setting up offices and visiting months and even years in advance. Experiencing that excitement firsthand has been a favorite part of relocating to the state for Irene Fairclough, an 84-year-old retired preschool teacher who moved from Westport, Conn., to Concord, N.H. in 2006. She has worked phone banks, carried signs, participated in state conventions and met multiple candidates, including President Barack Obama. “A lot of the people who work on the campaigns are very young and so enthusiastic, but they don’t treat you like an old lady,” Fairclough says. “It just makes me feel younger and more alive.”
More than one surefire candidate has been tripped up by New Hampshire’s independent spirit, captured in its state motto “Live Free or Die.” The attitude extends beyond politics to describe a way of life for many residents, said David Watters, professor of English at the University of New Hampshire and co-author of “The Encyclopedia of New England.” “There’s a strong cultural feeling of independence here in New Hampshire, which has to do with a real sense of place and connections to traditions.”
Retirees come to the Granite State for much more than a free-spirited lifestyle. As in New England as a whole, the cost of living is higher than in some parts of the country, 17.8% higher than the national average, according to Sperling’s Best Places.
But compared with some other parts of the Northeast, the state is a bargain: costs in New Hampshire are still roughly 20% less than in neighboring Massachusetts and 10% less than in New York state. Meanwhile, the median home costs $183,900, compared with $281,500 for Massachusetts and $233,200 for the Empire State.
Perhaps the biggest plus is that the state’s income tax of 5% only applies to dividends and interest, and not to salary or IRA distributions. What’s more, there is no sales tax.
Live free or die, and either way, enjoy great views: Mount Washington, New Hampshire’s highest point, with the Mount Washington Hotel in the foreground. New Hampshire is also safe. The state has the nation’s lowest murder rate, just 1.1 per 100,000 people, and its violent-crime rate was the third-lowest in the nation behind Maine and Vermont, with just 188 crimes per 100,000 people in 2012, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program.
While many parts of the U.S. boast natural beauty, it’s hard to find a location with such easy access to mountains, lakes and coastal beaches, says Bill Weidacher, president of the New Hampshire Association of Realtors. “You can be at the seacoast this morning and skiing this afternoon,” he adds. The White Mountains offer top-notch skiing, with 102 trails and glades in the Bretton Woods section, 67 trails at Attitash Mountain Resort, and 49 trails at Wild Cat Mountain.
The densely forested mountains, especially stunning at fall-foliage time, also have more than 1,200 miles of hiking trails. For lovers of boating and fishing, the Lake Region, in the center of the state, has a whopping 273 navigable lakes and ponds. While the state lacks big cities for cultural activities and urban amenities, Boston is within easy driving distance, Weidacher says, and New York City no more than a half-day’s drive away.
Like any state, New Hampshire has drawbacks. Winters are great for skiing, but cold; property taxes run high in many areas and some of the best-known retiree hot spots are pricey. In Hanover, for example, home to prestigious Dartmouth College, the cost of living is 53.9% higher than the national average and the median home costs nearly $384,300.
But the state still has plenty of gems for retirees on tighter budgets. Here are four that boast cultural attractions and natural beauty at an affordable price.