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any thoughts on New Mexico?
Old 12-13-2013, 09:49 AM   #1
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any thoughts on New Mexico?

My wife and I plan on retiring and moving (from Wisconsin) in 5 years. We've begun auditioning potential areas to relocate to (I enjoy the change of seasons, but 5 months of Winter is too much). Our list and current thoughts:
  • PNW (Oregon, Washington): love the area with ocean and mountains nearby, but don't know if I could take the lack of sunshine and rain
  • NoCal: same advantages as PNW with better weather, but taxes and cost of housing would be a big problem
  • Virginia: like easy access to ocean, but not cheap and summers are hot/muggy
  • Colorado (Boulder/Fort Collins corridor): our current leader; love easy access to mountains and shorter, milder winter

What are the pros/cons of New Mexico?
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Old 12-13-2013, 10:32 AM   #2
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I have family in NM. Santa Fe is very artsy and has concerts by big names. It has a good restaurant scene since its main industry is tourism. There is a fair amount to do for such a small town. There is certainly a lot of hiking as well as golf and skiing. However, it's at very high elevation and very dry. It is warmer than Wisconsin in the winter, but still pretty darn cold. There is snow and ice, but few overcast days. It is never very green in appearance. Housing is not expensive. Because it is isolated and full of rich people, it is one of those places where it can be hard to find a specialist who takes Medicare. Primary care is easily available. I hated visiting because it made my asthma and allergies worse. Politically it is navy blue.

Albuquerque is at lower altitude and somewhat warmer in the winter with only brief scatterings of snow which evaporates pretty quickly. It's windy, chilly and sunny. It has a medical school and a university. Corrales is a very nice suburb. ABQ has a poorer population compared to Santa Fe, but there are still plenty of restaurants, museums, and golf courses. It is a reasonable drive to skiing. Hiking is great. Houses are cheap. Politics are also blue.

The rest of NM is very poor, rural and sparsely populated. The smaller cities and towns don't have a lot to offer beyond chain restaurants and very inexpensive housing.

Portland, OR is my favorite city. It's gorgeous even on gray days IMHO, but I've never lived there. If you are a tax avoider, you can live in Vancouver WA with no income tax and shop in Portland where there is no sales tax. Portland is astoundingly blue. Medford and Ashland are smaller cities in the south part of the state situated behind mountains that reduce their rainfall.


CA is really a medium tax state, if you look at the actual numbers rather than go by conventional wisdom. Property taxes are notoriously low, SS is not taxed. Property prices are high.... Inland is cheaper, but hotter than the coast. Winters up north can be quite overcast.
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Old 12-13-2013, 10:33 AM   #3
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Take a look at Arkansas. Low prices and nice living. Not crowded since people don't think about it for some reason.
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Old 12-13-2013, 02:26 PM   #4
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I'd consider AllDone's description of New Mexico to be accurate; although, Santa Fe housing is relatively expensive. One of the drawbacks of New Mexico is that we have higher crime rates. But if you live in a good neighborhood and take reasonable precautions to prevent property crime, it is not usually a problem. Other drawbacks are poor public schools and lack of good jobs but these are not a concern for retirees. Looking at your list, Albuquerque would be more affordable (especially for housing) and has abundant sunshine and much less snow than Colorado. The east mountains outside of the city might be one option if you enjoy the mountains. Of course I like the brown, high desert so lack of green is not an issue for me.

Take a look at Bend, Oregon on the east side of the Cascades. More sunshine and dryer than the west side - although not as much sunshine as Colorado or New Mexico. It is another high desert. House prices are going up but probably no more expensive than Portland.

City-Data forum is a good source of information on different locales. Lots of people asking about the best place to move and you get some good advice (and maybe some not so good advice in other cases) from the locals.
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Old 12-15-2013, 11:17 AM   #5
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CA is really a medium tax state, if you look at the actual numbers rather than go by conventional wisdom. Property taxes are notoriously low, SS is not taxed. Property prices are high.... Inland is cheaper, but hotter than the coast. Winters up north can be quite overcast.
Long-time homeowners in CA enjoy really low RE tax rates due to Proposition 13. On the same street, a home valued at $550K may have a tax of $950, while his neighbor is paying $5700. These are real numbers that one can check with Zillow. The difference is due to one person owning his home since the 1970s, while his neighbor just moved in.

Proposition 13 limits tax increases to no more than 2%/yr, which does not keep up with inflation. On the other hand, newcomers are fully taxed, and if buying in a new subdivision may get assessed additional tax called Mello Roos. Somebody has to pay for city services.

See California Proposition 13 (1978) and Mello-Roos - Community Facilities Act (1982)
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Old 12-15-2013, 11:25 AM   #6
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OP's list looks much like ours did. We'd love PNW, NoCal, VA, San Diego or New England - but all too expensive among other issues for us. So we're down to NC or just staying in the cheap seats near Chicago for now...

I spent 4 days in Sante Fe, wasn't expecting to like it, but thoroughly enjoyed myself. Different, charming and better (summer) weather than I expected due to elevation. Beyond that I leave it to the experts above...
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Old 12-15-2013, 11:36 AM   #7
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If I were to live in NM it would be in the Taos area.

Generally accurate comments thus far from what I have seen. My patience for Santa Fe is limited, so I can visit but would never live there. ABQ is a nice place to visit. The one downside to it is that I find the summers to be unbearably hot.
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Old 12-15-2013, 11:56 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by mrfeh View Post
My wife and I plan on retiring and moving (from Wisconsin) in 5 years. We've begun auditioning potential areas to relocate to (I enjoy the change of seasons, but 5 months of Winter is too much). Our list and current thoughts:
  • PNW (Oregon, Washington): love the area with ocean and mountains nearby, but don't know if I could take the lack of sunshine and rain
  • NoCal: same advantages as PNW with better weather, but taxes and cost of housing would be a big problem
  • Virginia: like easy access to ocean, but not cheap and summers are hot/muggy
  • Colorado (Boulder/Fort Collins corridor): our current leader; love easy access to mountains and shorter, milder winter

What are the pros/cons of New Mexico?
I don't know a thing about New Mexico, but once you are done pinpointing your top 3-4 potential retirement locations, my recommendation is to arrange multiple trips to each area. After an extensive internet search based on our criteria, we were shocked and astounded to find that one location just called out to us, and the other three, some of which sounded much better online, did not feel at all comfortable or like home to us.

It turns out that some things are more difficult to quantify in an internet search than others. In our case, I think it was the topography (hilliness or lack of same) and that actual town layout, traffic patterns, and convenience that we had not considered. It is pretty easy to find out about weather, crime, town size, universities, hospitals, and so on, but not so easy to get the feel of a town until you spend some time there.
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Old 12-15-2013, 04:40 PM   #9
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We lived in Las Vegas, NM for a year in the early 90's. It has about 14,000 population and sits at about 6500 ft elevation. The weather / climate in Northern New Mexico is simply incredible. Winter's are mild with sun nearly every day. What snow falls disappears in a day or so. Summers are warm but such low humidity its not a problem. The New Mexico food is fantastic - I much prefer it to Mexican.

Th challenge we found was that LV is about 90% Hispanic going back many generations. As an Anglo, it was not comfortable. We had kids in the schools which were terrible due to high rates of poverty. I never saw myself as bigoted but it was tough being a minority there. I don't think it would be a huge problem as a retiree particularly in ABQ or SF.

There are a few golf / ski / retirement areas in Northern NM that deserve to be checked out. Also in far Southern NM there is Ruidoso with about 2oK population much of which is retired Texans or second homes. Its on our list of possibilities for ER.

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Old 12-15-2013, 04:54 PM   #10
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Went to college and worked for a while in Santa Fe NM. Liked it a bunch and still do, but the winters in Santa Fe are crunchy cold. Finger skin split and that wasn't fun, snow was dry and wouldn't compact into a snowball. Do like the high desert though. Oregon people are hard to beat, but after a number of decades the grey fall/winter/spring wore me down and I run for the sun.
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Old 12-15-2013, 11:22 PM   #11
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You didn't say if it has to be one or the other but I would keep your place in WI for the summer and buy a smaller place for the winter. It's hard to find the perfect year round place...we certainly have not found it. The wind does not blow in TUS and I like it over ABQ. Nothing beats the summers of the upper midwest. We have a home in MN as well.
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Old 12-16-2013, 08:02 AM   #12
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You didn't say if it has to be one or the other but I would keep your place in WI for the summer and buy a smaller place for the winter. It's hard to find the perfect year round place...we certainly have not found it. The wind does not blow in TUS and I like it over ABQ. Nothing beats the summers of the upper midwest. We have a home in MN as well.
The only places in the US that appears to have good year round weather are parts of the left coast (and HI), but they're all way too expensive for us.
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Old 12-16-2013, 08:16 AM   #13
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You didn't say if it has to be one or the other but I would keep your place in WI for the summer and buy a smaller place for the winter. It's hard to find the perfect year round place...we certainly have not found it. The wind does not blow in TUS and I like it over ABQ. Nothing beats the summers of the upper midwest. We have a home in MN as well.
Keeping two residences is not in our budget. Perhaps later in retirement, if our investments do well, but definitely not the first few years.
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Old 12-16-2013, 08:24 AM   #14
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You didn't say if it has to be one or the other but I would keep your place in WI for the summer and buy a smaller place for the winter. It's hard to find the perfect year round place...we certainly have not found it. The wind does not blow in TUS and I like it over ABQ. Nothing beats the summers of the upper midwest. We have a home in MN as well.
That's what we are planning. Main home in Wisconsin and summer home in FL.
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Old 12-16-2013, 08:51 AM   #15
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Keeping two residences is not in our budget. Perhaps later in retirement, if our investments do well, but definitely not the first few years.
I run into lots of "snowbirds" down here on the beach in the FL panhandle (Redneck Rivieria) of all income classes from very wealthy to living (almost) on SS only and there seem to be lots of housing options to fit most any budget.

Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, most of the upper midwest states --- lots of folks from those places been coming here for years. After talking to a lot of them we have even considered getting a summer place up there to escape some of the summer humidity. (I'm not sure that would exactly be "snowbirding" as we would spend most of the year down here)
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Old 12-16-2013, 08:52 AM   #16
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Our best place of living for all year great weather is Camarillo, CA area. You dip into a valley and is much cooler in the summer than LA. Year around great food (think vegetables & fruits).

Oxnard and Ventura are nearby cities. Scenic, hiking, biking & near the city with lower cost of living than LA or Santa Barbara.

I'm also partial to AR as I was raised there. Northern is beautiful, but can get chilly in the winter. Great fishing, hiking.
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Old 12-16-2013, 09:29 AM   #17
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I lived in NM for 10 years (the entire 80s), in Espanola (north of Santa Fe), Albuquerque, and Santa Fe, and go back every few years to visit. I love the high desert landscapes, the climate (especially the dryness - it's humidity I abhor, and even in winter it is always sunny), the diverse culture, the arts scene, etc. Agree that Santa Fe is *not* cheap real estate -- Abq is much more affordable. All in all, I always thought in an abstract way that NM would be a real possibility for me to move back to in retirement. I honestly have never loved a geography as much.....

Fast forward to my now current semi-retired state and a long US road trip I did this summer, mainly to visit friends around the country, but also lightly checking out different areas for a potential future move. Of course I spent a fair amount of time in NM, and have to say I came away with some mixed feelings. The first surprise was how many old friends I had there who were actually thinking of moving *away* because of the prolonged drought conditions the state has been in in recent years, with questionable prospects going forward given climate change.... water has always been a big issue there, but this gave me some pause. Also, looking at locations through the lens of an older and increasingly decrepit person, I wondered about health care options and assisted living/CCRC options compared to larger population centers. Also, the car-dependent settlement patterns wouldn't be that great once one could no longer drive (especially Santa Fe).

Anyway, I concluded that I needed to spend a longer period of time there, to see how I really feel about it in the here and now, as opposed to my nostalgia about the years I lived there. So I plan to rent a place for a month or so at least once in the next few years, in diverse seasons, so I can get the on-the-ground gut check that W2R suggested above.
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Old 12-16-2013, 01:51 PM   #18
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...because of the prolonged drought conditions the state has been in in recent years...
I think SoCal, AZ, NM, CO, and TX could all be in for water shortages, as the population keeps increasing in these already arid locations...
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Old 12-16-2013, 02:55 PM   #19
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I think SoCal, AZ, NM, CO, and TX could all be in for water shortages, as the population keeps increasing in these already arid locations...

Haven't you heard the old joke:

The bad news is that in 10 years we will all be drinking recycled sewer water.

The good news is that there will not be enough to go around.
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Old 12-16-2013, 08:21 PM   #20
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The first surprise was how many old friends I had there who were actually thinking of moving *away* because of the prolonged drought conditions the state has been in in recent years, with questionable prospects going forward given climate change.... water has always been a big issue there, but this gave me some pause.
Can you clarify how this affects the quality of life of your friends? Is it the lack of humidity in the air causing health issues? or something else?
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