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Book Review

Finding Ideal, Affordable Locations for the Golden Years

October 01, 2000|ROBERT J. BRUSS

"Where to Retire: America's Best and Most Affordable Places," Fourth Edition, by John Howells (Globe Pequot Press, Guilford, Conn., 2000), $17.95, 370 pages. Available in stock or by special order at local bookstores and public libraries.

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If you, a parent or relative plan to retire soon and are considering moving, first read John Howells' fourth edition of "Where to Retire: America's Best and Most Affordable Places." For many years, Howells and his wife have traveled the nation investigating the best, most affordable retirement locations. This great new book is the result of those travels.

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The book focuses on 150 ideal places to retire but isn't primarily about specific retirement communities, although many are mentioned. For example, the famous Sun City, Sun City West and new Sun City Grand near Phoenix are briefly discussed. More important, primary retirement regions are profiled, including specific towns preferred by retirees.

Howells begins each chapter profiling a retirement region, then he zeros in on the pros and cons of towns that appeal to retirees.

This new edition seems more direct and frank than the last one. To illustrate, when discussing Orlando, Howells says: "At one time I considered Orlando one of Florida's better retirement ideas. That was before it became so busy. In a short time, the city made a remarkable transition from a sleepy crossroad of citrus orchards and cattle ranches into a dynamic city, the fastest-growing in the state."

Then he explains why he no longer considers Orlando a great retirement town.

It's no surprise that most of the featured retirement areas are in the Southeast, South and Southwest, with a few in the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii. Howells explains that recommending that people move to Montana, Illinois or Maine for year-round retirement would be irresponsible because of the inclement winter weather.

Each retirement area profile is quite detailed, with state-by-state and town-by-town information. The weather details, income taxes and property taxes are highlighted. Also emphasized are medical facilities and recreation availability, especially golf courses. Transportation and cultural activities, however, could have received more emphasis.

Howells doesn't hold back on expressing his personal feelings about an area, such as: "I don't believe that all Southerners have suddenly changed into colorblind liberals, totally free of racism and full of brotherly love. My point and opinion is that the overall Southern attitude toward race relations has taken a dramatic turn for the better. From my perspective, the South today harbors no more racism than the rest of the country."

Especially valuable are the profiles of retirement areas that might easily be overlooked. For example, the author profiles inexpensive but delightful retirement towns in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. While emphasizing positives, however, he doesn't neglect their negatives, such as hot, humid summers.

Even if you're not planning immediate retirement and a move to a more desirable area, this new book is an enjoyable read. Having visited many of the retirement areas discussed, I find the author's explanations to be remarkably accurate.

Where does the author choose to live? He says only that he and his wife live in California a block from the beach.

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