Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How did we choose?

During our last adventure, we specifically wanted to tour the country with two purposes in mind. We wanted to explore each state with our kids and learn about the specifics of the tremendous variety offered within this great nation. We also wanted to explore possibilities for our next permanent home. I'm a native Texan and had limited travel to other states. My husband was born in CA, moved to his family's native state of MO, then migrated to TX for work after college. We had lived under an umbrella of assumption that we would likely live in TX for the remainder of our lives. With my husband's retirement, however, a whole new window of opportunity presented itself. We felt as if we had stepped out of a cave into a very wide world of possibilities with absolutely nothing to limit our choices.

As we traveled, my husband I spent our 'down' time (you just can not sight see every moment of the day and night!) gathering information and discussing our impressions of different regions of the country. We are both engineers by education and experience, so logic comes very readily. We decided upon factors, such as; financial considerations, home school 'friendliness', and general aesthetics of scenery and climate.

Financial Considerations:
Our income was going to be significantly reduced during retirement, but we have several major areas covered in savings (kids' college, emergency contingencies, retirement accounts that will await our age eligibility for access). My husband contributed to his employer pension fund for the duration of his career and it provides a comfortable salary for us. For now, he is covered with the health plan at no additional cost and the rest of the family is covered through our purchase of the same health plan. Financially that health plan has it's greatest level of coverage within TX. We hope in future deliberation so reducing health care costs that state boundaries are dropped so that Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Tennessee will recognize our coverage at the same deductibles and co-pays as Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Texas. Seems silly that they don't already, doesn't it? Ah - bureaucracies - they just add to the sweetness of life, don't they? The bottom line was that TX had an advantage in lower health care costs due to the limitations of our coverage, but all other states were equal in their 'second place' standing.

As we explored states, we kept an eye toward home and land affordability. We knew that we wanted to live in a rural area with a few acres, but likely no more than 40 acres. Our RV life had helped us to adjust to the barest minimum of living space, so we knew that we did not require as much square footage as our previous dwelling (3100 sq. ft).

We found several sources online that ranked states by cost of living factors and we scrutinized them carefully. Those handy articles had taken into consideration taxes (state and local), utility costs, food costs, as well as housing costs.

Our short list easily became those states that did not assess our retirement income: South Dakota, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Tennessee and Texas.

OK - next blog will address how we took all that logical, numerical information to sort out our future home.

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