Colorado wouldn’t be Colorado without sunshine on your shoulders and the mountains in your backyard. While its ski resorts are world-famous, the Centennial State boasts a temperate climate with four seasons and plenty of sunshine, even in winter, which makes it perfect for active retirees.
Colorado’s diverse economy and nationally ranked colleges and universities offer plenty of employment and education opportunities. The state’s income tax rate of 4.63% is one of the nation’s lowest. Colorado is also home to professional sports teams, a bevy of breweries, and many marijuana dispensaries. It also has had the lowest or second-lowest rate of obesity in the nation for more than 20 years. Is it any wonder that Colorado’s residents are among the nation’s happiest?
The state’s economic engine is based in its capital, Denver, within view of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Like any big city, Denver is plagued with traffic problems and a hot real estate market that sometimes borders on frothy. But there are lots of other towns that offer Colorado's great lifestyle and plenty of amenities. Here are four top towns for retirees.
- Active retirees can take advantage of Colorado's temperate climate and mountainous terrain to engage in outdoor activities from downhill and alpine skiing to cycling and golf.
- Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Grand Junction, and Durango are four towns that offer attractions from universities to breweries to historic sites.
- Keep in mind that Colorado does tax Social Security benefits, so do the budget math before deciding whether to move to this western state.
Colorado Springs: America the Beautiful
Just south of Denver, Colorado Springs is the state’s second-largest city but its scenery is awe-inspiring. Katharine Lee Bates wrote, “America the Beautiful” about nearby Pike’s Peak. The city is home to the U.S. Air Force Academy as well as a number of evangelical Christian groups so its politics tend to lean toward the conservative end of the scale. Residents share a love of the outdoors, and a thriving high-tech sector offers well-paying jobs. Although the cost of living had been rising for several years, it has slowed below the national average in 2019. Sunshine, scenery, and livability are a winning combination.
Fort Collins: Bike Paths and Breweries
North of Denver, Fort Collins is home to Colorado State University and a vibrant high-tech sector. Many of the amenities that appeal to students—a lively downtown, affordable housing, bike paths, and breweries, also appeal to older citizens. Home prices are cheaper than in nearby Denver or Boulder. The city’s old town was an inspiration for Disneyland’s Main Street USA. Home to roughly two dozen breweries, ranging from small craft brewers to Anheuser-Busch, the city claims to be the Napa Valley of Beer. Fort Collins adopted a bicycling master plan and employs a bike czar to design and promote its bike paths. In 2018 PeopleForBikes designated it as the best city in the U.S. for bike riding. It's not surprising that Fort Collins often lands in the top 20 best places to live.
Grand Junction: Golf and Wine Country
Close to the Utah border, Grand Junction is far from the madding crowds one might encounter on the Front Range. The largest city on the western slope of the Rockies, Grand Junction is equidistant from Denver and Salt Lake City (about a four-hour drive). The cost of living is cheaper than in the other three cities. Winters are milder than most of the state so golfers can tee off most of the year. The nearby Colorado National Monument, a mini Grand Canyon, is popular with mountain bikers, and fly fisherman ply the waters of the Colorado and its tributaries. Grand Junction is also the heart of Colorado wine country. Yes, Colorado produces wine as well as beer.
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Durango: The Great Outdoors
Down by the Four Corners in the southwestern part of the state, little Durango is everything that a small town aspires to—friendly, sunny, and scenic. There’s a reason that an SUV and a cowboy boot company were named after this little mountain town (population 18,465). The nearby Animas River attracts kayakers and fishermen the way flowers attract bees. A narrow-gauge railroad chugs up the San Juan Mountains to Silverton, an old mining town, with jaw-dropping scenery on the way. The area’s generous snowpack attracts both Nordic and alpine skiers. Outside magazine has called Durango an adventure-sports capital. You’ll stay young keeping up with the skiers, bikers, and hikers. You’ll also want to stay put. Durango is three hours from an interstate.
The Bottom Line
Colorado’s towns offer an attractive package to retirees: mountain scenery, sunshine, and affordability, with plenty to please lovers of the outdoors. For those who want to keep working post-retirement, the state has a diverse economy and low state tax rate. Lifelong learners will appreciate its nationally ranked colleges. However, Colorado is one of 13 states that tax Social Security benefits, so keep that in mind as you figure out your retirement budget and whether a move to Colorado is in your best interests.