Best cities to retire in the US

Best cities to retire in the US:

TAMPA BAY, FLORIDA
Florida has many fine places to spend a restful retirement.

But if you don’t define retirement as golf, white belts and canasta, then Tampa Bay is the place to go to kick-start a second (or third) act.

Says Katee Tully, a recent transplant to the area: “This is a rich, fertile place for people who are reinventing themselves.”

A former associate dean of continuing education at the City University of New York, she’s now on the board of The Studio@620, a community performing-arts center.

Deb Talbot, 56, a former Chase executive in New York, is now well connected in Tampa Bay.

Says Talbot: “I wasn’t ready for typical volunteer efforts.

She quickly arranged to consult for the Tampa Museum of Art, and she works with the Academy for Senior Professionals at Eckerd College, which connects retired professionals with art, literacy and charity groups.

Tampa and Clearwater are surrounded by water and subdivisions.

St. Petersburg has perhaps the best mix of good living, arts, culture and entrepreneurship.

In the early 20th century, city planners preserved the waterfront for public space and marinas.

The dockside vibe still permeates the St. Pete peninsula.

About a decade ago, the low-rise city started an extreme makeover in housing, arts, entrepreneurship and recreation.

Now ten exhibition spots, including the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts and the Salvador Dali Museum, share the city with a dozen performance venues.

Condo developers, recognizing the St. Pete appeal to retirees and young professionals, are building homes at a furious pace.

A one-bedroom condo downtown can run as low as $150,000 in an older building.

A two-bedroom unit in new construction can go for $500,000 or more.

The city of Tampa is a different case.

Downtown is noted for its high-rise office buildings, but it also boasts the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, a stylish and massive amalgam of five theaters and 20 studios.

Condos have begun springing up on the outskirts of downtown, and planners see thousands of units and riverfront development reshaping the city.

“We’ll have that urban vibe in five to ten years,” says Christine Burdick, president of the Tampa Downtown Partnership.

If you prefer a house, the early-20th-century homes in chic Hyde Park, south of Tampa, go for about $600,000 for 2,200 square feet.

For the same money, you can buy a recently built, 3,500-square-foot house in the sprawling ‘burbs north, east and west of the city.

The Tampa Bay area seems ready to handle the health-care needs of the coming influx of baby-boomers.

The number of health-care workers per capita is well above the national average, and Tampa’s cutting-edge treatment centers include the top-tier H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute.

Ybor (say “ee-bore”) City began as a cigar-rolling center in the 19th century and is now a collection of great restaurants, clubs and shops.

It’s within a few minutes of downtown Tampa.

The Arts Center in St. Petersburg features engaging works by living artists.

Hurry and catch the photo exhibition titled “Cracker Country: Florida’s Cowboy Culture.”

In Clearwater Beach, try the grouper sandwich at Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill — an old-Florida-style joint.

HARRISBURG, PENNSYLVANIA

Alfred Baker, a retired U.S. Army colonel, moved to Harrisburg from Berlin, Germany, because his wife didn’t want to give up the four-season climate.

The fact that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania doesn’t tax retirement income didn’t hurt, either.

Low housing prices more than offset the relatively high property taxes.

Baker’s home on five wooded acres in Susquehanna Township, a northern suburb where the median home price is less than $112,000, is only minutes from the golf course, theaters, restaurants and medical care.

Baker, 66, loves cigars, and he opened Rae’s Tobacco in Strawberry Square, the city’s trendy downtown office-and-shopping complex.

It’s just a couple of blocks from the Susquehanna River.

Each day an eclectic mix of cigar aficionados gather in the shop to fire up a favorite smoke and burn through the subject du jour.

The region’s strong economy has helped foster a thriving cultural scene that includes the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts — home to the city’s symphony orchestra, led by Tony Award-winner Stuart Malina — and the National Civil War Museum.

The region also supports theater and jazz.

Best Cities for Every Stage of Your Life (Kiplinger.com)

The top 25 places to launch a career, raise a family, retire in style, and more.

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Diversify your 401k

Golden rule #5 for your 401k: Diversify

Diversify. Diversify. Diversify.

Financial experts agree that the best way to hedge against risk is to diversify so that you own a variety of stocks and bonds. That means paying attention to funds, and company stock that may be in your plan.

“Asset allocation is the most important thing,” says Dick Bellmer, chairman of National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.

That’s a message more employees need to take to heart. These days, plans boast on average 19 funds, according to PSCA. But that doesn’t mean workers are necessarily spreading their risk. According to Hewitt Associates, workers generally invest 401(k)s in four asset classes, half the number that are typically available through their program.

One easy way to ensure that your investments are diversified is by investing in lifestyle funds, which automatically adjust holdings depending on age and retirement goals. Planners recommend them as a great way to get started, especially for younger workers who need help picking investments. However, as you approach retirement, you’ll need to tailor your investments to your personal goals.

“They take the decisions out of your hands, so pick one of those. Find one that feels right in terms of your risk tolerance and age and then it’s more or less a no-brainer,” says David Foster.

Meanwhile, tread lightly if your company contributes matching funds exclusively in their stock, or if your shares have gone up. Those investments could quickly make up a good chunk of your 401(k) balance. And if that’s the case you’re at greater risk of watching your savings evaporate, should that single stock drop in value. So what’s the ideal limit? “Personally, I like to see no more than 5 percent,” says Bellmer.

Many workers need to take this limit to heart. On average, company stock makes up 24 percent of 401(k) balances, according to PSCA. If you want to rebalance your shares, there’s good news. It’s becoming easier to diversify. Employers may make you wait a certain period of time to do so, but 46 percent of plans that make matching contributions exclusively in company stock let employees diversify those shares at any time. That’s up from the 15 percent who did so back in 2001, according to Hewitt.

Read the other 9 rules below:
10 golden rules for your 401(k) (Bankrate.com via Yahoo! Finance)

Follow these rules for wise investing of your 401.

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Best places to live in Canada

Best places to live in Canada

If you had the opportunity to create the ideal Canadian city from scratch, what would it be like?

If it was up to us, this ideal community would have the well paid jobs of Toronto, but the commuting times of Medicine Hat, Alta.

It would have the vibrant culture of Montreal, but the low crime rate of Corner Brook, Nfld.

It would have the sushi restaurants of Vancouver, but the affordable houses of Swift Current, Sask.

In short, this perfect place would have the buzz, the prosperity and the amenities of a metropolis and the rolling lawns, safe neighborhoods and lower living costs of a small town.

But does such a place actually exist?

To find out, we ranked the best places to live in Canada.

We began this exercise last year when we published our first guide to Canada’s best places to live.

This year we’re back with an expanded and improved ranking.

Our 2007 Best Places to Live spans 123 communities from coast to coast.

It is the most complete and objective guide we know of to finding paradise within Canada’s borders.

Whether you’re considering a move, looking to invest, pondering where to retire, or simply wondering how your city rates against others, our ranking can provide you with the insights you need.

At the risk of sounding immodest, let us say that our complete Best Places to Live database (which you can see here) goes miles further than the usual tourist-board drivel about pretty scenery and friendly townsfolk.

Our goal was to find the places where you could happily spend the rest of your life.

Many of our best places to live may not wow you at first glance.

Rather they’re places that quietly supply their happy residents with good weather, good jobs and a high standard of living.

To ensure our objectivity, we ranked communities strictly by the numbers.

We spent weeks digging up statistics and crunching thousands of figures in the mother of all spreadsheets.

This year, like last, our first category was the weather.

This is Canada, after all, and there’s a good reason that 99% of our population is huddled along the southern border.

We figured that the fairest way to judge the weather is to assume that most people like a moderate climate that’s almost Mediterranean in nature (or as close as Canada gets).

So we rewarded communities that suffer relatively few days below zero.

We also gave points to places with relatively few 30 degree-plus scorchers.

Finally, we marked up places with lots of sunny days, since nothing spoils paradise faster than a long stretch of cloudy, grey weather.

Canada’s overall weather stars turn out to be Cobourg, Ont., and Leamington, Ont., while Powell River, B.C., Vancouver and Victoria take honors for the fewest number of days below zero.

Nice weather only goes so far, of course.

To enter the climatological paradise of Victoria, you have to pay more than $500,000 for an average home.

Those high prices are great if you already own a home in the city, but for our listing to be useful to newcomers, we had to factor in the economic realities of life, particularly the cost of housing.

We began by giving top marks to the places with the cheapest homes, then we tempered this ranking by also looking at how affordable homes are for local residents.

After all, a town where everyone gets paid well has got to be a good place to live, right?

Well, yes and no. Rated by average income alone, it turns out that the best place to live in Canada is the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, Alta., which contains the city of Fort McMurray.

The average family income there is a stunning $135,500 a year, but Fort McMurray, which is on a tear due to the hell-for-leather development of the nearby oil sands, does have a few drawbacks — like the fact that it’s hundreds of kilometres from anywhere, with brutally cold winters and a booming economy that’s straining the town’s infrastructure at its seams.

The best solution we could find to the problems posed by boomtowns like this was to award points for high income while trying to balance our ranking by also looking at various lifestyle factors.

What are those lifestyle factors, you ask?

We also awarded points to communities where a high proportion of residents walk or bike to work, on the assumption that a lot of foot traffic indicates a city is both accessible and safe.

We handed out points for amenities such as public transit and universities, and attractions such as theatres and sports teams.

Finally, we measured how fast a city was growing.

We reasoned that the ideal city would be so attractive that it would draw in newcomers and enjoy a population growth rate higher than the national average.

On the other hand, it wouldn’t be growing so fast that it would degenerate into a sprawl of hastily built apartment houses and shopping malls.

We figured the ideal growth rate would be about two percentage points faster than the national average, so we gave top marks to places that came closest to a growth rate of just under 7.5% between 2001 and 2007.

A city lost points if it was growing either faster or slower than this ideal figure.

One of the major new factors we’ve added this year is points for people’s discretionary income — in other words, how much they have left at the end of the month after the bills have been paid.

We did this because salaries are higher in big cities such as Toronto and northern communities such as Yellowknife, but you aren’t necessarily richer if you’re carrying a $700,000 mortgage on your three-bedroom bungalow in Toronto or paying $7 for four litres of milk in Yellowknife.

In cases like this, discretionary income is a better measure than raw income of how affluent people actually feel.

We’ve also incorporated crime in our ratings, awarding extra points to communities that have lower-than-average homicide rates and deducting points from cities that have higher-than-average homicide levels.

This year’s ranking awards points based on the number of doctors and other health professionals that live in each community.

Not only is this number a good marker as to the level of health care you can expect if you move there, but it’s also a good indicator of a community’s overall attractiveness, since doctors and nurses are mobile and can usually find employment wherever they choose.

To further gauge each community’s prosperity, we looked at the percentage of new cars on the road.

Canada’s Best Places to Live 2007 (Canadian Business)

If you had the opportunity to create the ideal Canadian city from scratch, what would it be like?

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