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Is It a Good Idea to Retire in a College Town?

I grew up in a College Town. My elderly parents still live there, and it’s actually been a good place for them to age in place. If you choose to retire in a college town, some major benefits await you.

If the thought of moving to some retirement destination overrun with oldies in golf carts does not appeal to you, retiring in a college town could be a great fit for your older years. In a college town, you won’t feel like you’re taking up space in God’s waiting room.

What You Need to Know Before Moving to Florida

What Is a College Town?

As someone raised in Mount Pleasant, MI, that is the home of Central Michigan University, I define a college town as a place where a college or university dominates the economy and character of the town.

It’s usually not a large city. Many major metros have one or more universities, but the institutions are not the definitive features of the city’s economy and lifestyle.

College towns can range from small towns, like Mount Pleasant, to medium-sized cities with a big university, like Ann Arbor with the University of Michigan.

What Makes a College Town a Good Place to Retire?

College towns have a reputation as vibrant and sometimes quirky places. Their energy ebbs and flows with the life of the students.

The towns get busy during back-to-school season, but then quiet down for the major holidays. In the summers, smaller college towns become downright peaceful because their populations might drop by several thousand for a couple months.

Youthful Energy

Demographics skew young in college towns. Young people bring energy and enthusiasm that influences a town’s character. They form groups and host charity events. They attract other young people to visit the area and add to the economy.

The late-night habits of young folks also spare the town from being sleepy after 5 p.m. People will be out running their errands and doing their jobs at all times of day, which supports small coffee shops and attracts musicians to play at local venues and dive bars.

If the school has a football team, there will be a community homecoming parade and big football weekends. Even if these things are not your cup of tea, the events enliven the whole town and feel good.

Living among people from different age groups creates a more stimulating environment for you as you age. You get exposed to new ideas and have opportunities to share your wisdom. Overall, all age groups benefit from interaction with each other.

Cultural Events Attractive to Older Adults

Older people often have a greater capacity to appreciate the scholarly lecturers who tour campuses. Professors nudge students to attend these guest speakers, but locals, especially retirees, can attend as well.

As a retiree in a college town, you’ll have access to interesting speakers and forums about science, travel, politics, and more. You could find these events stimulating, and attending them is usually free or cheap. They are held in buildings with disabled access and will be scheduled during business hours or early evening.

Colleges and universities are common stops for touring theater companies. Each semester, you can expect to see some concerts and plays on a school’s events schedule.

Short Driving Distances

It’s not uncommon for a college town to have a compact character. Most schools developed with their towns and are flanked by historic neighborhoods with sidewalks and tree-lined streets.

The footprint of the community is relatively small compared to sprawling housing developments. Some neighborhood commercial areas are interspersed with residential areas because shops expect customers to walk or bicycle, as many college students do.

For an older person, this translates into convenient access to groceries, banks, and medical care. You won’t have to drive much, and the community might have more public transit services than other towns that are solely car centric.

Access to Younger Employees

Older people hire casual laborers for yard work, house cleaning, and home health support. College towns usually have a good supply of able-bodied people looking to earn cash with flexible work hours.

As the population ages, individuals and companies are experiencing increasing difficulty finding people to hire. In a college town, however, you can expect a better labor supply.

You may need to hire home health aides as you grow elderly. In a college town, you’ll have a better chance of finding young, healthy people capable of heavy lifting and learning how to care for people with mobility challenges.

You could invest in paying fees to conduct your own background checks before hiring people to work in your home. Many companies offer background check services, and basic checks don’t cost too much.

You could hire your own payroll service as well. Compared to working with employment agencies, you’ll find that hiring people directly is much less expensive than using an agency.

Medical Care

A local university, even in a modestly sized town, means that there is a population with good health insurance coverage because universities offer good policies and employ so many people, some of whom are in unions.

An area with a relatively high percentage of people with good health insurance means that more doctors will operate in the area, and there will be clinics and at least one hospital.

Being in a university town should insulate you from the trend of medical providers closing their doors in regions where fewer people have good health insurance. Rural areas are especially vulnerable to losing medical facilities, with small college towns being an exception.

As you age, you should consider that living close to a hospital will be to your advantage. Should a crisis occur, like a stroke, then every minute matters. If your home is only a short drive from a hospital, then your chances of escaping long-term harm go up.

Doctors also have their offices near hospitals. Living in a town with a variety of medical providers makes it easier for you to obtain routine care.

Diverse Political Climate

It’s no secret that college towns tend to have a liberal political climate. Although this is not always true because some schools have conservative ideologies, most university towns will have a majority of voters who value the social safety net and inclusivity.

This is because the local population has a foundation of professors, educated professionals, and students. Groups like this tend to have more diverse backgrounds and experiences, including exposure to different places and cultures.

In general, people are more tolerant of differences because they have to be to operate in daily life. Also, interactions with different types of people often teaches you that it’s not really a problem to be different.

In this atmosphere, most people feel safer. They feel like they are part of an accepting community that at least opposes bigotry in theory even if real-world conditions are not perfect.

Living in an inclusive society compares favorably to living in areas that are overwhelmingly geared to a single political view or ethnicity. Environments like that breed suspicion and dislike of outsiders.

Additionally, the open-minded culture of many university towns means that you will feel welcomed when you move there. Some places are hostile to transplants who they view as driving up housing costs or ruining traditional local culture, which can be valid criticisms.

In a college town, people are used to different people coming and going. It could be easier to make friends instead of feeling shut out by locals.

Tips for Retiring for Retiring in a College Town

Watch the cost of living

Not all university towns are affordable. Some of them have a lot of prestige, and that translates to higher housing costs due to demand. Many locals will have good salaries, which further drives up local real estate prices. After all, those legions of overpaid, semi-useless university administrators have to live nearby.

You’ll need to shop around for a location that fits your budget as a retiree.

College towns in states with higher costs of living will cost more to live in than college towns in states with lower costs of living.

Local living costs vary within a state. Michigan has many college towns. Some are affordable places to live and others are frankly expensive. Ann Arbor, one of the crown jewels of university towns, is a very expensive place to live.

Mount Pleasant, MI, on the other hand, is in a rural area and housing is much more affordable.

Traverse City, MI, home of Northwestern Michigan College, is not very affordable despite being in a rural location. Its stunning natural setting and status as a busy tourist destination make it expensive.

In California, a high-cost-living state where I lived for 12 years and graduated from Chico State University also exhibits variations in local living expenses among college towns. Chico, CA, has pricey housing compared to neighboring states, but it is a much more affordable place to live than other California college towns like Davis, Berkeley, or Pasadena.

Watch out for traffic

Although some university towns have compact neighborhoods and good walking, bicycling, and public transit infrastructure, they frequently have terrible traffic congestion in and around the actual schools.

Streets were designed when everyone was expected to mostly walk. Their student bodies have swelled by thousands over the decades. More students commute from out of town instead of live on campus. All of these forces combine to create traffic misery.

For this reason, you will want to find a home not too close to the traffic snarls.

Consider being a landlord

This is certainly not for everyone, but having an accessory dwelling unit in the backyard or a granny suite that you can rent out will give you an additional stream of income. You may be able to supply housing to a graduate student or single parent for a reasonable rent and supplement your own housing costs.

Due to the need for dense housing, college towns sometimes have zoning rules that allow for this type of real estate. Many homes with extra apartments already exist, and you may be able to buy one.

Although I don’t live in a college town anymore, I’ve lived decades of my life in Mount Pleasant and Chico. I like living in college towns. The only downside of them, in my opinion, is that wages are usually low due to the overabundance of labor, but the labor market is tighter now, and, as a retiree, you won’t have much concern about local wages for yourself anyway.

Related articles:

Buying a House in the Country: 8 Big Issues to Think About

Retired and Ready to Relocate: 4 Things to Look for in a New Retirement Home

What You Need to Know Before Moving to Florida

How to Buy a House in Michigan From Out of State

This post first appeared on Move Travel Home, please read the originial post: here

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Is It a Good Idea to Retire in a College Town?


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