By Raymond D. Mignone
A recent article in Barron’s weekly financial magazine named Queens one of five great locations for retirement that won’t break the bank.
Most of us already know what a great place Queens is, but being named one of the top five retirement locations was a pleasant surprise even for me.
The article begins by stating that after three years of a bear market many retirement dreams have been shattered. It names the following five locations: Sarasota, Fla., Gainesville, Ga., Salt Lake City, Bainbridge Island, Wash. and Queens.
Barron’s goes on to say, “These strikingly pleasant areas rarely turn up on lists of retirement hot spots, but they offer most of the amenities one would ever want — and at a fraction of the normal cost. They are, in short, perfect destinations for the intelligent retiree.”
Some of the criteria that Barron’s was looking for in their selection included, being able to buy a three-bedroom condo or home for less than $300,000. They also favored places with compelling cultural amenities, reasonable proximity to major cities with good medical facilities and close proximity to major airports to make it easy to travel and for people to visit.
Barron’s liked the proximity to the culture of Manhattan, the great Long Island beaches, the airports and the Mets. They specifically highlighted Forest Hills and Bayside, but hey, we know there are many other great neighborhoods in Queens. I think that is one of the great aspects of Queens — each neighborhood has it’s own ethnic and cultural feel. Think about it: when you travel to most of these other retirement locations people think good Italian food is eating at the Olive Garden. Somehow I don’t think that compares to a meal at a good Italian restaurant such as the Parkside in Corona or Il Bacco in Little Neck.
I’ll mention some other financial benefits of retiring to Queens. In New York State the first $20,000 of pension or retirement income is free from N.Y. income tax. That’s $40,000 per married couple. This includes not only pensions but also withdrawals from your own retirement plans such as IRAs. If you are fortunate to have retired from a city or government agency (police, teachers, state workers) your entire pension is free from N.Y. income tax.
While we recently had a large increase in real estate taxes they still compare favorably with many areas. As retirees get older the close proximity of stores and the great availability of public transportation may allow the elimination of owning a car, which is a big savings. It would not be so easy to live in many other retirement areas without a car — you would be too isolated.
The close availability of excellent medical facilities is very important as we get older. I don’t think you could get faster and better medical response to an emergency call than here in Queens. In addition, unlike many other areas, if your medical condition requires a “specialist” you won’t have to travel two hours to a “big city doctor.”
I grew up in Richmond Hill and currently live in Little Neck. Other than the four years I spent in the U.S. Air Force I have lived my entire life in Queens, and I know Queens is not perfect. I know all about the traffic jams and other problems we have, but I doubt any retirement location is perfect in every way. When you are retired you can avoid most of the traffic congestion by working your shopping around rush hour.
It’s always easy to think the grass is always greener somewhere else and sometimes it’s helpful to have an “outsider” such as a Barron’s make us realize the financial benefits of retiring and staying right here in Queens. So renew your lease early, buy that co-op or condo soon because the secret is out and we may soon experience a large influx of retirees from around the country.
The article appeared in Barron’s Monday, March 24, 2003: “Undiscovered Gems How to stretch your dollars — and live in style” by Jonathan R. Laing
Raymond D. Mignone is a fee-only Certified Financial Planner & President of Ray Mignone & Co. Inc. Specializing in retirement planning and investment management; he can be reached in Little Neck at 718-229-2514 or visit www.raymignone.com.