Saturday, April 30, 2011

Vote Canada - Best Places to Live

Reminder - our poll for the Best Places to Live in Canada ends this weekend!

Please take a moment to vote Canada! You'll find our poll over on the left sidebar.

VOTE Canada!

And another reminder for all Canadians to get out and VOTE for your Federal representative on Monday.

This is a much bigger and more important than our little poll!

If you are registered to vote you will have received your voter card in the mail.Bring it along with proof of your identity and address to the polling station indicated on your card.

If you didn't get a Voter Information Card go to  to find out what you need to do and where you need to go.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Best Places to Visit in Mexico

Vacation to Mexico

If you ask around where the popular places to vacation where this year odds are that a majority of singles and families will say Mexico! It's true the popularity of Mexico has made it one of the hottest international destinations for a tropical vacation.  Americans and Canadians are flocking here for  a number of reasons. Probably foremost on the least is the Mexico is one of the Cheapest Places to Vacation. But it also has a lot to offer anyone one individual as well as family fun. In this diverse Latin American country you can find everything from a rich and colourful history to some of the best beaches on the planet.

Vacation Destinations in Mexico

Mexico City is one place which will keep you entertained and engaged for as long as you can stay. And there is truly enough to keep an entire family interested. Adults love to learn more about Mexico by visiting the numerous museums where they can spend days catching up on history and cultural facts. Families and children in particular are sure to love the Mexico City Zoo. For an extra special treat anyone will enjoy consider taking a picnic lunch at Chapultepec Park. With 2000 acres to enjoy you can have family fun or a romantic get away for a couple. Another favorite family outing, if you happen to visit at the right time, is to take in a match of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. One of the best attractions in the city that you don't want to miss is the floating gardens. These beautiful have a history in Mexico that lasts over seven centuries. You would truly be hard pressed to find a similar historic place anywhere else on earth. But the city is not all culture and history. For those who are single there's an  almost limitless selection of night clubs where you can have serious adult fun from the time the sun goes down until it comes back up - if you like!

Cancun - Following a busy day touring the city you may want to experience one of the most exotic places in Central America by spending a few days in Cancun. Explore the incredible white sand beaches and azure blue sea or just do nothing and hang by the pool until the discos spring to life. It's easy to visit the local attractions in Cancun. You can certainly walk the strip but the easiest way to get around is to take the local tourist buses. They have set rates and cater specifically to tourist. Try a trip into the  downtown area and visit the flea market where you can buy all manner of trinkets and Mexican art. But  Cancun doesn't have to be all about lazying on the beach or partying. It's a good idea to reserve keep one day for getting out of town and visiting the nearby ruins. The best way is to make it a day trip. This is perfect for those who are traveling with family. But more so it's probably the best city for singles one can find in Mexico. One quick tip - be sure to take good sun glasses and a good wide brimmed sun hat. Plus carry plenty of fresh bottled water. In Cancun leave your watch behind and simply enjoy the fact you can lose all track of At any cost do not miss this part for any reason.

Cozumel  is another 'must see' place in Mexico. This is the place to let your hair down while you enjoy Mexican cuisine, latin music, dance and of course shopping. Cozumel is the place to find anything and everything you might want. Not only that but there are plenty of activities to keep everyone in the family happy and entertained including learning to scuba dive and taking a snorkeling trip.

Once you have experienced the true Mexico and it's people you will want to come back again and again.  It's not the kind of place where you can see it all in one visit anyways. Many people return to Mexico year after year and explore a different place each time. With so much to see and do it's easy. There are several places where you spend an entire week exploring and learning new and interesting things about this ancient and historical country.

Once you've caught a taste of Mexico you'll find it difficult to let this country out of your heart.

Have you heard about the Cheapest way to Retire Early in Mexico? Click Here! for more information.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Best Places to Live - Canada


We've spent a bit of time looking at the best places to live in the US and to be honest it is a lot easier to do. There are just so many more options to write about because there is so much more country! Many Americans don't realize that the United Sates has ten times the population than our cousin to the north. Canada has a population of around 34 million people and yet it is the second largest country in the world. It has a total area of almost 10 million square kilometers or about 4 million square miles. It is bordered by 3 oceans: Atlantic, Arctic, and Pacific.  Toronto is the largest city at 4.3 million people followed by Montreal at 3.3 million, Vancouver  at 1.8 million people and Ottawa at 1 million people. Despite the fact this is one huge place -  90% of the population is found within 160 kms (100 miles) of the U.S. border and most of the people love between Windsor and Montreal in the east-central part of the country. (Source:  So, although Canada is big the places to chose for living are small - at least in number.

Best Places to Live for Singles

For single's its no surprise that Canada’s largest cities typically top the international best of lists. Vancouver has been named "the most livable city in the world" by the Economist magazine for the past two years.   Toronto ranked the 15th best place to live by Montreal was Ranked 13th. But don't rule out Canada’s smaller cities. The new livability rankings from the Martin Prosperity Institute name Ottawa, Guelph, and Victoria right up there with their bigger sisters in terms of livability. For singles and couples these small cities have joined the larger ones among Canada's most livable places. offerred this ranked list for the best cities in Canada for singles:

  1. Calgary
  2. Ottawa - Gatineau
  3. Victoria
  4. Edmonton
  5. Guelph
  6. Montréal

Top Places to Live

As we discussed in a previous post the MoneySense Best Places in Canada suggests the following as the Top Places to Live in Canada:

#1 Ottawa
#2 Kingston
#3 Burlington
#4 Fredericton
#5 Moncton
#6 Repentigny
#7 Brandon
#8 Victoria
#9 Winnipeg
#10 Lévis

Best Places to Live in Canada

These give us some idea for selecting a place to live in Canada but no list tells the whole story. As we've said over and over it's almost completely subjective. One persons 'best' may be another's 'worst'. A young professional single with money to burn may love the big city and have no concern for expenses while a retired Canadian maybe be counting their pennies and looking for the cheapest place to live.

Best Place to Live Poll

So our solution has been to throw it back out there for you to give us your opinion. Please look to the left sidebar and you'll see our poll for the best place to live in Canada. Place your vite and let's see what our readers come up with by the end of the month. We'll post the results next week.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Best Places in the Caribbean - Belize

Where is Belize?

Belize is a small (according to Belize Wikipedia, less than 9,000 square miles and a tiny population of just over 300,000) Central American country found on the east coast between Mexico and Guatemala. For a map showing where Belize is check out my post - Where is Belize

How do I get to Belize?

Although there are no specific Belize Airlines which fly internationally you can still find direct flights  available from major cities in the United States directly into Belize City. It's not a big destination like Mexico so you will find the Belize airfares rarely go on sale. FYI for shopping websites the Belize Airport Code is BZE, If your final destination is some where other than the city there is a shuttle service available. The shuttle buses go everywhere in Belize.

Where to Stay

Belize City is an ideal destination for finding luxury hotels and all inclusive Belize resorts.  Their hospitality is well known and as a result these Belize accommodations attract visitors who return again and again. There is a rich culture which is reflected in the lifestyle of Belizeans. Because the country is small it's easy to learn about the history and culture while  having fun with the local residents. This tropical Caribbean country has abundant opportunities to enjoy nature and adventure including cave diving and tubing. In fact cave tubing is one of the most popular water sports in Belize  and has developed into one of the main attractions for visitors.

Belize Currency

The Belize dollar is the official currency of Belize and the ISO code for the Belize dollar is BZD. Like most countries who use a dollar as their currency the Belize dollar is made up of 100 cents. Although exchanges have varied widely as of late one US Dollar is worth around 2 Belize Dollars.

The Best Belize Beaches

There are numerous beautiful beaches but Palencia is known as the best beach destination in the country. The white sand beaches of Palencia are relaxing and refreshing for body and soul. Palencia Beach is found on the south Caribbean coast of Belize, about 150 miles from Belize City. You can get there by small inter-country airplane, bus or you can rent a car in the City. Whatever your transportation preference its easy to get to this amazing and world renowned beach. If you make your way to Palencia without a car it's possible to rent one there but the town is so small it's really easy to just walk on foot. From Palencia there are numerous natural attractions you can reach within a short walk. These include: Monkey River, Cockscomb Basin and Mayan ruins. You can also kayak through mangrove or paddle to one of the Cayes.

Roberts Grove

If you prefer to stay at a hotel and your looking for Belize 5 Star Resorts which are right on the beach the best option is the 'Inn at Roberts Grove'. At this lovely Inn you'll discover peace, tranquility and a great atmosphere with unparalleled guest service. Roberts Grove offers fine dining right on site plus activities like fishing, scuba and canoeing. They also feature one of the finest spas in Belize. Know too as a major dive resort Roberts is one of just a few who are 5 star rated by PADI. The New York Times says,  "Roberts Groves is home to the most reputable dive shop in Palencia". The location is ideal for anyone who is focused on a great dive vacation. They also include visits to the best diving places in all of Belize. It's not all sales pitch there is good reason they truly offer the best diving that is because they are located right on the edge of the huge barrier reef which runs along the coast of Belize. This vast coral reef has channels that descend from 90 to 110 feet and rise abruptly into shoals and Cayes which offer countless opportunities for scuba diving. There are at least 20 dive sites in the waters of southern Belize and near Roberts Grove. The area is teeming with fish and life that springs up along the coral reef system.

Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye is the largest island of Belize. It is larger and has a larger population than Belize's main island. Ambergris Caye also has an interesting history dating back to the Mayan age. Later in history European pirates and Mexican refugees were known to have fled to Ambergris Caye during the Caste War. As a result the majority of the existing native population on the Caye descended from Mexico. At one time the economy was solely dependent on the coconut industry and fishing. But now it is dependent more on tourism and residential tourism. Ambergris Caye is comprised of more than 400 small islands. All of them enjoy the best panoramic views of the entire coast and country. In Ambergris Caye you will find luxury hotels with gourmet restaurants. You wil also enjoy fishing and diving and for nature lovers there is expansive forest land, savannahs and lagoons to explore.  Getting around is easy by   golf cart or bicycle.

In  Belize you can find an abundance of hotels, ins and Belize All Inclusive Resorts from the budget friendly to ultra-extravagant. And all on a coastal island country that is just few miles long. Visting or Retiring to Belize is definitely an experience you will never regret or forget. All you really need is your favorite beach chair, umbrella, perhaps a fishing pole and plenty of sunscreen.

Editors Note: Serious about Belize? Be sure to check out the Special Live and Invest in Belize Kit - Go to this page and scroll down to read all about it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Best Places to Visit this Summer - Italy

WE all know what it feels like when we the time for our annual summer vacation gets close. It's always exciting! And it's extra special when that vacation permits us the opportunity to see and experience other parts of our amazing world. I always say, 'So many countries - so little time!' And speaking of time one thing I have learned is that a proper trip to a foreign country requires extra time to plan. Not only time to plan but for most it takes a long period of time just to save up the funds for an exotic treat to a foreign country. Of course there are some people are fortunate and have enough wealth to explore a different country every year.

Best Places to Vacation

Normally the initial stage for planning any vacation begins with the question, Where? Your choice for the best vacation spot is one of the most important parts of your vacation plan. Take your time and research thoroughly. For North Americans and Brittons one of the best places to holiday in the summer is somewhere in Europe. For those who are able to take extra leave of work in the neighborhood of 4 to 6 weeks, a European tour is certainly possible. But for many who only have a week or two its best to concentrate on just one country. France, Germany and Italy are probably the most popular destinations as they are larger countries whereby a week is barely enough to take in all the wonderful sights. This summer may I suggest a well planned visit to Italy?

Vacation in Italy

Yes, it is one of the most popular places to visit in the summer and for good reason, it's simply a fantastic country to go on holiday. For anyone traveling to Europe Italy is normally one of their top places to visit.

It's a challenge not to get excited about the idea of vacationing in Italy. This is one country that has ti all - you can visit great historical sites; travel easily and comfortably throughout the country by car or train; and explore numerous regions to sample their unique cuisine and fines wines. Some of the best foods and wines in the world come from Italy and it's difficult to leave without sampling them all. Also, Italian art is world renowned for its beauty and character. The bottom line here is that visiting this part of Europe will satisfy pretty much every taste and interest.

For those looking for a romantic place to honeymoon you will certainly find marital bliss in Italy. Take Venice for example, nothing can beat the incredible floating city for beauty, scenery and entertainment. Rome is another city with an incredibly romantic ambiance. There just something about Roman history that brings a blend of romance and eroticism sure to make any honeymoon sizzle.

Many people also regard Tuscany as a very romantic and glamorous destination. What Rome creates in raw appeal Tuscany delivers in terms of class and sophistication. Florence is another historical Italian city where scenery alone can inspire the budding artist in anyone.

If you are concerned about planning to go to the best places in Italy you may want to consider the idea of purchasing a package. Good package tours will insure you don't miss a thing as they include tours of the most famous sites; your accommodations and usually your airfare and transfers. When it comes to booked a package deal for your Italian vacation you can take it easy and spend your time learning more about the places you will be visting rather than sweating over all the tiny details of planning your whole vacation a la carte. Professional tour firms will do take care of rest. And with the internet it's easy to read reviews and make sure you are going with the best. most reputable companies. Just a bit of research guarantees your satisfaction.

Although we've talked at length about the romantic nature of Italy for couples and honeymoons in particular you may not know that a holiday in Italy is also excellent for families. It can give your children a great introduction to European history and learning about all of the other cultures of Europe. Plus they will see and experience some of the most beautiful scenery and architecture in Europe. Not only that but vacation home rentals or home exchanges are quiet common here and make for very reasonable family accommodations.

Still not convinced Italy is your best place to holiday this summer? Well, I suggest the best thing you can do is make a list of all the things you wish to enjoy on your European vacation this summer. Before long you'll discover Italy captures your heart and your logical brain!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Best Places to Retire Cheap

I was reading a great little article by Kathleen Peddicord on the Yahoo! Finance page this morning. Kathleen reviews 5 Places you can retire for under $500 a month. She begins by pointing out that housing costs are still one of the biggest expenses we have not only throughout our working years but in retirement too. She suggests retiring abroad to the cheapest places that offer affordable housing is one way to maintain your standard of living in retirement.

Here are Kathleen's Top five picks for

1. Leon Nicaragua

2. Medellin Columbia

4. Chiang Mai Thailand

5. Languedoc-Roussillon France

"You may recognize Kathleen's name from her years at the helm of International Living. Recently Kathleen left I.L. to head up her new venture called Live and Invest Overseas. She is also the author of How to Retire Overseas: Everything You Need to Know to Live Well (for Less) Abroad

Source: Personal Finance News from Yahoo! Finance

Friday, April 15, 2011

Best Places to visit in San Francisco California

The list of things to see and do in San Francisco could be as long and as detailed as any of the most popular cities in the world. As with any famous city there are a few "must see" points of interest and if you're visiting SF for the first time it can becoming overwhelming. If you're interested in keeping your  stress levels down I encourage you to perform your own research and be sure to visit the chat boards where you can get a lot of varied opinions. The reality is some sights will be of interest to you and others won't. The most important part of any plan is to weigh the time you've got available with your list of "must see places'. Think of it as your own personal 'best of list'. Now all of that said here is my very biased list of -

The Best Places to Visit in San Francisco
  1. First up it's pretty much a non-negotiable - if you're visiting San Francisco you just have to experience  Pier 39.  This wonderful open air market is full of sights sounds and shops for for any age. Pier 39 is also a favorite San Francisco attraction where you can also watch the seals and sea lions basking in the sun; go shopping in numerous unique shops; and enjoy a distinctive dining experience - be sure to make it seafood, something Pier 39 is also world renowned for. Remarkably Californian, the Pier is an enjoyable atmosphere no matter what you're age or interest.
  2. The cable cars of San Francisco are an iconic image of this great city.  Regardless you jump on for a few minutes or a few blocks the experience is one you'll remember forever. Not only that but traveling by cable car is a green and cheap way to move around the key parts of the city.  They're quick, safe and give you a glimpse into the cities unique historical past.
  3. Any place to visit while in San Francisco is the California Academy of Sciences. This Academy may be the only place where you will actually find a natural history museum, a planetarium, an aquarium and a reproduced jungle are in one place. Adults and children will both get pleasure and learn something new with this experience.  At the California Academy of Sciences you can watch short movies and then 'wine and dine' after hours. You can watch penguins and learn about our natural environment. In the four story jungle, you will find bats, chameleons, butterflies and birds The catfish aquarium is a special treat as you walk through it inside an acrylic tunnel. This is also a great place to visit if the weather is inclement.
  4. The San Francisco Exploratorium is another interesting place for all ages. This science museum is made for people who don't normally like science (like my wife!). What makes it unique is the interaction you get with science. You can do your own experiments and learn all about natural phenomena in an interesting and self guided manner. The Exploratorium mingles art and science which generate new ideas for igniting interest and give fresh insights about our planet.

Pier 39, the Cable Cars, Exploratorium, the California Academy of Sciences and everything else you discover in wonderful San Francisco California is ideal for a weekend getaway or a week long vacation.

Cheapest Cities to Live in California

There was an old joke about living in California that went,

"California and Cheap are impossible to use in the same sentence!"

I say 'old' because the sub-prime crisis has certainly changed the landscape in California especially when it comes to real estate. Still certainly not the cheapest place to live in America but there are parts that offer some of the best and cheapest (esp. foreclosed) real estate in the country.

Living in California has always been an expensive proposition and today the cost of living is being impacted even more what with the liks of some of the most expensive gas in the country. But California boasts a #1 at the other end of the wealth to poverty scale - its also one of the worst places for foreclosures. Add to that the dismal state of the economy and budget crisis and you've got a negative mix that has driven many Californians to move out. And if all of that isn't enough CA is also one of the top ten states for unemployment. Put it altogether and you've got the impact necessary to bring housing and other costs down and for opening up cheaper places to live in California.

The cheaper cities to live in are more likely to be small with lower populations and they may also be a little further away from major centers like LA or San Francisco. Here are our top picks for

The Cheapest Cities in California

California City

California City is located in the northern Antelope Valley area. It's population is around 15,000 with a median age of 35. In California City you can purchase a home for less than $200,000 which is really almost unheard of anywhere else in California. Rents start at around $650 for a two-bedroom apartment - that is much lower than what you would pay for a one-bedroom apartment in a densely populated part of  LA.


You'll find Hesperia in the Mojave Desert area of San Bernardino county. The population here is 80,000 so it's considerably bigger than California City but of course still a fraction of the size of LA which tops 6 million people and that doesn't include all of the other cities in Los Angeles county area. Hesperia also has more to do with a good selection of local shopping centers and a number of unique restaurants. Hesperia is around 2 hours drive from Orange County. Here the average home is also under $200,000 which is very affordable by California standards.


Bakersfield has had a population boom over the past decade with 2009 statistic counting 333,000 people Even with all those people moving in it is still an affordable place to live in California. The are in and around Bakersfield is beautiful but it can get very hot in the summer months. Other challenges include a a high unemployment rate and poor air quality. In fact it has been labeled as one of the most polluted cities in California.


Lancaster is the ninth fasting growing city in California. Population tops 500,000. If you're looking for a cheap place to rent, this is the spot. A two-bedroom apartment runs at around $800 which is exceptionally cheap for California. If you're more interested in buying a home the average price is $300,000, a little higher than the other cheap cities we've examined so far. Lancaster is great for families with plenty of schools and shopping. On the down side crime has been on the rise in some areas. Lancaster is relatively easy to find. It's about a 2 hour drive from Los Angeles.

These are just a few of the cheap places to live in California. There are more but generally they are found in the same areas as these. This is not exactly the best time to move to California, but if you have to for work or other reasons and living on a budget is top of mind than these cities are all worth a look. For those who already live in California but are looking to downsize and hate the alternative of moving out of state these cities are worth a look too.

Editors Note: I know a few people who live in California so asked them to chip into this conversation and offer their opinions on the Best Place to live in California if one is on a tight budget. Here's what they had to say:

  • Tough question! Even with all the troubles California is facing the main cities are still pretty pricy - it doesn't seem to matter where you look - Los Angeles, the Bay Area, San Diego or even Sacramento - the housing market and cost of living is still expensive by any American standard.
  • A lot of people who are looking for a more affordable lifestyle are checking out of their high end homes in Southern Cal and moving to the smaller towns of the 'Inland Empire' - this is found in the western part of San Bernardino and Riverside. It's cheaper their but these places are still within  commuting range of Los Angeles and San Diego.

  • For even cheaper places to live in California I suggest you try the rural areas - the farming towns, and the desert or mountain towns are a lot cheaper. Imperial County, which is in between San Diego and Arizona is quite rural but has some nice small desert towns like El Centro.

  • The cheapest places to live will typically be in the middle of nowhere but there are obvious negatives which is why they are cheaper! The gas is likely to be more expensive, its tougher to find a decent job and general amenities will be lacking like the variety of shopping, dining and entertainment options.
  • I suspect that most people who answer this question won't know what they're talking about! If you ask most people about California they'll say, there are no cheap places to live in california! But of course there are! You're just not going to find them in the popular big cities that's all! But what's wrong with living in a nice place that no one has heard of before? Nothing as far as I'm concerned.

  • If you're determined or have to (because of work) live in the San Fran or L.A. you're going to have to suck it up. The reality is its' going to be very expensive. But if you have choices than there are plenty of other places to live in California that are quite cheap. Remember California is very large state, in fact it's the 3rd largest state in the nation so there is plenty of room for everyone regardless of their income.

  • The bigger CA cities and their surrounding areas have sprawled creating distant suburbs like  Tracy, Stockton, and Modesto which are an easy commute to San Francisco. They have an excellent transit system, BART which makes getting around a breeze. For LA Lancaster, Palmdale, Riverside, San Bernardino are also cheaper and commutable. Of course if you're not on the transit route the price you pay is a long commute of at least 2 hours each way.

California truly does seem to offer it all. We've written about the Happiest Places and found one in San Luis Obispo. We've looked at some of the nicest and best places to live in California like Pleasanton. Now we've even managed to find some cheap places to live!  Sure this crazy state is having it's challenges but isn't every state? and after all it is California!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Best Place To Live In California

Naming the best place to live in California is not easy simply because there are so many. It has to be one of the most diverse states in terms of natural terrain. Everything literally from the beach to mountains and all manner of natural beauty in between. In addition to the natural diversity and beauty it possesses there is also diversity in cultural and economic areas. Living in California offers options unmatched in other locations and it will be up to you to answer the question 'what city should I live in' and pick what is best for you but here are some of my choices to get you started on your quest to find that best place to live in California.

I have to admit that I have a love for the southern half of California but I know my love is not shared by everyone at least some like Northern California as much for equally justifiable reasons. My choices in the southern half of the state, although not the cheapest places to live, reflect my bias and so these may not resonate with your taste but I think there are some very good reasons for the cities I choose. Hopefully you will be open to at least investigating these gems of the west while you consider the best places to live in California.

Beverly Hills California

To start the conversation about the best of California let's go to Beverly Hills California. Beverly Hills holds the distinction of being one of the most well-known areas of California.
A palm tree in Beverly Hills
Beverly Hills California
It is near Los Angeles as well as Santa Monica. Many consider Beverly Hills to be among the most desirable locations to live in the world. It certainly is home to some of the most wealthy and prestigious people in the world.

The school system in Beverly Hills is one of the best in the nation. With weather that is near perfect year-round and nearly every square inch of the city is well manicured. There are many places of interest in Beverly Hills. Including restaurants, parks, famous boutiques, Art Galleries and museums. The crime rate in Beverly Hills is extremely low making it a safe place to live and secure as you would expect from any affluent city.

It has the unique distinction of being a sunny little town enhanced by the safety, security and attention to detail made possible by its wealthy residents plus the fact that is very near to Los Angeles and all it has to offer.

Redwoods and California Wine Country Overnight Tour - Petroleum Free Tour
Tour California

San Luis Obispo

Second on my list is the San Luis Obispo California area. This beautiful little area along the central California coast might be best described as a tiny piece of heaven. The weather is near perfect year-round with over 95% of the days being sunny. The temperature never gets too hot and never gets too cold. Cal Poly University being in San Luis Obispo help it to maintain a low unemployment rate as well as being a large contributor to the local economy. Because of the weather, the low unemployment rate and low crime rate this little piece of heaven may be as perfect as it comes. One thing that detracts and may keep it from holding that ‘perfection’ title is the cost of living. Unfortunately the cost of living in San Luis Obispo is on the expensive side for most people and may contribute to keeping this area small and avoiding some of the pitfalls experienced by some of the other most beautiful California locations. Some old-timers I know tell me about Los Angeles 40-50 years ago and it makes me want to cry. Too many people have a detrimental effect on things over time. Sad really but it is the way we humans generally affect our environment.

Next on our list is the Santa Barbara area of California. It too is an expensive place to live but its proximity to Los Angeles make it a good choice for many that would like to live outside the city while still staying within driving distance. Most places in Los Angeles are within 2 to 3 hours of Santa Barbara depending of course on traffic conditions. For people who have amassed a small fortune Santa Barbara can be a wonderful choice but if your intention is to find a job and reasonable priced housing Santa Barbara may not be the best choice. Like its neighbour to the north San Luis Obispo it enjoys nearly perfect year-round weather and all the benefits of being ocean side as well. This might be the best place for a wealthy retired couple in California.

San Diego California

Last on my list is beautiful San Diego California. If you have ever visited San Diego you'll know exactly the reasons it's on this list. It is in the top 10 wealthiest cities in the United States and also within the top 10 as far as safety. It has a wide diversity of industry including computer science, electronics, ship manufacturing, the defence industry, tourism, finance, biotechnology and last but not least, agriculture. There is a natural diversity of terrain in the area coupled with everything from beaches to forests for the lucky residents to enjoy. There is a diversity of culture heavily influenced by its Latin neighbour to the south. National sports teams, museums, famous gardens and reserve habitats are among just a few of the offerings to those in the area. As with any big city it has areas that are not optimal but overall it is a safe city. Its education system is diverse and San Diego has the distinction of being in the top 10 most educated cities in the US. A nice bonus about this are is that you can find soem of the cheaper places to live in California.

As I stated early in this post my bias is distorted toward the southern half of California and the listed cities are only a few that make up the list of best place to live in California. After all it is one of the best states to live in but finding your own city that perfectly fits your lifestyle, income and choice of activities may take a little work. If you had to pick a location to do it, California is rich in potential locations for just about any persons idea of perfection although they may not be the cheapest places to live in the world.

The Cheapest State to Live In

In previous posts we've examined some of the Best Sates to Live in but in todays down economy many people are considering a move and looking for the cheapest states to live in for strictly financial reasons. Like everything we discuss and share here on the blog there are no simple and straight forward answers or solutions. Everyone is different and everyone's circumstances are different. If you are looking for the cheapest places to live but you also need a job than lower wages could negate any positive impact from a lower cost of living. Similarly if you're retired why live in a place that has high employment and a high cost of living to go along with it? As you know we are big proponents of the Retire Abroad movement. When you're retired you've paid your dues and served your country by being productive for the past forty, fifty, sixty years. Now it's your turn to relax and enjoy life. But once again I digress!

Factors Affecting Cost of Living

As we've discussed ad nauseam there are numerous factors that will influence the cost of living in any area you choose to live.
  • Housing is probably the most obvious, and can still vary depending on if you rent or buy. So, it important to consider both. For example some parts of the country the market demand for rentals has not kept pace with the price of real estate. In some places one can rent for half of what it might cost to own.
  • Taxes are another thing many people overlook. It's important to add up both state income taxes and the local property taxes. In combination these too have a significant impact on your cost of living.
  • Daily Expenses - The price of daily use items like gas and food will also vary from state to state.
  • Employment - Employers in any given state or area will have an impact on cost of living too. In Seattle, for example, one of the biggest employers is Microsoft. People there are well paid and the market is more than happy to rise to meet and greet that disposable income. Thus Seattle ranks as one of the most expensive cities to live in. The reality is the majority of people living in Seattle do not work for Microsoft but, the high salaries there tend to inflate the overall cost of living.

The Cheapest States to Live in

Let's first take a look at the cheapest states and then narrow it down to find THE Cheapest. Generally speaking the most affordable and least expensive states to live in the U.S. tend to be in the Midwest or South. As one would expect Alaska, Hawaii, New England, and the entire West Coast from California to Washington are the most expensive states to live in America so finding the best place to live in California won't help you much.
Research that was done by the Missouri Economic Research and Info Ctr. says the 10 most affordable states are:
  1. Oklahoma
  2. Texas
  3. Tennessee
  4. Arkansas
  5. Nebraska
  6. South Dakota
  7. Missouri
  8. Kansas
  9. Georgia
  10. Mississippi
Now it's important to take into consideration the time lag between data collection and the publishing of results. Also, data can sometimes be accumulated over an extended period of time. When the economy and the world at large is stable these data bases work just fine but when we experience major shifts and changes that are sudden that data can be blown out the window in a second. A good example of this is Japan who just a few months ago was acknowledged as one of the Best Places to Live in the World. But today following the devastating Earthquake,Tsunami and nuclear crisis, Japan is likely not on anyone's radar as the 'best place to live'. The same could be said for parts of the United States. Prior to our own economic melt down the midwest and Motor City in particular where nice stable places to live and be gainfully employed in the auto industry. Today not so much. A year or so ago I wrote about the Detroit having the cheapest house in America. And when you read that list above you may want to add anywhere in the "Rustbelt" to that list of cheap places to live in America. Upstate New York including Buffalo and Rochester, Ohio, Michigan and some parts of Indiana could certainly make the list.
Oklahoma and Kansas are cheap in terms of housing and those they are decent places to live. One cold easily say they are better looking places to live as those 'Rustbelt' states look pretty rough most of the time. The downside to OK and KS is the fact they can be pretty 'ho hum' boring. The deep south sates are also cheap but wages are very low for many which leads to a lot of poverty.

The Cheapest State to Live in?

After reading this you are hopefully in agreement that picking the cheapest state to live in is still a very subjective matter - it's all in the number and the numbers you use can result in pretty much whatever you want. Just looking at figures Oklahoma is the cheapest with low housing costs, low insurance and low tax. If you're retired or have a virtual business then it may be a great state to live in. But if you're needing to combine your relocation with a new job you might want to think twice - the low local wages may just wipe out any gains you make from reducing your cost of living.

Editors note: This post about the Cheapest States to live in obviously appeared in April 2011. Be sure to check out our latest (November 2011) exploration of the Best States to Live in. We created a new series of articles exploring the country region by region, up and down and side to side to uncover the best states and what makes them great.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Best Places to Retire Abroad

Yesterday I asked if you were ready to Retire Abroad in 2011. I laid out some key considerations and a bit of homework for preparing for a life abroad. Today I'd like to suggest a few of my favorite places - my top retirement places - my hot picks, if you will, for where to consider retiring to.

Quality of Life - Quality of Living

When it comes to making a big change like moving abroad the primary motivator is often getting more bang for your pension buck. In other words finding a cheaper place to live - a place where you retirement best egg or pension will go further providing you a better or higher quality of life than it would where you are currently living. As we discussed in the previous post Quality of Life is subjective - everyone has different ideas here and it's important to clearly identify what works for you. What is living a quality life to you? For one the weather is key but another might be willing to live in an igloo as long as they could quickly get to their family and loved ones.

Best Places to Retire Abroad in 2011

For North Americans the traditional 'Hot Spots' for living the expat lifestyle in retirement have been located in Central America. Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico and Belize have been perennial favorites. Recently Americans have been moving even further south with South America coming into their sites. This past year International Living claimed Ecuador as the best place to retire not only that they said it was one of the cheapest places on Earth. Well we know they were exaggerating but it certainly is one cheap place to live that still offers a quality of life.

For Brittons and Europeans France, Spain, Italy and Portugal have always been in the spot light because they satisfy many of those Key Considerations we talked about yesterday.

Today let's look at what places are popping onto the radar as the Best Places to Retire in 2011.
  • Cyprus and more specifically Northern Cyprus - yes Cyprus has had a bad wrap in the media over the years but the reasoning is really irrelevant to retirees. So, what's wrong with Cyprus? The same thing that's wrong with Panama or pretty much any other country that offers a low cost of living - the wages are low and it's tough if not impossible even illegal for an expat to work there. But if you're looking for a place to retire than employment prospects are really quite irrelevant aren't they? What is great about Cyprus is the cheap real estate; the economy is stable, in fact they are about to become the presiding country for the EU; the standard of living is good; the weather is almost perfect; the Mediterranean - diet food and drink - is healthy and exceptionally good; and foreigners are accepted here with big smiles and open arms.  
  • Argentina - speaking of South America (above) this lovely country is world renowned for it's wine and culinary delights. And it's cheap! The quality of living in Argentina is excellent while the real estate prices are low as is pretty much every other necessity of life. There is a definite European flavor to this country and unlike many other expat favorites you won't find them all, gathered in one enclave. Here, as in Panama expats tend to spread out and blend into the local communities.
  • Panama - If you've been following this blog or even just surfing around it you know this is am all time fav. This is the place I chose to live for a few years and ended up buying land here. Panama is known to be very safe and exceptionally friendly to all foreigners. This is most likely due to the fact most Panamanians come from foreign lineage. Panama was a small sparsely populated country until the Panama Canal project. Thousands of migrant workers from all over the world came to Panama to build the canal and stayed. This multi-cultural mix makes Panama completely unique when compared to its more homogeneous neighbours of Costa Rica and Columbia.  Although Panama would no longer be considered one of the cheapest places to live it is still very reasonable by American and European standards. Whats more Panama has an developed an air of sophistication no doubt a result of that multi-cultural mix and the fact it is one of the largest international banking centers in the world.
  • South Africa - If you know your geography you know the African continent is huge! I actually wrote a post about Africa as the Biggest Places in the world. And down, way down on the most Southern tip of this great land mass you find the country of South Africa. Like Panama it has had it's share of social and political turmoil but also like Panama all of that is long past. Today you can enjoy a first world - first class - high quality standard of living on a low budget. South Africa has pretty much everything an expat would want - weather, culture, cuisine, fine wine, and beautiful scenery and wildlife. As an added bonus English is the main language making it universally easy and comfortable for Americans and Europeans alike. 
Well there you have it - a few off-the-map places you may not of heard about or considered for retirement but if you're considering - thinking - pondering the idea of retiring abroad each of these places deserves a good look!

Ten Best Cities To Live In Florida – Not

There are many wonderful places that should be considered among the best cities to live in Florida for a Florida relocation of any sort but the real thrust of this article is to identify cities that you may not want to consider or to scratch from your list if you were planning to make a move there and are open to just about anywhere in the state. If you are looking for where to retire or even if you are location independent, Florida has a reputation that involves the sun, the beach, fun, Disney and to a lesser extent other iconic places that are often portrayed in a favorable light. Unfortunately there is another side to Florida that is darker and less desirable in many respects.

What prompted me to write about this was a recent article I read about the 100 worst cities to live in and included cities all over the United States. Out of those I noticed there were several in Florida and thus this article was born in my mind.

Let’s jump right into what makes these cities the opposite of the 10 best cities to live in Florida or retire in Florida. Listed here are the 10 with the lowest crimes per thousand residents to the highest crime rates from these worst cities to live in Florida (taken from the afore mentioned worst 100 in the USA). Look carefully at the crime statistics and there is no doubt in my mind they will effect your thoughts about moving to one of them. They are definitely not the best places to retire in Florida.

City Crime Data
Violent Crime
Property Crime
Total Crime
Crime/ 1000
Crime/ sq mi
Ft Myers, Florida
Miami, Florida
Pompano Beach, Florida
Miami Beach, Florida
North Miami, Florida
Hallandale, Florida
Tallahassee, Florida
Sarasota, Florida
Panama City, Florida
Melborne, Florida

Much of the data that is contained in this article comes from a post on neighborhodscoot [.] c0m. A paragraph from their website is below about how the crime data was compiled and what the limitations are concerning it. It was not about the top ten places to retire in but from a much larger list of the worst cities in the United States for crime. Read carefully and consider that statistics are an imperfect science and one that with every conclusion, there needs to be a reasonable scepticism since in some cases the conclusions that are drawn contain a element of subjective judgment. In turn, we cannot be responsible for the data or how you use it so put on your thinking cap before you use it to make any decision or for any important task and know that you are responsible for its use.

Here is a peek into how this data came about and if you are looking for the worst or the best cities to live in Florida you need to use more than just the data that purports to sell you on the best state to live in be it from this and other websites for that matter. Notice in the third to the last line it mentions ‘upwards of 87% accuracy’. If you turn that around that means in at least 13% of the time it is inaccurate and statically speaking that is a very significant number and one that could severely affect the direction of any conclusion. You get the idea by now I am sure. How is that for a shirking the responsibility?

Finding the best city to live in Florida or any state, region or county can be a real challenge but hopefully you will find here in this site a resource that can lead you to the best for you no matter what your criteria is. The list above should have given you a peek into what you do not want no matter if you are moving your whole family or are looking for where to retire and what statistics you want to focus on as you make your Florida relocation.