You’ve worked hard during your career, and now you’re thinking of the next big phase in your life. Perhaps you’re craving adventure and have considered moving to Alaska, but think it’s too difficult or pricey. Let us bust some of the assumptions people make about living and retiring in Alaska. Here are five of them.
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1. It’s too expensive.
Alaska actually ranks among the better states for seniors’ financial security, ranking higher than some warm-weather states regarding better-funded senior services and more working opportunities. What about the cost of housing, you say? True, Alaska rents can be expensive, depending on where you choose to retire. But likely you’ve chosen to downsize, and rents for one-bedroom apartments in Alaska are comparable to rents in other popular retirement markets. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Alaska will cost you somewhere between $1,000 and $1,169 per month, or less in some smaller, scenic areas like Kenai. Compare that with a median price of $1,596 in California and $1,150 in Florida. If you choose to buy a home, know that some cities exempt seniors from part of their property tax. There also is no income or sales tax here.
Yes, utility costs will be higher partially because you’ll need to heat your living space for a greater part of the year and food costs are higher because Alaska is far from major distribution centers. But don’t forget: Consider the view you’re getting for the price.
2. There aren’t many seniors there.
There aren’t many people here, period. For some, that’s part of the appeal of living in Alaska. The population density is about one person per square mile, as compared with the national average of 87 people per square mile. But you don’t have to be the only person on your particular square mile. The city of Anchorage, for example, has a population of more than 300,000. The number of people ages 65 and older is growing in Alaska, up to almost 10 percent of the population in 2015. That compares with about 15% for the rest of the United States.
3. It’s hard to get around.
If you’re concerned about quick access to medical care, then moving into a cabin on the remote frontier probably isn’t for you. It can be tricky to travel if you choose to live in one of Alaska’s rugged small towns – but that’s also part of the appeal. Living in Anchorage is an option, and you’ll still be close to all the beautiful scenery and invigorating outdoor activities that attracted you to Alaska in the first place. There are bus lines in Alaska cities, as well as motorcoaches, trains, air taxis, water taxis and ferries between cities.
4. It’s cold all the time.
Alaska is subject to extreme weather, no doubt. But that can also include pleasant summer temperatures that average in the mid-seventies (Fahrenheit) in July and August, even Fairbanks. Winter temperatures will dip below zero in most places, and you’ll likely see a lot of snow, depending on where you settle. If you are looking for something more measured, consider southeast Alaska, which is influenced by the 17 million-acre Tongass National Forest, which is part of the largest temperate rainforest in the world. Take Ketchikan, for example: Its temperature fluctuates only mildly, ranging from a low of about 30 degrees (yes, even in January!) and the mid-60s.
5. There isn’t much for seniors to do.
Seriously, don’t worry about this! Do you like fishing? Alaska has more than three million lakes and 3,000 miles of rivers. Wildlife watching is the best anywhere: Spot grizzly bears, moose, humpbacked whales and more. It’s a birdwatchers paradise, with 500 species of birds residing in or migrating through the state, just waiting to be marked on your checklist. It’s a kayaking and hiking wonderland. It has great day trips for all activity levels, restaurants and brewpubs, entertainment venues and museums. You really don’t need us to go on, do you?