Going batty for a friendly little place in the hill country
President Lyndon Johnson grew up near Fredericksburg, Texas, and his widow, Lady Bird, still retains the LBJ ranch nearby. But you don't need a presidential budget to retire comfortably in this Texas hill country town.
Jim Mulvihill, 60, lived in Orange County, Calif., for 42 years, working in law enforcement in Los Angeles, before he and his wife, Carol, decided to retire five years ago. "Being big-city folks, we really weren't ready to give up a lot of the amenities," he says. So, they settled in Fredericksburg, an hour's drive from both San Antonio and Austin. "It has lots of elbow room, the property here is still reasonably priced, and folks are extremely friendly," Mulvihill says. They bought 6 acres of property and built a ranch house. "That's something that is kind of tough to do in Los Angeles," he jokes.
It also helps that there is no state income tax in Texas and the gasoline tax is lower than in Los Angeles. "A lot of people from California come here because they can get almost twice as much for the same dollar out here as they can at home," says Mayor Tim Crenwelge of Fredericksburg. Mulvihill concurs: "There's just a lot of things overall that are less expensive in everyday living that allows your dollar to go a lot further. They even let you park free."
Fredericksburg, settled by German immigrants and named for Prince Frederick of Prussia, boasts the National Museum of the Pacific War (which includes a George H. W. Bush gallery), the Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park with an Olympic-size swimming pool open to the public for just $1 a day, a historic district with open-air pavilions, Texas Tech University at Fredericksburg, and more than a half-dozen wineries nearby. There's also an abandoned railroad tunnellocals call it "the bat tunnel"where aficionados of the flying mammals gather each evening from May to October to watch approximately 3 million Brazilian free-tailed bats awake from their daytime slumber and emerge from the tunnel to hunt. Prices to enter the viewing areas for seniors range from free to $3.
Maybe the only thing that isn't a good deal in Fredericksburg is the coffee. Says Mulvihill: "At Starbucks, it is $3.95 for a caramel macchiato no matter where you go."
Median home value: $118,300
Age 65 or over: 30 percent
Cost of living: 21.4 percent below the U.S. average
Maximum state income tax: none
State sales tax: 6.25 percent
This story appears in the June 11, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.