Cultivating a bright outlook in the capital of sunshine
Yuma, Ariz., has more sunny days than any other place on Earth, according to the World Almanac Book of Records -a phenomenon that brings thousands of "snowbird" retirees to Yuma for the winter. Of course, many of them flee for colder climates before the sweltering summers. But some retirees, like Jean Baber, 66, live there year-round and reap the rewards. In 1996, Baber and her husband, Clifford Hetz, paid $63,000 for a 1,100-square-foot pueblo-style house on a quarter of an acre in Yuma. "You couldn't have gotten the worst shanty in San Diego for that," says Baber, who lived in the California city for 55 years. "Even with air conditioning, we can run it around the clock from May to October, and it still costs less than it does for people in San Diego."
Air conditioning may be a necessity in this community on the Colorado River, but the warm weather also helps roadside markets full of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables-and affordable prices-to flourish. "We produce about 90 percent of the salad crop for all of the United States and Canada for six months out of the year," says Larry Nelson, mayor of Yuma.
Or, instead of pinching pennies, you can earn some extra income in Yuma. "You can find a job in Yuma no matter what age you are," Baber says. After collecting a lump-sum retirement payment from the San Diego transit authority, Baber worked as a case manager for the health department and as a manager of the Yuma visitor center until she turned 65 and became eligible for Medicare. "There's a lot of part-time and seasonal jobs that a lot of retired people take just to keep busy," she says. "You would have to be fighting people younger than you in San Diego."
After a day's work or leisure, you can dine at an affordable restaurant in town. Says Baber: "For $6.50, you get a glass of wine [in San Diego], and in Yuma, you can get a whole Mexican dinner for the same price."
Median home value: $197,400
Age 65 or over: 14 percent
Cost of living: 2.2 percent below the U.S.average
Maximum state income tax: 4.57 percent
State sales tax: 5.6 percent
This story appears in the June 11, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.