Snowy weather arrived early this year in many parts of the country. But for retirees, there's no reason to endure another winter.
Once you're no longer tied to a job, you are free to spend the coldest winter months in a balmier climate, or you could permanently move to a place with better weather. Imagine a retirement lifestyle that doesn't involve shoveling snow, defrosting your car, or paying massive heating bills.
[In Pictures: The 10 Sunniest Places to Retire.]
Yuma, Ariz., is the sunniest city in the United States, with the sun shining an average of 90 percent of the time, according to the National Climatic Data Center. This desert city also has the distinction of being the least humid and having fewer days of precipitation than any other U.S. city.
Close behind is Redding, Calif., where the sun shines an average of 88 percent of the time. Donna White, 71, a children's librarian, moved to Redding from Ridgecrest, Calif., when she retired in 2005. She hikes every day, year-round, and especially enjoys the Sacramento River Trail, which overlooks California's largest river. "You can watch the change of the seasons here," she says. "We also have a river and green trees, grass, and flowers."
Arizona is a popular place for retirees to avoid winter. Phoenix and Tucson are both sunny an average of 85 percent of the time, but these cities get quite hot in the summer. In Phoenix, the temperature hits 90 degrees or higher an average of 169 days per year. Tucson is slightly cooler than Phoenix and gets more rain, which averages 12 inches annually.
Flagstaff, Ariz., is almost as sunny as Phoenix and Tucson, but unlike most other sunny places, the weather is seldom hot. The temperature only rises above 90 degrees an average of three days per year. "It has very clean air and pretty mild temperatures year-round," says Loni Shapiro, 67, a retired occupational therapist who moved to Flagstaff from Eugene, Ore. "It's not really hot in the summer or really cold in the winter." It does snow—sometimes a significant amount in the winter—but the sunshine usually quickly melts any accumulation. "When the winter starts getting long, we head down to Phoenix for a couple days," says Shapiro.
Nevada is another state where many places are bathed in near-permanent sunshine. Those who aren't distracted by the nightlife will find the sun shining 85 percent of the time in Las Vegas and 79 percent of the time in Reno. Between the two cities, Reno is the cooler option, averaging 55 days above 90 degrees during the summer months, compared with 133 in Las Vegas. "If you want to get out of the casino, there are high alpine mountains within 45 minutes, there's pristine desert wilderness within an hour, and there are ghost towns and historic mining areas within two hours," says Pat Dingle, 64, the semi-retired director of the Southern Nevada Zoological Botanical Park in Las Vegas. "There are places for easy strolling and more vigorous hikes in the desert and Lake Mead for year-round boating."
Especially sunny cities in California include Fresno and Sacramento. Barbara Hurst, 64, moved from Dallas to Sacramento in 2007 when she retired. "The weather in Dallas is unpredictable in the wintertime and the summers can be humid and just unbearable," she says. "Sacramento is generally in the 50s or 60s in the wintertime and most of the time it is pretty pleasant." One Texas city, El Paso, also makes the top 10 list of sunniest cities in the United States.
Some retirees spend part of the year in these sunny places, then relocate to cooler climates in the summer. Jim Loaris, 65, moves to Yuma, Ariz., each winter between November and March and returns to Washington state each summer. "We like Yuma because it is extremely sunny and it is around the Colorado River," says Loaris. "When we go up north in the summertime, we have to get used to cold weather."