Sherman/Denison, Texas: Tempting Texoma
Median home price: $79,400
Median mortgage payment: $303
Median property tax: $1,158
State tax on Social Security: No
State tax on pensions: No
Great eating: Barbecue fans swear by the traditional pulled-pork sandwich at the Cackle & Oink BBQ.
Catch a game: When the two local high school teams, Sherman and Denison, play one another in football, it's known as the "Battle of the Axe" — and it is the longest-running high school rivalry in Texas.
Best freebie: Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge boasts an impressive 338 species of birds, 36 species of mammals, 60 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 61 species of fish.
Some 70 miles north of the bustling Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, both Sherman and Denison are typical small-town Texas. Yet this sunny metro region offers much more, including well-established neighborhoods, some of the lowest housing costs in the nation, and the considerable recreational appeal of nearby Lake Texoma.
With facilities for Stanley Black & Decker, Cigna, Caterpillar and Raytheon nearby, the area is prosperous, which translates into many local perks. There's a symphony, plenty of annual festivals, and public transportation.
All that suits Janet Freeman, 62, and Dick Freeman, 65, just fine. The two retired after selling their gymnastics school three years ago, and are sold on the area's affordable retirement advantages. "Our house is paid off, and that's true for many of our friends here," says Dick. "But the main charm is that we can do all the things we think are fun, including fishing — we can have the boat in Lake Texoma in 20 minutes, or in nearby Pickens Lake in five."
Pueblo, Colo.: A Desert Gem
Median home price: $102,600
Median mortgage payment: $392
Median property tax: $765
State tax on Social Security: Yes
State tax on pensions: Yes (with some exceptions)
Great eating: Known for the distinctive Mira Sol green chile peppers that grow here, the city is famous for its "sloppers" — a cheeseburger slathered in green chili. The Sunset Inn is the reigning champ.
Catch a game: The ThunderWolves, Colorado State University-Pueblo's Division II football team, has a fierce following. Tickets for seniors are $13 -($20 for reserved seats and $6 for admission to Thunder Hill grassy slope).
Best freebie: Take in all three miles of the Pueblo Levee Mural Project‚ which holds a Guinness Book of World Records distinction as being the world's largest continuous painting.
This smaller desert community is winning attention as a bargain among Colorado's sprawling cities. While skiers can be on world-class slopes in less than two hours, Pueblo's climate is blissfully temperate. And the city offers unexpected delights, including HARP (Historic Arkansas River Project), archaeological treasures, an impressive library and expanding health care options. And people here are among the healthiest in the U.S., with a longer life expectancy, fewer deaths from heart disease and cancer, and a lower stress index.
HARP Riverwalk is one of Patricia Samson's favorite things about her native Pueblo. "You can walk for several miles along the river, and it's beautiful — there are boats and ducks and restaurants and food vendors, with waterfalls and kids splashing," she says. "It's really special."
Samson, 69, lives in the center of Pueblo, just a block from the river. In addition to the $695 she gets in Social Security, she receives $27 a month in SSI and a $37-a-month pension from the state. To make ends meet, she volunteers as a foster grandparent in a local school, helping fourth- and fifth-graders with their math. In return for that work, besides the company of plenty of energetic 9- to 11-year-olds, she gets a stipend of $2.65 an hour, plus $2 a day for lunch and 43 cents a mile for driving expenses, which works out to about $200 a month during the school year.
She lives in an apartment building for those over 50, and her rent (based on income) is $206 per month for a one-bedroom, including all utilities except for phone. "It's safe. It's warm. And it's a very comfortable, friendly place — I can leave my windows open, and there's a common area where we all have coffee."
CORRECTION: Because of an editing error, there was some incorrect information regarding taxing Social Security benefits and pensions in Indiana, Colorado, Texas and South Carolina. This information has been corrected. The article also incorrectly referred to the University of Notre Dame as Notre Dame University and said that the university was 151 years old. The University of Notre Dame was established in 1842 and is 171 years old. A picture that ran with this story had an incorrect caption stating the College Football Hall of Fame is located in South Bend, Ind. The College Football Hall of Fame's South Bend location closed at the end of 2012 and is reopening in Atlanta, Ga.