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6 best military bases for retirees

Retirement might seem like a long way off, but if the military teaches you anything, it's to have a plan. Here are the 6 best military bases.
Jessica Evans Avatar
tinker afb
An aerial view of Tinker Air Force Base, Interstate 40, and surrounding shopping areas and homes Sept. 16, 2016, in Midwest City, Okla. Today, with more than 26,000 military and civilian employees, Tinker is the largest single-site employer in Oklahoma. The installation has an annual statewide economic impact of $3.51 billion, creating an estimated 33,000 secondary jobs. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Lauren Gleason)

Retirement might seem like a long way off, but if the military teaches you anything, it’s to have a plan. Even if that plan ends up changing a million times, it’s still good to have a framework sketched out. So, if you’re anywhere past your 10-year mark, you should probably be thinking about your retirement! Well-earned and well-deserved. But where to settle down and where to call home is a tough question after years on the move. In fact, once you retire from the military, deciding where to live permanently can be downright impossible. Who wants to stay in the same place for years on end?

The truth is, settling down in a military-centric community might just be your best choice! You’ll have to consider things like cost of living, career opportunities in your field, VA health facilities in the area, climate, and the general desirability of the area based on your interests. Another crucial factor to many veterans is having a military community nearby to connect with. With all of those considerations in mind, lets take a closer look.

Here are the 6 best military bases for retirees

1. Naval Station Norfolk

naval station norfolk
Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert Lunsford, an electronics technician, says good-bye to his son as the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) prepares to depart Naval Station Norfolk. (Photo by: Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Sunderman)

Choosing your forever home near Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is an excellent choice for plenty of reasons. Not only is Norfolk a bustling military town full of rich culture and history, but there’s also a vibrant AD population. That means that you’re never in need of MTFs, VA centers, or anything else your post-military life might need. And, because the DeCA rules changed recently, you’ll have access to all the exchanges and commissaries located on Fort Story, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Dam Neck, Little Creek, NAS Norfolk and NAS Oceana. And to sweeten the deal, some military housing companies even offer retirees the chance to live in a mil-housing community. So you’ll never miss hearing Retreat and Reveille. Unsurprisingly, this region is highly populated with active duty and retired military families, making it a great spot to land if you’re looking for a welcoming military community. The beautiful beachfront location and the very reasonable cost of living don’t hurt, either.

2. Joint Base San Antonio

People call San Antonio “Military Town USA” for a reason. First of all, it’s home to Joint Base San Antonio, comprised of Fort Sam Houston, Lackland AFB, and Randolph AFD. This means there is a big active-duty military community right in town. You’ll have access to all the resources you’ve come to know and love, including exchanges and commissaries. And, you’ll also find the largest VA medical center right in San Antonio. Add the relatively low cost of living, no income tax, and the city’s vibrant culture, and you’ve got yourself a veteran’s dream location. Not to mention it’ll be simple to plug into the local military community, making your shift into civilian life that much easier.

joint base san antonio
Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph members slow their vehicle speed as they navigate around the Randolph main gate bollards Nov. 7, 2013. The bollards are used for security measures and traffic control.( U.S. Air Force photo by Rich McFadden)

3. NAS Pensacola

Florida has plenty of its own challenges, but it’s also a really exciting place to be – if you’re a veteran. In fact, Pensacola attracts retirees for many great reasons. Florida has no income tax and no tax on military pensions, which might be the top reason many veterans flock here. More money in your pocket definitely means more peace of mind. The region is home to NAS Pensacola and five other bases, so expect a vibrant military community here. Pensacola is also home to a Naval Hospital and three VA facilities. If all that were not enough, the area’s gorgeous weather and white-sand beaches are the icing on the cake.

nas pensacola
PENSACOLA, Fla. (Dec. 19, 2019) Guests attend a memorial service in the National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Dec. 19, 2019. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist David Holmes/Released)

4. Joint Base Lewis-McChord

What’s not to love about the Pacific Northwest? Retirees would be wise to consider settling near Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Washington. Situated in the stunning PNW, nature lovers cannot get enough of this place. The crisp air, abundant natural life, and closeness to just about everything make this a top destination for plenty of retirees! With the mountains, the sea, and lush greenery year-round, you can’t go wrong. Even better, the region is home to a total of five military bases and 11 VA health facilities, attracting a large military community. Another huge benefit is that the state of Washington has no income tax.   

joint base lewis-mcchord best military bases
U.S. Air Force Capt. Ryan Bodenheimer, Thunderbird 2, signs autographs after the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Airshow and Warrior Expo, Aug. 28, 2016, at Tacoma, Wa. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Tabatha McCarthy)

5. Fort Carson

Another location for nature lovers is Fort Carson. This picturesque location is directly south of Colorado Springs, though the region has four other bases nearby. Between active duty, veterans, and their families, the military community here is large, warm, and welcoming. Lovers of the outdoors will find no shortage of fun activities, seeing that Colorado Springs is right in the Rocky Mountains. It is truly a stunning place to live. Plus, the area offers a flat income tax and low property taxes.

fort carson best military bases
The Army & Air Force Exchange Service will welcome home disabled Veterans, Purple Heart recipients and certain caregivers—4.1 million Americans— with in-store shopping privileges beginning Jan. 1.

6. Tinker Air Force Base

While OKC might not be your first choice for a retirement option, it’s actually pretty fantastic. Yes, Oklahoma is flat and hot, but it’s also home to a large percentage of the country’s veterans. Why? Well, the incredibly low cost of living here is certainly a reason to give it a chance. Tinker AFB is right in town, plus there are five other military bases in the state, most of them relatively nearby. The large and friendly military community makes it an attractive spot for retirees to settle down. Oklahoma City is a hub of culture and sports, so there will be no shortage of fun activities for the whole family.

Speaking of retirement, here’s everything you need to know about the military blended retirement system.