Leaving the Military? Here Are the Best Cities to Live After Service

Charleston, South Carolina

Key Takeaways

  • Your housing needs will vary depending on where you are in life.
  • Families with children will want a good education system and family-friendly entertainment.
  • Retiring servicemembers will want to focus on cost of living and closeness to medical facilities.
  • If you're buying a house, think about home prices, property taxes and the weather.

You’ve decided to transition out of the military, and you have a lot on your to-do list. You'll likely be job searching, transferring insurance, packing up your house and researching the best place to live. How do you find the best place to live after your military service?

First, take a look at your family's specific needs. Are you raising children or retiring? Are you interested in buying a house? Take time to prioritize your family's needs and search for the best cities to live in after service. Look at what insurance rates are like in the area, ensure that there are medical facilities that accept your insurance and check out some military communities nearby.

There are many lists of the best places to live published each year, but service members and their families may have different requirements – and even within the veteran community, they have varying needs.

In its fifth year of curating “Best of” lists, Navy Federal published lists of best cities after service for three specific groups of veterans. It partnered with The Mission Continues and Sperling's Best Places to review more than 400 cities and determine the best for life after service, keeping in mind unemployment rates, location of VA medical facilities and military bases, and quality of life.

10 Best Cities After Service

These cities are great options for all service members and their families after they leave military service.

  1. Charleston, South Carolina
  2. Norristown, Pennsylvania
  3. Cambridge, Massachusetts
  4. San Diego, California
  5. Naples, Florida
  6. Anchorage, Alaska
  7. Derry, New Hampshire
  8. Virginia Beach, Virginia
  9. Hempstead, New York
  10. Waukegan, Illinois

Some of these cities you'll recognize because they have a military installation, but others may be unfamiliar. Norristown, for example, is 20 miles from Philadelphia and offers a quiet community while being close enough to a major airport.

There are many lists of the best places to live published each year, but service members and their families may have different requirements – and even within the veteran community, they have varying needs.

West of Boston is Cambridge, a college town that gives you a suburban feel with the added perk of being only a 15-minute drive from Fenway Park.

Derry, New Hampshire, is the fourth-most populated community in the state, yet sticks to its small-town roots. Derry is located in Rockingham County, about 45 minutes from Portsmouth and close to the coast.

Hempstead, New York, is on Long Island and has urban areas and farmlands. There are parks, beaches and historic homes to visit, with the bonus of being close to the Big Apple.

You'll find Waukegan, Illinois, along the western side of Lake Michigan, just south of the Wisconsin border. It has a nice downtown area and access to several beaches and parks, and it's considered an industrial suburb of Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Chicago.

Top Cities for Specific Groups of Veterans

These places offer a lot of options for life after military service. However, people leave the service for all kinds of reasons, and some of those will dictate what kind of city you'd like to live in next.

For Military Families

Fort Worth, Texas, is the top city for military families due to the education system, family-friendly entertainment and a lot of green space. The weather helps, too, giving your family lots of time to explore areas like the Fort Worth Zoo. Also included on this list are Derry, Norristown and Charleston. The final city in this category is Columbus, Ohio, offering museums, performances, more than 350 parks and a quality education system.

For Retired Veterans

This list of best cities for retired veterans was formed with cost of living in mind. The cities include Tampa, Florida; Honolulu, Hawaii; Jacksonville, Florida; Norristown; and Virginia Beach. Some of the perks of these installations are that Norristown has low veteran unemployment and Virginia Beach has nine VA hospitals.

For Buying a House

Many veterans look forward to putting down roots and never having to unpack a box of paper again. This list is specifically for those looking to purchase a house, taking into account variables such as cost, tax prices, crime rates and weather as contributing factors.

On top of the list is Altoona, Pennsylvania, located in the Alleghenies region of Central Pennsylvania. The area has reasonable property taxes and low housing costs. If Pennsylvania is too far north – or cold – for you, check out Florence, Alabama. It's on the shores of the Tennessee River in northern Alabama and offers the same kind of family-friendly outside environment.

Central Texas has quite a bit to offer, especially the Abilene area. Affordable homes, reasonable taxes, a nice suburban feel and lots of outdoor options make it a contender for the best city in the country for veterans to buy a home. Elizabethtown, Kentucky, and Muncie, Indiana, round out this list; both offer a low cost of living and many things to do. From community events to specialty museums to great places to eat, these cities are great places to buy a house.

If you're one of the 250,000 military members expected to leave the service this year, this list is for you. Learn more about the cities that caught your attention and how Navy Federal can help with your military transition.

Navy Federal is federally insured by NCUA. It is an Equal Housing Lender.

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