Originally Posted by laplander
My wife and I live in MN now and would like to move to El Paso or Las Cruces.
We were wondering if Horizon City, near El Paso would be a good place to retire, or the second choice Las Cruces, are taxes higher in TX then NM.
I was in the Air Force, stationed in El Paso, many, many, years ago.My
In-Laws live in El-Paso now, they think it's going to be a tough adjustment from MN. This may be a bit vague, but maybe you could give us some ideas,
that would help in the decision we have ahead.
Hi laplander -
Let me first preface this response to you that you are in a different life situation than I am. I am a guy in his early 30s with a couple of young children...decades away from the glorious brass ring of retirement (congrats to you on that!)! So I may have a slightly different perspective.
However, you can tell that I am familiar with the upper Midwest quite a bit, as I am currently living in Wisconsin, and WI is where I am from. However, I just got done with a 4+ year stint living in Albuquerque New Mexico (220 miles from Las Cruces and 250 miles from El Paso)...with family and friends in the El Paso area, we have made 20+ visits of a lengthy period to El Paso and Las Cruces and are very familiar with the areas. In fact, I am currently regretting relocating back to WI (we moved here for family reasons and think WI is a fine place, but we so miss the desert SW) and am actively pursuing relocation to the exact same area you are contemplating - the El Paso and/or Las Cruces area.
Now, it is hard to exactly answer your inquiry without some further details on if you'd like Las Cruces more or El Paso more, but I will try to give you an overview - these cities, being so close together, have obviously quite a few similarities but quite a few more differences than you'd probably realize.
*First thought though - yes, it would be absolute "culture shock" moving to either of these towns/cities coming from MN. Within the context of the United States and excluding Hawaii and Alaska, I would say that Southern NM / El Paso is pretty much as "complete opposite" as you can get from MN as there would be. I personally love that complete opposite (in my case from WI), but some might not. For instance, I think my parents who are lifelong Wisconsinites, would hate living in either town - they'd have no problems visiting (and have), but wouldn't want to live there.
Having said that, people such as us (upper Midwesterners) either love this area or hate it. Couldn't tell you what you are, but I would STRONGLY suggest coming from MN, taking a few extended trips / stays in EP and LC before making the decision to relocate. Just because it is so vastly different. Do it at various times through the year (summer, winter, etc.), and really "get out" and check things out - the driving, the stores, the layouts of streets and neighborhoods, the topography, etc., etc., etc.
Also having said this, I would imagine that if you and your wife have a good relationship with your in-laws, then that should be a big first step. Thus, you probably have through them some inside perspective on the area. They'd be an instant social connection point for you guys, and certainly would help ease your transition into the area. I think that would be a big, helpful plus.
A few basic perspectives applicable to both areas:
-This is the heart of the Chihuahuan Desert. Stress the word DESERT. So many folks coming from the Northeast or Midwest for whatever reason do not consider what it REALLY means living in the desert. Yes, there are no lakes until a few hours away. Yes, things are in general "brown" compared to the Midwest. Yes, rock is used in front yards over grass / lawns. Yes, it is bone-dry and often times dusty.
I am not saying you are not aware of these things. Likely with your in-laws in EP you are. I am always just amazed though at how many Midwesterners want to move to El Paso, Albuquerque, Phoenix, Las Cruces, etc., but then want to be able to have their lush green lawns and trees, lakes up the block, etc. It doesn't work that way. Some people HATE the desert and the landscape. Some (like me) think it is gorgeous.
-This is either right on the Mexican border (El Paso) or is only 40 miles away (Cruces). So yes, there is a huge percentage of Mexican Americans (and yes, in some cases, Mexican Nationals) living in this area amongst gringos. And yes, there is a TON of Spanish speaking and Mexican culture, especially in 'Paso. I think this is just logical - it is the same for little towns near the Canadian border being influenced by Canada (except obviously you don't see the migration flow into US from Canada as you do from Mexico). But it just is what it is.
If you are OK with this, and just realize it'll happen every day around you, then you'll be fine. However, this would intimidate many from the North. Many find El Paso to be a completely different city than any in the US (and they are in many respects right)...one just needs to be aware of this. This is why a few extended visits would probably be very helpful if you are not sure if this would be a good thing for you.
Now...a few thoughts on differences that may be applicable to you:
*LAS CRUCES is a "smaller town" in that the population is just shy of 100,000 people. Not sure the city/town you hail from in MN, but many people would find a town of less than 100,000 to be very small (myself included). Others, who hail from 1000 person towns, would find LC to be big. On contracts, EL PASO is a relatively large city; the city is a population of over 600,000 with a metro area of over 700,000 - certainly no where near as big as a Minneapolis/St. Paul or even Milwaukee, but quite a bit bigger than say a Duluth or a Green Bay. So size may be a factor.
*LAS CRUCES does have a far lower property tax rate (being NM), however, EL PASO has considerably lower housing costs. Not that Las Cruces' houses are terribly expensive - both cities will have far cheaper housing costs than you are used to in MN likely - but a $150K house in El Paso would cost you closer to $180 - $200K in Las Cruces. So, perhaps what you'd be saving in property taxes in Las Cruces you'd be paying for in your mortgage / purchase of a home. There also is no income tax in El Paso (TX), which really helps compensate for many, however in your case, if you are retired, that probably wouldn't factor in.
I really think though that with the cost of housing being relatively lower in El Paso and the property taxes being lower in NM, really, this all kind of comes out in the wash. Honestly, compared to the cost of living and taxes you are used to in Minnesota and most folks are used to in the Midwest / Northeast, overall, the cost of living is so much lower in either of these areas that I think the decision likely should boil down to more where
you'd prefer to live than economics.
*LAS CRUCES currently is regarded nationally as a "hot spot" for retirees...it is really becoming a bread and butter stand out in the area. Thus, you'd have many people in your same scenario in Las Cruces retiring to the area. Transversely, while retirees are moving to EL PASO, do go to EP, and always have, it isn't the more trendy retirement spot that Las Cruces is readily becoming. I don't know if that is a good or a bad thing, it just is what it is.
*HORIZON CITY would be a great spot I would say to retire in. It is a closeby suburb of El Paso, but separated just enough (about a 10 minute drive from East El Paso) that it feels removed from "the city". It is darker and quieter at night. Parts are still butted up against the open and vast desert. It is a little lower-priced housing-wise even than very economic El Paso housing. It is a few degrees cooler than El Paso, due to slightly higher altitude and less surrounding concrete, etc. Fairly cookie-cutter stuff, but a readily growing and nice suburb.
*In EL PASO, I know you said you were stationed at Ft. Bliss once upon a time? I know my wife's parents who have history going back in El Paso decades, they note that quite a bit has changed as you can imagine in EP over the past number of decades. Thus, you probably want to keep an open mind - both good, bad, or otherwise - to what El Paso is now. For better or worse, it is I believe going to be quite a bit different.
*LAS CRUCES is a college town. NMSU is a big segment of Cruces.
*In summation, I would say if you like a bigger city, don't mind a more heavily Mexican-influenced and Spanish speaking city, want a few degrees higher in temps, etc., then El Paso would be your choice. If you want a smaller town, a few more gringos / snowbirds etc., a couple of degrees cooler, then Las Cruces would be your choice.
In my opinion, this would be like choosing between ice cream and cake - both are just tremendous choices! But again, I would highly advise some trips to the area in advance of ever doing any moving activities to see if it is "for you".
I hope this helps you! Please do not hesitate to ask more questions if I can be of further assistance as a fellow relocating outsider.