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retirement

Billings, Mont.: A Great Small City for Retiring in Good Health

This town offers retirees city living that's not too far from the great outdoors.

Population: 110,263

Cost of living: N/A (national median: 100)

Median home price: $208,200 (national median: $185,000)

Healthy highlight: Swords Park Trail, with spectacular views of the city and Yellowstone Valley

Billings attracts retirees who enjoy the great outdoors but like their urban amenities, too. You can spend the morning hiking or mountain biking on nearby Phipps Park Trail or Swords Park Trail and be back in town by noon for a burger and a beer at Montana Brewing Company. During baseball season, you can spend the evening at Dehler Park rooting for the Billings Mustangs, a farm team for the Cincinnati Reds. Billings is in the midst of a decade-long project to connect a series of trails in and around the city. People often use the trails to bike to work, says Ed Ulledalen, a financial adviser for Raymond James and former deputy mayor.

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Although outsiders often associate Montana with fierce winters, locals say it doesn't get nearly as cold in Billings as it does in other parts of the state. Because the city lies in a valley, temperatures are usually moderate, says Michael Mace, 65, a retired business executive. "I can remember one Christmas break when I went fly fishing one day, snow skiing the next day and played golf the following day," he says.

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Isolation is a potential downside to Billings. Flying in and out of Billings Logan International Airport is expensive, and Denver, the closest major metro­politan area, is more than seven hours away by car. You won't have to travel to find good health care, though. St. Vincent Healthcare provides specialty services in heart and vas­cular disease, oncology, orthopedics, and neurology, among others. The Billings Clinic, which has a 304-bed hospital and offers more than 50 specialties, is a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network.

Many single-family homes in the Central-Terry and North Park neighborhoods, which are close to downtown Billings, are available for less than $200,000.

Montana has no sales tax, and residents don't have to worry about estate taxes, either. However, the state taxes most forms of retirement income at rates of up to 6.9%.

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