If you’re searching for the right place to live after the military, you’re not alone. Around 250,000 service members are estimated to separate or retire each year, and after a career full of PCS moves, finding the right city to settle down in is a top concern.

To make the search a little easier, Navy Federal Credit Union released its 2020 edition of “Best Cities After Service” on Nov. 2.

The credit union surveyed more than 1,000 veterans and civilians to make their top picks. Questions quantified everything from cost of living and real estate prices to access to activities and ease of transportation.

Results showed that transitioning service members prioritize having a strong community of veterans, low crime rates, low costs of living, and easy access to outdoor recreation. Using these priorities as a guide, Navy Federal and its partner nonprofit Operation Homefront, which seeks to support military families, ranked more than 400 U.S. cities from best to worst.

Here are the top 10 picks:

  1. Charleston, South Carolina
  2. Fort Myers, Florida
  3. Savannah, Georgia
  4. Daphne, Alabama
  5. Norwich, Connecticut
  6. San Diego, California
  7. Norfolk, Virginia
  8. Duluth, Minnesota
  9. Gulfport, Mississippi
  10. Fort Worth, Texas

Navy Federal’s “Best Of” lists began in 2018 as a means of assisting transitioning veterans. The initiative’s first list also focused on the best cities for veterans. Last year, the credit union identified the best careers after service but decided to return this year to cities because of the way the COVID-19 pandemic has caused priorities to change.

“It’s really perfect in my day-to-day job to bring in these lists and show them, because it gets to the individuality of the service member about ‘What do you like to do?’, ‘What types of city would enjoy?’” said Clay Stackhouse, a regional outreach at Navy Federal and former Marine Corps colonel.

The list is designed for all types of veterans, Stackhouse emphasized. Whether it’s the sandy beaches and waterways of Fort Myers, the four seasons and outdoor activities of Duluth or the big-city vibe of San Diego — the list offers something for everyone.

Stateside, Navy Federal representatives are available 24/7 to assist service members and veterans with things like finding a good city to live in, Stackhouse said.

“We are thrilled to be able to help an amazing Navy Federal Credit Union team celebrate their top 10 list of communities they believe have earned special recognition for taking such great care of our military and veteran families,” said John I. Pray, Jr., a retired brigadier general and CEO of Operation Homefront. “We are incredibly grateful for NFCU’s continued support and all they do to help us help this very deserving group of our fellow citizens overcome their financial hardships and put them on a path towards a stronger, more stable and more secure future.”

To see the full city list with descriptions, visit Navy Federal.

Harm Venhuizen is an editorial intern at Military Times. He is studying political science and philosophy at Calvin University, where he's also in the Army ROTC program.

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