Pros and cons of retiring early in Tahoe

< Back To Blog Home

The family and I are visiting south lake tahoe for the weekend, and it got me thinking, wouldn't it be nice to retire here? This thought comes to mind every time I'm on vacation: I pull up Redfin and look for a place I could see my family living in for the next 30+ years. I could get used to this view!

One day this might become reality, but let's evaluate the pros and cons and see if it's a good idea.

Pros of retiring early in Tahoe

Plenty of outdoor activities to stay healthy

Health is one of the many benefits of retiring early. No more stressful job and being stuck in traffic tends to free you up for more things in life including getting more exercise and staying healthy. It's also a great way to keep health insurance costs low! There are at least 6 ski resorts around the lake and a seasons pass costs just $600. If I lived in Tahoe, I could skii every other day during a 4-5 months season, get super fit and spend less than $3000 per year for a family of 4 not including one time equipment costs! Plus there's bike trails, snowshoeing, hikes, swimming and ziplining near by, something for everyone in the family.

Amazing scenery

Wake up to the smell of pine trees looking at the lake while eating breakfast every day would be amazing.

Abundance of international food options

While it's no San Francisco, South Lake Tahoe has an impressively diverse and growing food scene for a town with a population of just 21,000 as of 2017. No doubt influenced by the desires of its diverse californian tourist base.

Lively downtown south lake tahoe

Lots of live music and shows down town as well as at the casinos near by, the family and I have plenty of entertainment options. Since it's a tourist town, the place is always filled with different people enjoying their vacation, which means people are generally in a happy mood.

Relatively affordable compared to San Francisco

While homes with lake front views will cost well over $1 million, there are plenty of large well maintained single family homes in the $500k range just a few minutes from the lake. And even the million dollar homes are way better than what I could get in San Francisco, so I see this as a huge plus.

Cons of retiring early in Tahoe

No major airports nearby

We're 4 hours from SFO, the closest major international airport. While the idea of retiring here sounds great I wouldn't want to limit myself to one place when there are so many places in the world to visit. This has to be the biggest downside of retiring in Tahoe for a family like ours who like to travel, and pretty much a deal breaker. After all, if we're no longer tied to a job, there's no reason we can't do more traveling

Poor school rating

Looking at GreatSchools ratings, there aren't any middle or high schools with a rating greater than 7, the minimal rating I would consider for my kids as they grow up.

Still a small town

There's only so many places to visit, activities to do and restaurants to dine. Compared to a major metro with over a million people, Tahoe feels small and I can imagine getting bored here after a couple years or even months.


After looking at the pros and cons, Tahoe isn't such a great place to retire as I initially imagined. It remains one of my favorite places to visit from San Francisco, but maybe just a few days or weeks at a time and get the best of both worlds. If we were to stay here for weeks, I've considered getting an investment vacation rental property here, however, the financials don't look that good compared to simply paying for an airbnb the few days I'm here. But that's for another post.

< Back To Blog Home