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Retire in Slab City, California?

Overview:   Just east of nowhere and 155 miles north of San Diego is a squatter settlement known as Slab City. Once the site of WWII-era Camp Dunlap, this wide open stretch of land between the Salton Sea and the Sonoran Desert gets its name from the slabs that the U.S. Marines left behind. The Department of Defense returned the land to California in 1961, but the state has done little to develop it.  

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People looking for the "last free place in America" and an "endless Woodstock," began migrating to the area in 1965. Slabbers, the permanent residents, are generally in their 60s and 70s and live in everything from abandoned buses to ramshackle shacks. Thanks to RV "snowbirds," Slab City can swell in winter months to almost 2,000 people. The camp has no amenities, not even electricity or running water, so people use generators and solar panels. There is, though, a library and decent cell service. Social clubs help with mail and meals. An open air night club, The Range, keeps Saturday nights lively. For those who need more services, the town of Niland is four miles to the southwest. The future of Slab City is unclear because the state is now rumbling about selling the land to energy companies.

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As a result, owners of local attractions have stepped up. The group that oversees Salvation Mountain - a creation of outsider artist Leonard Knight - has applied to buy a parcel. East Jesus, a Charlie Russell art collective, also hopes to buy the land it sits upon.

Population:  100 to 200 permanent residents

Percentage of Population Age 45 or Better:  60%

Cost of Living:  Below the national average 

Median Home Price: N/A

Climate:   Summers temperatures routinely reach into the low-100s. Winter temperatures are in the 30s, 40s and 50s. On average, the area receives 2 inches of rain each year. 

At Least One Hospital Accepts Medicare Patients? No. The nearest hospital is in Brawley, 22 miles away.

At Least One Accredited by Joint Commission?   No. The nearest accredited hospital is in San Diego.

Public Transit:   No

Crime Rate:   Meets the national average

Public Library: Kind of

Political Leanings:   Liberal

Is California Considered Tax Friendly for Retirement?    No

Cons: See article above.

Notes:  There is no cost to camp/live at Slab City. There are no official leaders and there is no government. The camp is completely unregulated and is an interesting place that draws people who do not have a lot of resources or who want to live off the grid. Many residents self-identify as "misfits" and "old hippies." The question now is what will happen to Slab City if California decides to sell the land.

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Recommended as a Retirement Spot?    For adventurous people who are uncomfortable with modern society, maybe. It is probably best, though, to see what California decides to do before packing up the RV and moving to this wild and free desert community.

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California:

Thanks to the treaty that ended the Mexican-American War, the Golden State became a U.S. territory in 1847. Soon after, gold was found at Sutter's Mill. The land crowded with fortune seekers, and, shortly thereafter, California entered the Union as its 31st state in 1850.

California has 900 miles of coastline and claims the highest and lowest point in the continental U.S. Its terrain varies dramatically - from sandy beaches to rugged mountains, deserts to fertile farmland. Landmarks like Hollywood, Disneyland, and the Golden Gate Bridge play a large part in the nation's history and imagination.

Although Texas and New York have tried to close the gap, California's economy continues to be nation's largest. Agriculture, manufacturing, biotechnology, and tourism are some of its leading industries.

Cities of the Golden State have put some odd laws on the books. It's illegal to molest a monarch in Pacific Grove. Want to throw a frisbee on an L.A. County beach? Better ask a lifeguard first. What about bowling on the sidewalks of Chico? Strictly forbidden!

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Stats:

Population - 39,802,500

Persons 65 years old and over - 13%

High school graduates, age 25+ - 81.0%

Bachelor's degree or higher, age 25+ - 32%

Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin - 39%

White persons, not Hispanic - 39%

Median household income - $64,500

Median home value - $399,000

Social Security Taxed - No

Source: U.S. Census

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