Retiring to Las Vegas May Require a Jackpot Win

Even with a $1M nest egg, it could be challenging to find an updated house in an attractive neighborhood.

By Eleanor O'Sullivan

Deborah Danielson, CFP, remembers Las Vegas as “a little town.’’ A native of the city, she recalled that her mother attended Las Vegas High School, then the only high school in the city.

“It’s grown tremendously,’’ says Danielson, who has practiced financial planning since 1981 and is owner and president of Danielson Financial Group.

According to Visual Capitalist, Las Vegas is the 16th fastest growing city in the U.S. The city itself has a population of about 670,000. The Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise metro area (which spans about 47 miles, in Clark County) has approximately 2.3 million residents, an increase of about 19% since 2010.

Henderson is 16 miles southeast of downtown Las Vegas, and Paradise is six miles to the south. The area has an elevation of about 2,000 feet, and is in the Las Vegas Valley, a 600-square mile basin.

Danielson offers an explanation for the explosive growth: a property tax rate of 0.650%.

With that low property tax rate, Las Vegas attracts residents from California and Washington fleeing high property taxes, which have soared in the last 25 years.

Stretching the Nest Egg

“People are coming here in droves; they think the houses are cheap — we don’t! But real estate is still much cheaper here than in California and Washington state, where it’s gone up astronomically,’’ Danielson says.

Recent housing figures from U.S. News & World Report show the median cost of a single-family home in Las Vegas has topped $400,000 for the first time, exceeding the national median. Therefore, says Danielson, it would be tough finding an appealing home in an attractive neighborhood for retirees with a $500,000 nest egg.

“For the $500,000 nest eggers, it really depends on whether and how much Social Security they receive, pensions, and if their house is paid off, how much they have left to live on and whether they have to use capital for a down payment on a house. I think it would be nearly impossible on that nest egg.

“It would be possible on closer to $1 million, but then it depends on where you want to live and what you need to live on. Some people are frugal and others are less so; even still, it could be difficult.

“Even if you found a house in the median range, it may be older and would probably would need some work and cash to update,’’ Danielson says.

A friend of Danielson’s recently bought a house in Lake Las Vegas, that was affordably priced but by the time she completed upgrades and improvements, the cost was about $900,000.

Danielson says houses that have a lake view, or even a “baby view of the Lake,’’ are very expensive.

“For the older person, there are nice, planned developments but they have HOA fees, which may be hundreds of dollars a month and that adds up. Most people can’t really afford to live in a condo on the Strip! You can’t live there unless you have $2 million to $5 million to spend on one,“ Danielson says.

Real Estate Listings

A 2,097 square foot single family home in Summerlin, a planned community located between Las Vegas and Red Rock Canyon, was listed by Zillow at $421,900 in November 2021. listed a 1,669-square foot home in Tule Springs, 17 miles northwest of Las Vegas, for $400,000, with three bedrooms and 2-1/2 baths.

And Trulia showed a 2,033 square foot house in Desert Shores, for $545,000; the town is 11 miles northwest of the city, and about five miles west of North Las Vegas Airport.

The city’s main airport, McCarran International Airport, is nine miles from the downtown.

Danielson says 55-and-older developments can be a moderate alternative to the more expensive single family homes in the Las Vegas area. There are three Del Webb developments in the metro area; at the developer’s Lake Las Vegas location, a resort community built on an artificial lake, a three-bedroom house was listed at $540,000 in November.

Rentals in Las Vegas, listed on, include apartments in Auric Symphony Park in the north of the city near the Arts District. They run from $1,764 for studios to $3,319 for two-bedroom units.

In November, Zillow listed a two-bedroom apartment at Destinations Pebble 55+, a senior community near Henderson, for $1,414 per month.

Twelve-Dozen Casinos

From end to end, the Strip is 4.2 miles. Retirees drawn to the city for its famous casinos and shows can live in neighborhoods off the Strip and downtown, where there are local casinos. Las Vegas now has 144 casinos.

“They don’t bring in the big, big headliner names but they do have shows, restaurants, movie theaters and easy parking,’’ she said.

U.S. News & World Report showed the unemployment rate in 2020 in Las Vegas at around 14.9 percent (compared with a national rate of 8.1 percent), but that, Danielson said, was because the COVID-19 pandemic forced closings of casinos, restaurants, and bars, all of which she said have re-opened.

“It’s very busy here now! Everywhere you go, you see tourists,’’ she said. “Things are back and it’s kind of crazy.’’

Las Vegas and its environs have a plethora of restaurants, from cafes in the Arts District, five miles north of the Strip, to the ultra-expensive Picasso, located in the Bellagio hotel and casino, where a four-course, prix fixe dinner with wine pairings, tax and tip is about $390 per person.

“When you talk about restaurants in Las Vegas, the question is not what are the 10 best restaurants but what are the 100 best restaurants,’’ she said.

Wine and Culture

Besides being a financial advisor, Danielson is an author, a commentator on financial TV shows, a winner of Forbes’ Top 200 Women Advisors award, and a wine expert, with a 3,000-bottle wine cellar in her home three miles southeast of the Strip.

Cultural beacons in the city include the non-profit Smith Center for the Performing Arts ( located in the 61-acre Symphony Park north of the Strip, featuring road companies of Broadway shows. It also offers live performances of classical, jazz, pop, rock, dance, and comedy and guest speakers. Tickets for the upcoming performance of “A Christmas Carol’’ are $30 to $138.

The Clark County Museum, with admission of $1 for seniors and children and $2 general admission, is set on 30 acres that include a collection of historic houses from 1910 to the 1970s, and a collection of old railroad cars.

The city has nearly two dozen museums, including ones devoted to pinball machines, neon lighting, burlesque, and The Mob Museum, officially, the Organized Crime and Law Enforcement Museum.

For Active Adults

Danielson said there are plenty of volunteer opportunities for retirees, including at the museums, as well as for local and national charities such as Three Square Food Bank and the Salvation Army.

Las Vegas has professional hockey, basketball and football teams, as well as a baseball farm team. It also has the newly opened Allegiant Stadium, home to the Las Vegas Raiders of the NFL and to the University of Nevada football team.

Recreation areas include Lake Mead, Mount Charleston, Spring Mountain Ranch State Park and Valley of Fire State Park. Sixteen miles west of Las Vegas, lies the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, which Danielson said is a popular recreation and natural area that draws hikers, rock climbers and horseback riders.

There is an annual Las Vegas Food & Wine Festival, and the annual Las Vegas Book Festival. Besides the numerous galleries located in the Arts District, some hotels, such as the Bellagio have their own artwork.

The newest hotel/casino to open, in June 2021, is Resorts World. It has eight restaurants and a rooftop view of the city.

Back to Basics

Because the city is really a series of small towns/neighborhoods, a car is necessary. Alternatives to driving include the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, which runs a bus service throughout the Las Vegas valley, including Las Vegas proper and the neighboring city of Henderson. The Las Vegas Monorail transports people from one end of the Strip to the other, and the Aria Express Tram makes several stops near City Center.

Danielson said Nevada 2-1-1 programs provide door-to-door (or curb-to-curb) transportation to seniors for medical appointments, shopping, banking and other similar activities at no extra cost, by appointment.

And there are bike lanes and bike-friendly trails through the valley.

The Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise area has 23 medical centers, hospitals and rehab and acute care centers, a dramatic increase since the era when Danielson was born at Nellis Air Force Base Hospital. She now lives about 17 miles south of that site.

“My mom lived here, while my dad came to Nellis AFB while in the military service, and they got married.  I was born at Nellis Air Force Base, which was one of maybe two hospitals back then,’’ she said.

In a four-decade career in journalism, Eleanor O’Sullivan has reviewed many books on best practices for financial advisors, has written for Financial Advisor and the USA Today network, and was movie critic for the Asbury Park Press.

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