Claremont, Calif.: A Smart Place to Retire

Explore Claremont’s vast range hiking trails or try out lectures and performances at one of its seven colleges.

(Image credit: miss_chill_leo)

Population: 36,478

Cost of living: 148

Median home price: $719,000

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College perk: Claremont Avenues for Lifelong Learning allows people age 60 or older to audit college courses at seven colleges for free.

Unlike much of the suburban sprawl around Los Angeles, Claremont has a “real” downtown, more than 23,000 publicly owned trees, and a tradition of civic engagement brought west by the New Englanders who founded Pomona College, says Colin Tudor, assistant vice president for community relations of Claremont College Services.

Claremont has critical college mass with seven colleges that make up The Claremont Colleges: Claremont McKenna College, Claremont Graduate University, Harvey Mudd College, Keck Graduate Institute, Pitzer College, Pomona College and Scripps College. They sponsor innumerable educational, cultural and sporting events. Eight times a year, the colleges publish and distribute a calendar of events open to the public, including live performances, lectures, art shows and more. Most are free or low-cost.

The walkable downtown, known as “the village,” is a major draw, with lots of independently owned businesses, restaurants and a public square where the Claremont Farmers and Artisans Market takes place once a week. The city sponsors various festivals, including the annual Claremont Pie Festival in March, a July 4th program (with fireworks at Pomona College) and a Halloween Spooktacular.

If you want to get outdoors, the city has 23 parks, including the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park. Located at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains and the Angeles National Forest, the wilderness park has plenty of hiking trails. The 86-acre Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden is dedicated to native California plants.

Claremont is almost always sunny. It can be hot during the day, especially in the summer. But it’s dry heat, it cools down at night, and it isn’t buggy, says Danielle Fontes, president of the Citrus Valley Asso­ciation of Realtors.

To get out of town without fighting L.A.’s notorious traffic, you can hop on a Metrolink train at the Claremont station. The system serves six counties, including northern San Diego County. It’s about an hour or an hour-and-a-half trip to Los Angeles. Ontario International Airport is about a 15-minute drive away. Two five-star hospitals are located about 10 miles from Claremont: Chino Valley Medical Center and Glendora Community Hospital.

Housing in Claremont is primarily single-story, ranch-style single-family homes. Three-bedroom, two-bath homes listed for sale in June ranged in price from $400,000 to $1.3 million. Condos and townhomes with two bedrooms and two bathrooms were $300,000 to $500,000. “If you’re coming from the west side of L.A., it looks affordable. But if you’re from Iowa, probably not,” says Tudor.

Claremont also has four continuing care retirement communities. The oldest of them, Pilgrim Place, was founded in 1915 to serve missionaries returning from overseas. Today, its residents come from all over the country. In the fall, the community sponsors the Pilgrim Place Festival. “It’s like being thrown back 50 years, where people are all saying hello to one another, the kids have smiles on their faces, and everyone’s eating snow cones,” says Joyce Yarborough, vice president of fund-raising and recruitment.

California doesn’t tax Social Security, and residents over 65 can claim a tax credit of $118 from state taxes. But other retirement income is taxed at a rate of up to 13.3%.

For population figures, we used the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data. Cost-of-living data comes from the Council for Community and Economic Research (100 represents the national median). Median home prices were provided by Redfin, Zillow and local associations of Realtors.

Patricia Mertz Esswein
Contributing Writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Esswein joined Kiplinger in May 1984 as director of special publications and managing editor of Kiplinger Books. In 2004, she began covering real estate for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, writing about the housing market, buying and selling a home, getting a mortgage, and home improvement. Prior to joining Kiplinger, Esswein wrote and edited for Empire Sports, a monthly magazine covering sports and recreation in upstate New York. She holds a BA degree from Gustavus Adolphus College, in St. Peter, Minn., and an MA in magazine journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School at Syracuse University.