Fayetteville, Ark.: A Smart Place to Retire

Affordable living and proximity to family make this Ozark city a great place to settle down.

Population: 86,751

Cost of living: 87

Median home price: $230,000

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College perk: Residents age 60 and older can take classes at the University of Arkansas, tuition-free.

Looking for an active yet funky college town with a bit of southern hospitality? You will feel right at home in Fayetteville. A vibrant, economically and culturally diverse mecca in the Ozarks, Fayetteville attracts a variety of people from around the country. Josh Raney, director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Arkansas, says retirees follow their children—mid-career professionals who may work for local Fortune 500 companies such as Walmart, Tyson Foods and JB Hunt Transport Services. “Retirees come here to retire and take care of the grandkids,” he says. They are also attracted by the diverse and active arts and culture scene, as well as a variety of sports and recreational activities, including more than 30 miles of trails for hiking, biking and running.

A major driver of the downtown region’s economy is the University of Arkansas. Founded in 1871, U of A’s Fayetteville campus is the flagship of the state university system, with 27,000 students enrolled across 10 colleges and schools that offer more than 210 academic programs.

Arkansans age 60 and older can enroll in for-credit undergraduate and graduate courses tuition-free (based on space availability). Raney says that retirees are active in university events as well as outdoor programs through his institute.

Residents seeking health care can go to the four-star Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas, located 21 miles away in Rogers, Ark.

Housing options range from condos downtown, where a two-bedroom, 1,056-square-foot condo/townhome goes for $115,000, to homes west of the city near Savoy, where a three-bedroom, 1,760-square-foot house sells for $372,500. Retirement communities, such as Grand Village at Clear Creek, are gaining popularity.

Social Security benefits aren’t taxed in Arkansas, and up to $6,000 of retirement income, including IRA distributions, is exempt from state income taxes. However, Arkansas imposes a 6.5% sales tax, and localities can add as much as 5.13%. Food is also taxed by the state at 1.5%, and localities can add their own taxes.

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.

Marc A. Wojno
Contributing Writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Wojno was formerly research director for data-intensive projects such as Kiplinger's college and mutual fund rankings. He has worked as a newswire reporter and newsletter editor for Dow Jones, covering convertible bonds, REITs and mutual funds. He also served as market research manager for Keane Federal Systems, an IT consultancy. He received a BA in communications and computer science as well as a MBA from George Washington University.