When choosing a place to retire on a fixed income, costs matter, sure. But they're not the whole story. Safety, livability and economic stability are equally important for retirees.
Using data on more than 200 metropolitan areas across the U.S., we found the places with the cheapest living costs, in particular for health care and housing. We also looked at how states tax retirees. And, in case you find that you want or need to go back to work to boost your income, we selected economically healthy areas.
Then, to trim them further, we cut out cities with above-average crime rates, and favored those where many seniors already live. Here are three of our 10 favorite affordable places where you'd actually want to retire.
Punta Gorda, Fla.
Florida is, of course, a classic retirement destination. Besides warm weather and great beaches, the state has no income tax, estate tax or inheritance tax, and it doesn't tax Social Security or retirement income.
Punta Gorda, on the Gulf Coast just north of Fort Myers, has extra merit: 35% of its population is 65 and older -- the greatest of all 223 places we considered. And those retirees have plenty to keep them busy. The city offers 18 miles of bike paths and pedestrian trails, as well as the charms of Fishermen's Village, home to a marina, shops, seafood restaurants and free concerts.
If you have a taste for mountains, whether hiking up them or just driving through, Roanoke, Virginia could be for you. The famed Appalachian Trail passes near this small city, which has attractive living expenses to go along with the beautiful scenery. Roanoke's cost of living for retirees is below average in every category. In fact, groceries are the most affordable of the top-10 cities on this list, at 8.3% below average. Health care and housing are also very reasonable.
Pittsburgh is the biggest city that made our cut, and let's be frank, the winters are brutal. But despite its Rust Belt reputation, it offers sophisticated seniors plenty of cultural attractions, including the Andy Warhol Museum, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and a vibrant jazz scene.
The city is one of the safest among our top 10, and housing costs are particularly low. The median home value is $89,400 -- not even six figures. Plus, Pennsylvania's tax laws are easy on retirees; Social Security benefits and distributions from 401(k)s, IRAs, deferred-compensation plans and other eligible retirement accounts are all left alone.
If none of these retirement destinations suits your needs, see seven more of the cheapest places where you will want to retire to find a city that does.
In his former role as Senior Online Editor, David edited and wrote a wide range of content for Kiplinger.com. With more than 20 years of experience with Kiplinger, David worked on numerous Kiplinger publications, including The Kiplinger Letter and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. He co-hosted Your Money's Worth, Kiplinger's podcast and helped develop the Economic Forecasts feature.
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