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All Contents © 2019The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Stacy Rapacon, Online Editor
| June 22, 2018
Some states are better than others when it comes to how they rank as retirement destinations, based on critical financial factors. But where you ultimately choose to retire doesn't always come down to dollars and cents. Indeed, the top reason people move in retirement is to be closer to family, according to a survey by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, a research firm focused on the aging population. Or, rather than move maybe you just want to stay put in retirement in a place that’s comfortable and familiar.
Luckily, no matter which state you land on for retirement, there’s a promising place to settle down. We pinpointed one great retirement destination in each state that offers attractive advantages for retirees, taking into account living costs, safety, median incomes and poverty rates for retirement-age residents, as well as residents’ sense of well-being and the availability of recreational and health care facilities. Take a look at our 50 picks for the best places to retire to see which ones fit your dreams for retirement.
The list is ordered alphabetically by state. See "How We Picked the Best Places to Retire" at the end of the list for details on our data sources and methodology.
Courtesy Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau
Share of population 65+: 13.7% (U.S.: 14.5%)
Cost of Living: 4.7% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $52,469 (U.S.: $53,799)
Community Score: 63.3 (U.S.: 61.9)
State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Tax Friendly
As one of the 10 Cheapest States Where You'll Want to Retire, the Heart of Dixie boasts many great spots for affordable living. And Huntsville, in northern Alabama, is one of the best. It offers all the low-cost, low-tax advantages as the rest of the state, but adds more generous incomes among retirement-age residents. The average household income for 65+ households in Alabama is $44,934.
Home to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, the Redstone Arsenal and the Huntsville campus of the University of Alabama, the city offers a robust economy and a highly educated population. There are plenty of cultural attractions, from a sculpture trail to a symphony orchestra, as well as opportunities for outdoor recreation (think bass fishing).
Share of population 65+: 9.1%
Cost of Living: 28.4% above the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $62,651
Community Score: 62.1
State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Most Tax Friendly
Older folks don't seem too interested in facing the Last Frontier in retirement. Only 9.1% of the entire state's population is age 65 and up compared with 14.5% of the whole U.S. But if you crave adventure—and don't mind long winters and vast swaths of wilderness—it pays to live in Alaska. Literally. A state fund fueled by oil wealth gives all permanent residents an annual dividend. In 2017, the payment was $1,100 per person.
And residents could certainly use the extra cash. Living costs throughout Alaska are significantly higher than is typical across the continental U.S. But Anchorage is the least expensive metro area in the state. Plus, being the largest city in Alaska, it offers more amenities including numerous theaters, museums and shopping centers, on top of all the outdoor recreation you'd expect. It also has an abundance of health care facilities, more than 43 establishments per 1,000 seniors in the metro area compared with just 19 per 1,000 seniors in the U.S.
Population: 4.5 million
Share of population 65+: 14.2%
Cost of Living: 5% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $52,414
Community Score: 62.5
State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Mixed
Undoubtedly, many of you have considered the Grand Canyon State for its retiree-friendly climate and beautiful natural scenery. Unfortunately, the financial setting is not quite as picturesque: Average living costs in Arizona are above the national average while median incomes for seniors are 10.8% below average at $47,973. Phoenix, though, offers a pocket of affordability, plus typically higher incomes.
And being the capital city, you can find plenty of attractions to keep you busy—world-class restaurants, professional sports teams and an array of museums, theaters and other cultural attractions. Of course, outdoor enthusiasts have more than enough to enjoy, too, with many hiking and biking trails within the city limits and even more to explore in nearby Scottsdale, Glendale and Tempe.
Share of population 65+: 12.1%
Cost of Living: 10.6% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $49,168
Community Score: 66.3
State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Not Tax Friendly
The metro area of Fayetteville, which includes Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville, offers low costs but plenty of attractions. The surrounding Ozark Mountains afford residents outdoor recreation and natural wonder to enjoy while the downtown area, home to the University of Arkansas, provides restaurants, shops and a lively music and arts scene, including the Walton Arts Center.
Locals seem happy with what they have at their fingertips. Fayetteville ranks 11th for community well-being on the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index with residents reporting high levels of liking where they live, feeling safe and having pride in their community.
Population: 3.3 million
Share of population 65+: 12.7%
Cost of Living: 46.1% above the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $62,681
Community Score: 64.3
Part of the San Diego metro area, Carlsbad (city population: 115,330) offers a small-city feel with easy access to big-city amenities. It has a vibrant cultural community, ocean-side living and sunny climate. Plus, there are 25 parks, nearly 50 miles of hiking trails and a full calendar of artsy offerings, including Foreign Film Friday and free summer concerts. And you can choose among a host of retirement communities with ocean views.
Of course, you have to be able to afford it. Like much of California, which sports the second-highest living costs in the country behind only Hawaii, the cost of living is steep. For example, the median home value in the U.S. is $184,700; in California, it's $409,300; and in Carlsbad, it's $674,400. The taxes also weigh heavily on your wallet.
Population: 2.8 million
Share of population 65+: 11.6%
Cost of Living: 12.0% above the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $60,235
Community Score: 63.4
Colorado ranks fourth in the United Health Foundation's senior health rankings, and Denver plays a healthy role in that rating. Indeed, the Milken Institute, a think tank, ranked the metro area the 12th best big city for successful aging in large part due to Denver’s healthy and active senior population.
Other strengths of the area include high employment and economic stability, as well as quality infrastructure, with well-funded transit for older adults, highly rated nursing homes and ample continuing care. Indeed, the Denver metro area is home to more than 25 health care facilities per 1,000 seniors, compared with just 19 per 1,000 seniors in the U.S.
LeanneMarie1215 via Flickr
Share of population 65+: 29.5%
Cost of Living: 24.7% above the national average*
Average Income for Households 65+: n/a
Community Score: n/a
State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Least Tax Friendly
Two hours from both Boston and New York City, Niantic offers a quiet and cozy retirement destination. The small town on the Long Island Sound covers only 3.5 square miles, but it still offers many attractions for retirees. Being a seaside village, Niantic has ample opportunities for water activities. The Niantic Bay Yacht Club hosts numerous sailboat races throughout the summer.
The coast of Connecticut is known to be a high-cost area. Niantic is no exception, but it's more affordable than other nearby places, such as better-known Mystic. For example, the median home value in Niantic is $283,000—pricey, but more affordable than the Mystic median of $404,900, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
*Provided by Sperling's Best Places.
Share of population 65+: 19.5%
Cost of Living: 0.8% below the national average*
If you're thinking about heading to one of Delaware's popular beach towns for retirement, brace yourself for sticker shock. Better yet, consider instead the more affordable Milford. About 40 miles north of Bethany Beach, Milford has a median home value of $174,900, well below the median of $477,900 in Bethany Beach, according to Zillow.
The small inland city is about 10 miles from Slaughter Beach. You can also enjoy some waterfront views in town along the Mispillion River. Downtown, there are numerous restaurants and boutiques, as well as the Milford Museum and the Riverfront Theater, where you can watch old movies. A community theater group, the Second Street Players, also performs there.
Share of population 65+: 26.3%
Cost of Living: 6% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $50,143
Community Score: 64.8
With its desirable climate and favorable tax status, Florida is filled with popular retirement destinations. Many of our favorite retirement spots in the Sunshine State can be found along the Gulf Coast including St. Petersburg, Sarasota and Punta Gorda.
Cape Coral's metro area includes Fort Myers, yet another great place to consider for your retirement. But Cape Coral (city population: 183,365) is unique in its waterway access, offering 400 miles of canals for all your boating, fishing and water sports dreams. And land lovers can enjoy the area's beaches, golfing, tennis, parks and other recreational offerings.
Share of population 65+: 12.8%
Cost of Living: 10.2% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $44,648
Community Score: 60.4
With its warm weather and low living costs, Georgia ranks third among our Best States for Retirement. The only two states to rate higher than Georgia for retirees are Hawaii and (surprisingly) South Dakota.
Savannah (city population: 146,444) is particularly peachy. The historic Georgia city offers beautiful sights, just right for strolling through retirement, including classic American architecture, town squares and riverfront views. Tybee Island, with its wide beaches and still-operating lighthouse, is just a 20-minute drive east of the city. You can also enjoy an array of restaurants, museums and theaters, particularly in downtown Savannah.
Share of population 65+: 17.6%
Cost of Living: 45.8% above the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $57,916
Hawaii is well known for its beautiful beaches, enviable climate and high prices. If you're hoping to retire in paradise, you can do so more affordably on the Big Island compared with Oahu, home of capital city Honolulu, where retiree living costs are 88.0% above the U.S. average. The median home value in Hilo is $298,500—still pricey, to be sure, compared with the U.S. median of $184,700, but much more reasonable than the $602,700, median in Honolulu.
And the local lifestyle is still priceless. The colonial town's mood is quiet and calm, but its location on the eastern coast of the island and near active volcano Mauna Loa offers plenty of opportunities for adventure. You can explore rainforests and waterfalls, as well as Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. In the downtown and waterfront areas, enjoy galleries, shops, restaurants and museums, including the Imiloa Astronomy Center.
Share of population 65+: 12.9%
Cost of Living: 7.5% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $42,795
Boise is a great college town for retirees. Boise State University provides plenty of intellectual stimulation to help keep an aging mind sharp. Its Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts hosts symphony concerts, dance performances and Broadway shows. You can also take classes at the school through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute; membership costs $70 for a year.
Off campus, you can walk, run or bike the more than 20 miles of paved trails of the Boise River Greenbelt. Other outdoor activities to enjoy around the area include kayaking, boating, fly-fishing, golfing and skiing, to name a few.
Population: 9.5 million**
Share of population 65+: 11.0%
Cost of Living: 0.4% above the national average*
Average Income for Households 65+: $76,609
Community Score: 59.5**
Part of the sprawling Chicago metro area, along with nearby Joliet, this suburb lets you take a step back from city living while keeping you close enough to enjoy its benefits whenever you'd like. Naperville (city population: 147,682) offers a pedestrian-friendly downtown loaded with shops and restaurants, as well as the 1.75-mile Riverwalk.
The ride from Naperville to Chicago's Union Station is about an hour, and people 65 and over qualify for reduced fares on the Metra commuter-rail system. Once in the city, you can relish everything that makes Chicago famous, including its food, bars, beaches, architecture, sports teams and art scene.
*Based on cost of living in Joliet-Will County.
**Based on Chicago-Naperville-Elgin metro area data.
Share of population 65+: 13.6%
Cost of Living: 8.3% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $42,732
Community Score: 59.7
The Fort Wayne metro area's affordability will not cost you in amenities. Despite being home to a nice collection of quiet neighborhoods, it also houses a thriving arts scene and hosts a number of festivals and events throughout the year, including the family-friendly Three Rivers Festival in the summers. Indeed, the three local rivers—the St. Marys, the St. Joseph and the Maumee—are a main feature of the area, providing ample opportunities for canoeing, kayaking and cruising. More outdoor attractions: Fort Wayne is home to 86 parks and more than 90 miles of hiking and biking trails.
Fort Wayne is by no means a metropolis—the population of the city proper is 265,904—but if you ever feel the need for a small-town escape head two hours south to Richmond, the cheapest small town in America. Its claim to fame (other than being budget-friendly): Some of the earliest jazz records were recorded in Richmond by such greats as Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong.
Share of population 65+: 12.2%
Cost of Living: 10.1% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $46,947
Community Score: 65.7
State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Not Tax Friendly
For retirees looking to live in a big city on a small budget, Des Moines is a good choice. Affordability is just one reason the Milken Institute ranked the state capital fifth out of 100 large U.S. metro areas for successful aging. Des Moines also boasts a strong economy and plenty of health care facilities specializing in aging-related services.
Retirees won’t lack for things to do, either. There are numerous museums and arts venues, including an outdoor sculpture park, a zoo and botanical gardens. There’s even a casino and racetrack in nearby Altoona that hosts annual camel, ostrich and zebra races (sorry, no wagering allowed).
Population: 2.1 million
Share of population 65+: 13.3%
Cost of Living: 8.5% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $52,183
The metro area straddles two states and offers a wide range of attractions for people of all ages including retirees. The music and arts scene is particularly vibrant, being home to legendary jazz musician Charlie Parker as well as the American Jazz Museum, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and the Kansas City Art Institute. For foodies, authentic barbeque is big, too. And you can entertain visiting grandkids with Legoland, the Sea Life aquarium and the Kansas City Zoo.
Also, the main campus of the University of Kansas, with all the amenities of college life, is less than 40 miles away in Lawrence. The university's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute offers low-cost classes and special events designed for inquisitive people 50 and older. Also, KU's Landon Center on Aging houses clinical and research facilities focused on the treatment of older adults.
Share of population 65+: 12.5%
Cost of Living: 4.0% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $52,301
Community Score: 62.9
As you'd expect, the Bluegrass State holds plenty of appeal for horse lovers and bourbon aficionados. But retirees can pursue other interests here as well. Lexington has more than 100 parks, six public golf courses and a 734-acre nature preserve with more than 10 miles of hiking trails. For indoor entertainment, check out the numerous galleries and theaters, including the Lexington Opera House and its schedule of ballets, Broadway musicals, comedy shows, operas (of course) and other performances. The University of Kentucky offers the Singletary Center for the Arts, too.
You can also satisfy your academic pursuits at the University of Kentucky. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute offers various courses, forums, interest groups, trips and events to people age 50 or older; annual membership costs $25. The Donovan Fellowship allows Kentucky residents age 65 and older to take university classes free, space permitting. For all these reasons and more, Lexington ranks among our great college towns for retirement.
Cost of Living: 9.5% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $52,059
Community Score: 62.4
If you're craving Cajun and Creole culture, Lafayette is the place to retire. Known as the "Cajun Capital City," the area is rich in history, distinctive foods and two-stepping tunes. Nature lovers can appreciate the area, too, located on the Mississippi Flyway and the Atchafalaya Loop of America's Wetland Birding Trail. Bird watchers have gotten a glimpse of 240 species, so far.
Unfortunately, the area's wealth does not reflect in many older residents' finances. Though the average income for people age 65 and older is just a bit below the national average of $53,799, the poverty rate for the age group is a high 14.1%, compared with 12.9% for the state and 9.3% for the U.S. On the bright side, the metro area has an abundance of health care facilities, with about 27 establishments per 1,000 seniors, compared with just 19 per 1,000 seniors in the U.S.
Share of population 65+: 17.1%
Cost of Living: 13.6% above the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $47,036
Community Score: 65.8
The largest city in Maine, Portland offers a lively downtown and plenty of urban-esque amenities amidst the great outdoors of the Pine Tree State. You can enjoy museums, theaters and an array of eclectic dining. The flagship L.L. Bean store in nearby Freeport is a must-see for many visitors, but resident shoppers also flock to Portland’s unique boutiques and outlets.
All the while, you’re never too far from the area's many beaches. That means ample opportunity to lounge on the shore or dive into water-based activities including fishing, kayaking, sailing and even surfing. And of course, hiking and biking trails abound—perfect in the (much) colder months, too, for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Share of population 65+: 15.5%
Cost of Living: 37.1% above the national average*
With more than 400 miles of shoreline, Annapolis offers water-loving retirees a torrent of activities. Kayaking, canoeing, boating and fishing are common enjoyments on the Chesapeake Bay. On land, the historical city is filled with 18th century buildings and is commonly referred to as "a museum without walls." And, as home to the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis draws a number of military retirees.
But you have to be able to afford it. Maryland is, by and large, a wealthy area, home to a great number of millionaires, and the living costs reflect that. The median home value in the Old Line State is $290,400, compared with just $184,700 for the U.S. In Annapolis, it's a whopping $377,200.
Share of population 65+: 20.9%
Cost of Living: 9.9% above the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $56,465
New England is notoriously expensive, but Pittsfield offers a small pocket of relative affordability—more reasonably priced than Boston, where living costs are 48.2% above the U.S. average. Housing is notably affordable: The median home value in the city located in the western part of the state is $170,900, compared with $341,000 for all of Massachusetts and $423,300 for Boston proper.
Leaf peeping in the fall may be enough to draw you to the Berkshires. But you have plenty to enjoy all year round, including excellent sites for camping, fishing, hiking and skiing. Nearby, enjoy musical performances at the Tanglewood Music Center, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. There’s world-class art at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCa, for short) in North Adams.
Share of population 65+: 12.0%
Cost of Living: 22.3% above the national average*
Average Income for Households 65+: $68,454
Another college town well suited to retirees, Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan with all its educational programs (including the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute), sporting events and cultural affairs. The university also runs the Geriatrics Center & Institute of Gerontology, which focuses on health care issues that come with aging. Along with its research facilities, medical facilities and staff, the Center offers programs and classes to help older adults maximize their good health and independence.
In fact, Ann Arbor's health care facilities are top-notch, earning it a sixth-place ranking among small metro areas for successful aging, according to the Milken Institute. There are 22.5 health care facilities per 1,000 seniors in the metro area, compared with just 19 per 1,000 seniors in the U.S. Along with quality health care, Milken recognizes the area's public transportation options as a winning attribute for older residents. A downside, however, is affordability. The median home value is $250,200, versus $127,800 for the rest of the state.
Population: 3.5 million
Share of population 65+: 12.3%
Cost of Living: 4.5% above the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $53,799
Community Score: 64.2
If the cold winters and equally harsh tax situation don't put you off of the North Star State, the Minneapolis metro area—including state capital, St. Paul—can be a great place to retire. In fact, the Milken Institute rates it as the 14th-best large metro area for successful aging, citing its livability including low crime rate and low senior poverty rate; high engagement of its older population; long life expectancy; and many outdoor recreation options (it’s the Land of 10,000 Lakes, after all).
One downside: Though the area's health-care system is expanding providers—it already has more than 24 facilities per 1,000 seniors—it does not have enough hospital beds, diagnostic centers or magnet hospitals, according to the Milken Institute.
Cost of Living: 11.3% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $50,801
Community Score: 57.8
Low costs and friendly tax policies can make for a sweet retirement in the Magnolia State, and the capital is particularly alluring. Jackson is a surprisingly eclectic city that holds appeal to Civil War buffs, blues music aficionados and even ballet fans. Dancers from around the world flock to Mississippi to compete for medals, scholarships and spots in ballet companies. Similar competitions are held only in Russia, Bulgaria and Finland.
The Milken Institute ranks Jackson eighth among the best large cities for successful aging. On top of its affordability, Jackson offers an abundance of nurses, nurse practitioners and orthopedic surgeons, as well as caregiving option and geriatric facilities. Note, however, that the area's residents are prone to unhealthy habits that you don’t want to pick up in retirement, including low levels of activity and high levels of fast-food dining.
Share of population 65+: 14.8%
Cost of Living: 9.3% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $49,888
Community Score: 60.0
The Gateway to the West can be a nice retirement destination, especially if you're looking to rein in costs. Housing is particularly affordable with the city's median home value at a mere $120,900, compared with $141,200 for the state and $184,700 for the nation as a whole.
But low costs don't limit opportunities for living it up. Foodies can enjoy an eclectic collection of dining options, many influenced by the various ethnic groups that call the city home. (Italian-influenced toasted ravioli is a local favorite.) What to wash it all down with? Beer, naturally. Home to Anheuser-Busch, as well as a growing crop of craft breweries and brew pubs, St. Louis takes suds seriously. And to balance out all that good food and spirits, explore the area's hundreds of parks and miles of trails and waterways. St. Louis also has an abundance of health care facilities, more than 40 establishments per 1,000 seniors in the metro area, double the U.S. average.
Share of population 65+: 11.2%
Cost of Living: 0.4% above the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $47,969
State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Not Tax Friendly
If you've ever dreamed of retiring to the mountains, here's your chance. Bozeman is in southern Montana, nestled in the Gallatin Valley and surrounded by majestic ranges and national forests. Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks sit due south of Bozeman. The geography means you have to be comfortable hiking, mountain biking, skiing and backcountry exploring your way through retirement. Hunting and fishing are also popular local activities.
But don't expect total isolation. Montana State University's Bozeman campus is home to about 15,000 students. Exuberant co-eds might not be the neighbors you pictured in your mountain-view retirement destination, but you may enjoy the dining, culture and entertainment options that come with a college town.
Share of population 65+: 12.4%
Cost of Living: 6.6% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $50,417
Lincoln may not be home to financial guru Warren Buffett like Omaha, which is about an hour north, but it has plenty of other notable points to recommend it. The capital city offers an abundance of attractions, including more than 100 parks, fine restaurants, an active nightlife, and a number of museums and theaters. Highlights include the Sunken Gardens (for budding horticulturalists) and the Museum of American Speed (for car enthusiasts).
Being a college town, home to both the University of Nebraska's Lincoln campus and Union College, the population may skew young. But Lincoln is also prepared to assist its aging residents with about 26 health-care and social service facilities per 1,000 seniors, compared with 19 per 1,000 seniors in the U.S.
Share of population 65+: 14.7%
Cost of Living: 6.8% above the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $57,630
Community Score: 61.2
Whether or not you like to gamble, retiring to Reno can make you feel like you've hit the jackpot. Boasting a small-town feel with big-city amenities, the locale proclaims itself "The Biggest Little City in the World." And it backs up the claim, offering a downtown full of restaurants, nightclubs, art galleries and music venues, on top of its well-known casinos.
Outdoor enthusiasts also win. The nearby Sierra Nevada mountain range and Lake Tahoe provide ample opportunities for hiking, biking and boating in warm weather, and skiing in winter. You’ll be in good company. Gardnerville Ranchos, a small Nevada town near Lake Tahoe, is home to a surprising number of millionaires who share the same resorts and marinas.
Share of population 65+: 13.9%
Cost of Living: 15.0% above the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $56,636
The Manchester metro area, including Nashua, may come with relatively high living costs, but the above-average household incomes help make them manageable. The Granite State's rock-solid tax advantages help, too. It’s a big reason why we recently ranked New Hampshire the ninth best for retirement.
Plenty of amenities make the area appealing to retirees. You can find a nice selection of restaurants in town and plenty of outdoor recreation to enjoy, including nearby snowshoeing, hiking, skiing and just taking in the scenic mountain views. And when you need a big-city escape—the city population of Manchester is just 111,196, after all—Boston is only an hour away.