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All Contents © 2019The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Stacy Rapacon, Online Editor
| September 12, 2019
When you're trying to balance a fixed income with an enjoyable retirement, cost of living is a crucial factor to consider. After all, if your daily expenses eat up too much of your budget, you won't be left with much extra for anything fun, to leave an inheritance for your loved ones or even just as a cushion to give you peace of mind. No wonder 67% of people say they'd move to a less expensive location to have a more financially comfortable retirement, according to a survey by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, a research firm focused on the aging population.
To that end, we identified which of our 50 Best Places to Retire in the U.S. offer below-average living costs for retirees. On top of affordability, all of these places rank well with us, taking into account 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. And these affordable places to retire are scattered across the nation, offering diverse options from mountains and beaches to small towns and college towns. Take a look at the list.
The list is ordered by cost of living for retirees, from highest to lowest. See "How We Picked the Best Places to Retire" at the end of the list for details on our data sources and methodology.
City population: 46,487
Share of population 65+: 10.4%
Cost of living for retirees: 0.2% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: n/a
Community score: 66.0
State's tax rating for retirees: Tax Friendly
Renaissance man Thomas Jefferson laid the foundation for the well-rounded city his hometown has become. From his University of Virginia's hollering Hoos to the artists on the downtown promenade, the Charlottesville community is an unexpected blend of Southern charm and liberal edge, a nice choice for a range of retiree personalities. And beyond the college campus and city center, you can find plenty of options for outdoor recreation in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, including more than 100 miles of of the Appalachian Trail in nearby Shenandoah National Park.
In August 2017, Charlottesville captured national attention when a gathering of white nationalists to protest the removal of a monument to Robert E. Lee turned into a violent rally, injuring dozens of counter-protesters and killing one, Heather Heyer. In general though, the city's violent crime rate is a low 175.4 reported incidents per 100,000 residents, compared with a 297.8 rate for all U.S. cities of similar size, according to the FBI. Charlottesville also ranks fifth for overall well-being, out of all 187 metro areas included in the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, with above-average scores in all categories, including physical health and resident satisfaction.
City population: 118,099
Share of population 65+: 11.1%
Cost of living for retirees: 0.5% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $57,580
Community score: n/a
With its low costs and generous tax situation, North Dakota has consistently ranked highly among our best states for retirement. So we believe spending your golden years in the Peace Garden State to be a financially savvy choice for your retirement destination (albeit perhaps an unorthodox one). And Fargo fits the bill for affordability, with particularly low housing costs for retirees, 14.3% below the national average. Indeed, while the average cost for a private room in a North Dakota nursing home is $11,690 a month, it's just $9,644 a month in Fargo, according to Genworth.
North Dakota State University is based in Fargo and, along with a number of other area colleges, brings with it attractive amenities for retirees and co-eds alike. That includes sporting events and cultural attractions, such as numerous musical and theater performances. Just be sure to bundle up if you venture out in the winter months. The average low temperature in January is literally 0 degrees Fahrenheit, according to U.S. Climate Data, only goes up to an average low 6 degrees Fahrenheit in the surrounding months.
City population: 209,463
Share of population 65+: 10.3%
Cost of living for retirees: 0.7% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $47,912
Community score: 61.1
State's tax rating for retirees: Not Tax Friendly
While much of New York comes with above-average living costs, Rochester proves more affordable, slightly below average for retirees. Housing costs are notably cheap at about 10% below average for retired residents. Indeed, the median home value is a mere $79,000, according to Zillow, compared with $229,000 for the entire U.S. and $303,600 in New York state.
That can leave plenty of room in your budget for warm coats, snow shovels and other winter gear. The average snowfall is a heavy 99 inches a year. In January alone over the past two winters, nearly 33 inches of snow fell on Rochester, according to the National Weather Service. Luckily, you have plenty of local wine options to help keep you warm year-round. The surrounding Finger Lakes Region is home to more than 100 wineries, all within a 90-minute drive of Rochester, and Casa Larga Vineyards is located just 20 minutes from downtown.
City population: 116,369
Share of population 65+: 7.5%
Cost of living for retirees: 5.9% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $72,762
Community score: 64.2*
Nothing weird about retiring to this suburb of Austin. After all, being part of the same metro area, Round Rock gives you easy access to all the same amenities as the capital city, but at a more affordable price. Austin is already relatively cheap, with living costs for retirees 1% below the national average, but its housing costs for retirees are actually 5.8% above the national average. In Round Rock, on the other hand, they're 4.6% below average. Indeed, the median home value in Austin is a pricey $371,900 while in Round Rock, it's just $277,500, according to Zillow. (Both are higher than the national median of $229,000.)
On top of the attractions of nearby Austin, Round Rock has a lot to offer right in town, too. (Good thing because traffic in this metro area can be pretty frustrating, to say the least.) The downtown area hosts a long list of dining options, many of which stay open to lend themselves and their bars to the local nightlife. And developing the local arts and culture scene has been a focus for the city with the introduction of a growing collection of public art and art-centric events such as the Chalk Walk, SculpFest and regular artist workshops.
*Data for the Austin-Round Rock metro area.
City population: 1.6 million
Share of population 65+: 10.0%
Cost of living for retirees: 1% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $54,681
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 12% above the national average, according to Sperling's BestPlaces, while median incomes for seniors with earnings are below average at $50,254. 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.
City population: 116,199
Share of population 65+: 6.0%
Cost of living for retirees: 1.7% below the national average
Community score: 64.7
State's tax rating for retirees: Least Tax Friendly
The Beehive State, 10th in our 2018 rankings of the best states for retirement, is a sweet spot for active retirees. And Provo, with mountain peaks within the city limits and Utah Lake on its doorstep, is particularly buzz-worthy. Brigham Young University offers intellectual stimulation to complement the physical activity. Plus, living costs are low while incomes are high, at an average $97,958 a year for residents age 60 and up.
Another feather in its cap: The Milken Institute rates Provo as the best large city for successful aging, noting the area's vibrant economy and safety, as well as the population's healthy lifestyles and high levels of volunteering among older adults. The metro area also has an abundance of health care facilities, about 32 establishments per 1,000 seniors compared with about 19 per 1,000 seniors in the U.S.
City population: 53,991
Share of population 65+: 15.5%
Average income for population 65+: $70,059
Community score: 65.1
Richland's metro area includes Kennewick, both of which qualify as great retirement destinations. But the smaller of the two, Richland, has an older population with a higher average income (Kennewick's is $57,989) and lower poverty rate (7.6% compared with 8.3% in Kennwick—both lower than the national poverty rate of 9.3% for people age 65 and older).
Whether you're partial to exploring the great outdoors or focusing on wine country, you have plenty of options—you don't even have to choose one over the other. You can enjoy boating and fishing on the Columbia, Yakima and Snake Rivers, and hiking or biking on the 23-mile Sacagawea Trail. There are also more than 200 wineries within a 50-mile radius, offering beautiful views and many wines to sample.
City population: 173,679
Share of population 65+: 21.9%
Cost of living for retirees: 2.4% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $42,123
Community score: 64.8
State's tax rating for retirees: Most Tax Friendly
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 is unique in its waterway access, offering more than 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.
City population: 556,718
Share of population 65+: 14.2%
Cost of living for retirees: 3.1% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $49,684
Community score: 57.5
You can find a bright retirement in Albuquerque. The city tends to get 310 sunny days each year through all four seasons. That gives you plenty of opportunities to explore the many hiking and biking trails in and around the city, go hot air ballooning and plat the variety of golf courses in the area. And when the sun goes down, local casinos—complete with concert venues, restaurants and more, along with table games, slots and bingo—help energize the local nightlife.
All that comes with below-average costs, but also below-average incomes. And many people aren't able to strike a balance: The poverty rate in Albuquerque among residents age 65 and up is 9.9%, compared with 9.3% for the U.S., but better than the 11.9% rate for New Mexico.
City population: 476,974
Share of population 65+: 12.4%
Cost of living for retirees: 3.7% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $47,657
Community score: 62.1
The Kansas City 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 barbecue is big, too. And you can entertain visiting grandkids with Legoland, the Sea Life aquarium and the Kansas City Zoo.
Also, while the University of Missouri's main campus is about 125 miles east in Columbia, the school brings more than 16,000 undergraduate and graduate students, as well as all the amenities of college life, to its Kansas City campus. It even offers an all-volunteer education program called Communiversity, offering a wide variety of classes and seminars to the entire metro area. Class fees range from just $10 to $18, plus a $3 registration fee, but students age 65 and older can skip the registration fee and get a discount of $1 off the first class and $2 off all subsequent classes.
City population: 170,401
Share of population 65+: 12.0%
Average income for population 65+: $46,123
If you've never considered moving to South Dakota in retirement, perhaps you should. We recently ranked it the best state for retirees. And Sioux Falls is a particularly great spot to settle. It is filled with advantages, including a booming economy, low unemployment and hospitals specializing in geriatric services. For all these reasons, plus the city's recreational activities (including regularly scheduled morning walks and pinochle for the senior program, run by the city's Parks and Recreation department), the Milken Institute dubbed Sioux Falls the fifth best small metro area for successful aging.
And all that comes pretty cheap for retirees. Along with low living costs in Sioux Falls, the median home value is $192,900, compared with $193,700 for the state and $229,000 for the U.S., according to Zillow. Plus, the state's tax picture is one of the best for retirees.
City population: 41,241
Share of population 65+: 11.0%
Cost of living for retirees: 4.4% below the national average
If the cold winters and equally harsh tax situation don't put you off of the North Star State, consider retiring in Mankato, about 90 miles southwest of the Twin Cities. It's still a small city, but development is on the rise, and the local economy is growing fast. Revitalization projects have added a nice mix of restaurants, shops, entertainment venues and more to the downtown area in recent years, and the city's five-year strategic plan aims to spread that level of development throughout the Minnesota River Valley. Some goals of the plan include adding housing, specifically within walking distance of where jobs and shops are; expanding Riverfront Park and other recreational land; and possibly building a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Minnesota River to North Mankato.
So far, all that growth has yet to push up living costs. While other metro areas in Minnesota come with above-average expenses, Mankato's cost of living for retirees (and others) remains below the national average. By comparison, Minneapolis has living costs for retirees 5.7% above the national average. Unfortunately, typical incomes in Mankato are also lower, with the overall annual income for residents with earnings at $62,776, on average, compared with $64,626 in Minneapolis. Still, the poverty rate for residents 65 and older is lower at 7.8% in Mankato, compared with 12.6% in Minneapolis and 9.3% in the whole U.S.
City population: 115,424
Share of population 65+: 14.3%
Average income for population 65+: $53,116
Community score: 58.6
A big draw for this relatively small city is its affordability. Housing costs for retirees are particularly low, 20.8% below the national average. Indeed, the median home value is a rock-bottom $89,000, compared with the $229,000 median for the U.S. And a private room in a nursing home costs just $6,798 a month; the median across the U.S. is $8,365 a month.
And yet, plenty of money has been pumping through the city, in a bid to further to develop the downtown area. The Downtown Development Corporation of Peoria recently assisted a number of projects, including the issuance of 714 construction permits in downtown with an estimated value of $74 million. Already the Riverfront area offers a vibrant setting with a number of eateries, shops and attractions, including the Peoria Riverfront Museum complete with its Giant Screen Theater and Dome Planetarium. The museum hosts a senior program with a free bi-monthly morning lecture series and free admission to the museum every second Wednesday of the month to guests age 60 and up. Also, the Peoria Park District offers 64 park sites with miles of hiking trails, golf courses, nature center and more.
City population: 277,315
Share of population 65+: 12.5%
Cost of living for retirees: 6.1% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $50,654
Community score: 64.2
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 130 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 the city is also prepared to assist its aging residents with about 30 health-care and social service facilities per 1,000 seniors, compared with about 19 per 1,000 seniors in the U.S.
Courtesy Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau
City population: 190,501
Share of population 65+: 15.2% (U.S.: 14.9%)
Average income for population 65+: $51,853 (U.S.: $56,453)
Community score: 63.3 (U.S.: 61.9)
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 $46,318, according the Census Bureau.
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). In fact, Alabama at-large offers many of Florida's popular retirement attractions—warm weather, nice beaches and plenty of golf—all at a typically lower price.
City population: 315,109
Share of population 65+: 12.2%
Cost of living for retirees: 6.6% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $61,323
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, five 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 $35. The Donovan Fellowship allows Kentucky residents age 65 and older to take university classes free, space permitting.
City population: 30,099
Share of population 65+: 9.4%
Cost of living for retirees: 7.2% below the national average
West Virginia University offers a number of benefits to older Morgantown residents. If you're age 65 and up, you can take WVU courses, for credit or not, at a discount. Or if you're 50 or older, you can join the local chapter of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. A $30 annual membership gets you access to interest groups, trips, social gatherings and program classes, including local and international history, music, computers and yoga.
The University also helps boost local health care services with its many medical facilities, including the Eye Institute, Heart Institute and Ruby Memorial Hospital. The Milken Institute actually credits the area's abundance medical services—including orthopedic surgeons, primary-care clinicians and home-health-care professionals—for contributing to Morgantown's high ranking (18th) among small metro areas.
City population: 852,144
Share of population 65+: 9.8%
Cost of living for retirees: 7.8% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $46,941
Community score: 61.2
The biggest city in the Buckeye State comes with some of the smallest costs. Housing is particularly affordable: The median home value in Columbus, the state capital, is just $157,500, compared with the national median of $229,00, according to Zillow.
But low costs doesn't equate to a lack of activities. Home to Ohio State University, locals can enjoy the co-ed culture, including big sporting events, concerts and cultural diversions. It also offers Program 60, which invites Ohio residents age 60 and older to take university courses free. Off campus, the downtown area has a lively scene with an eclectic mix of shops, galleries and restaurants. The Short North and German Village neighborhoods, in particular, are worth exploring.
City population: 126,476
Share of population 65+: 13.1%
Cost of living for retirees: 8.3% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $64,729
Community score: 62.4
Laissez les bons temps rouler. That's Cajun French for "let the good times roll" and a phrase you ought to learn—and live by—when retiring to Lafayette. Known as the "Cajun Capital City," it's rich in history, distinctive foods, two-stepping tunes and, of course, Cajun and Creole culture. Nature lovers have plenty to appreciate in the area, too. Located on the Mississippi Flyway and the Atchafalaya Loop of America's Wetland Birding Trail, Lafayette offers an abundance of wildlife to observe, as well as plenty of rivers, swamps and bayous for paddling, fishing and exploring.
Plus, it's more affordable than the more (in)famous Louisiana city of New Orleans, which is about 130 miles east of Lafayette and comes with living costs 1% above the national average for retirees. So if you're hoping for a retirement that's like one long Mardi Gras celebration, and you want help your budget to stretch as long as the party keeps rolling, Lafayette is the place for you.
Courtesy Manhattan Convention & Visitors Bureau
City population: 55,427
Share of population 65+: 8.2%
Cost of living for retirees: 8.4% below the national average
The Little Apple may not have all the bright lights and major metropolitan allure of New York City, but it has plenty to recommend itself, as well as significantly lower costs. (The cost of living for retirees in New York's Manhattan is 123.5% above the national average with housing a ridiculous 406.2% above average.) Housing costs for retirees in this Manhattan are particularly affordable at 17.2% below the national average. And yet, the average income for all households with earnings is a comfortable $64,135 a year.
Home to Kansas State University, Manhattan affords residents attractive college-town amenities, including the privilege of calling the school's top-notch athletics program your home team. One particularly senior-friendly offering: The university, in collaboration with the local UFM Community Learning Center and the University of Kansas Osher Institute, offers courses year-round for $50 each, along with special events, aimed at encouraging lifelong learning, especially for locals age 50 and older. The city is also developing an expanded trail system—beyond the existing 40 miles of trails throughout the city—for walking and biking throughout the city.
City population: 62,986
Share of population 65+: 15.3%
Cost of living for retirees: 8.7% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $44,323
Loner types should love the Cowboy State. It has a population of 583,200—that's just about six people per square mile. (By comparison, the country's smallest state in size, Rhode Island, hosts more than a million people—about 871 people per square mile.) But while Cheyenne is hardly a bustling metropolis by headcount, the population density is much higher at about 2,200 people per square mile.
Upside of the relative crowds of the capital city: no lack of activities. Train aficionados can enjoy the area's railroad history and displays of locomotives, including the world's largest steam engine (also retired). Another big local attraction: Every summer since 1897, Cheyenne hosts the world's largest outdoor rodeo and Western celebration, Frontier Days, now a 10-day event. You also have plenty of outdoor diversions, such as miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding; fishing and boating; and birding and other wildlife viewing.
City population: 214,778
Share of population 65+: 11.7%
Cost of living for retirees: 9.4% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $48,740
Community score: 65.7
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 on these exhibition races allowed).
City population: 196,899
Share of population 65+: 12.8%
Cost of living for retirees: 9.5% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $44,141
Community score: 62.7
With its low living costs and generous tax breaks for seniors, Georgia ranks third among our Best States for Retirement, behind only Hawaii and (surprisingly) South Dakota. And Augusta is ripening into a particularly peachy city. Revitalization efforts have been pushing especially hard over the past several years, looking to expand the area's appeal beyond the annual Masters golf tournament in April and its accompanying celebrations and tourism revenue. In a walkable downtown, retirees can enjoy new restaurants, museums, galleries and nightlife venues. And even more is on the way with a $94 million plan in the works to redevelop a historic train depot property on the riverfront into a modern mixed-use complex of offices, apartments, retailers and restaurants.
In the meantime, you can already enjoy running, walking and biking along the Augusta Canal and kayaking and cruising along the Savannah River. Augusta University, along with other area schools, adds some nice college-town amenities, including free classes for Georgia residents age 62 and up. The University also supplies the region with a top-notch health care network, including three hospitals and numerous specialists focused on oncology, geriatrics and senior health.
City population: 170,393
Share of population 65+: 11.6%
Cost of living for retirees: 10% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $47,876
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 for Civil War buffs, blues music aficionados and even ballet fans. Every four years, dancers from around the world flock to Jackson for the two-week USA International Ballet Competition 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 due to its affordability and an abundance of nurses, nurse practitioners and orthopedic surgeons, as well as caregiving options 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.
City population: 104,796
Share of population 65+: 12.3%
Cost of living for retirees: 10.2% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $35,380
Community score: 66.2
The University of Wisconsin brings all the benefits of retiring in a college town to the industrial city of Green Bay. That includes a thriving cultural and arts scene, quality medical care, a walkable downtown with an array of dining and shopping options and of course sports.
And while the state's tax situation leaves something to be desired, low living costs are attractive. Green Bay is particularly affordable, with below-average costs for retirees across all spending categories. Housing expenses are notably low, with costs for retirees falling 20% below the national average. Indeed, the median home value in Green Bay is just $146,500, compared with $229,000 for the U.S., according to Zillow.
Metro population: 550,281 (Durham: 257,170)
Share of population 65+: 13.6% (Durham: 10.8%)
Cost of living for retirees: 10.5% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $63,046 (Durham:$59,567)
Community score: 64.1
Duke University and the University of North Carolina may be bitter sports rivals, but their hometowns of Durham and Chapel Hill, respectively, team up to form a powerhouse metro area, and a great place to retire. Indeed, the Milken Institute ranks Durham-Chapel Hill as the third best large metro area for successful aging—crediting the area's economic strength, as two-thirds of North Carolina's Research Triangle (the other third being Raleigh), and quality health care. The universities play a big role in those two advantages and also boost up the local cultural and recreational scenes, like in many college towns.
Though not a deal-breaker for every retiree, it’s worth noting that violent crimes are more prevalent in Durham than they are for the nation as a whole. The rate of violent crime is 8.6 per 1,000 residents, according to the Neighborhood Scout, compared with a national median of 4 violent crimes per 1,000 residents. Chapel Hill rates safer, with just 1.8 violent crimes per 1,000 residents. And the real estate values reflect it: The median home value is $382,900 in Chapel Hill and $229,900 in Durham, according to Zillow.
City population: 262,450
Share of population 65+: 13.4%
Cost of living for retirees: 11.5% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $47,848
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 more than 80 parks and 100 miles of hiking and biking trails.
Fort Wayne is by no means a metropolis, 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.
City population: 81,889
Share of population 65+: 9.1%
Cost of living for retirees: 13.8% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $85,436
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 wonders 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.
City population: 629,173
Share of population 65+: 11.9%
Average income for population 65+: $57,615
Community score: 60.3
The biggest city in the Sooner State charges residents little in living costs. Housing-related expenses are particularly affordable, at 28.1% below average for retirees. Indeed, the median home value across all ages is $131,700, well below the nation's median of $229,000, according to Zillow. And a private room in a nursing home costs a median $66,248 a year, compared with a median $100,375 a year for the U.S., according to Genworth.
Cowboys may feel particularly at home in Oklahoma City—it has one of the largest livestock markets in the world, after all—but given the area's downtown revitalization efforts over the past several years, everyone can find something to enjoy. The Bricktown Entertainment District has a variety of restaurants and nightlife options. And in neighboring Norman, the University of Oklahoma plays host to bigtime sporting and cultural events.
City population: 184,465
Share of population 65+: 13.2%
Cost of living for retirees: 17.1% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $46,685
The Volunteer State, which we rank as the fifth-best in the nation for retirement, is a good choice for retiree nest eggs of all sizes. On top of its friendly-tax status, most parts of Tennessee have below-average living costs across the board for retired residents.
Knoxville is particularly affordable for retirees, compared with, say, Nashville, where living costs among retired people are about the same as the national average. Housing costs for retirees in Knoxville are the biggest factor bringing down costs, at nearly 30% below the national average. The city's median home value is just $173,900 versus $262,900 in Nashville and $229,000 throughout the country. Indeed, Knoxville is one of the cheapest U.S. cities to live in. Still, being the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains and home to the University of Tennessee, the city is rich in activities and attractions to fill your retirement years.
To pinpoint one great retirement destination in each state, we weighed a number of factors: