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All Contents © 2019The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Stacy Rapacon, Online Editor
| June 29, 2018
Lazing about the beach is a common retirement dream, but you don't necessarily need to buy an expensive oceanfront condo to live it. You can find great places to retire in America's Heartland, far from the coast, that offer access to freshwater beaches on lakes and rivers. You still get to feel the sun on your face and the sand between your toes, but often at more affordable prices than you'll encounter in popular coastal retirement cities.
We pinpointed the best place to retire in each state, 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. Of our 50 picks, 24 great places to retire across the U.S. offer the added benefit of nearby beaches to bum around. The mix of retirement cities is sure to surprise you.
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.
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
The Last Frontier might be the last place you'd think of for a beachfront retirement. But Anchorage does experience hot summer days, and you can find plenty of beaches around to enjoy them. Among the choices are Goose Lake Park, Jewell Lake and Little Campbell Lake, as well as the sweeping beach at Kincaid Park.
To get you through the rest of the year, including the long winters, 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: 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
State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Mixed
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
Denver actually has a bit of beach downtown at Confluence Park, where Cherry Creek and South Platte River meet. You can also check out the beaches at Aurora's Cherry Creek State Park and at the reservoirs in Aurora and Boulder—all within a 30-mile radius of Denver.
The local beaches and other outdoor amenities help encourage a healthy lifestyle. 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*
State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Tax Friendly
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.
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.
In town, you can enjoy Centennial Beach, which is really more of a pool with some sand for castle building. But 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, as well as the multiple lake beaches.
*Based on cost of living in Joliet-Will County.
**Based on Chicago 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. In town, you can enjoy Fox Island's beach on Bowman Lake and a separate dog beach for your furry friends. Within an hour's drive, there are also beaches at Pokagon State Park in Angola, Chain O'Lakes State Park in Albion and Winona Lake. 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+: 12.5%
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. About an hour drive away, you can find Cypremort Point Beach overlooking Vermillion Bay to the south and North Beach at Lake Charles to the west.
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
State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Not Tax Friendly
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. Several beaches are within a two-hour drive of Pittsfield, and in town, you can hit Burbank Park beach on the shores of Onota Lake. 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
Community Score: 66.3
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. Bonus: Within 20 miles of the city are several parks and recreation areas, including Independence Lake Park, Van Buren Park and Island Lake Recreation Area, that offer beachfront fun. A downside, however, is affordability. The median home value in Ann Arbor is $250,200, versus $127,800 for the rest of the state.
Share of population 65+: 12.4%
Cost of Living: 6.6% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $50,417
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 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). And despite being landlocked, the city offers a few nearby beaches at Wagon Train, Branched Oak and Pawnee state recreation areas—all within a 30-minute drive.
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, as well as hitting the beach at Crystal Lake Park. 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.
Share of population 65+: 23.9%
Cost of Living: 62.2% above the national average*
Average Income for Households 65+: $51,534
The Garden State offers a number of appealing retirement destinations for those who can afford it. Ocean City is a particularly attractive spot, evidenced by the high share of seniors who have already chosen to reside there. Family-friendly beaches, a fun three-mile boardwalk and proximity to Atlantic City are notable draws.
But living there is going to cost you. Taxes are notoriously high all over Jersey, and housing is expensive. The median home value in city limits is a hefty $568,700, compared with $316,400 for the state and $184,700 for the U.S. Plus, you have to budget extra for insurance to protect against possible storm and flood damage. Note, too, that Ocean City is a dry town, but you don't have to travel far to buy your booze.
Share of population 65+: 14.4%
Cost of Living: 1.2% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $41,598
After ranking all 50 states based on financial factors critical to retirees, North Dakota placed a surprising fourth best in the U.S. for retirement. So if you do make the unorthodox choice to spend your golden years in the Peace Garden State, give serious consideration to Bismarck—especially if you're seeking an encore career. The capital city’s strong economy means plenty of employment opportunities for older adults, particularly in the services sector.
If you're hoping for a more leisurely retirement, there are a number of biking and hiking trails and parks around the city, as well as on the banks of the Missouri River. The McDowell Dam recreation area offers a public beach, where you can also fish off the dock. You can also enjoy cruising, boating, kayaking and canoeing the river during warmer months. Bundle up if you venture out in winter. From December through February, average temperatures in Bismarck are in the teens.
Population: 2.4 million
Share of population 65+: 13.2%
Cost of Living: 29.3% above the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $53,063
Portland is such a great place to retire that it rises above the high cost of living and the Beaver State's unfriendly tax situation, levying one of the highest top state income tax rates in the U.S.. As an original participant in the World Health Organization's Global Age-Friendly Cities Project, Portland is committed to satisfying the needs of its older residents. In the early stages of its action plan, the Age-Friendly Portland Advisory Council—with members from AARP Oregon, nonprofit Elders in Action and Portland State University's Institute on Aging—has held discussions about intergenerational activities and programs, ways for businesses to engage with older adults and developing age-friendly housing.
And you can already enjoy the pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, such as the popular Pearl District, as well as the public transit system, which costs only $1 a ride for those age 65 and older. For natural diversions, you don't have to go far. In the city, you can stroll Forest Park or hike extinct volcano Mount Tabor. Plus, the coastline is about 80 miles away, so you're within a couple hours drive away from plenty of beaches, including Hug Point, Cape Kiwanda and Cannon Beach.
Share of population 65+: n/a
Cost of Living: 36.5% above the national average*
Tiny Rhode Island packs in big living costs, and the village of Kingston is particularly pricey. But if you can afford it—the median household income for all ages is $76,250 a year—the location may well be worthwhile. Kingston offers easy access to some all-but-private beaches, and with its own Amtrak station the train ride to Boston and even New York is relatively quick. There’s also high-speed ferry service to Martha’s Vineyard.
And in town, the University of Rhode Island injects youth and vibrancy, and all the amenities that typically follow, into the community.
Share of population 65+: 13.3%
Cost of Living: 4.0% above the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $52,827
Community Score: 64.5
Southern charm, a rich history, city living and nearby beaches combine to make Charleston a uniquely attractive retirement destination. History buffs, in particular, can appreciate the city's well-preserved antebellum architecture (the Preservation Society of Charleston is the oldest community-based historic preservation group in the country) and Civil War sites, including Fort Sumter.
Foodies, too, can find plenty to enjoy along Charleston’s cobblestone streets, especially in the brunch and comfort food areas. And if you need to work off some of those calories, water sports, including surfing, paddle boarding and kayaking, are popular local activities—along with boating and fishing. Beaches include Kiawah Island, Folly Beach and Sullivan's Island. The population of the city proper is a manageable 134,875.
Share of population 65+: 13.5%
Cost of Living: 20.7% above the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $51,483
This small mountain city on the shores of Lake Champlain is a picturesque setting for tree-hugging retirees. Outdoor recreation is plentiful with miles of hiking and biking paths, nearby beaches—including Blanchard Beach at Oakledge, North Beach and Leddy Beach—where you can swim, kayak or paddleboard in the warmer months, and numerous skiing options in the area. An eco-friendly vibe permeates the town, from the businesses bolstering the city's economy, such as household-products maker Seventh Generation, to the local food movement feeding the neighborhood.
But being green isn't easy on your wallet. Taxes and living costs are high. The median home value is $218,900 in the Green Mountain State and $264,300 in Burlington. A private room in a metro area nursing home costs an annual median of $118,260, compared with $97,455 for the U.S. At least you can save money on academic pursuits. The University of Vermont will cover tuition costs for state residents age 65 and older who wish to take a class, even if it's for credit.
To pinpoint one great retirement destination in each state, we weighed a number of factors: