Retirees may have different tastes in culture and recreation, but there are some basic aspects of a retirement living environment that have fairly universal appeal. Getrichslowly.org ranked the 20 best cities for retirement to help you decide where to spend your golden years, coming up with a diverse list, with choices that span across the country. There are some names on the list you might expect, and some that will probably come as a big surprise.
Getrichslowly.org took into account the following criteria when deciding where retirees may want to put down roots:
– Personal safety
– Low property taxes
– An affordable cost of living
– A moderate climate
The study looked at where 113 major U.S. cities ranked on each of those criteria, and then averaged those rankings to come up with a list of the 20 best cities for retirement.
With reputations misleading at times, the quantitative approach taken for this study and objective look at the data might cause you to consider a location you would not otherwise think of as a retirement haven.
Best Cities for Retirement 2017
Here is the top 20 list and why each place is great for retirees to settle:
1. Norman, Oklahoma
A college town like the home of University of Oklahoma might not be an obvious choice for a retirement destination. However, an influx of young, well-educated people provides both economic stimulus and cultural diversity to add life to a community. But why did Norman in particular win the top spot on this list? It was above average in each of the four categories examined, and outstanding in two of those categories: cost of living, where it was the second most affordable, and safety, with one of the 10 lowest crime rates.
2. Raleigh, North Carolina
As part of North Carolina's thriving Research Triangle, Raleigh offers healthy growth and a lively cultural and recreational environment. Quantitatively, it placed in the top quartile for safety, affordability and its moderate climate. Also, North Carolina's property taxes are generally well below average.
3. Tampa, Florida
This is one of the more traditional retirement locations on this list, offering a warm climate and proximity to beaches. With its major league sports and plenty of cultural options, Tampa also offers a big-city feel. In terms of the data looked at for this study, Tampa had the most moderate climate statistics, as measured in terms of avoiding extremes of temperatures and rainfall. It also ranked in the top 15 percent for safety, based on violent and property crime rates.
4. Savannah, Georgia
The coastal city of Savannah is so well-regarded for its beauty and architectural landmarks that it has become a popular locale for filming movies and television programs. As for what it can offer to retirees, the greatest strengths identified by this study were its safety and moderate climate, with Savannah ranking in the top 20 percent in both categories. It also is an affordable place to live, with Georgia's property tax burdens and the overall cost of living in Savannah being lower than average.
5. Shreveport, Louisiana
Whether your vision of how you like to spend time in retirement involves a leisurely stroll through a rose garden, checking out some live music, or sampling some distinctive local cuisine, this Louisiana city has something to offer a variety of lifestyles. The study's statistics show Louisiana generally has some of the lowest property tax burdens of any state. In addition, the cost of living in Shreveport is well below the national average. One caution though: Shreveport's overall crime rate is a little higher than that of most cities in this study.
Related -> How much do you need to save for retirement?
6. Durham, North Carolina (tie)
Since Durham is generally thought of as a sister city to nearby Raleigh, it is no surprise that it should also earn its way onto this list. Naturally then, Durham shares many of Raleigh's favorable characteristics, though its higher crime rate (while still below that of most cities studied) pushed Durham further down in the rankings.
6. Round Rock, Texas (tie)
Most readers will probably find this to be one of the more obscure names on the list. However, that is one of the merits of crunching the numbers – it can unearth some previously unlikely retirement possibilities. Round Rock is very close to Austin, so it shares many of the latter's attractions, but with a much lower crime rate and a lower overall cost of living.
8. Charleston, South Carolina
History buffs will appreciate Charleston's colonial architecture, while outdoors types will enjoy the fact that Charleston is convenient to both the Atlantic Coast and Francis Marion National Forest. Statistically, what stands out about Charleston for retirees are its low crime rate coupled with South Carolina's generally low property taxes. Be advised though that despite those low taxes the overall cost of living in Charleston is a little higher than in most of the cities studied.
9. Los Angeles, California
The first West Coast city on this list, L.A. has many well-known attractions. Still, you might think that L.A. is too big a city to be very retirement-friendly, but the stats show it has a few things going for it. Perhaps surprisingly, it ranked in the top 5 percent for safety due to its low crime rates. Naturally, the Southern California climate is another plus, and L.A. also benefits from California's generally low property tax burdens. Those low taxes come in handy because, as you might expect from a city of its size, the cost of living in L.A. overall is among the most pricey found in this study.
10. McAllen, Texas
Arts and technology come together to enliven the McAllen community, and it benefits from its proximity to both the Rio Grande and the Gulf of Mexico. It scored well primarily on the strength of having the most affordable cost of living out of any city in this study.
11. Fort Wayne, Indiana
It's not a warm-weather site, nor is it located on one of the coasts. So what does Fort Wayne have to recommend it to retirees? Primarily affordability, as Fort Wayne was in the top 10 percent of most affordable cities in this survey. It also scored fairly well for safety.
12. San Diego, California
In contrast to Fort Wayne, San Diego is one of those cities many people would think of as a natural retirement choice. So why does San Diego rank below Fort Wayne on this list? Cost of living is the main issue as San Diego is one of the most expensive of the 113 cities studied. However, if you have the wealth to afford it, you might enjoy the fact that San Diego not only ranks in the top 10 percent for climate, but also for safety.
13. Charlotte, North Carolina
North Carolina has the distinction of being the only state with three cities to make the top 20. Charlotte combines a moderate climate with reasonably good rankings for safety and property taxes. The only flaw is the overall cost of living, which is a little on the high side.
14. Lexington, Kentucky
Lexington is close to the state capitol of Frankfort, and is also reasonably convenient to Louisville and Cincinnati. The primary thing that helped Lexington make the top 20 is the city's overall affordability, which is in the cheapest 20 percent of cities studied. Property taxes are relatively reasonable as well, and Lexington also ranked well on the basis of safety.
15. New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is well-known as one of the world's premier party places and for being a veritable gumbo of multi-culturalism, but is it really a suitable place for retirees? Specifically, what about the high-profile crime issues New Orleans has had over the years? Surprisingly, the average crime rate in New Orleans is toward the safer end of the spectrum compared with other major cities, and New Orleans also has a cheaper-than-average cost of living. Most of all, retirees might appreciate Louisiana's low property taxes.
Related -> How to open a Roth IRA
16. Boise, Idaho (tie)
This is one of the more surprising names on the list, and of course its climate ranks near the bottom. However, this is offset by a very reasonable cost of living and low property taxes, and most of all by safety. Boise's low crime rate put it in the safest 10 percent of cities. There are plenty of warm weather cities on this list if that's your priority, but Boise might be an off-beat choice if affordability and safety are more what you are after.
16. Montgomery, Alabama (tie)
With little or no employment income, many seniors find their biggest tax worry is property tax. That could be a reason to consider retiring to Alabama, which on average has one of the lowest property tax burdens of any state.
18. Richmond, Virginia
While not outstanding in any one area, Richmond made the list by being above-average in all four categories of this study: safety, property taxes, cost of living and climate.
19. Gainesville, Florida
Gainesville scored well for its climate, which being in the northern part of Florida is less rainy than what you are likely to find in the southern part of the state.
20. Columbus, Georgia
Columbus scored well for affordability and its moderate climate. Be advised, though, that it is in the bottom half of the rankings for safety.
Again, there are some surprises on this list, along with more conventional retirement locales. That diversity is a benefit for retirees – not everybody's priority is to move near a beach, so this list provides you with solid candidates representing a variety of very different lifestyles.
Comment: Did your city land on the Best Cities for Retirement? Where are you planning to retire?
Richard Barrington, CFA, is a 20-year veteran of the financial industry, including having served for over a dozen years as a member of the Executive Committee of Manning & Napier Advisors, Inc.