7 Best Places to Retire in the U.S. and How to Choose
If you Google “the perfect retirement,” you’ll see 212,000,000 search results that describe very different scenarios. From a sunny beach in a quiet town to an active life with grandkids to starting a business in a bustling city, the perfect retirement looks different for everyone.
With so many differing opinions, how should you go about choosing the ideal location to retire? In this post, we’re sharing how to decide what “best” means for you, the essentials to look for, and seven locations to consider that offer many perks for retirees.
How to Determine What “Best” Means for You
Because preferences and interests vary, you’ll want to think through a variety of factors to help narrow down your criteria when looking for a place to retire. Asking yourself a few key questions will help you explore what’s truly important to you and what you should prioritize in a retirement location.
Urban vs. Suburban
When considering the size of city or town you want to live in, ask yourself the following:
- Do you like the energy of the city, or do you prefer a more laid-back vibe?
- Do you enjoy being in the midst of other people, or is having “room to breathe” important to you?
- Do you like having easy access to a variety of restaurants, shopping, and cultural experiences, or do you not mind traveling several miles to get to these?
Activity-Oriented vs. Relaxed
Some people are on-the-go and enjoy staying active, while others are looking for a quiet, relaxed environment. Here’s what to consider:
- Do you want to frequently get together with hobby-based groups, or do you prefer enjoying your hobbies solo or with your spouse?
- Do you want access to fitness clubs and studios, or is this not important to you?
- Do you enjoy location-based activities like hiking, boating, or climbing, or can you participate in the things you enjoy anywhere?
Close to Family vs. Having Your Space
Some people love living close to their families, and some. . . not so much. Ask yourself these questions to uncover how important it is to live close:
- If you have grandkids, do you want to be a part of their lives day-to-day, or would you not mind less-frequent visits?
- Are you willing to navigate the expectations and pressures that may come with living close to family, or would you prefer not to?
A 55+ Community vs. More Diversity
If you want to live in a 55+ retirement community, you’ll want to look for a location with a highly-rated one. If you desire more diversity, you should prioritize a location that attract different types of people and allows for variety. Here’s how to decide:
- Do you like the idea of having neighbors who are very similar to you, or do you also want to interact daily with others of different ages and backgrounds?
- Do you like the idea of having landscaping and lawn care handled for you, or do you want the freedom to design your own landscaping and plant what you want?
A Sunny Climate vs. a Crisp One
Climate is very important to many retirees. You’ll want to think about all of the following:
- Do you dislike the cold, or the heat, or are you comfortable in a variety of temperatures?
- Do you need humidity or drier air, or does it not matter?
- Do you want to see all four seasons, or will you be satisfied with a warm climate?
- Do you want to see snow, or do you prefer to avoid it?
Air Traveler vs. a Homebody
Some people’s retirement dreams include frequent air travel. If yours do, then you’ll want to make sure you have easy access to an airport that offers affordable flights. If you plan to travel internationally, you’ll probably want to seek out a location near an international airport.
Essentials to Look for in a Retirement Spot
Now that you’ve considered your preferences, you’ll be able to narrow down your choices and hone in on a few areas that may prove to be the perfect location. To refine your list even further, consider these essentials to look for, no matter what your preferences.
Cost of Living that Matches Your Financial Situation
We’ve all dreamed of living in a location that’s just beyond our means. The cost of living is high because everyone else wants to be there too! Living in an area with a high cost of living may require dramatic cuts in other areas of your budget, which will be stressful. When you’re evaluating cost of living, be sure to take into account housing costs, utility costs, food costs, and transportation costs.
On the flip side, you may be surprised that you can actually afford a location you thought you couldn’t. You may realize that you can live car-free by using public transport or discover that food costs are extremely low because farms in the area are plenteous.
Easy Access to Healthcare
None of us like to think about it, but we will all need to see doctors and specialists more often as we age. If you want to stay put in the location you choose, you’ll need to consider having easy access to good healthcare for the long term. Be sure to check out ratings for providers and hospitals in the areas on your list.
Access to Social Opportunities
Even if you’re not a social butterfly, you’ll need opportunities to engage with other people. Research shows that social connections are positively correlated with health and longevity. Even small interactions like saying hello to the barista at the coffee shop or the cashier at the grocery store can boost your spirits. While living in a remote mountain cabin may be a nice daydream on a hectic day, it probably isn’t the best choice in reality.
Low Crime Rate
You don’t want to move to a location and later realize that there’s a lot of theft or other unpleasantness. Big cities aren’t the only places where crime rates are high, so be sure to check out resources like CrimeReports. At the same time, random crime occurs everywhere, and safe practices can help prevent it from happening to you — so don’t feel that you need to find a crime-free location.
7 Locations to Consider
If potential retirement locations are alluding you and you don’t know where to start, we have seven locations to recommend, based on the essentials we outlined above.
1. Ft. Myers, Florida
Ft. Myers is a retirement classic. With several top-rated communities to choose from, those who like warmer climates will find plenty to love about Ft. Myers. Its population of around 80,000 nearly doubles in the winter season, so it’s a favorite destination for snowbirds as well. Ft. Myers is famous for cruising, sailing, fishing, as well as its history tours and museums. Beach lovers will enjoy nearby Sanibel and Captiva islands and Fort Myers Beach. The city also boasts lots of opportunities to enjoy the arts and recreation. A revitalized downtown has a plethora of new restaurants, shops, art galleries, and theaters. Those who travel by air will appreciate the convenience of Southwest Florida International Airport.
Another popular retirement destination is Palm Desert, located in the southern part of California. It’s situated in the Desert Resorts Region, which is between Joshua Tree National Monument and the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. Those who dream of living surrounded by rugged mountain ranges under blue skies will appreciate Palm Desert. Active retirees will enjoy top-notch golf courses, tennis, hiking, cycling, horseback riding, swimming, volleyball, and more. A temperate climate means that you can participate in all of these activities, and the city’s plenteous events, year-round. Foodies will enjoy the over-150 restaurants in Palm Desert. You’ll also find over 1,000 shops, boutiques, and art galleries. The McCallum Theatre provides many opportunities for entertainment and cultural events, including Broadway, jazz, dance, and opera. Palm Springs also offers high-quality medical care, with three large hospitals.
3. Tucson, Arizona
Tucson, Arizona is one of the fastest-growing retirement destinations in the country, and for good reason. Residents enjoy outdoor activities thanks to a warm and sunny climate, abundant performing arts, economical housing options, and a plethora of retirement communities. Tucson also ranks high for environmental sustainability. It’s bicycle-friendly and has an award-winning public bus system, making it easy to get around. Those who appreciate learning will value taking classes at the University of Arizona. Tucson also features excellent healthcare, including a VA Hospital. And it has an international airport averaging 70 flights a day.
4. Georgetown, Texas
Georgetown is located about 30 miles north of Austin, on the edge of Texas Hill Country. It’s a delightful historic community that has much to offer retirees. In addition to a good climate (an average winter high of 59 degrees and a summer high of 95 degrees), Georgetown has attracted an abundance of creative talent. You’ll enjoy symphony concerts, live theater, art galleries and a myriad cultural events. Those who like being outdoors will appreciate the many opportunities for hikingfor hiking, cycling, swimming, boating, and golfing. Downtown shopping includes boutiques, antique stores, and arts and crafts shops.
5. Colorado Springs, Colorado
Colorado Springs is a historic gold mining town, but today offers a wealth of attractive qualities for retirees. The climate is ideal, with low humidity and mild temperatures. Although the city is less than 100 miles from Denver, the mountains capture much of the precipitation. The second-largest city in Colorado, with a population of 464,000, Colorado Springs offers excellent healthcare and convenient access to just about anything you could need. You’ll enjoy plenty of arts and cultural activities, including dance, theater, film, video, literature, the visual arts, and educational opportunities. 12,000 acres of open space and parks give you room to enjoy the outdoors. Perhaps best-known of these parks is the gorgeous Garden of the Gods, where you’ll see stunning red sandstone formations.
6. Vancouver, Washington
Vancouver is just north of Portland, providing convenient access to the city when you want to go exploring. A good-sized city in its own right (population over 175,000), Vancouver has plenty to offer, and was recently ranked as one of the best places to retire. The city is located along the Columbia River, features a nearby national forest, and offers myriad recreational opportunities. An Amtrak station and airports are easy to access, making it an ideal home base for those who enjoy traveling. Vancouver’s arts district provides cultural opportunities, galleries, shops. The city has several highly-rated medical facilities and a robust public transportation system. Vancouver does have a higher cost of living, so you’ll want to take this into account.
7. Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville is a truly unique city in the Blue Ridge mountains of western North Carolina. It’s long been a favorite retirement destination, but it’s becoming even more popular as it continues to grow and prosper. Asheville is a beautiful city surrounded by mountains with a river running through it, offering myriad outdoor recreational opportunities. Asheville is highly walkable, with easy access to shops, restaurants, galleries, and boutiques. You’ll enjoy seeing the art deco architecture and exploring its charming cafes and coffee houses. A thriving arts district provides many opportunities to see some of the region’s best artwork. Asheville is a diverse city with entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, and others all intermingling to create a culture you won’t find anywhere else.
Your “Best” is Up to You
There are likely many locations where you would enjoy retiring. It’s a good idea to visit the locations you’re considering several times in various seasons to get a better feel for what living there would be like. Finding your “best” may take some time and research, but you’ll be rewarded with a retirement you’ll love living. Retiring Right has several resources to help you make this decision. See our destination guides!
Make Retirement Your Best Decision Yet.
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