The Best Cities for Retirees in 2024: Your Guide to Affordable Retirement

By Susan Lahey · October 17, 2023 · 7 minute read

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The Best Cities for Retirees in 2024: Your Guide to Affordable Retirement

The challenge of identifying a great city to retire in is that retirees have lots of different needs. Proximity to kids and grandkids, if you have them, is a key factor for many retirees. One retiree might want a beach while another wants ski slopes; one wants a small town vibe, another big city culture.

But there are some concerns that many retirees share: For example, is it affordable? The average retirement check for those collecting Social Security at age 65 in 2022 was $1,676, according to figures from the Social Security administration. How far that goes in retirement is dependent on a lot of factors, not the least of which is location, location, location.

But there are other considerations besides cost of living. Are there adequate medical facilities and personnel? Is the state’s tax structure advantageous for retirees? How is the crime rate? How well is the area expected to fare in climate change?

Rather than listing a select few of the more than 100,000 cities and towns in the U.S., what follows highlights some of the best cities to retire to in various categories. Depending on what’s most important to you, you can assign a value to each factor to help you pick the best options. Knowing where you want to retire and how much you will need to live on can help you decide when is a good time to retire. Now, some answers to the question, What are the best cities to retire in?

States with Favorable Tax Environments

If you have planned for your retirement years by opening an individual retirement account and funding it, you may not want to pay out a chunk of that in taxes. So, looking at the tax structure of various states can have a big impact on where you decide to retire.

So when considering the best cities to retire in the U.S., you may want to think about how a state’s sales tax, property tax, estate tax, and income tax stack up. Also think about whether a state you’d retire in will or won’t tax your pension. It has another list of states that won’t tax your pension. Hawaii, Alabama, and Tennessee all score well on these lists, but so do a lot of others that may better fit your lifestyle.

Cities Predicted to Do Well in Climate Change

Climate change threatens to trigger rising sea levels, rising temperatures, drought, wildfires, and more. If you plan to buy a home in your retirement haven, you may find that housing values, mortgage loans, and future mortgage refinancing may be affected by the expected impacts of climate change.

Some places are predicted to fare better than others because of their location, elevation, access to water, and other factors. Among these are Portland, Oregon; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Minnesota’s Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Research shows large coastal cities have generally invested more in resiliency measures to protect against climate change impacts than those in the Midwest.

Moreover, some cities are actively planning climate justice — or racial and social equity — into their climate mitigation plans. Oakland, California; Cleveland, Ohio; San Antonio, Texas; and Baltimore, Maryland all make that list.

Cities with Great Medical Resources

Since retirees may encounter healthcare issues as they age, having the right medical resources available is important. Moving to a quaint town or remote area might seem perfect, until you need a physical therapist or a doctor who specializes in gerontology.

In one ranked list of cities by health resources, Vermont towns do exceptionally well according to this list, but so do Missoula, Montana, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In addition to seeing where good health facilities are, you should evaluate the cost of those facilities. Healthcare is one of several crucial factors in calculating typical retirement expenses.

Cities with The Lowest Cost of Living

The average retirement age changes depending on where you live and the average Social Security check is about $1,668 per month. Before retiring, it’s important to know your budget and choose a retirement location where money won’t be a stressor.

One way to save is to live in a small town or city where the cost of living is below the national average. Many cities and towns in Alabama check a lot of boxes for retirees including having the lowest cost of living and a favorable tax environment.

Other cities that have a lower cost of living than the U.S. average include Lake Charles, Louisiana at about 14.5% lower than the national average; Topeka, Kansas at 14.7% lower; and Amarillo, Texas, at nearly 20% lower than the national average. Keep in mind, the earlier you retire, the lower your Social Security check will be, so where you want to live could impact when you retire.

Most Diverse Cities

For many people, diversity is a key factor to being able to comfortably settle in a town or city. This might include racial diversity, ethnic diversity, linguistic diversity, cultural diversity and more.

Oakland, California; New York, New York; and Chicago, Illinois often top lists for diversity, but can also be pricey places to live. Luckily there are other cities that are also very diverse including Jersey City, New Jersey; Gaithersburg and Germantown Maryland; Spring Valley, Nevada; and Kent, Washington.

Cities with Lowest Crime Rates

Generally speaking, the smaller the place, the less crime there is. That said, there are also some decent-sized cities that are recognized as being very safe. Columbia, Maryland gets high marks for being a very safe city. Others in that category are Nashua, New Hampshire; Portland, Maine; Gilbert, Arizona; and Raleigh, North Carolina. Least safe cities include St. Louis, Missouri; Memphis, Tennessee; and Oakland, California. That’s what makes the choosing tricky, Oakland fares very well in some categories, but not well at all on crime.

Most Accessible for People with Disabilities

Through the eyes of a person with disabilities, cities can look quite different. There’s the question of affordability, but also questions like whether restaurants, supermarkets, and parks are wheelchair accessible; whether the city is walkable; and the share of accessible homes.

If this is a consideration as you contemplate retirement, know this: Interestingly, Minneapolis, Minnesota — even with its annual snowfall of around 50 inches — tops the list. Other cities that score well on the accessibility scale include Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Scottsdale, Arizona; and Overland Park, Kansas.

Cities with Cool Stuff to Do

Another facet of what makes cities great for retirees is the availability of cultural opportunities from outdoor activities to volunteering, theater, and restaurants. One list of such opportunities took into account climate change; but didn’t weigh heavily on cost of living. It scored Austin, Texas high on all counts, though anyone who has lived there can attest to whole chunks of summer spent indoors trying to escape temperatures of 100 or more. Other cities that ranked high included Ashland, Oregon; Boston, Massachusetts; and Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Cities with Over 55 Communities

Some people prefer to live in communities that have young professionals and families, while others prefer to live predominantly around other seniors. Many of these planned communities have clubhouses for fitness and activities, theaters, walking trails and more. The least expensive houses generally start at around $100,000 or $200,000, depending on where they are, and rise up to $1 million. In these communities people own their own homes and function much as they would in a normal neighborhood but most of their neighbors are at roughly the same stage of life they are. Some of the leading over 55 communities include The Villages in central Florida; Sun City — which has many locations including Hilton Head, South Carolina and Huntley, Illinois; and Del Webb Sweetgrass in Richmond, Texas.

Recommended: What’s a Good Monthly Retirement Income for a Couple?

Places with Intentional Co-Housing

Co-housing is different from retirement communities in that people are expected to contribute to the community in the form of gardening, cooking, and generally looking out for one another. Co-housing that is designed for seniors might have medical facilities nearby, shuttles for shopping or the library, community gardens and so forth. Some have special facilities for people who suffer from dementia or other conditions. Retiring near a place where you could receive extra care and support down the road if you need it could be a good long-term option. Co-housing.org offers a list of these communities in states across America.

The Takeaway

Retirement isn’t just a cessation of work; it’s an opportunity to create a new and improved life. Before retiring, you need to understand what will constitute a good retirement income for your needs, as well as the environment you desire, surrounded by activities that really enhance your life. You are the only one who can really define what that environment and activities should be.

Whatever form of retirement beckons, SoFi wants to help you find a way to afford and enjoy it through all the special features of our Checking and Savings account. When you open an online bank account with SoFi, you’ll spend and save in one convenient place, earn a competitive APY, and pay no account fees.

Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.


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