Guide to Choosing Where to Retire

By Kelly Boyer Sagert · May 01, 2023 · 11 minute read

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Guide to Choosing Where to Retire

Perhaps retirement is years or even decades away or something you are planning right this very moment. Regardless of your timeline, your dream lifestyle is likely to be something very specific to your lifestyle and dreams. Maybe you imagine living by the shore and walking on the sand every morning. Or perhaps you see yourself in a college town, spending afternoons at bookstores and cafes. Or you might think of moving within an hour of your grandkids for frequent multigenerational gatherings.

There’s a good chance that your vision of retirement isn’t just about location. Some people may think of downsizing to a smaller home in a low-cost area so they can free up funds to travel the world. Others might want, after decades of hard work, revel in their dream home with a view of a lake or mountains.

Where to live in retirement depends on several factors but is a uniquely personal choice. If you could use some help deciding where to spend that chapter of your life, read on. You can take a quiz to help you zero in on good options, and after that, you’ll learn more about such topics as:

•   What factors can help you decide where to retire?

•   What are some great places to retire?

•   What are some affordable ideas for retirement?

•   When should you start saving for retirement?

Where to Retire Quiz

First, here is a “where to retire quiz” to help you to create your plans.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Where to Retire

Next, here are four factors to keep in mind while choosing where to live in retirement years.

Climate and Topography

When you picture yourself in your ideal location, what is the weather like? Are you the type who wants to live the “70-plus degrees and sunny” lifestyle year-round? Or do you want to experience the full array of season, with fall leaf-peeping and some wintertime snow to delight in?

As you think about your surroundings, it can be smart to daydream a bit and envision where you’d like your retirement to be. One person might want to be in the mountains, another in a small city with loads of easy walking trails but no hills, thank you.

As you contemplate these options, it can be worthwhile to delve into climate reports for each of the states in the United States and check out the “past weather” tabs to see what patterns you may observe. Which sounds most appealing to you? And, here’s a U.S. geographic website that allows you to explore the counties and rivers in a state, elevation, topography, and more.

Friends and Family

When thinking about retirement, don’t overlook the value of having loved ones and their social support nearby. Your dream may be to live where your children or your grandchildren do. If that sounds like you, consider whether these family members are rooted in their communities or if they frequently move (say, for work).

If the first is true, then the situation is probably simpler than if there’s a good chance that your family would move, leaving you in a community that you chose because they were living there.

Do you have close friends that have decided where they want to retire? If so, you might want to consider the area they have in mind. Having the continuity of their friendship could add to your quality of life and help you transition into retirement.

Peace and Quiet? Or Action?

You might love the peace and quiet of small towns, rural areas, and the like, where you can fish, stroll through the woods, and otherwise appreciate the beauty of nature. Or you may want to retire right where the most action is, living in a big city with everything you need within a block or two of your place, plus an array of restaurants, shows, museums, and other attractions to keep you busy. Or you might prefer a suburb that offers the best of both worlds.

Also worth thinking about: Do you want to be in a place where there’s always something going on that you can join? For some people, a 55+ community with ongoing planned activities can be most appealing.

Career Plans

Do you envision saying a permanent goodbye to the workplace in the future, or do you plan to keep working after retirement — perhaps part-time or as a consultant — through your 60s and 70s, and maybe beyond? Or maybe you’re looking forward to having a second act in a field of great interest.

You may have pursued your original career because you needed to earn a certain income, but now you can work in an area that brings you joy, perhaps in animal rescue. Or maybe you want to volunteer for an organization you feel passionate about. There are lots of buzzwords describing the new ways people may work as they reach retirement age, such as semi-retirement and unretirement. Regardless of what you call it, some retirement locations may offer more opportunity than others, depending on the path you envision.


There’s no ignoring the impact of finances on where you choose to retire. Some states are more tax-friendly than others. There can be income tax, property tax, sales tax, and other taxes in the mix, so it can be wise to consider the best places to retire for tax purposes before you commit. For some people, where they choose to live in retirement can wind up making a difference of tens of thousands of dollars in taxes.

As you think about your options of where to live when retired, it can be wise to research the potential tax burden of a move (you can find information via some online searching) or meet with a professional who can advise you.

On the subject of taxes and affordability, another facet to keep in mind when thinking about retirement is cost of living. If you imagine retiring to, say, Austin, Texas, you are likely going to need to spend more for that in-demand city life than to live in a small town a couple of hours away from it.

Great Places to Retire provides in-depth information about the best places to retire in 2022-2023. U.S. News & World Report surveys people in pre-retirement and those of retirement age to determine what’s most important to them, and then they use the following formula to come up with their conclusions:

•   Quality of Life Index, 32.5%, which includes such variables as healthcare affordability, air quality, and crime rates, among others.

•   Value Index, 25%, which incorporates factors like housing costs and median household income.

•   Job Market Index, 20%, which reflects the area’s average salary and unemployment rate.

•   Desirability Index, at 17.5%, which reports on the results of a survey of 3,500 people about which metro areas are most appealing to them.

•   Net Migration, 5%, which determines if people are actually moving into or out of the area.

Top 5 Place to Retire

Here are the top five results for 2022-2023:

•   Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which can offer the best of a small city, suburbs, and rolling farmland in one location.

•   Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a state capital where one can walk, run, or bike along the Susquehanna River.

•   Pensacola, Florida, which offers beaches, boating, and fishing in a warm climate and career opportunities as well.

•   Tampa, Florida, combines the best of city life (concerts, major-league sports) with beautiful weather and access to the water.

•   York, Pennsylvania, has loads of history to explore as well as a lively downtown area with an arts community, shopping, and more.

What’s best for you, of course, depends upon what’s most important to you, so it makes sense to visit places of interest, ideally for enough time that you get a sense of what it would be like to live there, rather than just visit.

For example, before you decide whether to rent or buy a home for retirement in a particular area, you might test-drive living there for a number of months to see what you really think of the climate, activities in the area, cost of living, and so forth.

And, at least in some cases, after people getting ready to retire visit locations that once seemed like the ideal place to live, they find that they’re really happier right where they are. If that’s the case, good for you.

You’ll be retiring in a place you already know well, able to maintain your circle of friends.

Helpful Resources

Beyond the U.S. News resource mentioned above, there is an array of information online, whether you want to research housing prices in a given area on a real-estate listing site or read a blog about what it’s like to retire in a foreign country. Certainly, there are books on these and additional topics as well. AARP magazine is also full of information about retirement locations.

Don’t forget about the value of word-of-mouth. Talking to friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family members about their plans and those of members of their circle can help you learn about what like-minded people are thinking.

Affordable Places to Retire

According to U.S. News, the five most affordable places to retire for 2022-2023 are:

1.    Fort Wayne, Indiana

2.    Ocala, Florida

3.    Scranton, Pennsylvania

4.    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

5.    Youngstown, Ohio.

And, no matter where you want to live, funding your retirement in the style you want is crucial.

When to Start Saving

As far as when to start saving for retirement, the answer is likely to be ASAP. In terms of how to save, you may have such options as:

•   401(k) Retirement Plans: These are employer-sponsored plans and can be a convenient way to start saving for retirement.

•   IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts): Whether or not your employer offers a retirement plan, you can open this type of retirement account yourself. There are two types — traditional and Roth — which are treated differently, tax-wise.

•   Self-Employment Retirement Plans: Contribution limits are higher, because you’re both the employer and the employee. There are several types, the most common being SEP IRAs, Simple IRAs and a Solo 401(k).

•   Pension Plans: If you work for the government or military (or possibly for a large company), you may also benefit from a pension plan. These are less common than they used to be, but still exist.

And, besides asking yourself “Where should I retire?” you’re probably also wondering about choosing a retirement date. To cut to the chase, if you’re looking to live on $40,000 a year in your retirement, you need to save $1 million. Double that if you’re hoping to live on $80,000.

As you save, it can be wise to frequently check in on how your savings are performing. This can help you monitor whether you’re on track, regardless of which of the different types of retirement plans you are utilizing, and make any necessary adjustments.

If you aren’t heading towards your targets at a good rate, you may want to rebalance your portfolio to help meet your goals.

Recommended: Understanding Portfolio Diversification

What If I Want to Retire Early?

Some people want to retire before they reach 65 or 70. If you are among that group, consider the Rule of 25, which says that someone should save 25 times their annual expenses to retire — not annual earnings, but annual retirement expenses.

So if you are calculating how to retire early with annual expenses of $75,000, that means that someone would need to save $1,875,000 to stop working (at a minimum).

Important note: As you do the math, remember that this figure can’t include Social Security benefits because those aren’t available until the designated time (meaning, not during early retirement).

It can also make sense to spend less and save more now to maximize what you’ll have saved for retirement. This can have a doubly good impact. First, spending less can lower the amount needed to save for early retirement, because you’ll have fewer expenses. In addition, the money not being spent today can be invested.

Here’s another way to calculate what may be needed. Take a look at the current budget, cut out what you reasonably can, and then figure out how this budget may change in retirement years. What may require more funds (healthcare, for instance)? Less (like money spent on one’s kids)? This can help you forecast what your line item budget may look like in the years ahead.

Open a Retirement Account With SoFi

When you open a retirement account at SoFi, we can help put your money to work. We first provide you with the educational tools to help you with goal planning, with a focus on mapping out a plan to help you achieve your goals more quickly, and to also help you stick with that plan. We can help diversify your portfolio, aiming to reduce some of your risk. In fact, we invest in hundreds of assets.

And it’s simple to get started: Setting up an investment account with SoFi can take just minutes.

Easily manage your retirement savings with a SoFi IRA.


What are the safest places to retire?

Different sources list different locations, but according to U.S. News, the safest places to live in the U.S. are Naples, FL; Port St. Lucie, FL; Fort Myers, FL; Portland, ME; and Lakeland, FL. Once you have an approximate idea of where you want to retire, you can then research crime rates in that zone.

What are the best places to retire financially?

According to one recent report, the best places to retire financially and enjoy an affordable lifestyle are Fort Wayne, IN; Ocala, FL; Scranton, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; and Youngstown, OH.

What are the warmest places to retire?

Among the places where one can retire with good weather year-round are Florida, California, and North Carolina.

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