Many of us know where we're going to retire -- or we've already retired and settled into our retirement home. A lot of people just stay in their hometown after they retire, because that's where their friends and family are. Or, if we like the warm weather, it's no secret that Florida and Arizona are popular places to relocate.
Nevertheless, there are some objective criteria for deciding on a good retirement destination. Most retirees live on a fixed income, so for many of us it's important to be in a place with a low cost of living. We also know that we'll need more health care as time goes on, so we want access to good medical facilities.
U. S. News recently came out with a list of best places to retire. Seven out of the top ten places, and 12 out of the top 20, are located in Florida. So anyone retiring to Florida must be doing okay. Sarasota takes top honors, with Fort Myers, Port St. Lucie and Naples following close behind.
|In my dreams|
I know Florida is a popular retirement destination. But I'm surprised that many cities make the list. And I'm surprised that no place in Washington or Oregon cracks the top 20 -- a lot of people have retired to the Pacific Northwest.
The locations in the top 20, according to U S. News, that are not in Florida are:
# 5 Lancaster, PA, an affordable small city with a college campus and well-regarded hospital, surrounded by bucolic farms.
# 7 Ann Arbor, MI, home to the University of Michigan with plenty of culture -- and plenty more sports.
# 8 Asheville, NC, nestled in the Blue Ridge with moderate weather and plenty of outdoor activities.
# 11 Myrtle Beach, SC, with mild weather, miles of beaches and millions of golf courses.
# 12 Nashville, TN, featuring a notable music scene and excellent health care.
# 14 Manchester, NH, with New England charm and nearby skiing.
# 18 Dallas, TX, offering a mix of suburban lifestyle, urban culture and taste of the cowboy life.
# 19 Chattanooga, TN, benefitting from urban renewal, coupled and lots of outdoor recreation.
Another top ten list, from Forbes, identifies a more geographically diverse 25 best places to retire. Only three Florida cities make the grade: Sarasota, Jacksonville and Orlando. Instead, the Forbes list features a lot of places that are not in the Sunbelt and don't get as much attention, from Pittsburgh, PA to Columbus, OH, Evansville, IN, Jefferson City, MO, Fargo, ND, Boise, ID.
Forbes also taps two Arizona locales for its list: Green Valley, near Tucson, and Mesa, near Phoenix.
Money Magazine just came out with a new list. The top three are:
# 1 Madison, the capital of Wisconsin and home to the Badgers.
# 2 Largo, near Tampa.
#3 Lower Marion, a Philadelphia suburb.
Money includes a few of the usual suspects on its retirement list, like Boise and Ashville. But get this: Bridgewater, NJ, makes the Money top ten list. That's the first time I've ever seen a place in New Jersey mentioned on any list of best places to retire.
So I looked it up. Wallethub ranks New Jersey as the absolute worst state to retire in, right behind New York and Mississippi. (The top three Wallethub states are Florida, Colorado and Delaware.) But a little more research finds that while there is a lot of traffic in New Jersey, and the cost of living is high, the state offers excellent health care and, the Sopranos notwithstanding, actually enjoys a surprisingly low crime rate.
Dave Ramsey, the financial guru and radio personality, came out with his own list. He puts four Florida cities in his top ten. He also offers some familiar names like Lancaster, Ashville, Nashville and Dallas.
If you don't find your town or city on any ten-best list . . . not to worry. It really doesn't matter. The best advice I ever saw about where to retire doesn't cite any states or cities. Instead, it boils the process down to five criteria:
# 1 Make sure it's a place you can afford.
# 2 It should have good access to health care.
# 3 You should have some friends and family in the area.
# 4 There should be some interesting things for you to do -- fishing or golf, the theater or the opera -- whatever it is that makes you happy.
# 5 It should be a place where you either have, or will develop, an emotional attachment. In other words, whether it's a place you've lived a long time, or if you're just moving there, you want the place to feel like home.
The point is, the best place to retire is entirely personal. It depends on your family, your interests, your financial situation. And mostly importantly, your "feel." Why, for some people, the perfect place to retire could even be . . . New Jersey!