"Home lies in the things you carry with you everywhere and not in the things that tie you down."
-- Pico Iyer

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Best Places to Retire: 2021

     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. 

Get real

   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!


ApacheDug said...

I've been watching Youtube videos of Americans either relocating (no longer tethered to an office) or retiring to Merida, Mexico. We're given tours of luxury apartments, always with private patios & garages, ground apartments come with personal pools, always state of the art security & appliances, beautiful places--and the average price is $600-650 USD (which includes utilities AND wifi). Expats explain that Americans have a very narrow view of Mexico, and some areas like Mexico City or the border can be dangerous & rife with drugs--but a lot of the country isn't. Plus these expats get top of the line medical & dental care at a fraction of what we pay here. You should do a search on Merida and see for yourselves.

Tabor said...

I agree that it is highly personal and while weather and cost of living and intellectual attractions are important...more important to me is to be near my children.

Arkansas Patti said...

Lived in Florida for many years but Arkansas had the best bang for the buck in real estate which made it attractive. Ended up in another tourist town but it is a tiny town so I'm good.

DJan said...

I figure the Pacific Northwest doesn't make it on many lists because of the rain. I never thought I would own so much rain gear, but it's perfect for walking around in comfort when you've got the right stuff! :-)

BethC said...

Happy to be in NJ right now. If we ever move, it will be to the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area of NC. Taking online senior classes at Duke and really enjoying the classes and the people with whom I have interacted (feel the same way about my DelVal senior classes). What keeps me here is #3.......Son here and will stay, daughter in DC-BUT boyfriend just got a job in Dallas......... They are going to do the long distance thing (which worked when they first met). But I may reconsider my thoughts about staying in NJ if the kids spread out more.

Red said...

My best place to retire is where I had lived for 28 years. It's worked out well even if I don't have family here. So check out red der Alberta!

Jennifer (UnfoldAndBegin) said...

It's interesting that Florida hits anywhere in the top numbers. I guess it works if you are rich. For a state with a lot of seniors, the medical care down here is not great unless you have a lot of money. Then you can pay 2000 per year and up for what's known as a concierge doctor. You still need medical insurance, but you're paying extra to have access to some of the better doctors in the state. What regular people or retirees living on a limited income are left with are the 3,2, and 1 rated doctors.

balanced a.f. said...

I see Asheville, NC made one of the top lists. AVL is right in our back yard, and it certainly is beautiful. My ideal retirement location would be one where there are the fewest people. My wife and I are each other's own best friends and don't have/need any sized circle of friends. Sounds selfish, I know, and some say it'll come back to bite us in the ass later on. Hey, if it makes us happy, whatever. We actually thought about heading out towards the Arizona desert one day, and might still. Who knows. Retirement for me is probably, realistically about 20 years off. Enjoy your week!

Olga said...

Well, I thought I could easily enough tough out a VT winter. I did it for years. Turns out I was dead wrong. Much as I love VT in summer and fall, I absolutely cannot take the dark and the cold of winter. I don't even remember what lead me to believe I could. Sunbelt for me!

Meryl Baer said...

Great post Tom. As a retiree living in the best part of New Jersey all year round - the shore - it is a great place to live at any age.

Rian said...

We live on the outskirts of Dallas and will probably never move. We've been in this house 35 years, nice neighborhood, creek lot. I miss being closer to water, but have the opportunity to visit the gulf coast (and Hawaii) so that will have to do. Our doctors, hospitals, and children are here. When it's not a pandemic, we can travel to New Orleans, visit relatives there, and enjoy the coast. I would like to be able to hike in the mountains or walk the beaches as some can, but that's not likely to happen. Retiring in place has been our choice and it works well.

Rebecca Olkowski said...

I know Los Angeles never makes the list and is expensive but we have everything here including the ocean and great weather.

tahoegirl.blog said...

I love that 2nd house except for the snow. Personally, I think California gets a bad rap. there are tons of places that are affordable. we live in a highly desirable area. Sierra Foothills. 2 1/2 hours to the ocean and hour to Tahoe. Southern Cal( Santa Barbara) is 7 hours. We have lived in this area since 1975. In this house 25 yrs. I don't see Ca as "too expensive", at least in some areas. We live on SS, most of you who know my blog know my husband was forced to retire due to health issues) but still we live on less than $3,000 a month and STILL have a mortgage to pay. So it can be done. I think it's a mindset and of course not wanting to actually live in SB or San Jose or San Francisco.

Dick Klade said...

I would describe all the good stuff for retirees in southwest Michigan, but Shhh, don't want anyone to know. We don't like crowds.

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hi Tom! Those lists always make me laugh, yet like most people I still read them and wonder. That is until I see how they rate them and what they consider is important. While I'm not quite retired yet, I still think where I live in the Palm Springs area of Southern California is wonderful--and apparently so do thousands of other retirees. As you say, our choice is so personal for personal reasons but I suppose it is good to compare and feel like we've made the best choice for us. ~Kathy

Rita said...

Great idea to compare the different retirement lists. There are so many of them I liked the comparison work you did. I live in the Seattle, Washington, area and it doesn't often make it in the top of the retirement lists because it rains a lot. Other Washington cities, Bellingham and Spokane, for example, sometimes make the lists. Washington also doesn't have an income tax and relies heavily on the sales tax. Maybe that gets it a ding in the tax analysis -- retirees with lower incomes are paying a larger percentage of their incomes in sales tax.

Carol Cassara said...

I'm surprised to see Lancaster there! Some friends live there. They like it fine.

David @iretiredyoung said...

One thing I envy about the US is that you have the whole gambit of climates and landscapes all within your country. It's much easier to relocate when you don't have to cross borders.

Friko said...

To me it looks like another problem to solve. Depending on your age at retirement it can be a positive step but leaving all your friends behind and moving to somewhere totally new is daunting. Would these places have mainly retirees living in them? That would strike me as another difficulty.

Madeline Hill said...

I love the ocean but all the places ON the ocean have factors that would keep me from wanting tolive there full time.I grew up on the Jersey shore but I never owned a house in New Jersey.My relatives who do are paying THREE TIMES and more, property tax than I do here in Arizona, for much less space and amenities.Who could do that in retirement??? Florida is humid and way awful hurricanes! I don’t want to worry about my property or safety. I love the Pacific Northwest in summer times but all that misty rain and gray skies for so many other months would really cause me to feel depressed.It appears I am right where I need to be: We moved to Arizona in 1984 and I love it here. My husband prefers the mountains up North and I prefer the Valley.. it is easy enough to live in one and visit the other.We’ve done both.I love warm warm weather and the desert so our home is in the Valleynow and we visit all the mining towns and “Up north” places often. We are just 6 hours from San Diego. Near an airport with cheap flights to New Mexico,California and elsewhere. Cost of living here was way cheap years ago and now it is not, but it still seems better than many places.. and we have not had a mortgage in years. I get sticker shock in all areas when I go back and visit relatives in New Jersey Philly and New York! Soo— weather,safety,cost of living..all so important. I am glad I don’t have to move and can be retired right where I am!! I also have a 35+ year network of friends and activities which would be hard to replace at this age, in a totally new environment.

Madeline Hill said...

P.S. A friend of mine from high school and his high school sweetheart of a wife retired 2 or 3 years ago and built their dream house in South Carolina.they posted photos of the floods, when the water was up to their SECOND STORY WINDOWS. I cannot move to places where natural disasters are a reality. It has taken them all this time to recoup and move again—there was no repair possible.. the house was ruined.

Terra said...

I enjoy reading lists of retirement hot spots, and am content to remain in my home of 35 years, where we raised our sons. The climate where I live is world class so I can walk year round. No snow here and no A/C needed, thank you. My friends, church and family are here. We each have our own journeys.

River said...

Thank you for dropping in to my little blog.
While Florida does look and sound lovely (CSI Miami), I think I'll just stay here in South Australia, close to my kids.

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Barbara said...

Like Patti, I like Arkansas for its beautiful nature. But ApacheDoug made me want to research Meridia, Mexico. I'm sure I'll probably stay here though unless Buddy and I just jump in the car and go. I can't face the thought of packing again. However,like labor, you tend to forget the pain.

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