There are many things to consider when choosing a retirement retreat.
Many retirees want, or need, to be close to family. Others consider health issues and decide to make their home in a city close to acclaimed hospitals and doctors. Some require mild, long weather to put those snow shoveling days behind them.
Then there is the money. If you have a lot of it, no problem. Retire on the beach, mountains, resort community and French Riviera – the sky is the limit. But most of us have to think seriously about which cities fall into the affordable range. This range is different for everyone.
A recent analysis by personal finance site WalletHub compared the “retirees’ fitness” in more than 180 US cities based on 48 metrics, including multiple measures of affordability.
Overall, Orlando, Florida’s theme park was ranked as the best retirement city, and large metro areas like Minneapolis, Denver, Miami, and Atlanta also made the list.
But when you shake things up and rank cities just by affordability, you get different results. Topping the list are smaller places, mostly, where the cost of living is lower. This may not be for you, or it may seem like a golden years dream come true.
Here’s a look at the best retirement cities for affordability, according to WalletHub.
10. Jacksonville, Florida
Sunny Jacksonville’s motto is “It’s easier here,” and if you’ve had your share of blizzards and sub-zero temps, you might just agree. The city has 22 miles of beaches, a large park system, historic neighborhoods, and more. And if you dream of catching a big one, the waters of this oceanic city are calling your name. Jacksonville also landed on a recent list of big cities where buyers get the most homes for their money.
9. Birmingham, Alabama
Three Alabama cities made the WalletHub’s Top 10 Most Affordable Retirement Cities list. Birmingham is the largest of the three. Perhaps due to its size, it also scored highly in the activities category, ranking 38 out of 182 cities. Golf courses, music venues, and museums will occupy retirees. starving? Birmingham calls itself the “Dinner Table of the South” for its culinary offerings and Southern food heritage.
8. Huntington, West Virginia
Huntington, West Virginia, may seem much smaller than many of the cities on this list, with the city having a population of only about 50,000. But that doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on the amenities of the big city. Huntington is the center of a metropolitan area spanning three states and home to more than 365,000 residents. It helps that Huntington is home to a lively campus – Marshall University has called H-Town home since 1837.
7. Casper, Wyoming
Beach bunnies, Casper is not your place. But for those longing for inexpensive living amid natural beauty mixed with all-American cowboy culture – you might be right at home. It is good to know that Casper is located in one of the nine US states that do not charge an income tax. It’s just one reason retirees flock to Wyoming.
6. Columbia, South Carolina
Scenic Columbia scored in the top half of the WalletHub activity category, ranking 63 out of 182 cities. This number may have been boosted by the fact that Columbia is home to the University of South Carolina, the main campus of the state’s university system. And if you’re shivering in Michigan, New York, or another northern state, get ready to donate those snowy pants—Columbia is the hottest city in the state, with an average summer maximum temperature of 93.5 degrees and an average summer minimum of 71.9 degrees.
5. Memphis, Tennessee
Vibrant Memphis is teeming with music and history, from the bustling bars of Beale Street to the thought-provoking exhibits at the National Civil Rights Museum. Snow is choppy here, but it happens. Like Wyoming, mentioned earlier, Tennessee does not have a state income tax. And if the guarantee of owning your home in retirement appeals to you, know that Memphis came in second on a recent list of the best cities to buy rather than rent.
4. Knoxville, Tennessee
Head back to Tennessee again to explore the charming town of Knoxville on the banks of the Tennessee River. Knoxville, the state’s first capital, may be smaller than Memphis, but it stays alive and active thanks to the University of Tennessee’s main campus. You can choose between living in the city with all the comforts or branch out and buy or rent in the scenic area leading to the Great Smoky Mountains.
3. Mobile, Alabama
If hunting and outdoor recreation is a star in your retirement dreams, a mobile phone might be for you. This scenic southern city, Alabama’s only deep-water port, is located on the Mobile River. There’s a lot of history, too—Mobile is nearly 300 years old and boasts Battleship Memorial Park, home to the retired battleship USS Alabama and the submarine museum, the USS Drum. Mobile ranked third for affordability on WalletHub’s list, but when activities, healthcare, and quality of life are factored in, its retirement score is higher than the next two cities on this list.
2. Montgomery, Alabama
Alabama’s state capital Montgomery landed at number two on WalletHub’s list of affordable places to retire, the highest ranking of the three Alabama cities that made the list. However, only Montgomery made it into WalletHub’s top five cities with the lowest annual cost of home services. That’s more good news for your wallet if you retire here.
1. Fort Smith, Arkansas
No city is more expensive for retirees, according to WalletHub, than Fort Smith, Arkansas. However, it may be the least common city name listed here. I think the Old West town is nestled in the new American South. Fort Smith, located on the Arkansas-Oklahoma border and along the Arkansas River, was once a military outpost on the western frontier and is now home to the Fort Smith National Historic Site. Its affordability, and mild winters, makes it a favorite with modern Americans as well.
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