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Here Are 11 Surprisingly Affordable Cities Where People Are Flocking to Retire

A couple sits on the cliff side to enjoy coffee and the view
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Last year, there were nearly 20 million Americans between the ages of 60 to 64. If you’re one of them, you’re probably starting to think about retirement.

There are plenty of ways to make sure you’re prepared for the golden years. There are tools to help you optimize your 401(k) like Blooom and calculators like Finhabits that will show you how to save hundreds of thousands of dollars for retirement, both of which can offer a big boost if you’ve fallen behind in savings. (Spoiler: Most of us have.)

But once you get your retirement income settled, the next big question is where will you spend the autumn of your years? Boca Raton? Palm Springs?

Balderdash! Most of the popular retirement spots in the U.S. are overpriced, and in my humble opinion, boring. When I retire, I want to be around active peers who enjoy the outdoors — and can actually afford a retirement home.

This generation of retirees still prefers to age in their own community. But if they were to move, they’re looking for walkable cities where they don’t need a car to get around, said AARP Senior Strategic Policy Advisor Jana Lynott.

“They want places with a little bit of life to them,” she said.

So I set out to find some unsung, affordable (and cool) cities to which new retirees are flocking, and I found some surprising towns in the process.

To formulate this list of the best places to retire on a budget, I tapped into the latest available data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as research by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Here are the factors we considered:

  • Percentage of retirees.
  • Percent change in ratio of retirees from 2012 to 2016.
  • Percentage of retirees who moved within the past year.
  • Percentage of healthy people.
  • Annual property taxes.
  • Median home values.
  • Property-tax to retirement-income ratio.
  • Annual health care costs.
  • Per capita assisted living facilities.
  • Annual cost of assisted living facilities.
  • Violent crime rate.
  • Civic associations per capita.
  • Doctors per capita.
  • Access to exercise opportunities.
  • Food-availability index.

Some quick notes on the methodology: 2016 is the latest year available from the census and for “retirees,” we looked at the population of folks who are 65 and older.

We then used a statistical technique to weight many of these factors to bring you the list of the best affordable places to retire. So… ready to find your dream retirement city?

Here Are the 11 Best Places to Retire on a Budget

You may not have heard of some of the best places to retire on a budget, so we compiled some fun facts and cool things to do for each city on the list.

I have to admit, I was surprised by some of these, since when I think of retirement I tend to think of Florida. Especially since I grew up in Sarasota, where the median age is 46 years old — nine years older than the U.S. median.

1. St. George, Utah

Saint George / Utah - Overlook by night
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Retirees: 21%

Change in Ratio of Retirees: 18.1%

Healthy Residents: 88.5%

Average Retirement Income: $26,670

Annual Taxes: $1,834

Annual Health Care Costs (County): $8,594

Median Home Value: $223,200

Assisted Living Facilities Per 1,000 Residents (County): 5.4

Doctors Per 100,000 Residents (County): 58

Average Assisted Living Facilities Cost (State): $35,400

Cities in Utah have topped several The Penny Hoarder best-of lists as of late: cities that have actually seen wage growth, best cities for tech jobs and the cities with the fastest-growing income, among others. Utah has some of the fastest growing metropolitan areas, so it’s no surprise folks have been flocking to its cities for retirement.

In St. George, a city of roughly 80,000 people, you can wake up every morning with a cup of coffee (or tea, if you’re like me) and look out on the hills, mesas and mountains. Sounds pretty appealing, right?

If you plan to have an active retirement, the city is less than an hour from Zion National Park, with plenty of trails for hiking, camping and fishing. According to the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce, the city had the most golf courses per capita. Fore!

2. Palm Coast, Florida

Evening Afterglow on Golf Course at Palm Coast, Florida
Michael Warren/Getty Images

Retirees: 26.6%

Change in Ratio of Retirees: 16%

Healthy Residents: 77.2%

Average Retirement Income: $27,535

Annual Taxes: $1,610

Annual Health Care Costs (County): $9,988

Median Home Value: $168,400

Assisted Living Facilities Per 100,000 Residents (County): 4.4

Doctors Per 100,000 Residents (County): 51

Average Assisted Living Facilities Cost (State): $36,540

Surprised that a city in Florida didn’t take the No. 1 spot on this list? Well, Palm Coast, which is in between Jacksonville and Daytona Beach, barely missed out.

Just minutes from the beach, you won’t experience chilly winters here. For active retirees, the city has a healthy mix of golf resorts and nature trails.

Oh, and it’s just two hours from The Villages, which has a reputation as one of the rowdiest retirement communities in the country. Hitch up your golf cart and head inland if you want to get your party on every now and then.

3. Loveland, Colorado

Dramatic Rocky Mountains
RiverNorthPhotography/Getty Images

Retirees: 17.3%

Change in Ratio of Retirees: 23%

Healthy Residents: 90.3%

Average Retirement Income: $25,995

Annual Taxes: $1,357

Annual Health Care Costs (County): $8,324

Median Home Value: $237,200

Assisted Living Facilities Per 100,000 Residents (County): 8

Doctors Per 100,000 Residents (County): 86

Average Assisted Living Facilities Cost (State): $48,750

One trend you’ll notice on this list is that most of the best places to retire are relatively close to hip cities. Loveland, Colorado, which is less than an hour’s drive from Denver, is a perfect example.

As I sweat through 90-degree weather in Florida writing this, folks in Loveland are enjoying a 69-degree day in the heart of summer. Jealous.

A cultural hub, Loveland is home to at least nine art museums and galleries, five music venues, three theaters and a cool sculpture park. Oh, and Loveland has a booming tourism scene, so you can boost that retirement income with by becoming an Airbnb host.

4. Cape Coral, Florida

Beach Vacation Destination Cape Coral Florida
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Retirees: 20.2%

Change in Ratio of Retirees: 16.5%

Healthy Residents: 87.6%

Average Retirement Income: $24,416

Annual Taxes: $1,884

Annual Health Care Costs (County): $10,113

Median Home Value: $173,400

Assisted Living Facilities Per 100,000 Residents (County): 2.7

Doctors Per 100,000 Residents (County): 62

Average Assisted Living Facilities Cost (State): $36,540

Cape Coral was one of the cities hardest hit by the Great Recession, largely due to overbuilding in anticipation of new residents, most of whom would have been older than 64. But now that the economy is humming again, the city is attracting hordes of retirees looking for affordable living.

The city has 356 miles of canals, which means there are hundreds of miles of waterfront property, albeit man-made. And, since it’s Florida, there are plenty of opportunities for golf and fishing.

Also, Lee County, which surrounds Cape Coral, is the spring-training headquarters for the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins. That makes it perfect for retirees from those cold cities looking for sunshine — and baseball.

5. Surprise, Arizona

USA: welcome to Arizona sign
mtcurado/Getty Images

Retirees: 21.6%

Change in Ratio of Retirees: 13.7%

Healthy Residents: 89.5%

Average Retirement Income: $26,912

Annual Taxes: $1,377

Annual Health Care Costs (County): $9,603

Median Home Value: $197,600

Assisted Living Facilities Per 100,000 Residents (County): 8.5

Doctors Per 100,000 Residents (County): 71

Average Assisted Living Facilities Cost (State): $42,000

The founder of Surprise, Arizona, is said to have named it that because she would have been surprised if it amounted to anything. Well, Flora Mae Statler, your town just came in at No. 5 on a list of the best affordable places to retire, so you’ve got that going for you.

Surprise has one of the largest tennis complexes in the Southwest — in case you you want a break from one of its dozens of golf courses.

And like Cape Coral, it’s home to the spring-training complexes of two Major League Baseball teams: the Kansas City Royals and the Texas Rangers.

6. Henderson, Nevada

Welcome to Nevada sign along the highway
toddtaulman/Getty Images

Retirees: 17.8%

Change in Ratio of Retirees: 20.2%

Healthy Residents: 89.2%

Average Retirement Income: $30,909

Annual Taxes: $1,827

Annual Health Care Costs (County): $10,634

Median Home Value: $237,800

Assisted Living Facilities Per 1,000 Residents (County): 4.8

Doctors Per 100,000 Residents (County): 55

Average Assisted Living Facilities Cost (State): $36,600

Henderson, Nevada, is consistently ranked one of the safest cities in the U.S., with the latest data showing about 211 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2016. That’s 45% less than the U.S. as a whole.

So if suburban living near the gambling mecca of the country is your thing, Henderson is your safest bet. (See what I did there?) But besides all the casinos, resorts and golf courses, there are also more than 35 miles of hiking trails.

And, you know, you’re only a half hour from the Hoover Dam, if you’re into that sort of thing.

7. Port St. Lucie, Florida

Beautiful nature preserve in Port Saint Lucie Florida.
Rauluminate/Getty Images

Retirees: 18.3%

Change in Ratio of Retirees: 14.3%

Healthy Residents: 86.7%

Average Retirement Income: $22,426

Annual Taxes: $2,107

Annual Health Care Costs (County): $10,956

Median Home Value: $149,400

Assisted Living Facilities Per 1,000 Residents (County): 3.6

Doctors Per 100,000 Residents (County): 40

Average Assisted Living Facilities Cost (State): $36,540

Like Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie is another underrated Florida retirement destination that sits on the state’s east coast.

In addition to soaking in the sun on the beach, taking a stroll along the Riverwalk Boardwalk makes for a relaxing weekend activity. Which reminds me, with the St. Lucie River nearby , that means you’ll have saltwater and freshwater fishing opportunities.

And along with its more than 20 golf courses, Port St. Lucie is also where the New York Mets spend spring training. Now, if they could just figure out that winning thing.

8. Santa Fe, New Mexico

Downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico at dusk.
DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images

Retirees: 19.4%

Change in Ratio of Retirees: 9.6%

Healthy Residents: 88.5%

Average Retirement Income: $36,194

Annual Taxes: $1,375

Annual Health Care Costs (County): $6,345

Median Home Value: $259,700

Assisted Living Facilities Per 1,000 Residents (County): 4.1

Doctors Per 100,000 Residents (County): 103

Average Assisted Living Facilities Cost (State): $43,200

Santa Fe is the nation’s oldest capital city. And over the years, it’s only gotten better.

Native Americans called the land “Dancing Ground of The Sun” for good reason. The Jémez Mountains make for some stellar sunsets. Those mountains aren’t only for looking at, either. Sante Fe is home to an extensive network of trails to hike and explore during its 320 days of annual sunshine.

And if the outdoors aren’t your thing, Sante Fe is also known as a cultural hotspot. The four-centuries-old city blends Native American, Spanish and Anglo roots into a one-of-a-kind arts and historical hotspot.

9. Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville, North Carolina, USA at twilight.
Sean Pavone/Getty Images

Retirees: 17.1%

Change in Ratio of Retirees: 9.8%

Healthy Residents: 88.3%

Average Retirement Income: $28,534

Annual Taxes: $1,818

Annual Health Care Costs (County): $8,101

Median Home Value: $212,000

Assisted Living Facilities Per 1,000 Residents (County): 5.3

Doctors Per 100,000 Residents (County): 141

Average Assisted Living Facilities Cost (State): $36,000

Nestled in the valley of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville has blossomed into a haven for foodies, art connoisseurs and film buffs alike.

Dubbed Beer City, USA, in 2009, Asheville will bring out your inner cicerone. Whether you’re a fan of IPAs or or stouts, you’ll find your taste at one of the many beer festivals Asheville hosts throughout the year.

Non-drinkers will find plenty of arts and entertainment options downtown, or may prefer a stroll on George Vanderbilt’s 1895 Biltmore Estate — an architectural masterpiece that rivals any French or British grand castle.

10. Charleston, South Carolina

Downtown Charleston, South Carolina in the early evening.
traveler1116/Getty Images

Retirees: 13.6%

Change in Ratio of Retirees: 13.4%

Healthy Residents: 89%

Average Retirement Income: $31,652

Annual Taxes: $1,448

Annual Health Care Costs (County): $9,018

Median Home Value: $269,400

Assisted Living Facilities Per 1,000 Residents (County): 5.6

Doctors Per 100,000 Residents (County): 124

Average Assisted Living Facilities Cost (State): $36,000

From the cobblestoned streets of the French Quarter to the 60-mile stretch of Atlantic coastline, the old port city has something for everyone. Settled in 1670, Charleston is the oldest city in South Carolina. It has grown to be the largest in the state as well.

Over its roughly 350-year history, the city has been at the center of many wars and conflicts. History buffs will find its museums and national monuments particularly appealing.

With mild winters, Charleston provides a cozy place to beat the cold while offering up some of the nation’s best golf courses. And on those hot summer days, a quick trip to the beach is never out of the question because it’s so close.

11. Redding, California

Sundial Bridge in Redding, Northern California.
jgreesonarts/Getty Images

Retirees: 18.7%

Change in Ratio of Retirees: 15.4%

Healthy Residents: 87%

Average Retirement Income: $27,012

Annual Taxes: $1,842

Annual Health-Care Costs (County): $8,329

Median Home Value: $232,000

Assisted Living Facilities Per 1,000 Residents (County): 8.7

Doctors Per 100,000 Residents (County): 73

Average Assisted Living Facilities Cost (State): $48,000

Almost two centuries ago, settlers flocked to the Redding area during the California Gold Rush. Now, visitors rush to see the 217-foot Sundial Bridge that spans the Sacramento River.

But Redding is much more than tourist attractions. Residents have settled into a balanced life of adventure and culture. The city has received several accolades for its pristine state parks and was crowned one of the top 10 fishing towns in North America.

Surrounded by mountains, Redding is a hiker’s dream. But downtown has plenty of entertainment options, too, along with a thriving theater scene.

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder. He plans to retire outside of Asheville, where he can fly fish all day and play bluegrass on his porch late into the night.

Editorial assistant Adam Hardy contributed to this report. He lives on a diet of stale puns and iced coffee. Read his full bio here.

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