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The Best Places To Retire In The United States

Miranda Crace6-Minute Read
UPDATED: February 29, 2024


Your retirement years are nearing. You’ve saved up a nest egg and are ready to leave the daily commute behind. But you face one big question: Where should you go?

Should you remain in your current community where you know your neighbors? Or maybe you should head off to warmer climes and a slower pace of life. Maybe moving closer to your adult children is the better choice.

There are plenty of questions to answer when it comes to finding that perfect place to retire. Here are some of the most important ones. And be sure to check out our list of eight top retirement destinations at the end of this story.

How Important Are Family And Friends?

Ahmed Ali, outreach consultant with San Francisco-based home-management app Centriq, says that retirement is usually more enjoyable when you're living near family and friends. There are plenty of hours to kill during your retirement. Visiting with friends and family members is one of the healthiest ways to pass that time.

For that reason, Ali recommends that retirees consider moving near their family members and not relocating across the country from them.

What if you move to a place where you don’t know anyone? You might get bored, even if you move to a location with warm climates, water views and the rolling greens of golf courses.

And if you already live near family members and friends? Ali recommends that you consider staying in the same community after you leave the workforce.

"Why move for the sake of moving?" questions Ali.

A better choice? Ali recommends staying put after retirement but taking more frequent vacations or satisfying that urge for change by purchasing an inexpensive weekend getaway home.

How Expensive Is That City, Beach Town Or Retirement Community?

The cost of living is important, too. Your retirement dollars will stretch further if you choose to live in a less expensive area. Finding the most affordable community can be tricky, though, Ali says.

For instance, you might find a community with low taxes, Ali says, but it might also have higher housing prices. The food in the local grocery stores might cost more or gas prices might rank among the highest in the nation.

Ali's takeaway?

"Dig deeper to find out just how expensive an area really is."

How High Are The Taxes?

Chicago-based Stacy Caprio, blog manager with DealsScoop, recommends that those nearing retirement should consider the taxes they might have to pay after relocating to a new area. They might discover that the combination of state income taxes, property taxes and local sales tax will boost – or lower – their cost of living.

Caprio says that you can determine the cost of taxes in any area you're considering for retirement by looking at its federal income tax rate, state income tax rate, property tax rate and sales tax rates.

"Living somewhere where you pay fewer taxes on your income means you have that much more to spend and enjoy your retirement with," says Caprio.

The Little Things Matter, Too

Jesse Silkoff, founder of Austin, Texas-based MyRoofingPal, an online marketplace connecting people with local residential and commercial roofers, says that people ready to retire need to look at the big picture when choosing a retirement locale.

This includes, of course, looking at big costs such as taxes, but also the costs of housing, utilities, food and medicine.

But there are other things to consider, such as amenities. Will a community offer the type of services, entertainment, dining out options or activities that you want to take advantage of when you retire?

For example: Will you always need to get into a car to access restaurants, shops and entertainment, or will you be able to walk to these amenities? Are there community activities for retirees? Do local businesses offer senior discounts?

"These are smaller things, but depending on the type of person you are, they may make the difference between one area versus another," says Silkoff.

The Best Places For Retirees

You’ve taken cost of living, amenities and proximity to friends and family members into account. So, where are the best communities to retire in the United States?

That’s a largely subjective question, but here are eight suggestions compiled from some of the most-respected lists of best places to retire. These cities aren’t presented in any particular order, but each of them offers plenty to keep retirees happy.

Scottsdale, Arizona

Niche in its 2019 report of best cities in which to retire, gives Scottsdale an A+ overall rating and ranks the Arizona city as its No. 1 destination for retirees.

Why such a high rating? Niche says that the city offers plenty to do, ranging from coffee shops and lush parks to eclectic restaurants. The public schools here are highly rated, too. That might not seem important if you’re retired, but strong public schools provide a boost to home values, which should be considered a bonus to everyone, no matter if you're retired or you have school-age children.

Fayetteville, Arkansas

Kiplinger in 2019 ranked Fayetteville as one of its 50 best places to retire. The benefit here is the low cost of living coupled with plenty of attractions and amenities. According to Kiplinger, the cost of living for retirees here is 13.8% below the national average. But this low cost doesn't equate to boring.

As Kiplinger says, the Ozark Mountains are nearby while downtown Fayetteville is home to the University of Arkansas and plenty of restaurants, shops, art galleries and theaters.

Catalina Foothills, Arizona

Money last year ranked the Catalina Foothills area of Arizona as one of its eight best places to retire. Money points to the high number of golf courses and the decadent spas as two perks of living here.

Located near Tucson, the Catalina Foothills ranks as a paradise for outdoor lovers thanks to its mountains, deserts and canyons. Of particular note is the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, which each year draws more than 1 million visitors. If you like your thrills indoors, the Foothills area is home to high-end shopping and gourmet restaurants.

Carlsbad, California

Another sunshine-filled destination made Kiplinger's list of best places to retire: Carlsbad, California. Kiplinger's says that Carlsbad offers retirees the best of two worlds: a small-town feel with easy access to the amenities of a big city. That's because Carlsbad is located about 35 miles from San Diego and 88 miles from Los Angeles.

The city sits along the ocean and boasts a sunny climate. It’s also home to a thriving local arts and theater scene. The only negative? It's pretty expensive, not surprising considering its prime California location.

Fort Myers, Florida

If warm days matter, Fort Myers, Florida, might rank as one of your top retirement destinations. The sunny climate is one reason why U.S. News & World Report named Fort Myers as its best place to retire in 2020.

Fort Myers offers a walkable downtown with shops and restaurants. It's also home to museums, festivals, art galleries and plenty of public parks. And this being Florida, there's no state income tax. On the downside? Home prices continue to rise here.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Our list can't be made up entirely of sun-soaked communities, right? Lancaster, Pennsylvania, isn't known for its warm climate. But it still ranked third on U.S. News & World Report's 2020 Best Places to Retire list.

Part of the reason is the variety here: As U.S. News says, Lancaster is home to plenty of peaceful farmland, but there is also the excitement of city life and the relative quiet of the suburbs. Lancaster is also affordable, with a low cost of living. The median home price here is an affordable $196,025, while the median monthly rent is just $957.

Pelican Bay, Florida

Niche, in its 2020 list of best places to retire in the United States, ranks Pelican Bay, Florida, as its top choice. Located near Naples, Pelican Bay offers the warm temperatures you'd expect in Florida. But Pelican Bay isn't just for relaxing in the sun.

The community offers a mix of restaurants, coffee shops and parks to keep residents busy. The public schools here are strong and the population is small, at just 5,844. If you're looking for a quiet community that still offers plenty of shopping and dining options, Pelican Bay might be the right choice for you.

Lake Success, New York

Lake Success, a suburb of New York City, took home the third spot on Niche's 2020 list of best places to retire. Niche calls Lake Success one of the best places to live in New York. The suburb might be the perfect choice for retirees who want a quieter everyday lifestyle with easy access to the shops, restaurants and nightlife scene of New York City.

Niche says that Lake Success boasts a rural feel, even though it does offer its own mix of restaurants, parks and coffee shops. It also provides that quick access to New York City.

Final Thoughts

No matter how you decide to spend your retirement years, hopefully you’ll have some idea of where you’d like to land. Any of these choices would provide access to sunsets, activities and attractions that will make those remaining years enjoyable and fulfilling.

Miranda Crace

Miranda Crace is a Senior Section Editor for the Rocket Companies, bringing a wealth of knowledge about mortgages, personal finance, real estate, and personal loans for over 10 years.