It’s an unfortunate reality that some of the best places to retire and the most affordable places to retire don’t have a ton of overlap. Frequently, the top locations on people’s lists of potential cities to live out their golden years don’t have a lot of crossover with America’s most affordable cities, leaving plenty of people struggling with the decision between getting the retirement they want and having to make painful cuts to their lifestyle.
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However, while your first choice might be prohibitively expensive, a new study from GOBankingRates has dug deep into the numbers to give you some much more affordable options when you’re considering where to retire. Considering factors like the median listing price for a home, the average expenditures for someone 65 and older, crime rates, livability scores from AreaVibes and the weather by way of the Climate Index from Sperling’s Best Places, the study has identified which of the country’s cheapest places to live also offer a similar lifestyle to the pricier options that might spring to mind first.
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So, before you immediately assume that you’ll need to work into your 70s to afford the retirement you want, you might find that these cheap places to retire have everything you want at a much lower price, giving you more financial flexibility and an easier time making ends meet on a fixed income. As you’ll see, it doesn’t necessarily take a lot to retire in a great city.
Last updated: June 14, 2021
Don’t Retire In Miami
Miami has long been one of America’s best-known cities — gaining fame for its active nightlife and large Cuban-American community, among others. However, making this city your home in retirement comes at a steep cost, with the median list price for a house reaching nearly half a million dollars and the average annual expenditure for seniors is at $67,873.
Instead, Choose Hialeah, Florida
Nearby Miami is Hialeah, a community where the median list price is over $150,000 lower and the cost of living is about $3,000 a year lower for senior citizens. If you’re interested in a South Florida retirement but don’t want to pay Miami prices, this could be your ticket.
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Don’t Retire In Los Angeles
The City of Angels offers nice weather year round and a wide variety of amenities. However, America’s second-largest city is also among its most expensive. The median list price for a home is about $800,000 and the cost of living is about double that of the national average, meaning the average expenditure for ages 65 and older households is nearly six figures.
Instead, Choose San Bernardino, California
Good thing nearby San Bernardino offers many of the same benefits at a fraction of the price. The median home list price of $295,000 is less than half that of Los Angeles and the average senior spends less than $60,000 a year living there. Throw in a variety of options for local theater and closer access to Lake Arrowhead, Big Bear and Joshua Tree National Park and this could be a paradise for nature lovers looking to spend less.
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Don’t Retire In Oakland, California
The cost of living anywhere in the San Francisco Bay Area is quickly spiraling out of control. While Oakland might be the retirement spot of your dreams, the median list price of $650,000 is followed by an average cost of living for residents 65 and over that nearly reaches six digits. All told, for most Americans, retiring in Oakland is either well out of reach or would require major compromises elsewhere.
Instead, Choose Modesto, California
Instead of Oakland, consider the inland city of Modesto, the inspiration for the George Lucas classic “American Graffiti” and a haven for classic car lovers who want to live a short drive from both the mountains and the beach. Modesto’s median list price — at just shy of $300,000 — is less than half that of Oakland, the average cost of living for seniors is just over $60,000 and the crime rate is close to a third lower.
Don’t Retire In Naples, Florida
Deciding to retire in Florida is a cliche for a reason: The Sunshine State has a lot of offer to people in retirement. As such, it’s understandable that retirement in Naples would stand out as a goal for many. Unfortunately, you might not have such a sunny disposition when you get done shelling out nearly $400,000 for a home based on the median list price, or when you discover that under 10 percent of the city’s population are ages 65 and older.
Instead, Choose St. Petersburg, Florida
St. Petersburg could offer you the retirement on Florida’s west coast that you want at a price you can afford. You’ll be nearby to Clearwater Beach — voted the No. 1 beach by TripAdvisor — with a median list price of $279,000, that’s $120,000 under that of Naples. That amount would cover two full years of expenses with over $10,000 to spare.
Don’t Retire in Santa Ana, California
Santa Ana might be best known for its association with the Santa Ana winds, but it also has a lot to offer potential retirees. However, that would mean entering a blazing inferno of a housing market where the median list price is over a half million dollars — more than $100,000 higher than the national average — and the average annual expenditure for those who are 65 and older is a whopping $79,267.
Instead, Choose Henderson, Nevada
Meanwhile, Henderson across the border in Nevada could be your lower-cost alternative to retiring in Santa Ana. Directly adjacent to Las Vegas and all of the amenities it has to offer, the median list price for a home there is $363,000, and in addition to saving nearly $200,000 on a house, you’ll be saving on your annual costs as well: The average annual expenditure for those 65 and older is over $15,000 a year lower.
Don’t Retire In Anaheim, California
Anaheim is located just south of Los Angeles and is home to Disneyland, making it a potentially attractive spot for plenty of retirees. However, some of the costs of living there will make you think you’ve wandered into the park without realizing it. The average annual expenditure for senior citizens is about $85,000 while the median list price comes in at about $600,000.
Instead, Choose Las Vegas
Instead of Disneyland, opt for Las Vegas — the Disneyland for adults. Aside from all of the shows, gambling and restaurants the city is famous for, the median list price for a home is almost exactly half that of Anaheim. And while you might be worried about the casinos eating into your spending allowance, it’s worth noting that the average annual expenditures in Las Vegas is just under $60,000 a year — meaning you’ll be saving almost $25,000 a year on basic necessities in Sin City.
Don’t Retire In San Francisco
If you want to spend your golden years in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, be prepared to pay, well, golden prices. The median list price for a home is a mind-boggling $1.25 million, and paying out that small fortune will only secure the privilege of paying another fortune for expenses as the average senior spends over $150,000 a year.
Instead, Choose Sacramento, California
California’s state capital is just inland of San Francisco and offers a cost of living that’s much more in line with what most people can sustain in their retirement. Sacramento’s median list price of $312,000 is less than a quarter of San Francisco’s, and you’ll then be able to keep saving in a city where the average senior spends $63,413.76. All this comes with a crime rate that’s close to half that of San Francisco and a restaurant scene that helped the city win the title of America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital.
Don’t Retire In Riverside, California
Riverside is one of the largest cities in Southern California’s inland empire, and it could be just the place to retire to enjoy California’s year-round sunshine and warm weather. Unfortunately, you wouldn’t be the first person with that idea. The average price of a home is $432,950 and the average annual expenditure for retirees is $72,826.74.
Instead, Choose Fresno, California
If it’s warm weather and sunshine you crave, it’s worth noting that Fresno — in California’s central valley — actually scores an 84 for its climate index as compared…
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