2015’s Best and Worst Cities to Retire

by Richie Bernardo

2014-Best-and-Worst-Places-to-Retire-BadgesAfter toiling in the workplace for decades, it seems natural to expect financial security in our golden years. But not everyone can look forward to a cushy retirement. Relative to previous generations, many of us are working more years only to grow further from financial freedom. In 2014, 23 percent of workers expected to retire at age 65, but only 11 percent actually were able to, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s latest Retirement Confidence Survey.

Why postpone retirement? Many blame the economy. Others point to “inadequate finances” as the other primary hurdle to retiring on schedule. For 51 percent of workers and 31 percent of retirees, their debt levels keep them on their hamster wheels.

It’s no wonder a fourth of American workers approaching retirement age haven’t socked away any cash. Among the employed participants in the EBRI survey, 50 percent cited cost of living and daily expenses as impediments to saving for retirement. So if simply making ends meet prevents workers from growing a nest egg for the future, what other options provide a pathway to a comfortable retirement? We suggest relocating to an area where you can stretch your dollar without sacrificing your lifestyle.

To help you navigate your options, WalletHub compared the retirement-friendliness of the 150 largest U.S. cities across 24 key metrics. Our data set ranges from the cost of living to the percentage of the elderly population to the availability of recreational activities. You can find the results, additional expert commentary and a detailed methodology below.

Main Findings

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Overall Rank

City

‘Affordability’ Rank

‘Activities’ Rank

‘Quality of Life’ Rank

‘Health Care’ Rank

1 Tampa, FL 11 4 21 26
2 Scottsdale, AZ 50 5 2 33
3 Boise, ID 21 27 7 39
4 Cape Coral, FL 83 3 3 17
5 Orlando, FL 34 2 104 15
6 Sioux Falls, SD 69 8 47 3
7 Baton Rouge, LA 28 10 119 21
8 Port St. Lucie, FL 45 25 11 57
9 Overland Park, KS 103 62 9 1
10 Peoria, AZ 50 53 6 71
11 St. Petersburg, FL 11 71 56 74
12 Lincoln, NE 88 39 26 24
13 Springfield, MO 27 30 101 28
14 Amarillo, TX 10 91 44 100
15 Pembroke Pines, FL 62 52 10 72
16 Shreveport, LA 6 110 53 85
17 Salt Lake City, UT 49 1 129 16
18 Birmingham, AL 4 18 126 104
19 Augusta, GA 13 88 31 107
20 Colorado Springs, CO 91 26 39 29
21 Mesa, AZ 50 68 16 64
22 Tulsa, OK 23 69 54 75
23 Winston-Salem, NC 24 44 48 108
24 Omaha, NE 86 36 84 5
25 Nashville, TN 2 42 134 116
26 Lubbock, TX 17 109 72 34
27 Jackson, MS 15 22 105 78
28 Oklahoma City, OK 20 77 67 58
29 Tucson, AZ 76 35 45 47
30 Reno, NV 38 46 25 117
31 Raleigh, NC 33 50 102 36
32 Greensboro, NC 22 95 49 53
33 Tempe, AZ 50 41 64 37
34 Cincinnati, OH 38 7 118 92
T-35 Henderson, NV 73 56 1 144
T-35 Fort Wayne, IN 26 54 83 89
37 Knoxville, TN 3 32 130 141
38 Sacramento, CA 107 20 34 55
39 Denver, CO 115 13 107 4
40 Fort Lauderdale, FL 62 16 85 56
41 Chattanooga, TN 8 19 122 133
42 Albuquerque, NM 48 49 58 87
T-43 El Paso, TX 19 106 27 129
T-43 Montgomery, AL 9 102 68 125
45 Gilbert, AZ 50 121 20 45
46 Mobile, AL 7 118 57 131
47 Miami, FL 62 11 123 61
48 Lexington, KY 29 74 52 114
49 Chandler, AZ 50 97 17 80
50 Jacksonville, FL 37 58 97 83
51 Toledo, OH 34 93 65 63
52 Chesapeake, VA 77 72 33 78
53 Irvine, CA 120 65 15 23
T-54 New Orleans, LA 38 43 98 103
T-54 Grand Rapids, MI 43 9 120 76
56 Glendale, CA 108 146 4 18
57 Richmond, VA 89 37 96 19
58 Norfolk, VA 77 40 88 50
59 San Diego, CA 123 33 42 32
60 Durham, NC 34 66 125 73
61 Las Vegas, NV 73 47 35 125
62 Laredo, TX 5 137 79 136
63 Phoenix, AZ 50 87 55 69
64 Newport News, VA 77 106 37 66
65 Wichita, KS 42 78 124 31
66 Glendale, AZ 50 82 78 59
67 Huntsville, AL 14 118 46 139
68 Madison, WI 141 14 63 7
69 Columbus, GA 16 112 91 118
70 Grand Prairie, TX 66 99 29 101
71 Huntington Beach, CA 108 135 8 26
72 Virginia Beach, VA 77 76 66 68
73 St. Louis, MO 61 34 149 13
74 Santa Rosa, CA 128 24 5 94
75 Long Beach, CA 108 81 40 30
76 Honolulu, HI 145 28 13 8
77 Louisville, KY 30 67 110 114
78 Pittsburgh, PA 92 23 99 88
79 Plano, TX 85 125 28 49
80 Kansas City, MO 95 59 111 35
81 Atlanta, GA 71 17 138 97
82 Memphis, TN 1 96 146 140
83 Austin, TX 84 60 115 53
84 San Jose, CA 133 90 23 9
85 Tallahassee, FL 46 61 106 106
86 Hialeah, FL 62 103 30 119
87 Minneapolis, MN 134 15 127 2
88 Corpus Christi, TX 25 91 80 137
89 Charlotte, NC 31 111 109 84
90 Oceanside, CA 123 75 19 50
91 Garden Grove, CA 108 149 12 43
92 Columbus, OH 46 129 92 44
93 Vancouver, WA 129 55 32 42
94 Akron, OH 96 64 73 80
95 Los Angeles, CA 108 120 22 38
96 Des Moines, IA 94 84 112 20
97 Dallas, TX 44 104 121 60
98 San Francisco, CA 137 48 90 10
99 Fayetteville, NC 18 146 113 113
100 St. Paul, MN 135 45 114 6
101 Brownsville, TX 31 115 82 134
102 Irving, TX 66 114 93 66
103 Santa Clarita, CA 108 132 18 52
104 Garland, TX 66 128 51 96
105 Aurora, CO 115 98 89 11
106 Little Rock, AR 50 57 128 109
107 Oakland, CA 131 51 117 14
108 Riverside, CA 97 100 50 98
109 Fort Worth, TX 81 126 75 85
110 Portland, OR 130 21 95 102
111 Anaheim, CA 120 134 24 40
112 Arlington, TX 81 142 71 64
113 Indianapolis, IN 60 94 148 48
114 Spokane, WA 117 73 81 90
115 Santa Ana, CA 120 127 41 61
116 Seattle, WA 145 29 100 40
117 Fremont, CA 136 141 14 25
118 Stockton, CA 90 113 76 122
119 Milwaukee, WI 140 38 143 12
120 Fresno, CA 72 144 77 91
121 Moreno Valley, CA 97 79 70 124
122 San Antonio, TX 38 123 133 112
T-123 Bakersfield, CA 86 122 59 130
T-123 Oxnard, CA 106 116 38 127
125 Anchorage, AK 119 89 132 22
126 Modesto, CA 93 143 62 110
127 Tacoma, WA 132 12 136 46
128 Rancho Cucamonga, CA 97 150 36 111
129 Houston, TX 59 123 147 80
130 Chula Vista, CA 123 139 43 76
131 Ontario, CA 97 133 74 121
132 North Las Vegas, NV 73 136 60 142
133 Cleveland, OH 104 63 145 94
134 Baltimore, MD 108 82 139 70
135 Rochester, NY 127 6 144 93
136 Fontana, CA 97 148 69 135
137 Buffalo, NY 105 70 141 127
138 Washington, DC 126 30 142 123
139 San Bernardino, CA 97 145 94 119
140 Philadelphia, PA 139 101 103 105
141 Detroit, MI 69 105 137 148
142 Worcester, MA 118 108 116 132
143 Boston, MA 149 86 131 99
144 Chicago, IL 143 80 140 143
145 Yonkers, NY 147 138 85 138
146 New York, NY 148 130 60 147
147 Aurora, IL 143 131 87 145
148 Providence, RI 150 85 135 146
149 Jersey City, NJ 141 140 108 149
150 Newark, NJ 138 117 150 150

Best-and-Worst-Cities-to-Retire-Artwork

Ask the Experts

People plan for retirement at various stages of their lives. But regardless of one’s age, general wisdom has it that planning ahead and as early as possible can help secure a financially cozy retirement. To expand the discussion, we’ve asked a panel of experts to share their advice on various factors that prospective retirees should consider as well as retirement-friendly measures that city authorities can implement. Click on the experts’ profiles to read their bios and responses to the following key questions:

  1. What financial factors should retirees take into consideration when deciding where to retire?
  2. What are some tips for living on a fixed income in retirement?
  3. What is the biggest mistake that people make when planning their retirements?
  4. How can individuals determine if they are on the right track to retire?
  5. Should attracting more retirees be a priority for local government and if yes what should they do?
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  • Steve Sass Program Director of the Financial Security Project in the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College
  • Jan Cullinane Author, “The Single Woman's Guide to Retirement”
  • Maurice MacDonald Professor of Personal Financial Planning at Kansas State University
  • Joshua M. Pollet Associate Professor of Finance and Seass Faculty Fellow at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Business
  • John Friedman Associate Professor of Economics at Brown University
  • Sudipto Banerjee Research Associate in the Employee Benefit Research Institute

Steve Sass

Program Director of the Financial Security Project in the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College
Steve Sass
What financial factors should retirees take into consideration when deciding where to retire?

Amenities that suit their taste; proximity to people, activities, and resources they desire and need (i.e., family, shopping, recreations, and medical care; affordability (i.e., cost of housing, utilities, taxes, etc.)

What are some tips for living on a fixed income in retirement?

Be sure to consider inflation, which makes ‘living on a fixed income’ (i.e., income alone – without drawing down principle adjusted to reflect the effect of inflation) essentially impossible today.

What is the biggest mistake that people make when planning their retirements?

Not considering the long-term sustainability of their financial plan – especially for the survivor.

How can individuals determine if they are on the right track to retire?

Try our calculators:

Jan Cullinane

Author, “The Single Woman's Guide to Retirement”
Jan Cullinane
What financial factors should retirees take into consideration when deciding where to retire?

One factor to consider is that where you live affects your total tax cost. So, look at state and local income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, gas taxes, and inheritance taxes. Few people move to a new state just to reduce the tax bite, but if a decision is made to move for any or all of the other personal reasons (climate, proximity to relatives, overall cost of living, good medical care, infrastructure, etc.) consider the tax consequences of your move. Also, consider your sources of income in retirement and find out if a state you’re considering for relocation has beneficial rules with respect to taxing that income.

What is the biggest mistake that people make when planning their retirements?

Thinking of it as an end instead of a beginning.

How can individuals determine if they are on the right track to retire?

Ask yourself these three questions: Do I have enough? Have I had enough? Do I have enough to do? If you can give a resounding “YES” to all three, you are on track.

Maurice MacDonald

Professor of Personal Financial Planning at Kansas State University
Maurice MacDonald
What financial factors should retirees take into consideration when deciding where to retire?
  • Shelter costs, whether it be for rental or stable and reasonable home prices. Stability is important to predict budgetary needs; so moving to rent in a trendy area that might experience home price and thus rental price appreciation is important to investigate.
  • Level and also likely stability of state and local income and property taxes. Again, moving to a hot spot for all retirees might get you into an area that is expanding services that have to be paid for down the road at a higher than expected rate.
  • Availability of good medical services, especially doctors and geriatric specialists in adequate supply. Avoiding rural areas that require long distance travel for specialty services would be a key factor.
What are some tips for living on a fixed income in retirement?

Sharpen the pencil and retool to manage cash flow for income and expenditures in a careful monthly and annual budgeting mode. Identify where the cash flow crunches occur during the year and where there is less pressure to be able to smooth spending and make that aspect predictable. Work with a financial planner or obtain personal expertise to have and follow a plan to draw down assets so that you can spend on amenities and experiences that you worked so hard to enjoy in retirement. Be prepared to take and enjoy calculated risks in spending. Apply pressure to yourself and/or an asset manager to continue to keep or even grow income by continuing to invest in assets that involve risk to get some return greater than conservative bonds. Communicate well with your children or other continuing dependents about what you can afford to pay to back them up when they have financial needs and why you can't and won't continue to support them for.

What is the biggest mistake that people make when planning their retirements?

Not taking prudent risks to build assets over and above what you might obtain from social security or a regular pension. Not understanding clearly what income sources will remain available. Retiring too early having not built up enough assets. I suspect many people are retiring early or not developing a part-time employment plan that will deal with the reality that all of us will live longer than the people we observed as models of what to do and how to plan in retirement.

How can individuals determine if they are on the right track to retire?

Regarding employment, a good test is to take a longer vacation than usual and learn whether you miss the challenges and activity that a job provides. If you don't miss it and can afford to lose it, stop the job and retire. Even if you like building assets and your job, ask whether the cost in terms of lost experiences (like missing relatives' life events you would enjoy) or the hassle of maintaining a vibrant personal and family life balance is becoming dreary. If you don't have a list of what you would do differently daily and during the year with more free time, then maybe you aren't on the right track to retire and you need to get a personal plan to continue to grow and develop on new dimensions or return to old ones that you enjoyed but got out of for work and non-work tasks. In addition to volunteering potentials, consider spirituality and leadership in that domain as well.

Should attracting more retirees be a priority for local government and if yes what should they do?

Communities that can attract new people at any age or with different backgrounds are inherently more vibrant and interesting. Today's retirees maintain youthful attitudes and many have more financial resources and time to participate in community activities as spenders and donors than the average community resident. Use planning to develop moderate income housing and better medical services, plus invest in and market the unique cultural and outdoor activity amenities that each community has to sell.

Joshua M. Pollet

Associate Professor of Finance and Seass Faculty Fellow at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Business
Joshua M. Pollet
What are some tips for living on a fixed income in retirement?

While I do understand many of the factors affecting retirement decisions and I can provide some guidance about retirement planning, your questions may not be focused on the big picture. The main difficulty in this context is a lack of resources and a substantial life expectancy at the typical retirement age of 62. The typical household only has modest personal financial wealth, including retirement assets such as 401k accounts, at retirement. Thus, most retirees are relying on Social Security. I note that defined benefit pensions no longer exist for the vast majority of the population. In addition, the single largest component of retirement wealth beyond a retiree's Social Security is home equity.

Thus, my first suggestion is that the typical individual should probably work much longer and save much more to support a longer retirement. With greater financial resources there are more options.

Second, the heavy reliance on Social Security and home equity for financial resources in retirement implies that potential retirees with such limited resources should also downsize their house as soon as children leave the household to lower living expenses, purchase an annuity using most of the equity in the house at retirement, and move to a location with a low cost of living.

While it is simple to suggest that individuals should live within their means, save more money for retirement, and spend less money when retired, the fact that so many retire without substantial financial resources indicates that this task remains difficult.

John Friedman

Associate Professor of Economics at Brown University
John Friedman
What is the biggest mistake that people make when planning their retirements?

I think the biggest mistake people make is waiting too long to start saving, or even starting to think in a structured way about how much to save.

Sudipto Banerjee

Research Associate in the Employee Benefit Research Institute
Sudipto Banerjee
What financial factors should retirees take into consideration when deciding where to retire?

Taxes are inevitable but one can certainly lower the tax burden by choosing the right state to retire. Some states don’t have income taxes and many don’t tax Social Security income. If one knows where the bulk of their retirement income will be coming from, choosing an appropriate low-tax state might be helpful.

What are some tips for living on a fixed income in retirement?

To prepare a good estimate of routine expenses and make sure that there is still room for some discretionary spending.

How can individuals determine if they are on the right track to retire?

Recent studies have shown most of the people who run out of money at the end of life had little savings at the beginning of retirement. So, to be on the right track would mean saving more. There are a number of online retirement calculators which help people determine if they are on the right track. They may not always be accurate as the embedded assumptions in these calculators may not always hold in future. But using such a calculator is still much better than using none at all.

Fidelity also has a rule of thumb guide in terms of age and annual salary.

Methodology

To help Americans find the best cities for their golden years, WalletHub compared the retirement-friendliness of the 150 most populated U.S. cities across four key dimensions: 1) Affordability, 2) Activities, 3) Quality of Life and 4) Health Care. We then compiled 24 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Data for metrics marked with an asterisk (*) were available only at the state level.

With cost being a significant factor in retirement, our analysis assumes retirees will rely on a fixed income. The lower their expenses, the better retirees will fare in a particular city. With regard to our sample, please note that “city” refers to city proper and excludes surrounding metro areas.

Affordability – Weight: 5

  • Adjusted Cost of Living: Full Weight
  • WalletHub ‘Taxpayer’ Ranking: Half* Weight
  • Annual Cost of In-Home Services: Half Weight

Activities – Weight: 5

  • Number of Recreation & Senior Centers per 100,000 Residents: Full Weight
  • Number of Fishing Facilities per 100,000 Residents: Full Weight
  • Number of Hiking Facilities per 100,000 Residents: Half Weight
  • Number of Public Golf Courses per 100,000 Residents: Full Weight
  • Availability of Adult Volunteer Activities: Full Weight
  • WalletHub ‘Recreation’ Ranking: Full Weight

Quality of Life – Weight: 5

  • Percentage of the Population Aged 65 & Older: Full Weight
  • Elderly-Friendly Labor Market: Full Weight
  • WalletHub ‘Mild Weather’ Ranking: Double Weight
  • Violent Crime Rate: Full Weight
  • Property Crime Rate: Full Weight
  • Air Quality: Half Weight
  • Water Quality: Half Weight

Health Care – Weight: 5

  • Number of Family and General Physicians per 10,000 Residents: Full Weight
  • Number of Dentists per 10,000 Residents: Half Weight
  • Number of Nurses per 1,000 Residents: Full Weight
  • Number of Health Care Facilities per 100,000 Residents: Full Weight
  • Public Hospitals Ranking: Full* Weight
  • Emotional Health: Full Weight
  • Number of Home-Care Facilities per 100,000 Residents: Full Weight
  • Death Rate for People Aged 65 & Older: Full* Weight

 

Sources: Data used to create these rankings were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Council for Community and Economic Research, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Lung Association - State of the Air, the Environmental Working Group, the Trust For Public Land, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Charity Navigator, Healthways.com, Yelp.com, Golf.com and WalletHub Research.

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Richie Bernardo is a personal finance writer at WalletHub. He graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism and a minor in business from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Previously, he was a…
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