For many Americans, the prospect of retiring in the Golden State is nothing more than a pipe dream. California boasts beautiful nature, bustling cities and a rich history, but it’s also one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S. With the fourth highest cost of living and the thirteenth highest tax burden in the nation, the state appropriately ranked No. 38 in affordability on WalletHub’s “Best & Worst States to Retire” study.
It’s easy to see why California might seem out of reach to retirees living on a fixed monthly income, but a closer look at individual cities in the Golden State proves there are exceptions. It’s not all about the money, though. Seniors in California will want to live somewhere that’s safe and provides good quality healthcare, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, where California is one of the states hit hardest. The best locations will also have fulfilling activities to do during retirement.
To determine the most retirement-friendly destinations in California, WalletHub compared more than 250 cities in the state across 29 key measures. Our data set ranges from adjusted cost of living to health-care facilities per capita to number of attractions. Read on for our findings, expert insight from a panel of researchers and a full description of our methodology.
Best & Worst Places to Retire in California
|Overall Rank (1=Best)||City||Total Score||'Quality of Life' Rank||'Heath Care' Rank||'Activities' Rank|
|1||Los Gatos, CA||73.9||8||2||42|
|2||Los Altos, CA||73.11||2||11||101|
|3||San Ramon, CA||71.25||3||20||175|
|4||Walnut Creek, CA||70.67||25||5||32|
|8||Palo Alto, CA||68.23||44||6||23|
|10||Yorba Linda, CA||66.13||16||50||41|
|11||Laguna Hills, CA||65.93||54||12||47|
|15||San Rafael, CA||64.74||144||3||20|
|16||Morgan Hill, CA||64.52||30||26||169|
|18||Menlo Park, CA||64.29||56||19||94|
|19||Foster City, CA||63.72||18||38||252|
|21||Newport Beach, CA||63.52||77||35||18|
|24||Union City, CA||62.74||74||9||235|
|27||Castro Valley, CA||62.65||28||53||167|
|28||Mountain View, CA||62.62||89||15||78|
Retirees have many factors to consider when comparing places to spend their golden years. For additional insight, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:
- Are retirees a drain on state and local budgets in California, or do they pay more in taxes than they use in state and local services?
- In choosing the best cities to retire in California, what are the top five indicators?
- How does California compare with other warm states that are popular among retirees (e.g., Florida and Arizona)?
- What can state and local policymakers do to better meet the needs of retirees in their state?
- California is one of the states hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. How has this situation affected retirees across the state and what measures can be taken to better protect the elderly?
Ask the Experts
In order to determine the most ideal places in California to retire, WalletHub compared a sample of 260 cities in the state across three key dimensions: 1) Quality of Life, 2) Health and 3) Activities.
We evaluated those dimensions using 29 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for retirement. For metrics marked with an asterisk (*), the square root of the population was used to calculate the population size in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across cities.
Finally, we determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.
Quality of Life – Total Points: 50.00
- Adjusted Cost of Living: Full Weight (~2.78 Points)
- Share of Population Aged 65 & Older: Full Weight (~2.78 Points)
- Share of Households with Severe Housing Problems: Full Weight (~2.78 Points)
Note: This composite metric measures the share of households with at least one or more of the following housing problems:
- Housing unit lacks complete kitchen facilities;
- Housing unit lacks complete plumbing facilities; and/or
- Household is severely overcrowded.
- Discount Stores per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.78 Points)
- Elderly-Friendliness of Labor Market: Full Weight (~2.78 Points)
Note: This composite metric measures the following:
- Share of workers aged 65 & older
- Ratio of part-time to full-time workers aged 65 & older
- Share of Commuters Who Use Public Transit: Full Weight (~2.78 Points)
- Violent-Crime Rate: Quadruple Weight (~11.11 Points)
- Property-Crime Rate: Quadruple Weight (~11.11 Points)
- Air Quality: Double Weight (~5.56 Points)
- Drinking-Water Violations: Double Weight (~5.56 Points)
Health Care – Total Points: 40.00
- Average COVID-19 Cases per Capita: Double Weight (~8.89 Points)
- Health-Care Facilities per Capita: Full Weight (~4.44 Points)
- Home-Care Facilities per Capita: Full Weight (~4.44 Points)
- Family Medicine Physicians per 10,000 Residents: Full Weight (~4.44 Points)
- Dentists per 10,000 Residents: Full Weight (~4.44 Points)
- Nurses per 1,000 Residents: Full Weight (~4.44 Points)
- Life Expectancy: Full Weight (~4.44 Points)
- Death Rate for Population Aged 65 & Older: Full Weight (~4.44 Points)
Activities – Total Points: 10.00
- Number of Attractions: Full Weight (~0.91 Points)
Note: “Attractions” include, for instance, zoos, museums and theaters.
- Senior Centers per Capita: Full Weight (~0.91 Points)
- Fitness & Recreational Sports Centers per Capita*: Full Weight (~0.91 Points)
- Golf Courses & Country Clubs per Capita*: Full Weight (~0.91 Points)
- Fishing Facilities per Capita*: Full Weight (~0.91 Points)
- Museums per Capita*: Full Weight (~0.91 Points)
- Theaters per Capita*: Full Weight (~0.91 Points)
- Art Galleries per Capita*: Full Weight (~0.91 Points)
- Music Venues per Capita*: Full Weight (~0.91 Points)
- Availability of Adult Volunteer Activities: Full Weight (~0.91 Points)
- Ideal Weather: Full Weight (~0.91 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Cities with the Best & Worst Weather” ranking.
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United States Environmental Protection Agency, California Care Planning Council, County Health Rankings, The New York Times Company, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Charity Navigator, AreaVibes and WalletHub research.