What are the Best Places to Retire in the U.S.?

Retirement is the light at the end of the career tunnel. The question of where to retire comes into focus as you approach that light. Plenty of people retire where they worked or near family. Others pick up stakes in search of the best places to retire in the U.S.

There are a few media organizations and research firms that take on the monumental task of rating the best place to retire. These lists consider factors like finances (cost of living, housing prices, taxes), health care (quality, availability) and wellness (walkability, available activities, happiness).

Combining factors like the population of seniors and median housing prices is good data science, but it misses the personal aspects of these decisions. How close a retirement destination is to family — or at least a convenient airport — might be important to you, but is difficult to factor into a national list.

Let’s look at some retirement destinations based on the 2021 best places to retire lists published by U.S. News & World Report, Forbes and WalletHub.

U.S. News & World Report, which is best known for its influential college rankings, analyzed the largest 150 metro areas in the U.S. They compiled their Best Places to Retire list using housing affordability, health care quality, happiness and tax rates. Their methodology strongly favors the Sunshine State, as evidenced by Florida earning seven of the top 10 spots.

Retiring to Florida

U.S. News named Sarasota to the top spot in 2021. WalletHub, a website that offers credit scores and reports, ranks states and cities for retirees. They proclaimed Florida to be the best state to retire in 2021. WalletHub ranks Florida as the fourth most affordable state and the sixth highest quality of life in the union. There is no state income tax or estate tax in Florida, making it financially desirable.

Florida has a well-earned reputation as a great place to retire. The beaches and warm weather have been drawing retirees south for generations. Because of the steady stream of older folks, the state has adapted to the demographic.

Florida is home to The Villages, a 55 and older community with 132,000 residents. The Villages was on Forbes’ alphabetical list of 25 best places to retire. It boasts a median home price of $305,000, which is 7% lower than the national average. It also has a low crime rate and good weather.

The U.S. News list that Sarasota topped includes an eclectic smattering of residential towns and bustling cities. The Florida cities in the top 10 include Fort Myers (2), Port St. Lucie (3), Naples (4), Ocala (6), Miami (9) and Melbourne (10).

While WalletHub agrees with U.S. News on Florida’s superiority, the top cities are different. Their list is headed by Orlando, followed by Tampa (4), Ft. Lauderdale (8) and Miami (9). This list seems to favor larger metro areas, so city dwellers might be more drawn to this list.

Retiring to Tennessee

Tennessee lacks beaches, but the mild climate and lower than average cost of living make it a draw. Like Florida, Tennessee has no state income tax or estate tax. Conversely, Tennessee is less exposed to the effects of climate change and natural disasters than Florida.

Knoxville, which made its debut on the Forbes list, boasts a cost of living 15% below the national average. It is home to the University of Tennessee and its medical school. Aging residents might be drawn to the area because of the highly-ranked UT Medical Center and the abundance of medical professionals.

Nashville (Ranked 12 by U.S. News) is ideal for music-loving retirees. Spend your days relaxing and nights dancing to some of the best music around. The glow of country music’s past and present lights up the city. Vanderbilt Medical Center is located in Music City, adding the same health care upside as Knoxville.

Retiring to Arizona

Arizona is also a historically popular retirement site. It draws retiring west coasters and those who prefer to be far away from crashing waves. The state has no estate tax and no state income tax on Social Security earnings.

Scottsdale is the third best place to retire — trailing Orlando and Charleston, South Carolina — according to WalletHub. The luxurious city, which is known for its golf courses, is also No. 2 on their quality of life index, behind Freemont, California.

Forbes ranked two Arizona towns in its top 25.

Sun City is a 55 and older active senior community northeast of Phoenix. Home prices are 27% below the national median and the cost of living falls 5% under the national average. Sun City has the distinction of having more golf courses than days of the week. There are eight courses within the town’s six miles.

Located 20 miles south of Tucson is Green Valley. This popular destination for seniors has many retirement communities and a good ratio of doctors to patients. Aside from hot days and cool nights, Green Valley has a cost of living 9% below the national average and home prices 30% below the median.

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