The Ultimate Guide to the Best Places to Retire: 26 Lists, Quizzes, and Tips for Making the Best Relocation Decision for You
We all love reading lists of the best places to retire. They interest us, peak our wanderlust and they make us think about what is possible in retirement. However, deciding if one of the best places to retire is in your own home or somewhere far away is a really BIG and somewhat complicated decision. Which means that browsing these lists is worthwhile!
Why Relocate for Retirement?
Days in a hammock on the beach? Fishing mountain streams? Long afternoons with the grandkids? Where you live in retirement will determine what you will do and with whom, which are big factors for your well being.
Where you live is also a HUGE financial consideration. Might relocating enable you to spend less? Release home equity? Reduce taxes?
There are lots of reasons to think carefully about where you’ll live in retirement.
Below are some resources to help you decide:
Best Places Lists: Here Are 20 of the Best “Best Places to Retire” Lists
Best Places to Retire in the United States:
Kiplinger: Kiplinger looked at cost of living, poverty rates, well being scores, population data and retirement taxes to identify 50 communities throughout the United States. This list is from 2019. They recently published a shorter list: 7 standout places to retire in 2022.
Forbes: Forbes Magazine identifies 25 places which they “believe offer excellent retirement value. They compared more than 800 locales in America on everything from housing costs and taxes to healthcare, air quality, crime and climate change and natural hazard risk.—that is, a high quality of retirement living at an affordable price.”
U.S. News and World Report: to identify the best places to retire, U.S. News looked at the 100 largest metropolitan areas. The top criteria used were: “the happiness of local residents, housing affordability, tax rates and healthcare quality. “
Retirement Living: Retirement Living has identified four off the beaten track communities that stand out as great for retirement.
Bankrate: Bankrate ranks all 50 states for retirement. Number one? According to Bankrate, Florida is the best state for retirement in 2022, followed by Georgia, Michigan, Ohio and Missouri. They rank Alaska, in last place.
WalletHub: WalletHub also ranks Florida as the best state to retire. They put New Jersey in last place.
Quirky Retirement Locales:
Do you have a special hobby or interest? Find the location that best suits your interests.
Quirky: Explore AARP’s list of quirky places to retire.
Great Garages: Lake Weir Living in Florida specializes in homes with unique garages for retirees who love motorcycles, RVs or classic cars.
Golf: Research the best value golf courses in America.
If you have a hobby, there is probably a place that is ideal for your interests!
Best Places to Retire Abroad
If retirement abroad interests you, here is a 5 step plan for making it happen. And, here are some ideas for great locations:
U.S. News: U.S. News had identified 10 global locations that they consider ideal for retirement.
International Living: Quoted in Time, Money Magazine and most of the big publications, International Living is considered the expert on retirement abroad. International Living grades countries on 8 different criteria.
Live and Invest Overseas: Lists and tips for retirement around the world.
NewRetirement: Explore some unexpected places to retire abroad.
Blue Zones: Explore the “Blue Zones” — places where people live the longest.
Best Places for Retirement Taxes
As you probably know, taxes can be very complicated. And, relocating to avoid one kind of taxation may trigger higher costs for a different kind of tax. For example, some places are better for income taxes, but you pay more in sales taxes. Therefore you want to be vigilant when moving for tax purposes.
Best States for Taxes: Here are the best states for retirement taxes.
Best Places to Retire if Healthcare is Your Primary Concern
Healthcare contributes to your quality of life and it is a major expense in retirement. So, it’s worthwhile to consider if where you live offers good and affordable care.
Commonwealth Fund: This site has easy to use charting that lets you click on a state or county and see the ranking for how well healthcare is performing in that area.
Medicareguide: Medicare Guide lists the best states for elderly healthcare.
Instead of reading lists using other people’s criteria for the best places to retire, why not figure out a location that is really the best for YOU.
Here are a few best quizzes and calculators to help you determine the best places to retire:
Best Places for You to Retire in the United States
Zillow: This tool determines the cities and towns that best match your criteria: including weather, low crime rates, proximity to entertainment, and access to health care.
Best Place to Retire: This site offers a calculator that asks 12 questions to help you find the best place for you to retire. Activities and amenities are well covered in this search. The results are nice in that they give you a lengthy list of options to compare.
Sperling’s Best Places: The questions in this calculator include taxes and cost of living and the quiz is quick and easy, but you are only given one result.
MarketWatch’s Where is the Best Place for Me to Retire?: This tool will create a customized list of what matters to you. Select everything from your desired weather, cultural amenities, financial considerations and the number of people living in the county, and they’ll give you 10 spot-on suggestions of counties that fit you best.
Best Places for You to Retire in the World
TheEarthAwaits: If you have ever dreamed of living abroad, this is an extraordinary site. There is so much information about so many different destinations.
ExpatInfoDesk: The Expat Info Desk is owned and run by a team of expatriates. Each one of them has successfully relocated to cities throughout the world including Russia, Ukraine, Poland, South Africa, China, USA and India. The site offers articles, guides and a forum. The concept here is good, but it is unclear how active the user base is. You might be better off visiting a travel web site like TripAdvisor that has so many users.
International Living: Based on your age, savings, and projected annual retirement income, this quick-and-easy Overseas Retirement Calculator will point you to your best global retirement destinations.
Best Calculator for Assessing Financial Impact of Relocation
Where you live has to work for you financially. Your home impacts almost all aspects of your cost of living and it is important for you to assess the financial implications of a move.
The NewRetirement Planner: The NewRetirement Planner is a sophisticated and powerful retirement planning calculator. It enables you to run countless scenarios on more than 200 different criteria. You can compare housing, medical, cost of living and tax considerations for one location vs. another.
So, Should You Stay or Should You Go? 4 Ways to Determine What is Really Best for You?
Where you live is a really important and serious consideration for your retirement.
- Housing is usually your most costly expense and most valuable asset.
- Housing and your community has a huge impact on your overall quality of life.
Here is a four step process to figuring out what is best for you:
1. Assess Your Goals for Retirement Before Searching for the Best Places to Retire
Lists of the best places to retire are fun to read. And, they do highlight very important considerations like healthcare, cost of living and more. However, those lists aren’t designed exclusively for you.
If you are considering relocating for retirement, you should probably start by asking yourself questions like:
- Why am I looking to relocate? What is wrong with your current location?
- What do I want out of a home?
- Who do I want to spend time with? If the answer is near your grandchildren, then you might prioritize locales near where they live. Is it important to you to live near like minded people or in a more diverse environment?
- What do I want to be doing? Some passions like surfing or skiing are location dependent.
- What legacy do you want to leave? Will your location enable you to fulfill what you want to leave behind?
- Where do you want to live vs where do you want to travel? Sometimes people confuse a great travel destination with a great place to live. Assess the differences for your own values and how you expect to spend your time.
- Are you downsizing or upsizing? (Downsizing is popular in retirement as a way to cut expenses. However, nearly one third of retirees actually upsize.)
- How important is healthcare quality and the costs of those services?
2. Examine Your Finances to Determine the Best Places to Retire for You
Perhaps the MOST important criteria for determining the best place to retire, is assessing what you can really afford.
Most people are not as prepared for retirement as they would like to be and housing is usually the biggest cost for any household. If you currently own your home, it may also be your most valuable asset. So, the decision of where to live is hugely significant for your finances and could make or break your budget.
You might want to consider using a Retirement Calculator to determine what you can afford and try different scenarios.
The NewRetirement retirement planning calculator makes it easy to try different retirement housing scenarios.
- Start by entering some initial information and then see where you stand.
- Then, try different what if scenarios. What happens to your retirement finances if you relocate to a more affordable home. Upsize to your dream home? Would you consider a reverse mortgage?
- The NewRetirement tool also let’s you also look at the zip code comparison information to compare financial averages.
3. Get Creative — Think Outside the Box
Maybe your ideal retirement destination is too expensive, have you considered thinking slightly outside the box regarding your housing?
Trailer Parks: Time Magazine recently featured a story about how trailer parks are “The Home of the Future” — particularly for retirees. Charles M. Becker, an economist at Duke University, says: “Trailer parks can be thought of as gated communities for people who aren’t so wealthy.” These communities often have tons of amenities — golf courses, swimming pools, tennis courts and more — that may be very appealing to retirees.
Tiny Homes: The tiny house phenomenon might be another way to make an expensive locale more affordable.
Housesharing: Getting a room mate is another way to increase affordability of certain locations.
4. Visit First
You don’t need to — nor should you — decide where to retire today. Figuring out the best place for your retirement can be a fun years-long project.
Do some research, take some vacations to your targeted destinations and then try it out for a longer period of time.
You could rent out your existing home using a service like AirBnB and give your target destination a six month trial.
Despite All These Great Places to Retire, Most of Us Want to Stay Put
United Van Lines 2021 Annual National Movers Study found that almost 20% named retirement as a reason to move – a percentage that has been trending up since 2015 (13%).
Here are seven of the real reasons why we either move or choose to stay in our homes for retirement.
1. Friends, Family and Community
What is more important in life than relationships? Most of us have established close friendships in our existing communities and we do not want to lose those connections.
Sometimes though our families have moved away. And, this may be a strong motivator for those of us who actually do move in retirement. A AARP study found that 80 percent of adults 45 and older believe it is important to live near their children and grandchildren.
A Merril Lynch study found that nearly 30% of relocating seniors say that their reason for moving is to be closer to family.
2. We Like What We Know
It is not your imagination, science has found that we become less open to change as we age. And, moving is one of the biggest changes we can experience.
In your current home, you probably have everything dialed in the way you like it. Do you really want to figure it out all over again?
3. Home is Where the Heart Is
Our homes hold so many memories and so many hopes for the future. Some of us originally bought our homes with dreams of special occasions with family. We have experienced so much in our homes and we may want to continue those traditions.
We dream of grandchildren around the fireplace or in the backyard.
4. Moving is Stressful and Can Be Expensive
Downsizing is possible and can be a really good move for your retirement finances. However, relocating is not always a money saver. Finding a home that costs less than where you live can be difficult, and moving costs, sales commissions and upgrades can be costly.
However, if moving to one of the best places to retire entices you, it might be worth it.
Too often our homes are less about where we live and are more about being a storage facility.
We often have a lifetime of stuff in our homes and many people don’t want to move because they simply don’t want to deal with all of their furniture, heirlooms, books, knick-knacks, photos, clothes, papers, etc…
However, the best selling book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” suggests that decluttering brings joy. Joy is a good goal for retirement and purging stuff from your life might make a move possible.
6. Familiarity with Existing Healthcare
Most of us have been with our existing doctors for quite some time. It can be scary to think about starting from scratch. However, healthcare quality and costs vary greatly across the country and world.