8 More Affordable Places to Retire You Will Like Living In

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

October 4, 2011 — If you are like most people, affordability is a key consideration for your best place to retire. We know because so many of our members ask for suggestions for affordable places to live. But we also know that you are not going to choose your retirement location just because it is cheap. That’s why we created this list of places to retire that are affordable, AND have enough going for them that you might actually enjoy living there. This is part II – for towns starting M-Z. Part I (towns A – M) has 10 more great towns, “10 Very Affordable, and Desirable, Places to Retire“. We also updated this with our “20 Great and Affordable Places to Retire” in 2012.

The selection factors we used to develop this list:
- Affordability. Median home price in the community should be at least 25% less than the U.S. median of $171,900 (2nd quarter 2011, National Association of Realtors), or $130,000.
- Lower taxes for retirees. We did not consider any of the states on our “Worst Tax States for Retirees” list. We also avoided states with the highest property taxes.
- High culture. To avoid you getting stuck in just any old town, we selected only towns with a high culture rating.

To develop this list of affordable places to retire we used our free Retirement Ranger selection tool. We did not make any selection criteria for region, state, or minimum January temperature. However, you can use the Ranger to develop your own custom list with your own criteria.

8 More Affordable – and Desirable – Places to Retire (Towns M-Z).
These towns are in alphabetical order; we did not attempt to rank them.

Maryville, Tennessee
Maryville is a small college town (Maryville, College ) of 23,000 that also happens to be only 15 miles from a much bigger college town – Knoxville (home of the University of Tennessee). Pelissippi State College is nearby. This small town has many of the things that make Tennessee retirements so appealing – low taxes and cost of living, small town living, and outstanding recreation opportunities. Home prices are in the low to mid $100’s.

Mesa, Arizona
Home to several colleges (the Polytechnic campus of Arizona State University, East and Mesa Community College), Mesa is a town of 450,000 located near the amazing Superstition Mountains.  It is the 3rd largest city in Arizona. Home prices are in the $110’s, about half of what they were a few years ago.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach was always a bargain compared to some of its tonier neighbors like Hilton Head – it is even more so now. Latest home prices in this incredible beach and golf resort town have fallen into the $80’s – they were in the $140’s just a year ago.

Phoenix, Arizona
This desert community has leaped beyond its borders to become the 5th largest city in the U.S. It also has a very tough real estate market, where median sales prices have fallen to about $126,000 in mid 2011 (National Association of Realtors). This is a huge area with many great places to live and a variety of price points. Fortunately, although it has developed some large city problems like crime and traffic, its weather and proximity to the beautiful Arizona environment is unchanged.

Mount Airy, North Carolina
Zillow reports average listed price of a home in Mount Airy was about $110,000 in mid 2011. Andy Griffith, who hails from here (Mount Airy was the inspiration for Mayberry), has a theater named after him, the Andy Griffith Playhouse, which features regular community productions. The Downtown Cinema Theatre broadcasts a weekly bluegrass radio concert.

Saint Petersburg, Florida
The real estate bargains available in St. Petersburg are hard to fathom compared to just a few years ago. In 2006 the median sales price was about $400,000, in mid 2011 it was under $60,000 according to City-Data.com and $94,300 according to Zillow.com. Meanwhile, the charming city has much to offer with many facilities, great beaches, and plenty to do. The entire Metro had a median sales price of $129,600.

Tampa, Florida
Tampa, is one of 3 cities mid-way along Florida’s Gulf of Mexico coast (along with St. Pete and Clearwater). This is by far the busiest and most urban city of the 3, yet there are plenty of nice places to live here. The entire Metro had a median sales price of $129,600, whereas City-Data put the median home near $120,000.

Bartlesville, Oklahoma
This affordable city in Oklahoma has one of the world’s top Mozart Festivals, Frank Lloyd Wright’s only skyscraper, an Arts Center, a stunning Community Center, plus 2 college campuses. And they are just some of the surprising treasures in Bartlesville. According to City-Data the median selling price of a home in 2011 was in the $120′s, although Zillow suggested the median sales price of a home was about $106,000.
For Further Reference
Part I (towns A – M)great towns, “10 Very Affordable, and Desirable, Places to Retire
Retirement Ranger selection tool.
“Surprising Results: The Worst States for Retirement Taxes”

Comments? What towns would you suggest that are not only affordable but great places to live? Any reactions to this list? Let your fellow members know using the Comments section below.

Posted by John Brady on October 3rd, 2011


  1. Mount Airy, NC also has a regional history museum, the Andy Griffith Museum, the Old Time Music Heritage Hall (located in the Earle Theater, formally the Downtown Cinema)and a modern amphitheater, all which offer a wide variety of cultural activities during the year. A wide variety of festivals (music,wine,arts and crafts, Mayberry) also contribute to the culture of Mount Airy.
    Editor’s note: Thanks Peter, that is very helpful. We have added your suggestions to the Culture section of the Mt. Airy review. Sounds like a happening town!

    by Peter F. Lydens — October 5, 2011

  2. I think when you recommend cities in the south, like Fayetteville and Little Rock, AR (where I am unhappily) you need to make certain people understand what the weather is really like. You are indoors the entire summer due to the heat and humidity, and then they are bugs. The winter can have up to three months of sleet, hail, ice storms and snow. A normal summer with rain also brings hail in some of the storms. Also, if you are a renter like me from CA, you are not going to find here what you are used to in CA, no covered parking, no recycling, and you have to drive to everything.

    by Sharon Roberts — October 5, 2011

  3. To follow Sharon Roberts commenting on the heat in Arkansas, people should know that retiring to Phoenix or Mesa, AZ they will also have to deal with extreme heat. You will be confined to indoor activities 7 months out of the year. Yes, it really is too hot to be outside for more than a few minutes from May to the middle of October. The rest of the year is beautiful. If gardening is important to you, this is not the place.

    by CJ Baskel — October 5, 2011

  4. Hence the Siesta was invented. :smile: :wink: :grin:

    Up Early, work until mid-day or when the heat is too much, lunch and siesta, back to work after the worst of the heat, work late, supper late. Much of Spain, Latin America, etc., developed this successful response to the environment. :lol: :wink: :cool:

    Horses for courses. :roll:



    by Glenn — October 6, 2011

  5. You started this article with a faulty assumption – that is, you assumed that your previous article about tax rates for retirees was correct, when in fact, it was not. Therefore you eliminated many locations based on your faulty assumption. Retirees have many expenses, and pay many forms of tax, as do all Americans. For intance, there are the costs of housing, as well as property taxes, sales taxes, and income taxs to name a few. In considering tax rates for retirees, it is important to consider all forms of taxes, and not just income taxes. Since most of these articles are used by people considering relocation for retirement it is expecially important to look at costs of living, costs of homes, and property taxes, which are very high in certain states, e.g. NY, CA & Conn to name a few. In fact the costs related to these 3 factors make those 3 states phohibitive for most people unless they already live there & own their home in that state. Most other websites that cover costs of retiring include all those factors and not just whether social security is taxed. I suggest that you rethink your method of categorizing costs for retirees if you want your site to have any relevance.

    by Kathy — October 10, 2011

  6. Kathy, You raise a good point about property taxes. They are often the single biggest tax that most retirees pay. And I think we were quite clear about that in our previous article about the “Worst States for Retirement Taxes”, which mostly focused on the income taxes that retirees are likely to pay in retirement, and how confusing they can be. Sales taxes were also considered in that article, http://www.topretirements.com/blog/great-towns/surprising-results-the-worst-retirement-states-for-taxes-are-not-what-you-thought.html/

    New Jersey, CT, NH, and NY have the highest property taxes. CA is in 10th position, mostly due to controls they have put in place. But in all of these states the homes are worth much more, so that is a problem – if you own there you have the equity value, but you have to pay for it in taxes. In CA, for example, the median home was worth $384,000 in 2009 according to the Tax Foundation. http://www.taxfoundation.org/research/show/1913.html. Kathy makes a good point: Property values make it very difficult to move into these states from elsewhere.

    Please note that none of the 18 towns listed in our 2 articles on “Affordable Best Places” were from the highest property tax states.

    by John Brady — October 10, 2011

  7. I want to emphasize an earlier comment about the weather in Arizona. I grew up in Tucson and visit there at least annually. I never go in the late spring/summer. I have relatives and friends who still live there and they said the last summer was particularly brutal…frequently 110 degrees for days on end. It really is too hot to go outside after late morning. Imagine getting into your car if you do not have garage parking. A relative told me the heat bothers him more now than when he was young. So unless you are fortunate enough to have two places to retire to, reconsider retiring to the Tucson/Phoenix area. Northern Arizona has a different climate.

    by Sandy — October 12, 2011

  8. Anything worth reporting on Mena, Ark? Dallas Morning News had a listed spot for vacation/retirement.

    by Jack — October 17, 2011

  9. I think this article focuses only on the affordability of the place so give them at least the benefit of sharing this information. For retirees, practicality is important (unless of course they have a lot to spend). Of course, the weather is much important but I think what the article is emphasizing here is the affordability, as what is indicated in the title. I think my mom would enjoy Mount Airy, NC (Thanks to Peter Lydens), she likes cultural stuff I don’ why. She used to go to Bruce Museum of Arts and Science in Connecticut. :smile:

    by Celine Rickman — October 18, 2011

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  13. I diligently read all of the articles, but some of them are less useful than others. For example, the US News article on where to retire only on social security listed primarily locations with large universities, like Blacksburg VA (Virginia Tech), State College (Penn State) and West Lafayette Ind. (Purdue). The rationale was that the average salary in those areas was low, and equivalent to Social Security. Duh. Those areas have a lot of students and 9-month residents, who can share apartments, live in school housing, etc. If you average the students into the average taxable income for those locations, of course the average salary would show up as low.

    We obviously have to weigh these articles carefully, looking for the grains of usefulness in each of them to our own situations.

    by Sharon — July 25, 2013

  14. Thank you for the tip. I have been following low-income locations looking for low-cost retirement, but I never thought of your reasoning.

    by Moving South — July 26, 2013

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