February 28, 2012 — Last week we announced the list of the 100 Most Popular Retirement Towns, our annual list of the places that our visitors and members seem the most intrigued with. This week we decided to take that idea a little further by analyzing that list against 12 important retirement criteria. The result is a top 10 that looks very different, with 4 towns from the top 20 moving up to the top 10. Here are your editor’s selections for the “10 Best Places to Retire” – (the # in ( ) was its ranking on the popularity list).
The 10 Best Places to Retire – Topretirements Editor Picks
1. Sarasota, Florida (#2). Our top pick on Florida’s Gulf Coast has so many things going for it. The economics are very attractive: median home prices well below the national average, no income tax, low property taxes. Culturally it has unbelievable resources for a small city of this size, thanks to the largesse of the Ringling Brothers, who had their winter headquarters here. The downtown is exciting and so is the nearby St. Armond’s Circle shopping area across the causeway on the barrier island. Siesta Key and Longboat Key are nearby.
2. San Antonio, Texas (#16). This Texas town was actually tied on points with Sarasota. We broke the tie based on Sarasota’s higher rank with our visitors. Texas has no state income tax, although its property taxes are higher than average. The city’s River Walk section is a major tourist attraction. There are many active communities to choose from. Retired military personnel will particularly like this area since they have access to many medical and shopping resources. On the negative side San Antonio has a higher than average crime rate (albeit probably more concentrated in certain areas), and its “walkability” average not as high as some communities on this list.
3. Naples, Florida (#11 ). Along with Sarasota, Naples is a place for people who want to live in a more affluent, upscale community. There is a wealthy aura to it, with a downtown featuring high-end shops, luxury hotels, great restaurants, and a a vibrant arts scene. You can easily walk from downtown to the beach through lovely neighborhoods. Home prices are higher than the national average (at about $250,000), although they cost about half what they did 5 years ago. On the negative side of the ledger there is no college.
4. Tucson, Arizona (#17). Our highest ranking retirement town in the west, Tucson is a great college town with the University of Arizona a big presence. There is the beautiful desert for outdoor recreation and scenery, along with the warmest winters in Arizona. Housing is well below average at $131,000. There are ample and very sophisticated health care choices. Crime rates, walkability, and income taxes for seniors are worse than average.
5. Asheville, NC (#1). This town in western NC is always the overwhelming favorite retirement destination at Topretirements. There are plenty of good reasons for that, including its mild, 4 season climate, the UNC Center for Creative Retirement, interesting downtown, and large number of communities and neighborhoods to choose from. After being evaluated against all 12 of our criteria, however, it slid to #5 on our list. It’s still a great place to retire, but compared to the competition it was outranked for reasons including: NC is not as friendly a tax state for retirees, walkability, above average cost of housing, and the city’s above average crime rate.
6. Beaufort, South Carolina (#7). 304 acres of this charming town in South Carolina’s Low Country have been designated a National Historic Landmark. It has a diverse economy, low taxes, and a very strong reputation as a retirement destination. The University of SC has a branch here. Retirees looking to continue working might find it hard to get a suitable job in Beaufort. For health care you might want to go to Savannah or Charleston; housing costs slightly above average. People looking for urban excitement might find this golf and boating oriented area boring after a while.
7. St. Augustine, Florida. (#18). This historic town is one of the oldest in the new world, dating back to 1565. It has beaches, historical museums, Flagler College, proximity to Jacksonville for healthcare and culture, and inexpensive housing at a median cost of $120,000. On the other hand it is a relatively small town with few retirement job or adult education opportunities.
8. Fort Myers, Florida (#6). If you like golf, boating, and fishing Fort Myers might be for you. The area has barrier islands like Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, and Captiva for great beaching. It also has some very inexpensive housing with a median home price of $108,000 in late 2011. There is no FL income tax; property taxes are low. There is plenty of culture with theaters downtown and the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall. Every medical specialty is well represented. Negatives include intense traffic in season, a depressed economy, suburban sprawl, and above average crime rate.
9. Venice, Florida (#4). Venice was one of the original planned retirement communities, built in 1925 by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. Walk from the charming downtown past a huge library and parks to beautiful white and uncrowded beaches. There are an extensive number of active adult communities, many of them built around golf courses. Median home price was $135,000 in late 2011. Taxes are low. Drawbacks are walkability if you don’t live downtown, and the fact that the older population might be off-putting to younger retirees. This is not a college town, unlike some others on our list.
10. Prescott, Arizona (#5). Prescott is an old western town that has managed to propel itself to being a top retirement destination. There are a couple of small colleges and adult education opportunities. Housing prices are above average. There is an interesting downtown. Negatives are the tax situation, limited health care choices and employment opportunities compared to the larger cities on this list.
Our Methodology and Criteria
To develop this “best of the best” list we considered the top 20 towns from our 100 best retirement towns list. Then we analyzed and compared those towns for 12 different retirement criteria, applying 1 point if they were above average for that characteristic, and deducting 1 point or slightly more if they were below average (for example, housing prices in San Diego and Sedona are more than twice as expensive as the national average – therefore we penalized those towns -2 points). These are the 12 criteria we used:
- Wow Factor
- College town
- Large # of active adult communities
- Adult education/Cultural opportunities
- Healthcare options
- Employment opportunities
- Income tax for retirees
- Property tax
- Cost of housing
-Walkability/Attractiveness of downtown
Please continue to post your Comments about where you intend to retire and why. To keep all of those in one place, please post them to our “Tell Us Where Are You Going to Retire” article.
For further reference:
We are proud to report that we collaborated with Robert Powell of WSJ Marketwatch to produce this article plus a slideshow on that site. See “Slideshow: 10 Best Places to Retire“.