Your Editor Picks: How We Rank the 10 Best Places to Retire – And Why

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

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
– Climate
– Cost of housing
– Crime
-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“.

Posted by John Brady on February 28th, 2012

56 Comments »

  1. For both Tucson and Prescott, Arizona it’s mentioned that the tax situation is a negative. What is the the tax situation in Arizona that is so bad? I’m considering a move there and so far things were looking good. But this has me concerned.

    Editor’s Comment: A valid concern. For more in-depth information about Arizona’s tax situation see our Arizona Retirement Guide (we have one for each state). It isn’t that AZ’s situation is that bad, it is just compared to the other states here that don’t have income taxes, it is not as favorable. Social security is not taxed. Most, but not all, pensions are taxed. Property tax has some restrictions so it is actually pretty good on that score (e.g.; median real estate tax in Tucson was about $1300 in 2009.

    by Bridgeville Frank — February 28, 2012

  2. What really defines “best place to retire”? Cost, freedom, independence, location, activities?.. In today’s economy the majority of boomers are re-examining their retirement budget due to a hard-hit income.

    by Neil S. Schuster — February 29, 2012

  3. […] Note: On February 28 we published Part 2 of this series – “The 10 Best Places to Retire” from this list, compiled after analyzing them against 12 different […]

    by » 2012 List of 100 Best Places to Retire – Sunbelt Remains on Top Topretirements — February 29, 2012

  4. You’ve probably received several emails already regarding your #6 entry, Beaufort, North Carolina when your description is for Beaufort, South Carolina….Hmmm?

    Toby: Thanks for noticing. You were the first to notice our careless error, now corrected.

    by Toby Ankner — February 29, 2012

  5. “On the negative side of the ledger Naples does tend to be conservative, and there is no college”. The editor feels that these are negatives! This tells me if I am conservative I can look for another web site. True?

    Dan: Thank you for noticing this. I am always preaching leave the political comments off of this site and then i go and make a hash of this. As written, my statement was a very stupid thing to say. I think I meant to say, “…for progressives and liberals Naples tends to be conservative”.It would have been better to describe the political atmosphere without making a judgement, although that might not have been such a good idea either. My mistake, i have deleted the offensive comment and apologize for editorializing, that is not our thing here. I will post this again to stem the tide of comments. John Brady

    by Dan Wilson — February 29, 2012

  6. If a town were liberal, would you note that as a disadvantage too? If so, why didn’t you note this for, say, Asheville? I’m not a huge fan of Naples, but your implicit political bias is a real turn-off.

    by Michael — February 29, 2012

  7. I had the same reaction that Dan Wilson had regarding Naples being conservative and that’s a negative! I reviewed the list of criteria and your subscribers did not mention a liberal community as a determining factor in selecting a retirement community. The editor should watch for bias in interpreting survey data.

    by Peggy Walker — February 29, 2012

  8. Hmm…, seams the editor may be politically biased–how can you justify the comment — “On the negative side of the ledger Naples does tend to be conservative,…” This comment is quite revealing; you must believe the ideal situation is “Liberal”. You may not agree, but objective polling consistently says we are a center-right country, and as such, your comment could alienate a large % of the population. FYI, Sperling’s website says Naples has about 13% voting advantage for Republicans vs Democrats. However, your #1 pick, Asheville has a slightly larger 14% advantage for Democrats vs Republican voting. Curious that you did NOT likewise say it is a negative ledger item that Ashville tends to be Liberal!! Unless you can be balanced in reporting such info in a fair manner, I suggest you skip editorializing your polical bias. Did I miss something here?

    by @AskYnow — February 29, 2012

  9. My wife and I have looked at numerous sites in Nevada, Arizona & Washington our home state. I want to move out of the rainy Northwest where I have lived for the last 30 years. We have visited Del Webb, Shea Homes & Robson Resort communities. We have narrowed our location to the Tucson area, our community to one of the Robson Resort’s, either Quail Creek or SaddleBrooke, and have decided to buy an older home as opposed to a new one because of the cost of upgrading a base home. There are some fantastic deals available.
    Arizona has traditionally been favorably ranked as a low tax state for retiree’s. Everything that you may need or want is relatively close – though not really walkable, crime within the communities is essentially non-existent, activities abound and everyone whom we have met love the decision to live in the Tucson area and the Robson communities…Now we just need to retire, sell our home and back the moving van up to the house!

    by Will Nichols — February 29, 2012

  10. As always, it’s fascinating to hear someone else’s recommendations and to read comments about them. How cheery that conservatives have already weighed in with political views. Honestly, in our visits to Florida, we find much of the state profoundly depressing culturally, politically and climatologically. For our money, there is no more boring, over-crowded and gridlock-besotted town than Fort Meyers, and Naples is over-priced and, well, politically unappealing. We happen to prefer the small NE states, cold weather notwithstanding. From our visits there, they possess a warmth of community and offsets the climate and energizing activities, from the outdoor to college-connected enterprises. And we suppose all that really means is that each of us must find our own retirement havens, and for some of us, the higher tax rate may be more than compensated for by the people and their attitudes toward life. Best of luck to all of us!

    by BillyS — February 29, 2012

  11. This doesn’t seem the right forum for ideological discussions, but FYI, I’m a born in the South, always lived in the south person for 70 years, so please don’t lecture me about attitudes here. My comments about “depressing” climate, politics and culture was specifically aimed at much of Florida; I freely acknowledge others may dissent. I just offered another view to what was being said by commenters, and I repeat that I have found more warmth and community in VT and NH than in FL. I also prefer their politics, but can we not disagree and let it ride?

    by Billy — February 29, 2012

  12. So sad…I’ve suspected the liberal bias for awhile now w/all the “diverse college town” phrases I’ve seen over the past couple of years I’ve been looking @ this site. As a conservative, I’d like to see some reference to “nice conservative” towns. Guess I’ll have to start looking…elsewhere. :sad:

    by Patty J — February 29, 2012

  13. Uh….ok….why the heck does not having a college and being conservative make it a bad place for retirees? I am looking for a nice town to retire in and I WANT a conservative town without a college. I’ve lived in two liberal ‘college cities’ and there was nothing good about them.

    by Scott — February 29, 2012

  14. On the plus side I’m glad they listed that Naples has a conservative political climate though saying it’s a negative may have not been needed. One of the criteria that I use when searching for a retirement town is the political leanings of the area and if it’s conservative I’ll look elsewhere. To the poor fella that mentioned the 2012 elections in November, I wouldn’t get to overconfident of some kind of conservative mandate happening in this center left country.

    by Lefty OMalley — February 29, 2012

  15. To our readers. I am always preaching leave the political comments off of this site and then i go and make a hash of this. I meant to say, “…for progressives and liberals Naples it could be a negative that Naples tends to be conservative” (and yes, the inverse could be true). Another approach would have been to merely describe the political atmosphere without making a judgement. Better yet, not said anything either way to risk anything. My mistake, i have deleted the offensive comment and apologize for editorializing, that is not our thing here. There is enough rancor in our political system without me adding to the fray with a thoughtless comment. Now, let’s get back to the main issue, how you feel about these places as good spots to retire, or where else you would recommend.

    by John Brady — February 29, 2012

  16. To John Brady – Thanks for acknowledging your error and removing the one-sided editorial comment. However, please understand that when you go on to indicate you meant to say, “…for progressives and liberals Naples it could be a negative that Naples tends to be conservative”, — by ommission, this would still be a glaring biased editorial comment, unless you also said the same thing for liberal enclaves like Asheville. Merely describing the political atmosphere without making a judgement would be preferable, but NOT if you do so only for those with conservative leanings, without reference to liberal leanings in other locales.

    by @AskYnow — February 29, 2012

  17. To John Brady- If you bring up religion and/or politics into your site, you are bound to offend someone! This country is really uptight about many things- such as our bodies, etc. The europeans laugh at the USA. The media really polarizes peoples views of the world. It is a shame people don’t think for themselves! Turn off the TV and spend some time with a good book and enter a thought provoking discussion- time well spent!

    Buffalo Paul: Wise words!
    John

    by buffalo paul — February 29, 2012

  18. Wow! I read what you all read and never thought of the conservative statement as political-I just thought it meant what they said conservative meaning not a wild and crazy place. It really seems that the right is getting very sensitive to the extreme. Sorry but I am glad this came up cuz being a midwesterner with liberal leanings, I would love to know which way the city leans. It dosen’t mean I could not get along in a conservative town or city, but the south is heavier with conservatives than the rest of the country. So good for you editor, I don’t think you intended to make it a politcal issue and I, for one, didn’t see it that way. Now, If it wouldn’t make everyone crazy why don’t you put that in as a guide for food for thought but not for political issues. Some places will be more conservative and some will be more liberal. Stating a fact is not pushing a politcalical agenda and it would be fair if all the cities were listed as leaning one way or the other.

    by Kalamazoo Sharon — February 29, 2012

  19. Oh! forgot something. Just about every article I have read lists having a college in it city or town does so to emphasize the cultural advantages that a college brings. So listing a college as a positive is nothing new, not here or anywhere else. Not a political issue but a cultural one.

    Editor’s Note: This seems like a good place to insert a question from Darlene:
    Q: “Great site. What are your standards for a college town?”

    A: That’s an interesting question. Our standards tend to be very loose, since in our opinion almost any kind of college adds to the fabric and quality of a town. Obviously an Ivy League or first rate state University adds one kind of extra, but so does a community college, where baby boomers can take classes and learn new skills. So we tend to count any town as a college town if it has a college. That means you have to keep it in perspective – Atlanta or New York City have plenty of colleges, but that is not how you would probably primarily characterize the town.

    by Kalamazoo Sharon — February 29, 2012

  20. Ok, thanks to all for the comments. Now can we get back to the main issue – what do you think about these towns as places to retire? (smile)

    by Admin — February 29, 2012

  21. I was wondering if you had any data on the average house insurance-for instance, Ft. Myers, has a median home price of 108,000. What would be the insurance average for a home at that price. I heard Florida has really high house insurance. I checked out Hot Springs Village, Ar and the taxes and insurance are great.

    by Kalamazoo Sharon — February 29, 2012

  22. I also appreciate an unbiased comment about the cultural or political leanings of a particular area. I don’t consider either to be a positive or negative, just a general description of the region. I don’t like stereotyping regions of the country, because not all southerners are conservative evanglicals, not all New Englanders are liberal leftists. Knowing what size colleges or universities are in the area also gives me an idea of how many young people will be there and whether or not every Saturday in the fall will have an invasion of football fans.
    Getting back to the main discussion of the article, after reading Top Retirements newsletters for a long time, I am going to eastern Pennsylvania to look at some of the Landmark communities there. Pennsylvania seems to be retiree-friendly, and the southeast part of the state has milder winters.

    by Vegas Barbara — February 29, 2012

  23. I wish that all reviews of retirement cities did include the political leanings of the majority of its residents.. One’ s politics reveals that person’s values. I would not want to discover that I selected a place to retire where most of the people had different values than I have.

    by Fran — February 29, 2012

  24. Some of us don’t like heat. Where do you suggest
    if we don’t want to live out our days in the sunbelt?

    by Deborah C — February 29, 2012

  25. Fran, I agree. I have been looking at the Tucson area for a number of reasons, weather, reasonable taxes, affordable housing and it politically fits better for me and my wife. So I would like political leanings of an area added to the story if it statistically made a difference but without a judgement of it being a plus or minus.

    by lefty omalley — February 29, 2012

  26. All the places you promote are cities. Even Prescott is “big” from my viewpoint. Living close to a big town (or city) is fine, but many of us like the friendliness of a small town. With respect to Tucson, apparently it has high crime. Who likes that?

    by Alan G — February 29, 2012

  27. I am getting ready to retire in another year. Currently working and living in NYC. We chose Santa Clarita, Ca. We got a good deal on a house in this down market. Prices are still high but nearly half what they were pre 2008. It’s not inexpensive but if you have a decent eggnest and are resigned to NYC expense style this fit in to what we were looking for. For starters, Santa Clarita is close to LA and LAX, Santa Barbara and beaches, wine country and several hours from Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, San Francisco, national forests, deserts and areas of recreation. Just far enough from congestion,smog,crime and other big city craziness. The scenery is wonderful. The people are friendly, shopping and restaurants galore. Yes it’s in hearthquake and fire country but other parts of the country are also subject to the whims of nature and oh yes! Californis weather.

    by dudu — March 1, 2012

  28. John: Don’t worry about the college and liberal comment. Frankly it tends to be the truth, Trust me, I am a college professor and I can assure you that most college professors do tend to be on the liberal side when it comes to politics. They have have to live somewhere and that generally means they live in the town the college is in or very near it. So it kind of tips the scales, politically. It is a trade-off. You get a lot of culture, and a lot of activities that will not cost you an arm and a leg. You also get an increase in the number of people who might be a little to the left, politically, if that sort of thing bothers you. But then, you might also get some interesting and stimulating conversations. Living among a bunch of people who always agree with you can be rather dull.

    by Fred — March 1, 2012

  29. Does anyone know anything about the McKinney, Texas area for retirement? I realize there is no state income tax in Texas, but what about the area as far as year-round climate, traffic problems, and property taxes?

    by Rory — March 1, 2012

  30. All cities have their good and bad areas. I lived in the Phoenix area for 6 years and loved every minute of it. Since I lived in a nice area, crime was not a huge problem at all. Realtors are fairly useless when it comes down to helping you find safer areas, since our PC world doesn’t allow them to make these calls (might offend someone). In the East Valley, Gilbert, Chandler, Queen Creek,Tempe, Scottsdale, and Mesa all have very nice & safe areas. Being in a metro area of millions of people also gives you the amenities that a big city does, while the suburban & smaller cities give you the feeling of non-city life. I couldnt’ really find anything wrong with that place to live. Tons of stuff for retirees also.

    by DrJCA1 — March 1, 2012

  31. For Rory…our daughter-in-law lives in McKinney, TX. This town is going through major growing pains with all taxes continuing to rise and road construction everywhere. The city cannot keep up with the demand. Growth has slowed due to economy downturn. Not really a retiree area… We live in the DFW area and are moving to FL as soon as our home sells to get away from the very high cost of insurance and taxes as well as the air pollution in this area.

    by toni — March 2, 2012

  32. I stated above that I was interested in the Tucson area and Alan G stated that the city has high rate of crime. DrJCA1 correctly stated that all large metro cities have areas of higher crime and areas with very low levels. I have included the surrounding communities of Tucson in my search and they overall have very low levels of crime.

    by lefty omalley — March 2, 2012

  33. Little surprised at your response. There are so many retirement communities in the Dallas area. No income tax, proximity to many cultural events, major airport close by. Have heard insurance rates on homes in parts of Florida are very high due to hurricane coverage. Guess there is no “perfect” place for retirement! Also was told McKinney has a huge golf community for retirees. Never heard anyone mention air pollution as a problem in that area but most populated areas will have some degree of air pollution. Was in Fort Meyers not too long ago, the traffic was horrible, took forever to get from one place to another.

    by Rory — March 3, 2012

  34. College towns. Lived in Salisbury, Md for over 30 years. Having a college in town allowed me to attend many concerts, plays, lectures by international speakers for pennies. a college near by would be a tremendous plus for me. After spending 12 years full time Rv ing, a clubhouse full of people the same age, same political leanings, same body parts failing, an afternoon at a university for an art exhibit would be like a shot of B 12!!!!!

    by Bonnie — March 3, 2012

  35. […] help you with this exercise, which can be fun. Look at the priorities we considered in our “How and Why We Rank the Best Places to Retire” […]

    by » So Many Places, So Hard to Decide: 10 Steps to Find Your Best Place to Retire Topretirements — March 7, 2012

  36. This is an excellent list and shows that you’re really on “top” of what people are looking for. Four of your top 10 picks are in SW Florida, an area hit worse than most of the US by the recession but is now recovering quickly. Home prices are still low but the best deals will probably end this year. Still not a great place if you need to earn a living, unemployment is still high. But if you have a secure income, now is the time to take advantage of home opportunities. Your article will be the subject of my blog FloridaMoveGuide.com (with links to this site) and tweets.

    by Ron Stack — March 12, 2012

  37. […] FLorida towns take 5 spots of top 10 in US by retirement website 4 of the towns are in SW FL. This follows picks by Money Mag's #2 pick of Cape Coral of of all US, AARP's Naples & Sarasota pick and many other sources within the last 9 months. The Sarasota to Naples area is among the best places in the US to retire according to a wide range of diverse sources. Florida is still absent from general best places to live lists due to the unemployment rate being among the highest in the US. Article here: TopRetirements.com […]

    by FLorida towns take 5 spots of top 10 in US by retirement website - City-Data Forum — March 15, 2012

  38. I can tell a lot of you that I would NEVER retire in Tucson. There are rumors that a couple major hospitals will be closing. (The main reason this RN is leaving town…) The economy here is NOT on track to recover anytime soon, which really does have an effect on retirees. The streets in Pima County are VERY poorly maintained, and services in general aren’t what they were 20 years ago. Yes, there are great housing prices to be had. That’s not enough to keep us here though. Look into the suburbs of Phoenix. There’s more to do, better healthcare, the weather isn’t that much hotter, still has a few colleges for the cultural aspect, major airport in the area that makes travel MUCH easier, and the houses are the same prices.
    One word of caution for those with seasonal allergies- hold onto your britches when you come to southern Arizona. (Be it Tucson or PHX.) It is BAD here, contrary to what you may have heard from others.
    Honestly though- do yourselves a favor and look into other places on this list. (Have to say I am EXTREMELY pleased San Antonio rated so favorably, as that is where we are moving! It’s where I’d like to plan to retire when I get there in another decade!!!)

    by KK — March 16, 2012

  39. I was leaning towards retiring in NC, but after a lot of research and reading, I am now leaning towards SC. I would appreciate any comment or suggestions.

    by Besent — May 13, 2012

  40. To David Lane-thanks for the connect to the youtube video about Winter Haven. Loved it..wished it had been longer and covered more. It was so much more green than I expected…..If anyone else is interested, it is called Reaching New Heights in Winter Haven.

    by Roxanne — May 14, 2012

  41. Besent…. tell us why. Is it taxes? Cost of living? What?

    by Dick — May 14, 2012

  42. To Rory re: McKinney. Our daughter lives in McKinney and we lived in that area for 20 yrs, although currently are in western NY. McKinney has had rapid growth as part of the sprawl into the Dallas suburbs over the past 15 years or so. Most of the city is newer suburban developments, although there is a charming old-time square. McKinney will grow until their available land is used, just like Plano did before McKinney.
    There is a LOT of traffic but the entire Dallas area does an amazing job of adding new highways at a rapid pace, even if it is always a game of catching up. But, having lived in many areas of the US, the DFW area builds much faster than most areas and manages a high volume of traffic pretty well overall.
    The real estate taxes are a bit higher than other states, but overall, Texas is rated as a pretty low overall tax burden per articles I’ve read. Insurance is cheaper than many other states we’ve lived in. Gasoline prices are on the lower end too.
    That area does have a lot of pollen, so allergies can be an issue. The air quality is not bad as it is a drier climate, the land is relatively flat, and breezes blow away the car pollution. Dallas is mostly a service industry. Manufacturing is limited to high-tech, so you don’t get pollution from that. The only time I ever had a problem (I have asthma) was in really heavy traffic right in Dallas, where it is built up with tall buildings.
    The last couple of years have been unusually hot and dry during the summer, setting records, so you learn to do outdoor activities in morning/evening. Overall, it is a great area with lots to do. But, expect a lot of traffic if you want to drive very far.

    by Linda B — May 14, 2012

  43. Does anyone have any comments on retiring near Pensacola,thanks

    by labhart — May 14, 2012

  44. It is interesting to read your “Top 10 Places to Retire” and the criteria you used to pick. The big question is Who are these top ten best places to retire the best places for? I have visited and spent time in several of those on the list and I would have to say they are not the best places to retire in my particular situation. I find them nice to visit. I find them expensive and to a great extent tourist traps. Most of those on the list lack reasonably priced places to eat. We enjoy eating out a time or two a week. I think we need to look at what it would cost to live in these places. Then we need to figure out how much money we have coming in each month that we can depend on. Perhaps we need to develop lists of places broken down by disposable income levels. Lets say Group one: retirement incomes under $15,000/yr/per couple. Group two: retirement incomes $l5,000 to $24,000. Group three: $24,000 to $40,000. Group five: $40,000 to $60,000. Group six $60,000 and up/per couple. The best places to retire list you have presented is most suitable for those in the group six category and that is only if they can pay cash for their home. Guess I’m trying to say the best place seems to boil down to how much revenue you have coming in.

    by David M. Lane — May 14, 2012

  45. Besent-I too have done research and found that SC will better suit our needs. We were looking into the Chapel Hill area, but it is a bit too pricey for us, plus the allergies ar pretty bad in the Research Triangle. That is important to us. We were told that salt air is very good for my asthma, so I looked into Wilmington, NC.l It was nice, but something was missing. Then I looked into Myrtle Beach; beautifu beaches, but touristy and then higher crime because of that. So, Bluffton is the place. While the humidity is high in beach areas, the quality of the air trumps that for us. The taxes are affordable for us, Hilton Head Island is a tourist attraction, but not quite like Myrtle Beach. Where are you looking?

    by diandto — May 15, 2012

  46. David Lane – Thank you for your breakdown of incomes. It often makes me … well … MAD that so many of the “retirement communities” are gated, 2-golf-course, and $500K+ homes … but, envy is not something I wish to wallow in. We lean more to your bottom rungs (maufactured/mobile homes and rentals). There are MANY of us who do. We have worked all of our lives, perhaps had stints in the military, and now only wish to live out the remainder of our days with love ones, with a little travel on the side … and enough income/savings to afford health care. We are now leaning more to selling our home and renting. And though it gets little mention here, we know several friends who have tried the expat route (Central America mostly). Some have returned, but others have succeeded, either full-time or part. Though there are cultural differences, the price differential is often HUGE. Or, heck, we might just hunker down in our paid-for home and live here (Appalachian Mtns of western MD … could do a LOT worse!).

    by Mad Monk — May 16, 2012

  47. Mad Monk – I agree with your analysis concerning the financial equation. It’s not hard to pick out the “best” retirement places if money isn’t an issue. For example, Paris in the springtime is great. We just returned from Asheville and while beautiful there are certainly no bargains there. We would actually prefer to stay around the family in Jersey but it’s a TAX problem. IF we live 20 years or so after retirement we would owe the State of NJ approximately $500,000 in property taxes. It’s just unbelievable.

    by John Buddha — May 17, 2012

  48. @Mad Monk. There definately are retirement income rungs. We left full time employment at 57 well before social security and medicare. We were a few rungs under what we would be at 62. This gave us a chance to scale down and become realistic with all our pennies. The advantage was we got out younger, more energy, enthusiasm. Leaving work early was good for us and when social security and medicare came we had a monthly enfusion of cash that allowed us to do a few more things. We moved to Florida but also took some exploratry trips to Panama and Latin America. We found we could live better in Central Florida than we ever could in Latin America. This surprises some people because of all the articles that say you can move there, have servants, be on the beach or mountains for less than $700.00. We never found those places. It costs money to live in Latin America no matter what they say. There is a place here near Haines City off I-4 on Route 27 that definately would be less than anything in Latin America. Google La Casa del sol Haines City. The places are not large but a good safe environment and central to everything and here you sure can live on a shoestring. It is about 7 miles where we live in Winter Haven FL. Go to the web read it carefully and I think you might be surprised what you can get for just a little money. Read especially about the costs in the off season. Love to hear from others who are trying to make changes from employment to retirement and are not in the higher monthly income brackets. Creativity can make it happen!

    by David M. Lane — May 17, 2012

  49. I’m surprised at how defensive some (people) are! Frankly, I WANT to know if an area skews left or right; I don’t want to be living with a lot of folks who don’t share my values. Differences of opinion are great, as long as everyone respects everyone else, but unfortunately, there are always folks who are pushing their lifestyles and opinions on others and react to different opinions in a very negative way. That’s not the kind of environment I want now or in the future. One’s political bent is important when deciding where to live, and I appreciate the info that I have received on this website in that regard; it’s helped me both to feel better about some places and scratch others off my list.

    by Kimbee Jeanq — May 17, 2012

  50. @Kimbee Jeanq. I agree with you. You need to have some understanding of communities you are considering whether it be politics or other stuff. Chances are people who choose Naples FL lean a little more and in many cases a lot more to the right in their politics. Naples and other cities in the South West section of Florida tend to be a little more class conscious as well making them more exclusive. They can arrange this through making housing very expensive, maintenance fees sky high and club memberships very costly. Lets face it if you don’t make the cut socially classwise you probably will never be a player in certain sections of these cities. There are probably cheaper places where you could live but you will never achieve the social status. The Villages is another place people need to be aware is very conservative politically. It is golf and social program oriented. True there are executives golf courses there for free but the big courses are exclusive. Successful people there do the social thing as a major part of their retired lives. If you don’t care for that why live there.You probably won’t be happy. Do your homework and be realistic with what you will have as income and what you want to do. The last thing I want in my retirement years is to have to play the game of “keeping up with the Joneses”. I sure don’t want to be made to feel uncomfortable because I don’t get a new car every three years, live in a smaller house in the community or don’t summer in the mountains. I also don’t want to wind up living in a place where a majority of the people share religious or cultural views way different from mine. Guess everyone needs to do some homework before deciding the must live in a certain place because it is in the top ten places to retire. Something to think about.

    by David M. Lane — May 17, 2012

  51. We tend to like quieter places, fewer people and more nature. We also have always lived near the ocean and can’t quite contemplate ever not. I keep wondering about Carrabelle, Florida area and someone mentioned the Space Coast barrier islands. I’d love to hear about either area or anywhere else that meets our general list of likes. We’d be more interested in those than whether we rented or owned, etc.

    by Michele — May 18, 2012

  52. What can anyone tell me about Lehigh Acres area near Ft. Myers? Thank you!

    Editors note. We have limited experience with Leghigh Acres. I can tell you that it is huge, not near the water, and very inexpensive at the moment. So big you really have to discuss it by neighborhood. Good luck

    by Karen — May 19, 2012

  53. David, thank you for the comment on income rungs. For the most part I was begining to think we were the only ones not in group 6, fit best in group 2, not for lack of trying, but our highest income years were during another time when half the country was out of work, things began to look up, then my Mom took sick and I had to give up my job to care for her (don’t regret a minute of it, just saying) when she passed was the begining of the situation the Country is in now. We watch every dime, don’t spend unless absolutely necessary, no cruises, few dinners out, etc., but money only goes so far not matter how careful you are, so its nice to know we aren’t the only ones.

    by Barb — May 19, 2012

  54. We visited Sun City Georgetown, Texas and are going to visit the Del Webb outside San Antonio. Any comments on those?

    Editors note. Susan, what were your impressions of Sun City? I am sure our other members would like to know. Anyone with an experience at the San Antonio, please let us know.

    by Susan — May 19, 2012

  55. @Barb. Here in central Florida we have people in all of the income rungs and lots of people not in the higher rungs. After more than a decade here, we have reached the conclusion that some of the happiest and most content people are the ones in the lower income rungs. They seem the cherish every opportunity they have, are often more creative and plan to do and be at stuff that is within the money they have. Choosing housing that is reasonable for you, has public transportation in the area and has an abundance of parks and community activity that are available at little or no cost makes lots of sense. Who wants to live in a place where you’re always having to spend all the resources you have–certainly not me. This is one reason we are content with Winter Haven FL area. There is lots for us to do that we can afford and reasonable places to eat out. We watch the newspapers and internet for these opportunities. Amazing what you can find. Good luck and stay happy!

    by David M. Lane — May 20, 2012

  56. Anybody have a comment about Austin TX? Just up the road from your #2 San Antonio, but I like the focus on music. I’m going there in a few weeks tocheck it out… I’ll be ready to retire in 4 years and won’t be able to afford to live in my beloved southern CA, unfortunately.

    by MuffinsMom — June 2, 2012

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