Updated July 21, 2015 (original article was July, 2013. This is part of a series on “Affordable Places to Retire”, see Further Reading at end for more.)
— Finding an affordable place to live in retirement has become a real necessity for today’s retirees. That’s because about half of them say they are worried they won’t have enough money for a comfortable retirement. There are plenty of “best places to retire” sites that offer to help. But would you actually want to live somewhere just because it’s cheap? Here is a list of 10 affordable place to retire – communities so nice you might actually want to retire there!
For the record, the NAR reports of the national median to be $205,200 in 1st Q 2015, while Zillow reported $179,000 in mid 2015. Since information on affordable places to retire was a top request in one of our member surveys – Downsizing, Renting, Affordability Dominate…, here we go – “10 Affordable Places to Retire Where You Might Actually Want to Live”.
In developing this list we decided to adopt some fairly strict criteria. After all, many affordable places to retire are that that way for a reason. They might well be wonderful towns to those who live there now, but they stand little chance of attracting retirees from far away places. The main criteria we used were: (You of course could change the criteria to whatever you want using our Advanced Search feature)
– A high or very high cultural environment (4 or 5 on our site’s 5 point scale)
– Low or extremely low cost of living (1 or 2 on our scale)
– Minimum average temperature of 20 degrees (F.). Not exactly tropical, but we did exclude the coldest cities.
We are indebted to our friend Ed LaFreniere for the way we identified these 10 affordable places to retire. Ed recently mentioned to us that he thought the Advanced Search at Topretirements was the best retirement calculator he has seen – much better even than our Retirement Ranger. So, using Advanced Search, we selected the above criteria and off we went. Advanced Search came back with 58 towns/cities (out of 1046 reviewed at Topretirements), some of which were non-U.S. locations. That list provided our source for these 10 Most Affordable (and Livable) Towns. (A note about home prices used here. Depending what is available, we use City-Data.com, the National Association of Realtors (NAR), or Zillow.com, sometimes more than one. They often report very different figures).
1. Gulfport, Florida. This cute little town is on the same peninsula as St. Petersburg. There is a small downtown, great community center, Casino (dance hall), and beautiful beaches and bays. It is decidedly low-key, but has the advantage of being just outside St. Pete and its many attractions. City-Data.com reports the median home sold for about $90,000 or less in late 2014, while Zillow says it was more like $136,100 in 2015. No Florida state income tax is another attraction.
2. Grand Rapids MI. Located on the eastern side of Lake Michigan, Grand Rapids is doing better than much of Michigan. It has a fairly healthy economy and rich cultural environment. Locals are proud of their city and its many attractions. Median home sold for about $115,000 late 2014 according to City-Data.com and $137,000 (NAR). On the downside, winters are chilly here and Michigan’s fiscal woes are real.
3. Greenville, NC . This all-American city is suitable for all ages as well as retirees. The population grew 47% between 2000 and 2013. A college town, East Carolina University has 26,000 student. The county has 20 parks, 4 lakes, and at least 6 golf courses. City-data reported the median home sold for about $150,000.
4. Hattiesburg, MS. This Certified Retirement Community has 2 colleges: The University of Southern Mississippi and William Carey. Residents are proud of the historic District. The Zillow Home Value Index was $132,400 in June, 2015.
5. Des Moines, Iowa. This Midwestern city in the center of Iowa is another college town, thanks to Drake University. It is also an important insurance center. The NAR reported the median home sale at $164,300 in early 2015, while City-Data.com said it was more like $120,000. Thanks to the Iowa caucuses, politics are an interesting part of life every 4 years.
6. Pittsburgh, PA. The former Steel City is a frequent choice for best place to retire. People like its manageable size, friendly neighborhoods, and inexpensive lifestyle. PA is also friendly to retirees on taxes. The University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon are just 2 of the colleges here. The median selling prices of a home was $170,000 in late 2014 according to City-Data.com.
7. Lincoln, Nebraska. It’s the capital of Nebraska with over 250,000 residents. Those who live here are happy to host the Cornhuskers (U of Nebr.) and over 100 parks. The median home sells for $150,000 according to the NAR, while Zillow reported it at about $10,000 lower. Unemployment is around 3%.
8. Tulsa, OK. This wealthy city is the center of the Oklahoma energy industry and has had quite a recent resurgence. It is proud to have many amazing cultural institutions, including the Philbrook Museum and many others. The city has 135 parks. Crime rate is high overall, like many cities, but has many lovely neighborhoods too. The median home sold for $145,100 in early 2015 according to the NAR.
9. Knoxville, TN – Home of the Vols, the University of Tennesee, this college town is fun and relatively inexpensive. The median home price according to City-Data.com was just over $170,000 at the end of 2014, and $149,200 in 2015’s first quarter (NAR). Topretirements shows 9 active/retirement communities in the Knoxville area.
10. Branson, MO. This popular resort town is growing rapidly – +82% from 2000 to 2013. Grandchildren will love to visit because of all the things to do, it bills itself as the “Family Friendly Las Vegas”. You will appreciate the median home price of about $150,000 (late 2014 according to City-Data.com).
Fort Myers, FL was our 10th city when we wrote this article in 2013. Since then home prices recovered nicely in Fort Myers, so well in fact that we can’t say it is affordable anymore by our standards. The median home price was $146,000 (NAR) in 2013, and is now $208,000 in early 2015.
Our list of 10 is by no means exhaustive – there are many more livable and affordable places to retire. Make your own list using Advanced Search to define your own selection criteria, including regional, state, and climate preferences.
Comments? Did we miss any good choices for livable and affordable places to retire? What do you think about these choices? Note that since the original article was written 2 years ago, if you only want to see recent ones you have to go the bottom (but the earlier ones are quite interesting!)
More ideas for Affordable Places to Retire:
This isn’t the first time we have come up with a list of affordable places to retire. Check out our previous lists!
More great places to retire on a budget:
Affordable Places to Retire on the Waterfront, Part 1
Affordable Places to Retire on the Waterfront, Part 2
10 Affordable and More Best Places to Retire
20 Great and Affordable Towns to Retire
8 More Affordable Places to Retire
Most Tax-Friendly Places to Retire
Sandy’s Adventures Part II: How Anyone Can Find an Affordable Place to Retire