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Find Out What It’s Like to Retire in (Just About Anywhere)

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

January 15, 2012 — One of the most frequent Comments/questions on this site is: “We’re thinking about retiring in (name of city). Does anyone know what it’s like to retire there”. You will often see that type of question among the amazing member comments made on the “Tell Us Where You Are Going to Retire” story we wrote about a year ago, where 691 Comments have been made (so far).

“LS”, one of our members, recently suggested that we put all the references in one place so folks can answer their own questions. So here goes in what we are hoping becomes a team project: we will assemble all the references by category we can come up with, and you add yours in the Comments section. We’ll go in and add the best of yours to the article to make it even more comprehensive!

Before we even begin, let us give a vigorous thank you to all of the people who have tried to answer the many questions posted in Blog. We all appreciate your helpful and informative posts!

How to find the best information, fast
Lets say you are interested in retiring to South Carolina, and are perhaps considering Summerville. Here are the steps we recommend you take to find out more about what it is like to retire there:

– Go to the Topretirements review of the city. You can get there in a variety of ways. A simple way is to use the “Best Places” link near the top of each page. Once there, click on a State from either the map or the yellow pull-down menu. From there you will see the list of cities in that state we have reviews of, more than 900 in all. Another, similar approach is to use the pull-down state menu in the orange “Find a Community” box near the top right of almost all pages.

Once you get to the city review, for example the one for Summerville, you will see helpful information in a broad array of categories: What it’s like to retire there, Where to live and housing costs, What is special and not special, What types of people would be happy there, the economic environment, physical location and climate, restaurants and cultural scene, crime, medical, transportation, and helpful links. There are also ratings on many of these areas plus additional ones like Jan and Jul temps, crime rates vs. national, housing costs, population, etc. If members have commented about that city, those will show at the bottom of the page.

The quality and quantity of each of these reviews can vary. The more popular the city for retirees, the more information and data there generally is. You can use these pages to get a pretty good idea of what a town is like for retirement, although a one page capsule is obviously not going to give you in-depth information on every topic. At Topretirements every time a city review is created a Forum topic is also generated for that city, where you might find some good discussions about what those cities are like (look under each State). Lastly, many of our Blog articles have touched on individual states or cities as retirement towns, both in the actual article and in the Comments section. But if you don’t find what you are looking for from these source, here are some other good places for specific categories of information. We are hoping that our members will add their own favorite sources as Comments at the end of the article.

City Overview
In our opinion the 2 best sources of overall information on American cities, other than a travel guide book, are and Almost every town in the U.S. has a page on these 2 sources. Wikipedia offers detailed background information about cities, particularly what they are famous for and their cultural resources. has tons of facts and figures in the city section; people in their Forums sections provide lots and lots of opinions about almost any town. The only disadvantage is that most of the people posting are younger and thinking about moving their families to these cities, so they are not exactly relevant to retirees. Of course you can always Google what is like to live in (name of city) and probably come up with something.

Cost of housing
We generally get our housing price information from a combination of,, and the National Association of Realtors (NAR only has data on larger cities, but is more reliable). There are other sources as well. Generally, the smaller the town the less reliable the data.

Population, Demographics, and Politics
We see a lot of active adults who would like to know what the political makeup of an area is before they move there. The city reviews on are packed with information about all of these topics, including how the city voted in the last Presidential election. Of course the U.S. Census Bureau is the most comprehensive source of information about the population of an area and its makeup.

Topretirements has an overview page of the most tax friendly states. But that is only the beginning. Our friend Old Nassau recently sent us some great links, including “States That Don’t Tax Pensions” (be careful of the Michigan data, most pensions there are now taxed or will be soon).
Here are some others:
Military Pension Taxation
Retirement Living Taxation by State (a great resource)
Tax Foundation and State Tax Burdens
Property, Sales, and Income Taxes by State

Click on Compare Climates
Camelot Climate Index (thanks to Ron M)

Try also Googling the Chamber of Commerce for the city you want

Cost of Living Comparisons
Missouri Economic Research Center

Transportation & Walkability has some basic information. Wikipedia also usually has information about bus and mass transit capabilities
Get Your Walk Score


Best Cancer Hospitals usually lists the closest hospitals

For further reference
Baby Boomers Essential Links (Extensive links on all kinds of topics)
Single Women and Retirement
Milken Institute Rankings and Ratings of Best Metros for Retirement (by multi-factors)

Please help us add even more great links. Please share your best resources on how to can find detailed information about what is like to retire in different towns in the Comments section below. We will add the most relevant ones into this article.

Posted by Admin on January 15th, 2013


  1. I’m very partial to this site, which also has a quiz you can take to determine your best place. I have found the housing valuation on Zillow to vary wildly in accuracy, so I would not use it as anything other than a very rough guide to general valuation. Instead it can be a terrific tool in researching specific properties. I go on and plug into their advanced search what my specific housing requirements are for a town I am interested in, and see what the supply of homes are for my price range. I find my requirements typically fall well under the “average” home anyway.

    by Julie — January 16, 2013

  2. Thanks so much for this list. I am in the process of compiling a list of cities with a population between 100-300K, with a university, with a water feature, in a moderate climate – to retire. However, I would like to live in each place about 3-4 months of the year and then move on to another location and think that cities with universities will have temporary housing that follows the school year. I may start a blog as I do my research, but this list is a wonderful place to start. Putting these stats together is a little overwhelming. 🙄

    by Debarah — January 16, 2013

  3. I agree that Zillow data is wildly inaccurate. About the only time it is accurate is if there has been a sale recorded recently. Check your own house out to see what I mean. They have my house listed as being a 1 bedroom house. It had 2 bedrooms when I built it and it still does! They also sort by zip code which says where you get your mail but not necessarily the community you live in.

    by Linda — January 16, 2013

  4. Deborah, you mentioned you were thinking of temporary housing for 3-4 months in “universities with cities.” Since I live (and work) in a college town (Ithaca, NY), and also pay for our exorbitant property/school taxes by leasing out our basement apartment, I would suggest that you perhaps think of stays that coincide with semester lengths. It is often possible to obtain subleases here for either fall or spring semester–however, it is STUDENT housing, usually, and often overpriced, noisy/dirty/not well maintained, etc. That said, however, there are a handful of nicer places around that rent by the month, often to professionals, and come furnished. Also, some retirement communities allow their residents to sub-lease their homes for short periods of time. For example, I used to work at Kendal at Ithaca, a continuing care retirement community, made up largely of independent-living cottages. Some folks would go south for 4-5 months, and would rent out their place (furnished, obviously) to others (NOT students). So that is another option to consider in some locales.

    by Paula — January 16, 2013

  5. Three offerings I look for are (1) dedicated bicycling paths/trails, (2) library systems, and (3) adult education at propinquitous colleges.

    by OldNassau — January 17, 2013

  6. i would like to retire in homassasa fl. 34446 please send comments

    by tad — January 18, 2013

  7. One thing to think about in regards to retirement and the active adult communities one reads about – HOA dues increases. Retirement and “fixed income” often go hand in hand. While researching amentities at different developments, those amentities cost lots to build and even more to maintain. How much of your budget will get eatin up in HOA dues increases? We bought at Sun City Festival and HOA dues has gone up from 99 per month in 2007 to 122 a month in 2013. This pays for amentities and does include a basic cable service as part of such dues. So 23 a month over a 6 year period, from what I researched, very low increases per year.

    by Bill Bap — January 19, 2013

  8. Has anyone moved to Huntsville, Al? I’m alone now and my 2 children and their families have moved to Huntsville both working at Redstone.
    I get their opinions about Huntsville but would like to know what someone in our age group thinks about it?
    I get the feeling that the population is primarily young families.

    by Anne — January 22, 2013

  9. To Anne regarding Huntsville, AL.
    I and others made comments in the blog titled: “Tell Us Where You Are Going to Retire – And Why”; it is under the category Best Retirement Towns and States.
    My wife and I are going to move there by 2014, though we have thought about late this year as well. Here is a nice link to check:
    I am 63 and my wife 56; while there are no doubt many young families there, there are plenty of folks in our age group (and higher of course).
    I started a post titled “Huntsville in 2013” in the Forum section of this website on 8 Jan 13. So far, no one has done a post to what I put there.
    Recommend you look at some of the above and do more searches on the internet. I think it is wonderful that your children are there – my daughters live in MD, FL and CA. Having someone living there, even if family, should be a real asset when it comes to information from weather to activities in the area.
    Perhaps anything you find you might be kind enough to post on the forum I started and we could compare notes more. Geno M.

    by GenoM — January 23, 2013

  10. What about a parameter to address your recent articles about employment? For example a general unemployment rate would help, but more specific rates for seniors. Also some information on the economic breadth and depth of the area. For example, in my area there is a small college, a large hospital, agriculture and oil and gas exploration which are the major drivers of the economy. Oh and a bit of tourism. For those looking to supplement their income and live where they like, this might help.

    by Lulu — January 28, 2013

  11. I haven’t read much on this site about living abroad during retirement or even spending part of the year abroad. Could we start another forum on this topic? I’d like to hear from people who have spent time living abroad and find out about living arrangements, cost of living, social aspects, etc.

    by Carole — January 31, 2013

  12. I am retired military (US Army) and have lived/worked in Europe and Hawaii (I know, not really “abroad”, but thought I’d throw it in). Anything I could share, based on my experiences, concerning living/getting established/etc., I’d be happy to help out.

    by Terry MacDonald — February 1, 2013

  13. Thank you, Terry, for your help. Do you know anything about renting during the winter months in the south of France? I’d love to be near the Riviera but if that is too pricey then I’d be willing to try Languedoc-Roussillon in the west. Or, can you suggest places in Spain, Portugal, or Italy?

    by Carole — February 2, 2013

  14. If you are interested in the south of France, make sure to try the smaller towns that are not right on the coast. Some of them are only a couple miles inland. St. Paul de Vence, Biot come to mind. But there are many. I haven’t been there since 2006, but whenever I go I always look at the real estate postings as I too dream of living there, and I thought the rents were reasonable.

    by Ginger — February 2, 2013

  15. Does anyone know anything about Wilmington NC ?

    by barbara — February 3, 2013

  16. Barbara, there has been some posts on Wilmington NC in the past year. You may want to look at the “Dueling Carolinas” blog,
    but they are often under some of the other more popular blogs.

    by elaine — February 3, 2013

  17. Lulu, a word about unemployment rates. I work for the State of NY Unemployment office, and I know how the State of NY calculates unemployment rates, and it probably isn’t what you think. The State of NY calls 3000 families randomly and asks how many are unemployed in that family. From that, they calculate the rate. As far as I know, USDOL rates are developed from the rates submitted by the States. In other words, the figures are pretty much a guess. Unemployment is a hard thing to define, and it varies from state to state. In some states, certain categories of ‘unemployed’ aren’t counted among ‘unemployed’…for example, farm workers. Also, if you have lost your main job, but continue to have part-time second job, are you unemployed? There are many interpretations of unemployed, and many different ways of calculating a rate. At best, it is an estimate. If you want accurate information about an area, I would lean towards other sources, such as how many openings are listed in the local area newspaper classifieds. How does Craigslist look for that area (as long as you weed out the ‘scam’ ads). In other resources you can find that would give you an idea of how many job openings there are. Some people choose to be unemployed these days, especially since all the unemployment extensions have occurred. In NYS you can be unemployed for as long as 99 weeks. So I’m not sure the unemployment rates will really address whether you can get a job or not, as much as how many job openings are available in your area.

    by ginger — February 4, 2013

  18. Go to International Living Postcards for frequent emails about living abroad.

    by Moving South — February 4, 2013

  19. We had a member ask about where they could find ratings of various towns by quality of medical care. It is certainly an important question. The Milken Institute has a number of such rankings, both by small and large metros.

    by Admin — February 21, 2013

  20. To Admin: thank you for the link. It certainly provides a method to look at and evaluate both types of metros. Very good.

    by GenoM — February 22, 2013

  21. My Husband and I are looking at retiring in Arizona. Does anyone know anything about Canta Mia in Goodyear, AZ? We would appreciate any info. Thanks.

    by Cyndy — May 17, 2013

  22. I too am interested in there. I spoke to local realtor and sales have been slow. What I like about it is that it’s not too established and not many rules yet, I have dogs and what already turned me off to pebble creek was their rules which I found online. Your dogs cannot walk on others property. With temps the way they are, cement is high temp and if someone had a piece of lawn, what is the harm? It told me a lot about the flavor of control canta Mia Their site and brochures are sorely lacking in pics of the homes and lots and no resales yet.

    by Nancy — May 18, 2013

  23. Does anyone have any info abou Mountain Home Ak or Hot Springs Village or Hot Springs retirement areas. Any info would be appreciated. Thanks

    by judy — May 18, 2013

  24. Hi Everyone 🙂 I am looking to move to Nevada. My Niece lives in Henderson..:cool:,,,so I am looking in areas near Las Vegas. I love the Hot weather. Is there anyone who has any insight or info

    by AaBeeda — May 18, 2013

  25. AaBeeda – I am in contact with about the Henderson, NV area – very informative

    by BillS — May 18, 2013

  26. I lived in Las Vegas for 5 years. Left in 2005. Henderson can be a nice area. The downtown area not so nice….old. Near st. Rose hospital is very nice, or in the silverado corridor. Las Vegas has bonuses…some of the casinos have amazing dining deals if u choose the right place and time. SAMs town used to have a salmon dinner on Thursday nite for 3.99, for example. You get used to the weather. It had to be over 110 for me to use air conditioning….I had window tint and ceiling fans and my house stayed cool. There can be traffic issues, especially on the strip, but usually not bad. All in all I wish I never left. No state tax of course. Real estate pretty cheap now. 4 hours from beaches, 5 hours from Grand Canyon or Sedona. Mount charleston ski area is only 45 mins away. And I love desert scenery.

    by Ginger — May 19, 2013

  27. Thank You Bill for Ms. Ackerman’s site….and Thank You Ginger…

    by AaBeeda — May 19, 2013

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