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Those Best Places to Retire Lists Keep On Coming

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

Note: Coincidence or not, one of Topretirements’ Best Places to Retire lists was picked up as a feature on January 26 by both and (“Best U.S. Cities to Retire in”). We are definitely honored!

January 20, 2018 — How many “best places to retire” lists have you come across this month? We know we’ve seen plenty, in fact our son even forwards them to us. The big question about the never ending barrage of lists is, are they worth reading? Here we will explore the somewhat wild and crazy of best places lists, a topic we hope you will find interesting.

#1 – There is no limit to how specialized these lists can get
Thanks to a Denver Post article we learned a whole lot of new ways to tackle the “best places” list game. Consider some of these candidates for strangest list of “Best” city rankings:
– Most wrinkle-prone city in America (sponsored by RoC Skincare, Denver ranks 2nd)
– Glassdoor’s annual Best Cities for Jobs
– Top 25 cities for drinking water
– The most affordable cities to buy a used car (sponsored by Autolist)
– Healthiest
– Tech cities
– Least obese (CO is #1)
– For beer drinkers
– Sell a house
– Look for love online
– Best place to trick or treat (from Zillow)
– Happiest cities for basketball fans
– Best streets in America
– Best Bourbon bar
– Best places to die. This one from the Washington Post wasn’t what we expected (estate taxes). Instead, it provided the results of a study ranking nearly 300 regions of the country on seven factors, such as hospice use and number of deaths in the hospital. If you are interested, Grand Rapids, MI is the #1 place to die. Las Vegas is the worst.

Where do they come from – and are they any good
OK, so we know that there are a lot of exotic, nutty, and occasionally useful best places lists. But who puts them out, how do they create them, and how useful are they?

At least 10 companies are making a business out of creating and publishing lists like these. PR campaigns pushing new lists from, HuffingtonPost, InternationalLiving,,,, Sperling, smartasset, and show up in our inbox every week. Some of these lists aren’t bad, although almost all include the occasional bizarre choice. For example, Bismark, North Dakota might be nice, but we can’t imagine too many retirees who would like to retire there. They tend to focus on the largest cities, and usually ignore smaller towns that many retirees would prefer. When they do pick smaller places, they are almost always the same (Beaufort, SC, Ft. Myers, FL, etc.) To their credit, they sometimes base their choices using factors like healthcare, cost of housing, crime, even happiness. But they rarely factor in intangibles that retirees might be interested in like walkability (or bikability), warm climate, cultural or lifetime learning opportunities, or the availability of retiree-appropriate places to live. One other factor, political environment, is almost never considered. It is a sad reflection of our fractured nation that choosing a place to retire based on friendly politics has become a factor.

These publishers seem to have a fleet of interns whose job it is to grind out new lists. In the minds of these young people, old folks over 65 live in retirement or nursing homes. Lists like these are profitable, creating web traffic that sells ads for publishers, or in the case of outfits like InternationalLiving, generating leads for selling real estate.

A typical list
Here is WalletHub’s Top 10 Places to Retire in the U.S. for 2017. All nice choices, and all very large cities (with exception of Scottsdale). But the bottom line: not much learned here.
>> Orlando
>> Tampa
>> Miami
>> Scottsdale, Arizona
>> Atlanta, Georgia
>> Salt Lake City, Utah
>> Honolulu, Hawaii
>> Denver, Colorado
>> Austin, Texas
>> Las Vegas, Nevada

Another from AARP
The AARP also gets into the “best places to retire” sweepstakes, sometimes with their own lists, sometimes reprinting from other sources. Some of their lists are useful, some not so much. Here is their cheapest places to retire list, which does list some inexpensive cities, unfortunately none of which we would like to retire to.

1. Birmingham, Ala.
2. Detroit, MI
3. Jackson, Miss.
4. Memphis, Tenn.
5. Toledo, Ohio
6. Brownsville, Texas
7. Augusta, Ga.
8. Cleveland, OH
9. Akron, Ohio
10. Montgomery, Ala.

A better list does put out some thoughtful lists. Sometimes their cold weather choices seem a little far-fetched, but they are putting in some careful research to come up with their winners. For example on their Top 100 list for 2017 the top 3 were from Minnesota (Rochester), Iowa (Iowa City), and Michigan (Ann Arbor). All nice, but all very cold in the winter time.

Mountains near Green Valley, AZ – #1 on Topretirements for 2017

Our lists
Topretirements is also guilty of producing “best places” lists. We have 180 articles in the “Best Places and States” section of our Blog, although not all of the articles are lists. A recent example is “The 8 Most Interesting Places to Retire in the US“. One list we produce annually is our “100 Most Popular Places to Retire“. The two most read Blog articles we ever published are: “Affordable Places to Retire on the Coast” and “The Worst States for Retirement“.

What’s next
We love coming up with new “best” lists, approaching the task from different angles. Next month we will have an update to “Worst States for Retirement”, because the new tax bill has definitely impacted that list! If you have suggestions, please let us know.

Bottom line
Getting back to the original question – are these lists worth reading? Yes – at least for entertainment. But also, they can help you learn more about the factors that go into making a great city state for retirement. One thing to remember is that not all of these lists agree, and that makes it important that you check out different places to retire yourself. Visit as many places as you can to see how they deliver on the factors that are important to you, and offer you a happy retirement. You can find out a lot about different places to retire from lists like these, but for heavens sake don’t pick place to retire without checking it out yourself!

For further reading
Who Has the Strangest Best Place to Retire List
Are All These Places to Retire Lists Worth Reading?

Comments? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Posted by Admin on January 19th, 2018


  1. Today I read this 2017 list of the best places to live in the U.S., mostly small towns:

    Lists like these are useful for me because I don’t want to retire in a senior community, but I do want to be in a diverse community with different age groups and interesting things to do. It keeps me young thinking and acting. Potentially a town that is good for families is good for older citizens, depending on people’s abilities and interests while living their 24/7 lives. Of course a good senior center in an active family town is a strong consideration.

    Maybe in another 20 years I’ll be looking at different factors that draw me to a more “senior” place to live, but right now, I prefer to be mixing with young people. I would go nuts living in Green Valley (I’m about 30 miles from there now and have visited for different purposes) or The Villages. I’m not worried about living in a state with different political leanings than I have because I can help purple it up. And although Scottsdale is technically small, it butts up against the Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler area so that it’s part of that metropolis sprawl for the most part. I consider it as part of the big city.

    by Elaine in Tucson — January 25, 2018

  2. These lists are informative and fun to read but we really need to make our own lists of course. I think what it will boil down to for us is close to an airport and close to medical care, and although many of the mentioned amenities are important, it may be give and take.

    by sunny — February 28, 2018

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