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Who Puts Out the Wackiest Best Places to Retire List?

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

Readers love best places to retire (or live) lists. Publishers are crazy about them because… (read first sentence again). But good grief, is there is no end to zany lists?

Consider three such lists put out recently. First one from U.S. News, another in a long string of “best places to live” from this magazine.

Their “Best Affordable Places to Retire” list has some very odd choices, at least in our opinion. Consider the list:
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Asheville, North Carolina
— Aurora, Colorado
— Columbia, South Carolina
— Columbus, Ohio
Eugene, Oregon
— Fort Worth, Texas
Jacksonville, Florida
— Kansas City, Missouri
Tucson, Arizona

Some of these cities (and that’s interesting in and of itself, almost all of these choices are fairly large cities) are great places to retire, no doubt. Asheville is everyone’s favorite retirement town. Ann Arbor, Eugene and Tucson are top places to retire. But some of these cities are not particularly affordable places to live. The average sale price of a home in Asheville this summer was close to $250,000, well above the national median of $174,000. Likewise at $202,000, Eugene’s median home sales price is higher than the national median. Prices in Tucson are at the national median, while the the other cities on this list are well below it. The biggest bargains, at least as far as home prices go, are Columbia ($137k, Columbus ($133k), and Kansas City ($144k). For Colorado prices, Aurora ($170k) is a relative bargain. (Most of these prices are from the National Association of Realtors 2nd quarter 2009 report).

As far as being low tax states, Florida and Texas do not have income taxes. Most of the other towns listed are in states that are somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to tax burden. So we don’t especially get why these towns are so “affordable”. Since the average home price is now below $100,000 in many towns across the country, we think there are better choices out there. Here is the link to the Topretirements list of “Affordable (and More) Best Places to Retire”.

Bottom line: A curious list of places. No smaller towns, a few cities that are on the expensive side, and many choices that are middle of the pack in terms of being interesting places to live.

List #2 is from the Today Show and real estate expert Barbara Corcoran. To be fair, it’s not really a retirement oriented list; instead it is her picks on which real estate markets represent the biggest upside potential for a general audience. Her list:
1. Sarasota, Florida
2. San Francisco, California
3. Lansing, Michigan
4. Marietta, Georgia
5. Grand Rapids, Michigan
6. St. Petersburg, Florida
7. Naperville, Illinois
8. Trenton, New Jersey
9. St. Louis, Missouri
10. Saginaw, Michigan

If you listen to the broadcast you will better understand why Ms. Corcoran selected these cities – there is a good reason for each. We love Sarasota and St. Petersburg from a retirement standpoint – they are 2 of the most interesting towns in Florida and real bargains right now. Most of the other cities selected might be good investments for working folks, but we can think of a lot more places we would rather retire. The 3 choices for Michigan are all interesting towns, but that seems like a lot of picks for one state that has had its share of troubles. We hope these markets do appreciate because Michigan could use all the help it could get, but don’t think we would move there to retire. Naperville, San Francisco, and Trenton are all in high tax states, something not in their favor. San Francisco is lovely but one of the most expensive places to live in the USA.

Bottom Line: Interesting list for real estate investors or speculators, not particularly relevant to retirees.

Finally, “America’s Recession Proof Cities for Retirement” from Forbes.

Their list includes many of the same cities on the first 2 lists including St. Louis, Tampa, Atlanta, Dallas/Ft.Worth, and Kansas City. The thing that strikes us as the oddest about this list is the subject – do/should retirees really care about recession as a selection criterion? Seems like a lot of other factors ought to be more important – like climate, taxes, quality of life, recreation, culture, etc.

Bottom line: A really odd selection criterion, and therefore some strange choices.

For further reference:
Topretirements has a page which lists the mainstream best places to retire lists, including our own. On that note, look for our new 2010 best places to retire list coming out in the next few weeks. Preview: there are a lot of new towns making the list!

Jennie Phipps also poked fun at the U.S. News “Best Affordable” list in her “Best Places to Retire, at Least for a Computer” article.

What do you think?
Have you uncovered any other strange best places to retire lists? Or do you disagree with our conclusions? Let us know in the Comments section below.

Posted by John Brady on October 19th, 2009


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