Top 10 Cities For Retirees

By Mark Di Vincenzo. May 7th 2016

Picking a place to retire is a personal matter that often is based on where your slice of heaven happens to be located – the mountains, the beach, the big city or the middle of nowhere.

But there are other important factors that matter to the vast majority of retirees. They want to be where the crime rate is low, where health care options are plentiful and where there are a lot of things to do. And it also helps if the cost of living is relatively low.

Fortunately, the United States has dozens – if not hundreds – of places that meet those criteria, so this top-10 list is fairly subjective, but it does take a shot at objectivity by including a retiree cost-of-living index drawn up by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, which put the national cost-of-living index score at 100. So, in no particular order, here are the top 10 cities for retirees.

Knoxville, Tenn.

Retiree cost-of-living index: 90.1 – 10 points below the national average
Average taxes per capita: $1,657 –$767 below the national average
Residents over 65: 14 percent -- one percentage point above the national average
Top selling points: No state income tax, 13 golf courses, a thriving music scene which includes a symphony orchestra and an opera festival. For those retirees who like to fish, camp and hike, it is near the Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Biggest drawback: Not as urban as many people would like.

Birmingham, Ala.

Retiree cost-of-living index: 90.9
Average taxes per capita:
$1,712
Residents over 65:
12.8 percent
Top selling points:
Lots of sunny days. Alabama exempts most retirement income from state income taxes, and older homeowners don’t pay property taxes. Medical costs are nearly 15 percent less than the national average. It is home to an opera, orchestra and ballet.
Biggest drawback: The heat is more than some folks can handle.

Winston-Salem, N.C.

Retiree cost-of-living index: 92.2
Average taxes per capita: $2,256
Residents over 65: 13.3 percent
Top selling point: Not only are living costs nearly 8 percent below the national average, but Social Security benefits are exempt from state income taxes. There is a lot to do with six colleges, 75 recreational parks and 33 wineries in the general vicinity. Winston-Salem is known as “The City of the Arts,” and it has a huge health care presence so doctors and specialists are not hard to find.
Biggest drawback: Not well known outside North Carolina.

St. Louis

Retiree cost-of-living index: 93.3
Average taxes per capita: $1,620
Residents over 65: 12.9 percent
Top selling points: Low taxes, including full income-tax exemptions for Social Security benefits starting in 2012. Riverfront area includes museums, a casino and more than 200 restaurants. Its central location means trips to the coasts – or just about anywhere in the country -- are manageable.
Biggest drawback: Not terribly exciting. Too laid back for some.

Spokane, Wash.

Retiree cost-of-living index: 93.7
Average taxes per capita: $2,395
Residents over 65: 12.7 percent
Top selling point: Located between the Cascade and Rocky mountain chains, this city offers much to do for those who love the outdoors including 76 lakes, five ski mountains and 4,100 acres of city parks in the region. It also boasts six major hospitals and 900 doctors. Groceries, prescription drugs and other essentials are exempt from the city’s combined sales tax rate of nearly 9 percent and there is no state income tax.
Biggest drawback: It is very remote. Seattle is five hours away.

Tucson, Ariz.

Retiree cost-of-living index: 95.8
Average taxes per capita: $1,596
Residents over 65: 14.7 percent
Top selling points: The sun shines about 350 days a year. Arizona fully exempts Social Security benefits from income taxes as well as up to $2,500 of some government pensions. There are twenty-two golf courses, a symphony, opera and ballet and excellent art museums.
Biggest drawback: No change of seasons.

New Orleans

Retiree cost-of-living index: 96.8
Average taxes per capita: $1,932
Residents over 65: 12.1 percent
Top selling points: Most pensions are exempt from state income taxes, personal income-tax rates are low and property taxes are among the lowest in the nation. The French Quarter is also popular among retirees.
Biggest drawback: No shortage of drunken tourists and a population that is too young for many retirees.

Palm Bay, Fla.

Retiree cost-of-living index: 99.7
Average taxes per capita:
$1,675
Residents over 65:
20.2 percent
Top selling points:
Lots of seniors and sun and average temp of 72 degrees. There are no income taxes, but there are 29 parks, 10 golf courses and nine Atlantic beaches. And it is near Port Canaveral, the second-busiest cruise port in the world.
Biggest drawback: Not known for a night life.

Charleston, S.C.

Retiree cost-of-living index: 102.8
Average taxes per capita: $1,471
Residents over 65: 11.1 percent
Top selling point: South Carolina’s state taxes are the lowest in the country including no taxes on Social Security benefits and a $15,000 retirement-income deduction for people over 65. The climate usually is mild and if you want to get away, Savannah, Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach are just two hours away by car.
Biggest drawback: Hurricanes in the fall and incredibly hot summers.

Manchester, N.H.

Retiree cost-of-living index: 118.3
Average taxes per capita: $1,614
Residents over 65: 11.3 percent
Top selling points: No income, sales, estate and inheritance taxes and health care is relatively inexpensive. The city is known for its parks and charming downtown and Boston is only an hour away by car.
Biggest drawback: Higher cost of living.

If you are trying to figure out where to settle down after retirement, give each of these cities a good look. You just might find the perfect retirement location.

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