10 most affordable U.S. cities to retire
Finding a place to retire comfortably -- both physically and financially -- doesn't have to be a daunting task.
Many attractive and interesting cities across the U.S. also offer a low cost of living and manageable tax burden. The upshot: There are a lot of options for soon-to-be retirees looking to keep costs under control while enjoying their golden years.
In fact, most Americans approaching retirement are looking to find a new homestead. According to a recent Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate survey, at least some Baby Boomers have survived the financial crisis in good enough shape to look forward to their retirement years.
Most of the survey respondents said they weren't satisfied staying in place: 57 percent plan to move out of their current home, while 22 percent plan to buy an additional home during their retirement years. Many are looking for a more rural, small town experience (39 percent), followed by a traditional retirement community (27 percent) and a more urban environment (26 percent).
We looked at places that fit those descriptions and considered a number of factors -- with a focus on low-tax states with a reasonable cost of living and low median home prices -- to determine 10 of the most affordable places around the country to retire. We then factored in other elements that many retirees might find desirable, including a mix of urban and rural attractions, good weather, easy access to amenities, and quality healthcare options.
Tax burden: Ranked No. 10; 10.2 percent of income goes to taxes*
Cost of living: 8.5 percent below national average**
Median home price: $119,600***
Pittsburgh, once a dying steel town, has revitalized itself by investing in both education and medicine, which provide ample quality-of-life services for seniors. The city's respected colleges and universities offer a stimulating intellectual life, while its numerous hospital and health centers offer easily accessible health care.
Though it's a hilly, urban city, retirees should have no problem getting around. Seniors can ride the city's public buses and trains for free every day. But as a northern city, Pittsburgh is certainly not immune to cold, snowy winters.
* Source: The Tax Foundation. Tax burden measures the percentage a taxpayer's income that goes to state and local taxes. A higher number in the ranking corresponds to a lower tax burden.
** Source: U.S. Census Bureau
*** Source: Zillow Home Value Index. All cities on the list have median home values that fall below the national median home value of $169,200.
Tax burden: Ranked No. 23; 9.6 percent
Cost of living: 12.8 percent below national average
Median home price: $134,700
Indianapolis offers big-city living at small-city prices. It has a low cost of living, easy access to healthcare and is a good option for retired couples with Midwestern families. Plus, the city's cultural offerings are growing, including the massive Cultural Trail, the Canal and White River State Park and the eclectic Mass Ave arts district. Though the city still has a reputation for being a bit sleepy, it's working hard to change that.
Tax burden: Ranked No. 21; 9.7 percent
Cost of living: 11.7 percent below national average
Median home value: $131,400
Coming in at No. 3 in the Milken Institute's Best Cities for Successful Aging report, Omaha ranked high in nearly every one of the survey's categories, including job growth, community engagement to healthcare. Unemployment is low, transportation is easy and the downtown and riverfront areas are revitalizing quickly.
The city has a long list of art, music and cultural offerings, including its Joslyn Art Museum and Holland Performing Arts Center. However, the city's tax burden is a little higher than average, while the temperature is a little lower than average at about 50 degrees.
Tax burden: No. 43, 8.2 percent
Cost of living: 10.8 percent below national average
Median home value: $111,000
Decatur, known as "The River City," is located on the banks of Wheeler Lake along the Tennessee River in northern Alabama. The state has some of the lowest taxes, lowest cost-of-living and lowest home prices in the U.S, while temperatures remain relatively warm year-round without getting too hot. Decatur offers a number of cultural attractions, including its large district of Victorian homes and the Cotaco Opera House. It also received one of the highest scores for nursing-home care in the Milken survey, ranking No. 2 among small cities.
For those who like to travel, the city is located about three hours or less from Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, Tenn. and Atlanta.
Tax burden: Ranked No. 36; 8.7 percent
Cost of living: 11.6 percent below national average
Median home value: $110,000
The Sooner State has been drawing in retirees largely through its financial perks: Social security income isn't taxed, there's no state estate tax and property taxes are low. Cost of living is also low, and so is unemployment, which is good news for those that want to continue working post-retirement. Assisted living costs fall below average as well, according to the Milken survey.
The city offers a mix of cosmopolitan features including quality shopping, interesting Art Deco architecture, theaters and museums, while offering space to roam on its outskirts. The city is also working on a unique initiative called Legacy Community Building that will allow seniors to live independently but near their families, and offer day-care sites shared by adults and children.
Tax burden: Ranked No. 27; 9.3 percent
Cost of living: 7.6 percent below national average
Median home value: $135,000
While other parts of Florida may cater more toward retirees, Tampa is a good option for those who want to retire near the beach, but still have access to urban cultural attractions. Just 11 percent of the population is 65 or older, compared to Florida's average of 17 percent of residents in this age range, according to the Census.
The nearby towns of Sarasota, Bradenton, Clearwater and St. Petersburg also offer other cultural and sporting attractions. Plus, Tampa isn't far from Disney World, a great selling point for retirees with grandchildren.
Tax burden: Ranked No. 48; 7.7 percent
Cost of living: 7 percent below national average
Median home value: $127,800
Tennessee ranked No. 1 on personal finance site Bankrate's list of best places to retire last year, thanks to its low cost of living, minimal tax burden and high-quality healthcare. There's also no state taxes levied on Social Security, salaries, IRAs or pension income.
Clarksville has a high population of citizens over 65, historic buildings and charming old homes. Located on the banks of the Cumberland River, the city is also a short drive from Kentucky Lake and Lake Barclay, which boast outdoor boating and recreational activities.
Corpus Christi/Rockport, Texas
Tax burden: Ranked No. 45; 7.9 percent
Cost of living: 9 percent below national average
Median home value: $131,600
With more than 28 percent of the population older than 65, Rockport is a thriving retirement community outside Corpus Christi, Texas. Sandwiched between Copano Bay and Aransas Bay, the ocean is never far away, but neither are big city amenities.
The only drawbacks to Rockport is that access to healthcare isn't great, as the closest hospitals are about 40 minutes away in Corpus Christi, while home prices are above average for the state.
Tax burden: Ranked No. 47; 7.8 percent
Cost of living: 4.9 percent below a national average
Louisiana has one of the lowest tax burdens in the nation, and ranked No. 2 on Bankrate's 2013 list of best places to retire. Alexandria has a solid economy and below-average home prices (Data wasn't available for the median home value, but the median price of homes listed on the market this month is $160,000.)
The riverfront city scored well in public transportation investment and assisted-living costs, according to the Milken survey. It a warm average temperature, reaching nearly 80 degrees (only Hawaii and Florida have higher temperatures). Alexandria is also surrounded by rivers, lakes and national forests, and is just a two-hour drive from the Gulf Coast.
Tax burden: Ranked No. 41; 8.4 percent
Cost of living: 6.8 percent below national average
Median home value: $96,600
Aiken is a small town just outside Augusta, Ga., where the Masters Golf Tournament takes place each year, in the center of South Carolina's "Thoroughbred Country." That means there are plenty of opportunities for golf and watching steeplechase horse racing. The city features wooded areas, parks, art museums and historic buildings.
The cost of living, tax burden and home prices are all low in Aiken, where 22 percent of the population is 65 and older.