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Best bargain towns for retirees

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By Caroline Banton/GOBankingRates

Retiring well is not easy. Sure, we would all like to discover the way to save $1 million or more for retirement. Alas, most retirees are not sitting atop a Fort Knox-sized nest egg.

In fact, a 2015 report by the Government Accountability Office found that about half of households led by people ages 55 and older have no retirement savings at all. Among households with retirement savings, the median amount of those savings is just $104,000 for households ages 55-64, and $148,000 for households ages 65-74.

Such modest savings make it difficult to keep up with expenses during retirement. Americans 65 years of age or older average nearly $44,686 in annual expenses, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, you do not have to put your retirement on ice even if your net worth does not quite approach that of King Midas. GOBankingRates ranked U.S. cities to find great places to retire to if you're on a budget. The ranking considered several local factors, including:

  • Housing -- rental prices for a one-bedroom apartment, rounded to nearest dollar.
  • Percentage of retirees -- in the local population as of April 1, 2010.
  • Walkability -- scores ranging from 25 for Montgomery, Ala., to 65 for Allentown, Pa.
  • Safety factors -- scores ranging from 6 for Rochester, N.Y., and Louisville, Ky., to 30 for Boise, Idaho.

Each city was given a weighting for each of the factors and was ranked based on the overall score. Avoid making a big mistake during your golden years and instead consider one of the following 25 great places to retire.

​1. Boise, Idaho

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Boise earned the top spot on our list of great places to retire. It is situated along the Oregon Trail in the Pacific Northwest and originally supported mining in the nearby mountains. According to TopRetirements.com, the city has various restaurants in a European-like downtown district called "BoDo" (Boise downtown).

If you enjoy the outdoors, you will appreciate the scenic local mountains and canyons, the mild winters and the low humidity. Boise State University hosts a jazz festival each spring, and there are a variety of museums and cultural events.

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $678
  • Population ages 65 or older: 11.2 percent
  • Walkability: 37
  • Safety: 30 (best in top 25 cities)

​2. El Paso, Texas

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El Paso is near the Mexican border and the Franklin Mountains. The city has four private golf courses, and there are state parks nearby. El Paso is unofficially known as the "Mexican food capital" of the U.S., according to Best-Place-To-Retire.com.

The city has a new Triple-A baseball stadium, a historic theater, museums of art and history, and the El Paso Holocaust Museum.

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $586
  • Population ages 65 or older: 11.2 percent
  • Walkability: 39
  • Safety: 26

​3. Allentown, Pennsylvania

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Allentown is located in eastern Pennsylvania and is not too far from Harrisburg, New York, and Philadelphia. The area, known as the Lehigh Valley, is both urban and rural at the same time.

The climate is cool in the spring -- with lows in the upper 40s and highs in the low 60s -- and summers are mild, with cool nights. There are many elder care facilities, and the city is considered safe and accessible.

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $817
  • Population ages 65 or older: 11.9 percent
  • Walkability: 65 (best in top 25)
  • Safety: 14

​4. Grand Rapids, Michigan

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Described as a top destination for retirees by MLive, this city is situated in western Michigan and is only about 30 miles from Lake Michigan. The city's Heritage Hill Historic District is one of the largest urban historical districts in the nation.

The city gets a lot of snow -- 72 inches per year, on average -- but summer temperatures are a pleasant 82 degrees. Grand Rapids has theaters, performing arts venues and botanical gardens.

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $745
  • Population ages 65 or older: 11.1 percent
  • Walkability: 48
  • Safety: 15

​5. Champaign, Illinois

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The Only in Your State website lists Champaign-Urbana as one of the top 10 towns for retirees in the state of Illinois. It is a college town replete with cultural events and learning opportunities. Retirees can attend free lectures and events at the University of Illinois. Also, the cost of living is reasonable, and the town has a serene and tranquil feel.

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $593
  • Population ages 65 or older: 7.6 percent
  • Walkability: 47
  • Safety: 16

​6. Charlottesville, Virginia

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Charlottesville is a college town near mountains and lakes that attracts retirees from Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York.

Although the city gets around 2 feet of snow in the winter, it has four distinct seasons. For gardeners, the growing season is ideal, extending beyond 200 days. The city is also close to mountains, golf courses and lakes.

The University of Virginia is a busy campus with sporting and cultural events. The university's Medical Center hospital provides specialist treatment for illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and digestive and neurological disorders.

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $922
  • Population ages 65 or older: 9.2 percent
  • Walkability: 57
  • Safety: 12

​7. Lincoln, Nebraska

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Lincoln is the capital of Nebraska. It is a large city with 250,000 inhabitants and few suburbs because of its sheer geographic size. It is a college town, with more than 100 parks and a variety of neighborhoods with interesting architecture, such as the historic Bungalow District. The city has a low cost of living and a low unemployment rate.

Cultural venues include the University of Nebraska, Pershing Center, the Lied Center for Performing Arts and the Douglas Theatre. The Sunken Gardens and the Great Plains Art Museum round out the attractions.

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $742
  • Population ages 65 or older: 10.7 percent
  • Walkability: 40
  • Safety: 14

​8. Bloomington, Indiana

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This city, located south of Indianapolis, is the home of Indiana University. Bloomington offers learning programs, day trips and symposiums for retirees. The myriad sporting events and concerts compensate for the cold winters.

According to Kiplinger, residents ages 60 and older receive 50 percent off tuition for up to nine credit hours of classes at the university per semester.

According to Bloom magazine, "You can see world-class orchestras and sample the culinary scene any night of the week. Plus, that nest egg goes a lot further here [than on the East Coast] because of the reasonable cost of living."

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $691
  • Population ages 65 or older: 7.9 percent
  • Walkability: 39
  • Safety: 14

​9. Cedar Rapids, Iowa

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In 2014, the Livability website voted Cedar Rapids among the top 10 places to retire. There are more than 10 retirement and assisted-living communities within 25 miles of the city. It is just 30 miles from Iowa City.

Located on the Cedar River, the city has 12 neighborhoods. Attractions include the Paramount Theatre and the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library.

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $496
  • Population ages 65 or older: 13.1 percent
  • Walkability: 32
  • Safety: 11

​10. Waterbury, Connecticut

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Waterbury is in New Haven County on the Naugatuck River, close to Hartford and New York City. Waterbury has a colonial history with historic houses, and the downtown is clean and has many trees. You will find art and cultural events, and great health care facilities.

You will need your waterproofs because the climate changes often. With four distinct seasons, summers can be warm and humid, and winters are cool. The maritime influence can bring clouds and fog.

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $700
  • Population ages 65 or older: 12.6 percent
  • Walkability: 47
  • Safety: 8

​11. Colorado Springs, Colorado

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Colorado Springs is known for its scenery, sunshine and gold. The downtown has many malls for those who like shopping, parks, bike trails and cultural activities. There are restored Victorian homes on Nevada Avenue, and many parts of the city have a view of the mountains and Pikes Peak.

Other areas are less conventional and show more of the Old West. Housing prices in Colorado Springs are much lower than those of Boulder -- almost half the price, according to TopRetirements.com. Many military families live here because of the local military bases.

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $706
  • Population ages 65 or older: 10.9 percent
  • Walkability: 33
  • Safety: 11

​12 Missoula, Montana

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Missoula is an old mill town situated in western Montana in the Rocky Mountains. The University of Montana is located here. The state is conservative and has small, rural communities and beautiful mountain scenery, which was the setting for the 1992 movie "A River Runs Through It."

According to Great Retirement Spots, the medical facilities are excellent, and more than 80 percent of people living here describe the quality of life as good or excellent. The city is very walkable, and there is plenty of opportunity for golfing and fishing.

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $728
  • Population ages 65 or older: 10.7 percent
  • Walkability: 43
  • Safety: 9

​13. Rochester, New York

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Rochester is in western New York, where there is significant snow in the winter. The Finger Lakes are close by and provide the city's drinking water.

The city has a reasonable cost of living and plenty of culture and activities for retirees and families. The grocery store Wegmans was born in Rochester.

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $708
  • Population ages 65 or older: 9 percent
  • Walkability: 61
  • Safety: 6

​14. Greensboro, North Carolina

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Greensboro completes the triad of three cities -- including Winston-Salem and High Point -- in the north central part of North Carolina. The winters are mild, and the average January temperature is in the high 30s. It is an old cotton and merchandise town, now revitalized with restaurants, the NewBridge Bank Park and Elon University School of Law.

Greensboro is a progressive town and features a solar-powered, ultra-modern Proximity Hotel. The city has historic areas, such as the Aycock neighborhood with large Queen Anne-style homes, and Pinehurst with its own impressive residences.

The city's cultural attractions include the Carolina Theatre, Greensboro Historical Museum, Greensboro Cultural Center and the International Civil Rights Center and Museum.

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $618
  • Population ages 65 or older: 11.5 percent
  • Walkability: 28
  • Safety: 11

​15. Fort Worth, Texas

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Fort Worth and its neighbor, Dallas, make up a large metro area. They include a huge number of neighborhoods, including Downtown, Uptown, Turtle Creek and the West End Historic District.

There are also many suburban towns and developments in and around Dallas/Fort Worth that appeal to the retiree. Here, you will find farmers markets, antique stores, lakes and golf courses. The suburb of Weatherford has the Clark Gardens Botanical Park. The suburb of Cleburne is quiet with large ranch-style homes, golf and hiking.

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $961
  • Population ages 65 or older: 8.2 percent
  • Walkability: 32
  • Safety: 12

​16. Billings, Montana

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Billings is in south central Montana. Nicknamed "the Magic City," it is the largest city in the state. The Yellowstone River flows through the city, and the local area has six mountain ranges.

There are historic neighborhoods such as the Bottom Westend Historic District. The city has miles of bike trails, museums, several colleges and two theaters, the Alberta Bair Theater and the Babcock Theater.

Hoping to get the most out of your health care dollar? Look no further than Billings. The local hospital, the Billings Clinic, was ranked No. 1 on a list of safest hospitals by Consumer Reports in 2012. The state has no sales tax.

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $573
  • Population ages 65 or older: 15 percent (highest percentage in top 25)
  • Walkability: 33
  • Safety: 7

​17. Phoenix

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Phoenix is in the desert of Maricopa County, surrounded by hills and mountains. The city is the fifth largest in the U.S. As a big city, it has some crime, but the city is attractive to retirees because of the warm winters and easy lifestyle.

Ian Wright is CEO of MoverDB.com. Wright provides information on international moving companies and the costs associated with moving overseas. For retirees thinking about a move to Phoenix, he said, "If you want to stay active, Phoenix has some amazing hikes in its many amazing mountains, all a short distance from downtown."

He added that you do not even have to drive: "Phoenix has a very good bus system along with a light rail system that goes straight to the airport," he said.

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $874
  • Population ages 65 or older: 8.4 percent
  • Walkability: 38
  • Safety: 10

​18. Lexington, Kentucky

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Lexington is in the Bluegrass State, known for its thoroughbreds and bourbon. According to Kiplinger, the city has many parks, six golf courses and more than 700 acres devoted to a nature preserve with miles of hiking trails.

The Lexington Opera House shows ballets, Broadway musicals and operas, while the University of Kentucky has the Singletary Center for the Arts.

At the university, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute offers courses and events for people age 50 or older. Membership is only $25. The Donovan Fellowship provides free university classes to Kentucky residents age 65 and older.

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $738
  • Population ages 65 or older: 10.5 percent
  • Walkability: 34
  • Safety: 9

​19. Omaha, Nebraska

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Omaha is located on the Missouri River close to the Iowa border. There are many health care facilities, and the Milken Institute ranked Omaha the second best large metro area for successful aging. There are recreation, volunteer and YMCA programs geared toward older people.

Move to Omaha, and you may save big money. The economy is healthy, with low unemployment. You will also find a reasonable cost of living and easy access to grocery stores. Five Fortune 500 companies are located here.

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $763
  • Population ages 65 or older: 11.4 percent
  • Walkability: 41
  • Safety: 7

​20. Columbus, Ohio

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Columbus is one of the most affordable big cities in the U.S., according to Kiplinger. Health care, groceries and housing costs are below average. A private room in a nursing home costs around $76,000 per year, compared with a national median of around $91,000.

Ohio State University offers sports, concerts and culture. Those who are 60 or older can take free university courses. The downtown has trendy shops and restaurants. The Ohio climate is a mixture of humid and continental. There are four seasons. Summers are hot, and the winters are cold with frequent snow.

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $744
  • Population ages 65 or older: 8.6 percent
  • Walkability: 40
  • Safety: 7

​21. Louisville, Kentucky

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Louisville is situated on the Ohio River. It is the largest city in Kentucky and host of the Kentucky Derby. The culture of the South and the Midwest combine in this city, and downtown is a mix of historic buildings and modern skyscrapers. The city has many walkable areas with a lot of parks.

For those who love culture, the Humana Festival of New American Plays offers a six-week new play series, and the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival appeals to literature buffs. Museum Row is another popular attraction.

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $726
  • Population ages 65 or older: 12.6 percent
  • Walkability: 31
  • Safety: 6

​22. Jacksonville, Florida

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Jacksonville has the most people of any city in Florida, with more than 800,000 inhabitants. The city has many retirement communities, cultural activities and beaches. Banking and financial services are a growing sector, with an abundance of jobs, both paid and volunteer.

There are also universities and community colleges, such as the University of North Florida. The city has mild winters but warm summers.

Sarah Nieschalk is an enrolled agent with the Tax Defense Network. She says, "Jacksonville, Florida is an excellent destination for retirees, who can enjoy no income tax, no tax on pensions or Social Security, and comparatively reasonable property taxes."

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $863
  • Population ages 65 or older: 10.9 percent
  • Walkability: 26
  • Safety: 8

​23. Greenville, North Carolina

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Greenville is located in eastern North Carolina. The winters are mild, but the summers are hot and humid. The population grew by more than 40 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to TopRetirements.com.

This city is appealing because of its proximity to the Outer Banks, its mild weather and its lifestyle. The average housing cost was the least expensive in our survey.

The town was voted "Sportstown USA" by Sports Illustrated and the National Parks and Recreation Association because of its efforts in providing sporting opportunities for residents. The area has more than 20 parks with hiking, fishing and boating activities. There are six golf courses.

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $454 (lowest in top 25)
  • Population ages 65 or older: 8.3 percent
  • Walkability: 31
  • Safety: 7

​24. Anchorage, Alaska

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Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska. It is in the south central part of the state near mountains, lakes, bays and rivers. Its population is more than 250,000. Of course, the scenery is outstanding, and there is plenty of outdoor recreation. The Kenai Peninsula is nearby, as are communities for retirees. Anchorage also is home to the University of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Pacific University.

Summers are short with long periods of daylight, and the winters are cold and dark. Anchorage is ideal for people who love the outdoors. The cost of housing in Alaska is expensive and was the highest in our survey.

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $967
  • Population ages 65 or older: 7.2 percent
  • Walkability: 32
  • Safety: 8

​25. Montgomery, Alabama

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An old Southern town, Montgomery is surrounded by flat farmland and forests. Montgomery has historical exhibits and museums reflecting its unique heritage, including the Rosa Parks Library and Museum. There are also arts events and a Shakespeare festival. Housing costs in Montgomery were among the lowest in our survey.

The climate is humid subtropical. Summers are warm and humid. Winter is more variable, and can have mild, moist, Gulf air, or cool, continental, northern air.

Fast facts

  • Average cost of housing: $595
  • Population ages 65 or older: 11.8 percent
  • Walkability: 25
  • Safety: 6
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