Many workers may dream about retiring on Waikiki Beach or the South of France one day, but high-priced, urban centers and tourist hotspots are unrealistic for many retirees on fixed incomes. One way to stretch your nest egg is to move to a less popular, more affordable area. About 11% of 55 to 64 year-olds said they planned to buy a different home within the next three years, according to a 2009 survey by MetLife Mature Market Institute. About 6% had definite plans to buy sometime after that and 12% weren't sure if they would.
AARP Magazine helps retirees decide in its 2011 Most Affordable Cities for Retirement list. Magazine staff combed financial data for more than 350 American cities in search of the best communities for older people with particular emphasis on housing cost, cost of living, unemployment rate, tax rates and economic stability, says Editor Gabrielle Redford.
“But we also considered other factors since we wanted to make sure these cities were liveable as well,” she says.
That means climate, recreation, crime, health resources, airport accessibility, mass transit and arts and culture are also important determiners. Here's a roundup of their picks (in no particular order) and why they make sense for retirees.
Located just 75 miles from Washington, D.C., residents of this city enjoy 18th and 19th Century stone houses, apple and peach orchards, art galleries and parks. The median home price is $151,500 and there is partial state tax on pensions and no taxes on Social Security. Sales tax sits at 5%.
Surrounded by apple orchards and divided by the Columbia River, Wenatchee also offers residents a view of the Cascade mountains. Skiing, hiking, camping, hunting and fishing are within easy reach in this valley town. The median home price is $192,000 and rhere is no state tax on pensions or Social Security. Sales tax is 8%.
Situated in the northeast corner of the state and divided by the Arkansas River, Tulsa has 26 miles of paved cycling and walking trails and plenty of fountains, playgrounds and sculptures. The median home price is $125,600 and there is a state tax on pensions but none on Social Security. Sales tax is 5.5%.
Columbus is less than an hour from Indianapolis and features plenty of innovative architecture and public art installations by well-known designers. It also offers about 19 miles of walking trails and tons of recreational shopping that provides a nice lifestyle. Bloomington, which is home to Indiana University, is 35 miles west. The median housing price is $124,200 and there is state tax on pensions but not on Social Security. Sales tax is 7%.
Ithaca is home to Cornell University in the Finger Lakes wine region. It's a nature lover's dream, with lots of blue lakes, waterfalls and hiking trails. Set at the foot of Cayuga Lake, Ithaca also has plenty of kayaks and yachts. The median home price is $146,100. There is partial state tax on pensions and none on Social Security. Sales tax is 8%.
Midland was founded as a railroad stop at the midpoint between Fort Worth and El Paso and quickly skyrocketed to wealth during the 1920s oil boom. High school football rules here, as does barbecue and cowboy boots. The median home price is $96,600; there is no state tax on pensions or social security. Sales tax is 8.2%.
Cheyenne is home to Frontier Days, one of the world's largest outdoor rodeos that’s been around for 115 years. Tourists are drawn by the town's Western flair and railroad history, but haute culture is blossoming. The city features low-rise buildings and open outdoor spaces. The median home price is $141,400. There is no state tax on Social Security or pensions and the sales tax is 6%.
Portland is proud of its fishing village heritage and retirees can pass their days watching fishermen unload fresh seafood and even snag a good price on it for dinner. Lobsters rule here, but it's also possible to buy fresh salmon, cod, mussels and crab. The city's restaurant scene is also gaining national recognition. Recently Bon Appétit magazine named Portland "the Foodiest Small Town in America." The median home price is $202,800. There is state tax on pensions but none on Social Security and sales tax is 5%.
Downtown Gainesville is a charming southern town with brick sidewalks, an attractive shopping district and 15 golf courses. The town's biggest attraction is Lake Lanier, which is popular among its 8 million visitors for boating, Jet-skiing, kayaking and canoeing. Median home price is $141,800. There is state tax on pensions but none on Social Security. Sales tax is 7%.
Harrisburg is graced with the Susquehanna River, a 4.5-mile Riverfront Park and well-maintained historic districts. There are six four-year colleges in the area and residents enjoy views of the surrounding Pennsylvania Dutch countryside. The median home price is $144,200. There is partial tax on pensions and none on social security. Sales tax is 6%.
Boomers approaching their golden years should check out these U.S. cities that offer a great standard of living for not a lot of money.