U.S. News & World Report unveiled its 2020-2021 rankings Tuesday for the Best Places to Live and Best Places to Retire in the United States, evaluating the country's 150 most populous metropolitan areas.
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The Best Places to Live were determined based on thousands of surveyed individuals' preferences on the job market, housing affordability, quality of life, desirability and net migration ratings. It also utilizes data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the FBI, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index and U.S. News' own internal resources.
Meanwhile, the Best Places to Retire were determined based by a nationwide survey of those approaching or at retirement age (45 and older) based on factors including happiness, housing affordability, health care quality, retiree taxes, desirability and job prospects. It also utilized data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Tax Foundation, Wolters Kluwer, the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. News’ own internal resources.
Here are the top three Best Places to Live and Best Places to Retire:
The Best Places to Live
1. Boulder, Colorado
Boulder claimed the top spot for this year's Best Places to Live due to its strong desirability, quality of life and job market scores. It also ranked #7 on the magazine's Safest Places to Live in 2019.
It features a population of 321,030 people with an unemployment rate of 2.4%, an average annual salary of $64,690, a median home price of $524,517, and a median monthly rent of 1,411.
The Boulder area has a highly educated population, with nearly three-fourths of residents holding a bachelor’s degree or higher and approximately 39% of the population holding an advanced degree. The median age for residents of Boulder is 36 years old and the average commute time for the area's workers is roughly 22.8 minutes -- 4.3 minutes below the national average.
2. Denver, Colorado
Denver held its second-place ranking from last year's Best Places to Live due to its strong desirability, net migration and quality of life scores.
It features a population of 2,850,221 with an unemployment rate of 2.7%, an average annual salary of $59,440, a median home price of $401,542 and a median monthly rent of $1,292. The average commute time for the city's workers is 27.7 minutes, slightly more than the national average of 27.1 minutes.
The city has a diverse group of residents due to many being out-of-state transplants. Denver's population is fairly young, with a quarter of the population under 20 years old and a median age of 36. The Mile High City is also known as a good area for singles since the male-to-female ratio is 50/50.
3. Austin, TX
Austin, last year's number one "best place" slipped to number three due to a decrease in its desirability, net migration and quality of life scores.
It's home to a population of 2,058,351 with an unemployment rate of 2.7%, an average annual salary of $53,810, a median home price of $313,308 and a median monthly rent of $1,217. Austin is one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the country.
While the median sale price of a single-family home in Austin is well above the national median, the city's residents benefit from no corporate income tax and a low state and local tax rate. The city's workers have an average commute time of 27.1 minutes- equal to that of the national average.
While Austin attracts a wide range of people, from students and single professionals to families and retirees, it is not necessarily geographically diverse. The median age for the city's residents is 34.
The Best Places to Retire
1. Sarasota, Florida
Sarasota claimed the number one spot due to increases in its desirability and job market scores. The city also ranks within the top 25 for best places to live and best places for quality of life and ranks #4 for the fastest-growing places.
It's home to a population of 785,997 with an unemployment rate of 3.1%, an average annual salary of $44,230, a median home price of $227,754 and a median monthly rent of $1,152. The average commute for the city's workers is 24.9 minutes -- 2.2 minutes below the national average.
While the median age for the area is 52 years old, Sarasota has a significant amount of residents over the age of 65 and that population is predicted to increase.
According to U.S. News and World Report, a retiree in Sarasota likely has a busier social calendar than someone half his or her age, as the area caters to its older residents by offering plenty of activities ranging from shopping to golf. This is especially true during the “in season” from October to April when "snowbirds" -- residents from colder climates -- come to enjoy Florida's more temperate weather.
However, there are also plenty of good schools, parks and local attractions for families to enjoy and while young single people won't have the diversity of nightlife available in other Florida metro areas like Miami, the city still features a wellspring of local bars, clubs, restaurants and craft breweries.
2. Fort Myers, FL
While falling below Sarasota this year in desirability and quality of life, Fort Myers held steady in those areas and places high in its net migration. It also ranks within the top 100 best places to live at #58 and is the country's fastest-growing metropolitan area. However, it also ranks within the top 25 most expensive places to live at #21.
It's home to a population of 718,679 with an unemployment rate of 3.2%, an average annual salary of $43,000, a median home price of $226,825 and a median monthly rent of $1,093. The average commute for the city's workers is 27.3 minutes, slightly more than the national average by a few seconds.
While Fort Myers residents -- like all Floridians -- benefit from a lack of state income taxes, home prices have been rising steadily and are expected to continue climbing. The city's residents also pay more than the average American for transportation, though other everyday expenses – such as groceries – tend to be more affordable.
Fort Myers has a median age of 48 and a younger population than you may expect in a town known as a retirement hot spot. Although more than a quarter of the population is over age 65, Fort Myers is also home to a sizable population of working professionals and a significant number of young families. Married couples slightly edge out singles by a few percentage points.
3. Port St. Lucie, FL
While Port. St. Lucie’s housing affordability score slightly decreased, increases in the city's desirability, job market and health care scores helped it jump two places to No. 3.
It's home to a population of 463,172 with an unemployment rate of 3.7%, an average annual salary of $44,070, a median home price of $221,758 and a median monthly rent of $1,126. The average commute for the city's workers is 26.8 minutes, which is just about the national average of 26.9 just missing being in line with the national average.
Retirees are drawn to Port St. Lucie's warm climate, low cost of living, access to waterways and abundance of quality medical facilities. The region's quality schools and low crime rate also attract families. The area has a median age of 47 years old and is almost evenly split in its ratio between married couples and singles.
The cost of groceries and dining out in Port St. Lucie is slightly more expensive than in other parts of central and northern Florida. However, the overall cost of living is lower than other similarly sized metro areas.