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10 of the Best Places to Retire in the U.S.

10 of the Best Places to Retire in the U.S.
Holly Johnson
Updated December 13, 2021
7 Min Read

You've worked hard and you're ready to retire, but where will you settle down? You can stay where you are — where the cost of living, weather and faces are familiar — or you can move onto greener pastures. With some research, you could even settle down in a place where housing costs less, activities abound and plenty of retirees have already laid their roots.

There are many, many excellent cities for retirement within the United States, but some are definitely a step above due to their low cost of living and other factors. We compared some of the most retiree-friendly cities in the United States to find options that have low housing costs, low taxes (including property taxes) and weather that won't chill your bones.

Ready to retire? Consider some of these retiree-friendly options around the United States:

  • Pensacola, Florida
  • Huntsville, Alabama
  • Lake Havasu, Arizona
  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Sevier County, Tennessee
  • Des Moines, Iowa
  • Orlando, Florida
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Macon, Georgia
  • Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Pensacola, Florida

pensacola-florida.jpg

  • Total Population: 52,975
  • Percent of Population Over 65: 17.3%
  • Median Household Income: $50,493
  • Median Housing Price: $182,800
  • Median Gross Rent: $954
  • Weather: Comfortable fall, winter and spring with balmy summers

Pensacola, Florida is home to beautiful white sand beaches with ample opportunities for outdoor recreation for most of the year. Retirees can spend their time golfing, kayaking or learning to surf, just to name a few options. The area is also known for its diverse wildlife, as well as its military fort installations at Gulf Islands National Seashore. And since it's not as far south as many Florida cities, the heat and humidity Florida is known for isn't as severe. 

The state of Florida doesn't have an income tax either, so retirees who still work on the side can save on that end of their taxes. Property taxes are also low (.95% on average) compared to high tax states, and rents off the beach are affordable as well. 

Huntsville, Alabama

  • Total Population: 200,574
  • Percent of Population Over 65: 16.1%
  • Median Household Income: $55,305
  • Median Housing Price: $182,900
  • Median Gross Rent: $827
  • Weather: Comfortable fall, winter and spring with balmy summers

Huntsville, Alabama is home to a thriving economy and plenty of attractions for retirees to check out during their ample free time. The U.S. Space & Rocket Center is located in the area as well as the Huntsville Museum of Art, Arts Huntsville and Broadway Theater League. Weather is also mostly comfortable all year round, with highs reaching the low 90's in July and August and temperatures in the 50's, 60's and 70's from October through April.  

Housing costs are also on the low end, especially when you consider the cost of a mortgage or rent. And what about property taxes? Alabama features some of the lowest nationwide, with an average property tax rate of just .40%. 

Lake Havasu, Arizona

  • Total Population: 55,865
  • Percent of Population Over 65: 33.1%
  • Median Household Income: $53,605
  • Median Housing Price: $248,200
  • Median Gross Rent: $920
  • Weather: Hot summers and comfortable winters

We all know that Arizona weather can be scorchingly hot during July, August, and September, but the rest of the year is rather mild in the 60's, 70's and 80s. This could be part of the reason nearly a third of Lake Havasu, Arizona is filled with adults over the age of 65.

Reasons to retire here include affordable housing and rent, excellent water recreation, sublime scenery and sunshine more than 300 days of the year. As a result, you'll frequently find the flock of seniors living here out playing pickleball, kayaking, fishing, hiking or enjoying a round of golf. 

You also have proximity to all the great state of Arizona has to offer, from the red rocks of Sedona to the Grand Canyon and unique attractions like Jerome and the Petrified National Forest. 

Property taxes are also low in this great state with an average rate of just .67%. 

Charlotte, North Carolina

  • Total Population: 885,708
  • Percent of Population Over 65: 10.2%
  • Median Household Income: $62,817
  • Median Housing Price: $220,300
  • Median Gross Rent: $1,135
  • Weather: Mild weather year-round with hot summers

Charlotte, North Carolina is one of the bigger cities we included in our ranking, but there are plenty of reasons retirees should head here. Average temperatures never get higher than the 90's, and October through April sees average temperatures in the 50's, 60's, and 70's. Retirees will find a nice combination of southern charm and outdoor beauty, with hospital systems and healthcare options galore. Charlotte is also known for its decadent cuisine, whether you love fried southern favorites, sushi, or ethnic foods.

Housing is slightly higher in Charlotte, although property taxes are lower than average nationwide (average of .85%). Charlotte is also home to plenty of attractions to explore, from the Mint Museum to the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Sevier County, Tennessee

  • Total Population: 98,250
  • Percent of Population Over 65: 20.3%
  • Median Household Income: $49,610
  • Median Housing Price: $175,500
  • Median Gross Rent: $791
  • Weather: Comfortable year-round with hot summers

If your ideal retirement includes a cabin in the woods, Sevier County, Tennessee should be at the top of your list. Housing is inexpensive, and so is the average price of rent. Property taxes are at the low end (.73%), and the state of Tennessee doesn't have a state income tax, either.

This region includes popular towns like Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville, all known for their tourist attractions and beautiful natural scenery. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also nearby, making Sevier County perfect for retirees who love to fish, hike or simply explore the great outdoors. 

The best part is, average temperatures never get lower than the high 40's, nor do they exceed the 80's in the summer months of July and August. Most of the year, you'll find comfortable weather conditions with average temperature in the 50's, 60's and 70's. 

Des Moines, Iowa

  • Total Population: 214,237
  • Percent of Population Over 65: 12%
  • Median Household Income: $53,525
  • Median Housing Price: $133,200
  • Median Gross Rent: $855
  • Weather: Cold winters with comfortable weather the rest of the year

While winter temperatures settle in the 30's from December through February, the rest of the year in Des Moines, Iowa is ideal for retirees. In fact, average summer temperatures never go higher than the 80's, and the rest of the year sees average temperatures in the 50's, 60's and 70's. 

Why else retire in Des Moines, Iowa? The housing prices are shockingly low, which could help your nest egg stretch to the max. As the state capital of Iowa, Des Moines also offers retirees (and everyone else) plenty to see and do. You'll find a lively downtown area with bars and restaurants galore, bike trails and parks and one-of-a-kind shops. Des Moines is also home to the Des Moines Art Center, the Science Center of Iowa, and other culturally relevant attractions.

Orlando, Florida

  • Total Population: 287,442
  • Percent of Population Over 65: 10.2%
  • Median Household Income: $51,757
  • Median Housing Price: $240,000
  • Median Gross Rent: $1,196
  • Weather: Hot summers with comfortable weather the rest of the year

Orlando, Florida may be a big city, but it still features relatively low housing prices and rents. Add in fairly low property taxes and no state income tax, and it's easy to see why retirees flock to Orlando to make their retirement money last. 

We all know there's plenty to do here as well, ranging from Orlando's World Class parks and resorts like Disney World to its award-winning golf courses. Orlando is also a major travel hub, which makes it easy to book cheap cruises or fly internationally to other destinations. 

And while summer temperatures can be high (in the 90's), the bulk of the year in Orlando is rather comfortable. The best part? With Disney and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter nearby, your grandkids will want to visit you. 

Nashville, Tennessee

  • Total Population: 670,820
  • Percent of Population Over 65: 11.7%
  • Median Household Income: $59,828
  • Median Housing Price: $239,000
  • Median Gross Rent: $1,100
  • Weather: Hot summers and comfortable winters

There are no state property taxes in Tennessee, and property taxes are still relatively low. While Nashville housing prices are currently on the rise, retirees who move now can lock in a retirement abode and take advantage of all this bustling city has to offer.

Reasons to retire in Nashville, Tennessee abound, and include the mild year-round weather, ample hospitals and healthcare systems, and beautiful greenery in every direction. Obviously, Nashville also has plenty to keep you busy, from its red hot food scene to attractions like the Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame, Broadway and more. 

Macon, Georgia

  • Total Population: 153,159
  • Percent of Population Over 65: 15.2%
  • Median Household Income: $41,334
  • Median Housing Price: $120,200
  • Median Gross Rent: $818
  • Weather: Hot summers and comfortable winters

Macon, Georgia is a smart place to retire if you need to make your retirement money stretch. Housing is downright cheap here, and that's true whether you want to purchase a home or rent. Property taxes are also less than 1%, which is lower than the median for all 50 states.

Why is Macon, Georgia a fine place to retire? Outside of hot summer months, average temperatures are usually perfect in the 60's and 70's. Macon is also home to more than its share of retirement-style communities, as well as outdoor recreation. You'll also find southern cuisine and culture, historic architecture and a hip, thriving music scene.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

  • Total Population: 34,695
  • Percent of Population Over 65: 21.5%
  • Median Household Income: $43,200
  • Median Housing Price: $216,100
  • Median Gross Rent: $913
  • Weather: Hot summers and comfortable winters

Yes, average summer temperatures reach the 80's in July, August and September in Myrtle Beach, but the rest of the year is weather nirvana. Winter average lows only hit the 50's in January and February, and you'll spend the rest of the year enjoying ideal weather in the 60's and 70's. 

Weather is just one reason Myrtle Beach, South Carolina has a thriving retirement community with 1 in 5 residents over the age of 65. Beautiful beaches, flora and fauna and wildlife are a major draw to the area due to the atmosphere they create. Outdoor activities are endless, from hiking to biking and watersports. 

Property taxes in South Carolina are crazy low (average of .56%), which can make housing even more affordable than it looks. Not only that, but South Carolina does not tax Social Security benefits. You can also qualify for a generous retirement-income deduction when calculating state income tax owed.

The Bottom Line

If you can retire anywhere you want, then it makes sense to consider options outside of where you grew up or spent the bulk of your life. Choosing to move may mean distancing yourself from family or friends, but it could open the door to lower costs, better weather and a happier retirement lifestyle.

Before you do anything drastic, make sure to research other retirement destinations that might suit your needs or your hobbies better than others. Your retirement might look infinitely different than you envisioned if you're willing to venture beyond the beaten path you've taken so far.

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