The Most Affordable Places to Retire in the U.S.

Published December 12, 2019

the most affordable places to retire in the us

After spending a lifetime working towards and preparing for retirement, deciding where to put down roots for the long-sought-after retirement years can be a challenging decision. Many retirees prefer to stay in their current homes, but a recent survey found that about 1 in 4 retirees have a desire for a change of scenery.

For those who are looking to move, there are certain criteria that should be considered when selecting a city to retire to. For example, if frequent travel is part of your retirement plan, the number and average cost of inbound and outbound flights, proximity to a major international airport, and ease of access would be important factors to research beforehand.

No matter what your retirement plans are, one criterion that nearly all retirees should keep in mind when deciding where to live is the cost of living in the chosen retirement city to ensure it fits within their retirement budget. This led us to an important question: Which cities in the U.S. provide the best living conditions for those looking for a wallet-friendly, yet fulfilling retirement lifestyle?

With this question in mind, we’ve ranked the 50 largest U.S. cities for retirees looking for an affordable place to settle down, based on six key indicators. Read on for our findings and a full description of our methodology.

US map showing the most wallet-friendly cities for retirees

We first wanted to highlight the 20 highest-scoring wallet-friendly cities in the U.S. Buffalo, NY, topped the list of the most wallet-friendly cities for retirement with a total city score of 44.5 out of 50. Buffalo scored high in all of the cost-related criteria including cost of living, the difference between the average American’s retirement savings and cost of living, average rent, and median mortgage.

Buffalo was followed closely by Louisville in second place with a score of 44.1. In fact, all cities in the top 5 received scores of 43 or above – St. Louis (43.8), Cleveland (43.8), Detroit (43.8), Milwaukee (43.7), and Indianapolis (43.4).

In terms of geographical location, the Southeast, Midwest, and Northeast had many more cities present in the top 20 most wallet-friendly cities than the West.

All Findings

 

We also wanted to show how all of the cities compare to one another, so we included the sortable table above. This details the makeup of each city’s score by showing each individual data point used in the final calculation.

The top-ranking cities had a reasonable cost of living, along with lower average rent and median mortgage payments. The cities at the bottom of our list are, unsurprisingly, those with a notoriously high cost of living like New York City and San Francisco. In fact, San Francisco earned the lowest scores in all 4 cost-focused data points.

Methodology

In order to determine the most wallet-friendly cities for retirees, we compared the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas across six key criteria:

1) 10-Year Cost of Living
2) Difference Between Average Retirement Savings and Cost of Living
3) Average Monthly Rent
4) Median Mortgage Value
5) Count of Inbound Flights to Local Airport(s)
6) Percentage of Population That is Retired

Each of the six indicators were graded on a 5-point scale, with a score of 5 representing the most favorable conditions. We determined each city’s total score from the total of its individual factor scores, which were weighted according to their impact on affordable retirement living. The sum of these weights is 10, which creates a total possible city score of 50. Each is listed below with its respective weight and data source.

10-Year Cost of Living — Weight: 2.50
— Source: Numbeo

Difference Between Average Retirement Savings and Cost of Living — Weight: 2.25
— Source: Investopedia and Numbeo

Average Monthly Rent — Weight: 2.00
— Source: Numbeo

Median Mortgage Value — Weight: 2.00
— Source: Census.gov

Count of Inbound Flights to Local Airport(s) — Weight: 0.75
— Source: Bureau of Transportation

Percentage of Population That is Retired — Weight: 0.50
— Source: Census.gov

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