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8 Cheapest (& Prettiest) Places to Retire in the United States

If you're considering moving during retirement, which are the best spots to put on your list? Do you want beaches or mountains? A low cost of living or an active retirement community? Our list of the top eight cities to consider has something for everyone.
If you're considering moving during retirement, which are the best spots to put on your list? Do you want beaches or mountains? A low cost of living or an active retirement community? Our list of the top eight cities to consider has something for everyone.

Finding the perfect retirement home is a mix of research, planning, and luck. Many retirees will have to balance of cost versus quality of life and consider closeness to family and health care facilities when making their decision.

Cheap is a relative term, depending on your income level and the amenities you want out of a retirement destination. This list includes cities at different price points for every type of retiree. It’s a good jumping-off point, but once it’s time to seriously investigate a big move you should talk to an experienced, local real estate agent.

Scottsdale, Arizona

Scottsdale, Arizona makes a lot of retirees’ lists as a possible retirement spot. The cons are that it’s also one of the most expensive, with median home values of $360,400, which rose 6.2% over the past year.

Scottsdale has the gorgeous weather most retirees want to enjoy their twilight years, along with world-renowned golf courses, lovely parks, and is a quick jaunt from excellent skiing.

Tax breaks on social security also attract retirees, off-setting those high home prices. Because it’s such a popular retirement destination you’ll be able to find a community of friends to share your hobbies.

If Scottsdale’s price tag makes you wince, look into home buyer rebates and other ways to cut your cost of buying a new home.

Augusta, Georgia

Augusta, Georgia has a much more reasonable cost of living and housing market. The median price of homes sold is only $90,100, and the cost of living is below the national average. Excellent healthcare is available through the August University Medical Center, crucial for retirees, and there are plenty of outdoor activities to keep active.

Known for golf, the city also offers a towpath along the canal for biking and walking, plus hiking trails in nearby Phinizy Swamp Nature Park. The city has worked to make itself retiree-friendly, building more sidewalks and adding public transportation downtown and exempting social security and a percentage of retirement income from state taxes.

Mobile, Alabama

Mobile, Alabama is one of the prettiest and cheapest retirement spots in the South. Median home values are only $120,500, a rise of 8.5% over last year.

Mountain lovers can head to the Appalachians if they want to see some snow, and beachcombers can explore the 60 miles of shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico. In Mobile itself, you’ll have access to Mobile Bay and can go kayaking or paddle boarding up the rivers.

The city is known for its gorgeous azaleas, a mix of historical architecture, and Bellingrath Gardens. Nature lovers will appreciate the mix of big-city living and outdoor beauty in Mobile.

Evansville, Indiana

Evansville, Indiana is a great option for those who don’t want to move down South, perhaps to stay close to family and grandkids or because hot, humid summers don’t appeal. The medium-sized city sits on the Ohio River and has a lovely waterfront area where locals like to stroll and watch the sunset.

Homes in Evansville have a median value of $120,500. While values rose 7.0% year over year, they’re still quite affordable. There are also a number of retirement and independent living communities in the city and three hospitals around the city.

The city has a mix of cultural activities, libraries, and parks to satisfy the interests of those seeking to keep active in retirement.

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina is another pricier option on this list, though cheaper than Scottsdale. The median price of homes sold was $294,600, an increase of 5.9%, in 2018.

Surrounded by water on three sides, it’s known as The Holy City for its many churches. Walk down historic streets lined with majestic trees draped with Spanish moss, enjoy its mild climate, play a round of golf or go sailing. Charleston offers everything most retirees want in quality of life.

South Carolina also offers tax incentives to seniors. You can deduct $3,000 on income received from retirement plans if you retire under age 65, and the deduction goes up to $15,000 after 65. Real estate taxes of 1.87% are some of the lowest in the country, making that expensive home much more affordable. You can also negotiate your realtor’s commission and take other cost-saving measures. And social security income isn’t taxed, either.

Las Cruces, New Mexico

If you’re looking for warmth but prefer dry climates to humid, look at New Mexico. Las Cruces frequently makes the list of top places to retire, and for good reason.

The median value of homes in Las Cruces is $174,100, an 8.8% rise year over year. It has a cheap cost of living combined with beautiful mountains and residents known for their friendliness. It’s home to New Mexico State University, which promotes an active cultural life, and gets 350 days of sunshine every year.

Take in the symphony at the art center, dance to live music in La Plaza in Mesilla or at the farmer’s market, and try a local vintage at the St. Clair’s Winery.

Bend, Oregon

The West Coast is a more expensive place to live, but there are bright spots here and there. While Bend’s prices are higher than some of the Midwestern and Southern cities on this list, they’re still cheaper than the median home value of $730,000 in popular California retirement cities.

Median home values are $427,100, a rise of 10.6% over the prior year. If you want to live in a nearby town or housing development, it will be cheaper.

In Bend, you’ll have a view of the Cascades to the west, and enjoy the Deschutes River waterfront. Active retirees can find skiing, golfing, and fishing nearby. There are over 71 parks and miles and miles of trails to enjoy within and around the city, as well as performing arts institutions, theaters, and museums. It’s a well-rounded option for a retiree who wishes to live or stay on the West Coast.

Colorado Springs, CO

Colorado Springs, CO homes sell for a median price of $284,500, an increase of 9.2% over last year. Housing and transportation costs are higher than the national average, but other expenses such as groceries and healthcare fall at a lower cost of living.

Nestled in the mountains, the city features a historic, walkable neighborhood, great restaurants, and an active arts scene. Nature lovers will appreciate the parks and urban trails or visit the mountains nearby.

The state has a flat income tax of 4.63%, much cheaper than other states, and offers exclusions on retirement income.

When it’s time for you to pick your retirement destination, make a list of your top priorities and start from there. Talk to a real estate agent to get the insider information on every city on your list, after all, a good agent knows that education is part of their job.

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Thomas O'Shaughnessy

Tommy O'Shaughnessy is the Head of Research at Clever Real Estate, the free online service that connects you with top local agents to save on commission. Tommy's team of data scientists create surveys, gather data, and analyze trends in housing, real estate, and personal finance. He directs public relations efforts, acting as a "data communicator" between his team and the press. Clever studies have been featured in Politico, the LA Times, CNBC, Forbes, Yahoo Finance, and other publications.

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