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All Contents © 2019The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Stacy Rapacon, Online Editor
| July 4, 2019
Early retirement can be more than just a daydream for those long Tuesday afternoons at work. With some smart planning, you can make leaving the workforce early a reality. You just have to keep in mind the unique challenges facing early retirees.
First of all, entering retirement at a relatively younger age means needing to stretch your nest egg further (hopefully). One way to do that is to find the right retirement destination for you. That's because where you live makes a big impact on your budget. After all, settling down in a place where the cost of living is below the national average means your retirement savings pack in more purchasing power.
With that in mind, we pinpointed 50 great places in the U.S. for early retirees—one in each state—focusing on living costs, median incomes and poverty rates for residents ages 45 to 64, as well as local tax environments and labor markets (just in case you want a second act to stretch your retirement savings further). Of our 50 picks, these 31 destinations offer particularly low living costs, which heightens the chances of your money lasting through your extra-long retirement and beyond.
The list is ordered alphabetically by state. See "How We Picked the Best Places for Early Retirement" at the end of the list for details on our data sources and methodology.
Courtesy Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau
Total population: 444,908
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 27.8% (U.S.: 26.1%)
Retired cost of living: 5.4% below the national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $77,266 (U.S.: $69,909)
State's retiree tax picture: Tax Friendly
As one of the 10 Cheapest States Where You'll Want to Retire, the Heart of Dixie boasts many great spots for affordable living. And Huntsville, in northern Alabama, is one of the best. It offers all the low-cost, low-tax advantages as the rest of the state, but adds more generous household incomes.
Home to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, the Redstone Arsenal and the Huntsville campus of the University of Alabama, the city offers a robust economy and a highly educated population. You can also find plenty of cultural attractions, from a sculpture trail to a symphony orchestra, as well as opportunities for outdoor recreation (think bass fishing). In fact, Alabama at-large offers many of Florida's popular retirement attractions—warm weather, nice beaches and plenty of golf—all at a typically lower price.
Total population: 204,691
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 28.0%
Retired cost of living: 0.2% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $44,328
State's retiree tax picture: Mixed
Lake Havasu City, situated on the eastern shore of its namesake lake, is a popular destination for co-eds on spring break and snowbirds in the winter—a testament to its attractiveness for a wide age range, making it a great choice for early retirees. Indeed, for the whole year, the local median age is 50.4, compared with 37.8 for the U.S.
Being lake-adjacent, the area along the California border offers plenty of water-related recreation, including boating, fishing and swimming, as well as scuba diving and water skiing. But it's more than just fun and games: Kiplinger named Lake Havasu City one of 15 Satellite Cities Poised to Thrive. That's based on expanding regional business growth and a hot job market, so it offers a strong economic base should you decide to unretire in some form.
Total population: 97,994
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 27.1%
Retired cost of living: 8.0% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $49,692
State's retiree tax picture: Not Tax Friendly
You won’t need to travel far for rest and relaxation if you settle in this retirement hotspot. Surrounding the north end of the city of Hot Springs is Hot Springs National Park, which has 47 hot springs that come out of the mountain of the same name and bathhouses, where you can drink from fountains and soak in the water. The relaxing experience extends into the city proper, where you can find many spa and massage services to choose from. You can also unwind by golfing at one of the area's 11 championship courses or by fishing or boating on one of the three local lakes.
Even your wallet can de-stress. Housing, transportation and health care costs for retirees are particularly low, at 23.3%, 20.3% and 8.2% below the national average, respectively. The median home value in Hot Springs, about 60 miles southwest of Little Rock, is $114,700—far below the national median of $193,500, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Total population: 3.0 million
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 27.3%
Retired cost of living: 9.3% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $68,759
State's retiree tax picture: Most Tax Friendly
You can find plenty of great places to retire in Florida, as the scores of resident retirees can tell you. But this area ranked best with us for young retirees, driven mainly by its particularly affordable living costs and younger-skewing population. Tampa is actually one of three major cities that make up the Tampa Bay area, which also includes St. Petersburg and Clearwater. The latter tends to be the most popular among seniors, with seniors making up 21.4% of the population, compared with just 17.7% in St. Petersburg and 12.2% in Tampa.
And of course, the entire area offers all the things you'd look for in a Florida retirement: white sand beaches, warm blue waters, plenty of golf and generous tax breaks.
Total population: 377,476
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 24.0%
Retired cost of living: 9.8% below national average
With its warm weather and low living costs, Georgia ranks third among our Best States for Retirement. And Savannah (city population: 145,862) is particularly peachy, especially for early retirees. Living costs among retired people are among the lowest in an already low-cost state. Yet incomes for 45- to 64-year-olds are among the most generous, albeit still below the national median. That should make it easier to stretch your savings through an extra-long retirement.
Amenity-wise, the historic Georgia city offers beautiful sights, just right for strolling through retirement, including classic American architecture, town squares and riverfront views. Tybee Island, with its wide beaches and still-operating lighthouse, is just a 20-minute drive east of the city. You can also enjoy an array of restaurants, museums and theaters, particularly in downtown Savannah.
Total population: 105,287
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 22.6%
Median income, age 45 to 64: $58,063
The Gem State is a brilliant blend of affordability and economic stability that can make a great home for early retirees. In fact, Idaho is the number one state for fastest job growth rate with high-tech firms, including Boise-based Micron, being attracted to its low operating costs and drawing investors and workers alike.
Twin Falls is particularly cheap for retired residents, compared with all of Idaho's already low living costs 5% below the national average for the general population. But you can still find plenty to do, especially if you're an outdoor enthusiast. The area, on the edge of Snake River Canyon in Southern Idaho, offers beautiful vistas and a good setting for hiking, camping, bird watching and kayaking.
Total population: 237,849
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 21.6%
Retired cost of living: 9.7% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $73,227
This part of central Illinois, home to the University of Illinois and Parkland College, offers affordability with no shortage of things to do, including college sporting events, film and music festivals and educational opportunities. The metro area is also home to a number of tech startups, fostered by the University Research Park's 43,000-square-foot business incubator called EnterpriseWorks. So young retirees can enjoy small-town charms and costs while exploring and developing big ideas and innovations.
Total population: 315,263
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 27.2%
Retired cost of living: 6.4% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $61,349
State's retiree tax picture: Least Tax Friendly
In the southwest corner of Indiana, near the borders of Illinois and Kentucky, the Evansville metro area is a cultural hub with five distinct arts districts, as well as the University of Southern Indiana, the University of Evansville and Ivy Tech Community College. So you can find plenty of attractions and activities to entertain you throughout your long retirement, all with below-average living costs. And as you age through retirement, you may appreciate the abundance of health care facilities, including six major hospitals nearby with approximately 2,000 beds.
Total population: 623,113
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 24.9%
Retired cost of living: 9.2% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $80,898
State's retiree tax picture: Not Tax Friendly
For retirees looking to live in a big city on a small budget, Des Moines is a good choice. Affordability is just one reason the Milken Institute ranked the state capital fifth out of 100 large U.S. metro areas for successful aging. Des Moines also boasts a strong economy and plenty of health care facilities specializing in aging-related services.
Retirees won’t lack for things to do, either. There are numerous museums and arts venues, including an outdoor sculpture park, a zoo and botanical gardens. There’s even a casino and racetrack in nearby Altoona that hosts annual camel, ostrich and zebra races (sorry, no wagering allowed).
Total population: 233,382
Retired cost of living: 8.2% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $65,788
If you're looking for affordability—as early retirees should be—there's no place like Kansas. The whole state has living costs 14% below the national average. And in capital city Topeka, retirees enjoy particularly affordable housing costs, 21.6% below the national average. Indeed, the median home value in Topeka is $100,400, compared with $139,200 in all of Kansas and $193,500 across the country.
And now is a great time to take advantage of those low costs. Downtown Topeka is enjoying something of a renaissance, with a multi-million revitalization project that began in December 2012 now bearing the fruits of their labor. Improvements to infrastructure, including widening sidewalks, and the addition of new pocket parks, pavilions and public art works helped draw new businesses and restaurants. And that's just the beginning: Construction of a new plaza began just this year and is scheduled to go public in March 2020. Evergy Plaza will offer a large performance stage, a digital screen and several fountains and will convert into an ice rink for winters.
Total population: 1.3 million
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 27.4%
Retired cost of living: 6.8% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $65,005
The biggest city in Kentucky, Louisville is a solid blend of metropolitan attractions, southern and midwestern charm and affordability. Housing is particularly cheap at 20.3% below the national average for retirees. The median home value in Louisville is $146,900, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a bit pricier than the rest of the state (median: $130,000) but less than the national median of $193,500. And home options are varied, from downtown apartments and historic homes in walkable neighborhoods to million-dollar houses and acres of land within and surrounding city limits.
Along with the affordability, you can also enjoy plenty of cultural attractions in Louisville, including the Kentucky Center for the Arts, which hosts traveling Broadway shows, operas, and performances by the city's professional ballet company and orchestra. Bonus: Louisville is home to the Kentucky Derby, giving fans of horses, fancy hats and mint juleps an extra reason to love it here. Also, bourbon.
Total population: 487,633
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 25.4%
Retired cost of living: 8.5% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $55,140
If you're craving Cajun and Creole culture, Lafayette is the place to retire. Known as the "Cajun Capital City," the area is rich in history, distinctive foods and two-stepping tunes. Nature lovers can appreciate the area, too, located on the Mississippi Flyway and the Atchafalaya Loop of America's Wetland Birding Trail. Bird watchers have gotten a glimpse of 240 species, so far.
And all that comes with smaller costs than you'd find in the Big Easy. The cost of living for retirees in New Orleans is 1.1% above the national average.
Total population: 1.0 million
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 25.5%
Retired cost of living: 2.2% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $71,042
Michigan was hit hard by the Great Recession, when the automotive industry took a particularly sharp dive. A decade later, the business of cars has somewhat recovered, and the state's overall economic picture is generally improving. But poverty remains a big problem, especially in certain areas, including Detroit, Flint and Kalamazoo, where the overall poverty rate ranges from 31% to 42%, compared with 12.3% for the U.S., according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Grand Rapids is in a relatively better economic state. The overall poverty rate is lower at 22.5% and is actually below average among 45- to 64-year-olds at 8.2%, versus 10.6% across the country. And while living costs are a bit higher than than they are in other parts of the state (Kalamazoo's retirees have living costs 21.1% below the national average), they're still lower than the rest of the country, and higher median incomes help cover the spread. Plus, the local art, food and music scenes, along with an abundance of outdoor recreation options, will keep you entertained. Lake Michigan beaches are just 30 minutes away. And nicknamed Beer City, Grand Rapids has an "Ale Trail" with more than 80 breweries.
Total population: 388,082
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 26.3%
Retired cost of living: 13.0% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $53,386
First, the bad news: Mississippi is the most impoverished of all 50 states in the nation with a poverty rate of 19.8% among all residents, compared with 12.3% for the U.S. The 45- to 64-year-old cohort of the Gulfport-Biloxi metro area suffers less with a 14.1% poverty rate, but that's still greater than the 10.6% rate for the age group across the country. Plus, the state faces "extremely significant damage" due to tariffs, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, making its current economic outlook unclear.
The good news: If you can head down to the Magnolia State with a healthy nest egg, the low living costs and generous tax breaks should allow you to comfortably make it last throughout your long retirement. In fact, the Gulfport-Biloxi metro area is among the cheapest in the U.S. Gulfport offers more affordable housing with a median home value of $118,300 versus $154,800 in Biloxi (and $193,500 for the U.S.). And either city affords you access to white sand beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, casinos, oodles of outdoor recreation—including kayaking, birding, fishing and shrimping, camping and golfing.
Total population: 2.8 million
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 27.5%
Retired cost of living: 9.9% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $72,205
State's retiree tax picture:
The Gateway to the West can be a nice place to enter retirement, especially when you retire early and need to stretch your savings extra long. Housing is particularly affordable with costs for retirees 28.6% below the national average. Indeed, the city's median home value is $123,800, compared with $145,400 for the state and $193,500 for the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
But low costs don't limit opportunities for living it up. Foodies can enjoy an eclectic collection of dining options, many influenced by the various ethnic groups that call the city home. (Italian-influenced toasted ravioli is a local favorite.) What to wash it all down with? Beer, naturally. Home to Anheuser-Busch, as well as a growing crop of craft breweries and brew pubs, St. Louis takes suds seriously. You can balance out all that good food and spirits by exploring the area's hundreds of parks and miles of trails and waterways. And as you age, you might appreciate that St. Louis also has an abundance of health care facilities, more than 40 establishments per 1,000 seniors in the metro area, double the U.S. average.
Total population: 914,190
Retired cost of living: 3.8% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $76,471
Home to investing guru Warren Buffett, Omaha has been and continues to invest in itself, making it an increasingly attractive—and still affordable—place to live at any age. Just this year, the city has broken ground on a $300 million Riverfront Revitalization project that aims revamp an old industrial area to add housing, office space and entertainment areas. And already, you can enjoy an array of restaurants, shops, art galleries, concert halls and sporting events in town. (Some areas and activities may be disrupted by the revitalization project during the construction period, scheduled to complete in 2024.) Walking and biking trails throughout the city, along with five area lakes and two rivers, also provide plenty of outdoor activity.
All that comes at a low cost, with housing being particularly affordable. Indeed, Buffett bought his own modest home there in 1958 for just $31,500—his most famously frugal money move and what he's called the third best investment of his life (after his two wedding rings). Home prices aren't quite that cheap anymore, but the median home value of $146,500 is still relatively affordable, compared with the national median of $193,500.
Total population: 905,049
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 26.1%
Retired cost of living: 2.4% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $59,944
You can find a lot to enjoy in Albuquerque throughout your long retirement. Local casinos—complete with concert venues, restaurants and more, along with table games, slots and bingo—help energize the local nightlife. In the light of day, you can explore the many hiking and biking trails in and around the city, go hot air ballooning, enjoy a variety of golf courses and just enjoy the 310 sunny days Albuquerque tends to get each year through all four seasons.
All that comes with below-average costs, but also below-average incomes. And many people aren't able to strike a balance: The poverty rate in Albuquerque is 18.2%, compared with 12.3% for the U.S., but better than the 19.7% rate for New Mexico.
Total population: 1.1 million
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 28.3%
Retired cost of living: 6.1% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $67,558
This metro area, which includes Cheektowaga and Niagra Falls, offers a pocket of affordability in a largely expensive Empire State. Health care and housing costs for retirees are particularly low at 12.7% and 9.5% below the national average, respectively. While the median home value in New York is a whopping $293,000, compared with $193,500 for the U.S., it's just a fraction of that in Buffalo at just $77,800.
For your outdoor recreation, how do you like shoveling? The average snowfall is 94.4 inches each winter, but in four of the past six years, the accumulation has topped 100 inches, including 101.1 inches in the 2018-19 season. Once you dig yourself out, you partake in a wonderland of skiing, skating, tubing, pond hockey and a blizzard of other winter activities.
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 25.9%
Retired cost of living: 7.3% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $82,608
A high median income plus low living costs adds up to a good setting to stretch your savings through an extra-long retirement. Housing for retirees is particularly affordable, at 12.4% below the national average.
Part of North Carolina's Research Triangle, along with Durham and Chapel Hill, Raleigh also comes with powerhouse employers (and college sports teams) that provide the area with a solid economic base. Indeed, the state boasts one of the highest job growth rates in the U.S., and the Triangle is the center of growth in tech jobs while Raleigh also posts strong growth in professional and business services. That should give early retirees ample opportunity to dip back into the workforce as desired.
Total population: 128,673
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 25.8%
Retired cost of living: 2.8% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $82,884
The capital city’s strong economy means plenty of employment opportunities for early retirees who want the option of popping back into the workforce, if only part time. It also means you can find an array of restaurants and shops around town, as well as attractions, including the Lewis and Clark Riverboat, the North Dakota Heritage Center, Fort Abraham Lincoln and the Dakota Zoo.
On the banks of the Missouri River, you can enjoy more active leisure in the summertime. That’s when it’s warm enough to go cruising, boating, kayaking and canoeing, as well as hiking and biking on the trails around the city and golfing at Hawktree Golf Club. Otherwise, hope you love snow. Bismarck gets an average 46 inches of snow each year, compared with an average 28 inches for the U.S. And the average temperature in January, the coldest month, is 2 degrees.
Total population: 2.2 million
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 27%
Retired cost of living: 4.2% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $72,675
With relatively high incomes and relatively low living costs, the numbers add up favorably for an early retirement to Cincinnati. Housing for retirees is the biggest driver of affordability, falling 17.5% below the national average. The median home value in the city is $124,200, lower than the median $193,500 in the U.S. and even the median $135,100 in all of Ohio.
Despite the cheap costs, Cincinnati is rich with big-city amenities, including an active arts and entertainment scene, plenty of restaurants and breweries, major sports teams and a healthy job market. The diverse local economy is home to eight Fortune 500 companies, as well as the University of Cincinnati and nearby Northern Kentucky University.
Total population: 1.4 million
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 24.1%
Retired cost of living: 13.9% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $65,355
The biggest city in the Sooner State charges residents little in living costs. Housing-related expenses are particularly affordable, at 27.3% below average. The median home value is $148,500, well below the nation's median of $193,500.
Cowboys may feel particularly at home in Oklahoma City (it has one of the largest livestock markets in the world). But given the area's downtown revitalization effort, everyone can find something to enjoy. The Bricktown Entertainment District has a variety of restaurants and nightlife options. And in neighboring Norman, the University of Oklahoma plays host to bigtime sporting and cultural events.
Total population: 872,463
Retired cost of living: 2.6% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $59,527
The metro area, including Anderson and Mauldin, multiplies the local population to hundreds of thousands, but the city of Greenville remains relatively small with just about 68,500. That's despite a virtual flood of new residents arriving at a rate of 15.9% since 2010, compared with population growth of just 9.9% for the entire Palmetto State and 6.0% for the U.S.
What's the big draw? Low costs and and low taxes are highly motivational for anyone looking to stretch their savings. The metro area's housing for retirees is particularly affordable at 19.8% below the national average. But note that Anderson holds all the affordability on that front: The median home value in Greenville proper is $255,600 while in Anderson, it's significantly lower at $123,200. You'll find more action in Greenville, though, with a revitalized downtown area filling with a variety of new restaurants, shops and businesses.
Total population: 21,956
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 27.8%
Retired cost of living: 2.5% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $71,807
South Dakota consistently tops our rankings of best states for retirement, what with its low living costs, tax friendliness and strong fiscal health. And while its farm economy is currently hurting from the recent tariffs situation, the financial services and tourism industries continue to hum along and contribute to the state's jobs growth.
Capital city Pierre, situated on the Missouri River, is a nice place to settle in the Mount Rushmore state, particularly for fisherman and hunters. Lake Oahe, Lake Sharpe and smaller surrounding lakes offer anglers year round action. And nearby Fort Pierre National Grassland consists of 116,000 acres of federal land, where hunters can bag pheasants, prairie chickens and sharp-tail grouse, as well as waterfowl, white-tail deer and wild turkeys.
Total population: 862,490
Retired cost of living: 17.4% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $58,303
The Volunteer State is another good choice for budget-conscious retirees, with below-average living costs throughout the state and a friendly tax situation for all residents. It ranks fifth on our list of best states for retirement, but the tax advantages kick in well before normal retirement age with no broad-based income tax.
Knoxville is particularly affordable for retirees, compared with, say, Nashville, where living costs among retired people are a mere 1.6% below the national average. Housing costs for retirees in Knoxville are the biggest factor bringing down costs, at nearly 30% below the national average. The city's median home value is just $124,500 versus $191,400 in Nashville and $193,500 across the country. Indeed, Knoxville is one of the cheapest U.S. cities to live in.
Photo by VSmithUK via Flickr
Total population: 126,146
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 26.8%
Retired cost of living: 14.3% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $64,446
This small Texas city offers big savings for retirees with below-average costs in every spending category. It's actually among the cheapest U.S. cities to live in. Housing costs are particularly cheap—27.3% below the national average for retirees. The median home value in Sherman is $106,100, compared with $151,500 in all of Texas and $193,500 in the U.S.
In town, you'll find charming amenities, such as boutique shopping, a number of unique restaurants (and many more chains) and community gatherings throughout the year, including a free summer concert series. Nature lovers might also appreciate the local 12,000-acre Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, with more than 500 species identified so far.
Total population: 642,274
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 20.7%
Retired cost of living: 0.7% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $84,527
Low costs plus fat paychecks can add up to big savings in Ogden. Ski aficionados, in particular, will appreciate the local world-class ski resorts, including Snowbasin and Powder Mountain, without the high price tags of, say, Provo. And even when the snow melts away, the area still covered with opportunities for outdoor adventure, as well as downtown attractions including a plethora of restaurants, shops and nightlife venues.
Total population: 313,069
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 28.4%
Retired cost of living: 10.3% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $62,803
Nestled between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains, Roanoke is a haven for those looking to hike through their retirements. You can find more than 600 miles of hiking trails in the Roanoke Valley—including the Appalachian Trail—ranging from easy strolls to challenging climbs. If you'd rather take in the views with less effort, try a scenic drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. For an even more leisurely afternoon, grab a pint at one of the many local craft breweries.
Whatever you do there, you're likely to enjoy low costs while doing it. Housing is particularly affordable for retirees at 21.6% below the national average. While the median home value in Virginia is $255,800, compared with $193,500 for the U.S., in Roanoke, it's just $133,700.
Total population: 137,475
Share of population, age 45 to 64: 23.2%
Retired cost of living: 6.3% below national average
Median income, age 45 to 64: $63,746
West Virginia University offers a number of benefits to retirees in Morgantown, from sports games to cultural activities such as Broadway shows and art exhibitions to highly rated medical facilities. If you're 50 or older, you can join the local chapter of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Membership, which costs $100 a year to be a full member, gets you access to interest groups, trips, social gatherings and program classes, including local and international history, music, computers and yoga. And once you're 65 and older, you can take WVU courses at a discount.
Beyond the University, you can find a world of outdoor recreation with ample opportunities for hiking, biking, fishing, birding, whitewater rafting and more.