Most Affordable Places to Retire in America

by Linda Ray

By 2030, nearly one in five Americans will be 65 or older. The total number of Americans in that age group is expected to reach 88.5 million by 2050. Retirement can be golden or murky brown, depending on how well your retirement nest egg holds up against your living expenses. Where and how you live plays an important role in the quality of life you may expect.


The major magazines and seniors advocacy groups use different measurements to determine their top 10 lists of affordable places to retire. Housing prices, cost of living, census data and average income are among the barometers they use to come up with their recommendations. Texas makes most lists, primarily because of the low cost of living. The Huffington Post reports that in Harlingen, Texas, for example, you may buy a loaf of bread for under $1 and the average mortgage payment runs about $850 a month. Five of Kiplinger’s 10 most affordable places for retirees are in Texas.


According to the U.S Department of Agriculture, seniors are migrating more and more to rural areas and small towns to find the lifestyle they’re seeking as well as affordable housing and more accessible amenities. The Georgia cities of Gainesville, Athens, Macon and Marietta are mentioned as both affordable and scenic. AARP ranks Gainesville as one of its top retirement destinations because there is no state tax of Social Security. The quaint downtown offers free concerts on a regular basis and you can get a meal downtown for less than $10. Top entertainment is very affordable; tickets to the Gainesville Symphony Orchestra are only $20 and $30; and the median cost of a house in Gainesville is $141,800.


AARP ranks Portland, Maine, where the median housing price is $202,800, as its second most affordable place to retire. Maine also has no state tax on Social Security and the state sales tax in 2011 was only 5.0 percent. Portland and small Maine towns also fit the bill for the pace USDA researchers find that retirees appreciate. Retirees save money on gas consumption in Portland by using the modern public transit system and may easily travel by Amtrak to Boston for bigger city amenities. Healthy living is a priority among Maine seniors, and the University of Southern Maine offers academic courses to retirees for free or small registration fees as low as $15.


If you prefer to retire in the Northwest, the state of Washington has no state income tax, which increases the amount of money you have on hand in retirement. AARP likes Washington because it also taxes neither pensions nor Social Security. The median housing price in Wanatchee, a small town nestled below the peaks of the Cascade Mountains, is only $192,000. Washington attracts seniors who don’t want to spend a lot of money on fitness recreation. There are many free outdoor options, including hiking, swimming and fishing. The City of Issaquah, Washington, just outside of Seattle encourages healthy living by offering seniors age 62 and over an annual membership to the town's indoor aquatic center for only $175. Issaquah School District residents in that age group may purchase a "Gold Pass" annual membership for only $25.

About the Author

Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."

Photo Credits

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