Cheap Places to Retire in the U.S.

by Laura Agadoni

For many years, retirees flocked to warm states. Miami Beach at one time was considered a prime spot for retired folks to spend their golden years. With spring break's college co-ed activities and traffic from tourists, however, traditional fun-in-the-sun locales might not be the best choice for everyone. People who want to retire inexpensively in the United States have plenty of locations to choose from. Cost of living figures consider basic expenses such as housing, food and transportation. All cost of living figures in this are based on the latest estimates as of 2012.


If your goal is to retire to a beautiful area that is also easy on the wallet, good choices include Winchester, Virginia; Portland, Maine; Cheyenne, Wyoming; and Ithaca, New York. Winchester, a historic city with 250-year-old stone buildings, lies in a region known for its apple and peach orchards. Its cost of living index is 91.9, 8 points lower than the U.S. average of 100. Portland has an abundance of natural beauty with its long Atlantic Ocean coastline. Although the cost of living index is 115, 15 percent higher than the U.S. average, compared with Northampton, Massachusetts, another popular retirement area that lies approximately 200 miles to the southwest, it is much cheaper. Homes are 44 percent cheaper in Portland than in Northampton. Cheyenne has the Wild West look of big, open spaces. The cost of living index in Cheyenne is 81. In Ithaca, known for its waterfalls and gorges, the cost of living is just slightly lower -- 0.30 percent -- than the national average.

City Life

Folks who don’t want to give up big city living but who don’t want to spend the money that most big cities require can be happy in Portland; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Columbus, Indiana; and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Portland boasts a relaxed, urban atmosphere with culture and art. It’s also a good area for “foodies.” Tulsa, a small city with art museums, is also the setting for an international film festival. The cost of living index is 84.7. Columbus has interesting architecture, public art, wildflower gardens and modernist monuments. The cost of living index is 89.3. Santa Fe, a sophisticated town with hundreds of restaurants, art and opera, is home to the fourth-largest art market in the country. The cost of living index is 99.8.


Gainesville, Georgia; Wenatchee, Washington; and Manhattan, Kansas, won’t disappoint retirees who love outdoor activities. Gainesville is the home of Lake Lanier, where you can enjoy boating, canoeing and kayaking. Golfers may choose from among 15 courses. The cost of living index in Gainesville is 96.7. Wenatchee is a recreation-loving person’s dream. It offers skiing, camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, cycling and beautiful jogging areas. The cost of living index is 94.7. The 12,500-acre reservoir in Manhattan's Tuttle Creek Park has 100 miles of shoreline and walking paths. The cost of living is 8.9 percent lower than the national average.

Job Opportunities

Retirees who still want to work will find plenty of opportunities in Ithaca, Santa Fe and Manhattan. Many retirees in Ithaca work at Cornell University and Ithaca College. Plenty of tourism jobs are available in Santa Fe, and folks who have always wanted to try their hand at becoming an artist find inspiration there. Manhattan is a good place to start a small business, according to Catey Hill of SmartMoney. The local economy is vibrant because of students at Kansas State University and the people from Fort Riley, a U.S. Army post.

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