As you near retirement, you may be thinking about moving to a city with warmer winters, or more affordable housing to stretch your retirement income. Maybe you’ve dreamed of living in a scenic region, such as a coastal city or town near mountainous terrain with lots of natural places to explore.
If so, you’re not the only dreamer in your generation. American Baby Boomers moved more than any other demographic in 2019, according to United Van Lines’ 43rd Annual National Movers Study, which tracks the state-to-state migration patterns of the moving company’s customers. People aged 55 to 74 years old accounted for nearly half of United Van Lines’ clientele moving to a different state.
Before you hit the highway toward your dream destination, it’s wise to know as much as possible about a city’s housing market and cost of living. That’s why The Hartford Extra Mile put together this list of affordable places to retire in the United States.
You’ll find a bit of everything on our list, from less-expensive cities in pricey regions to Midwestern cities where you can buy a luxury home for less. We cover cities you may not have heard of, along with a few familiar faces from affordable cities lists.
“Affordable” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone, of course, so we took that into consideration. Some cities are affordable because the region where they’re located is crazy expensive. Others have managed to keep their cost of living down, despite having many desirable attributes.
Our Methodology for Finding Affordable Places
Extra Mile analyzed Q4 2019 cost-of-living data for the 266 urban areas analyzed by The Council for Community and Economic Research, which collects data on housing, utilities, health care, groceries, and other consumer goods and services from participating cities to calculate an overall composite cost-of-living score, which is then published in its Cost of Living Index (COLI).
Average home prices listed in COLI are based on a four-bedroom, 2,400 square foot home. For cities not indexed in COLI, we used the median (rather than the average) house price listed on Realtor.com, a national source of real-estate listings. For context, keep in mind that the average national sales price of houses sold in the last quarter of 2019 was $382,000, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
Affordable Places to Retire
Ready to see where you can afford to retire? Here are 22 cities where you may be able to make your retirement income last years longer.
Spokane, a mid-size city in eastern Washington that’s located 20 miles west of Idaho, has significantly lower home prices than Seattle, where the average home price is $814,000. Spokane’s cost of living is close to the national average, while Washington is one of a handful of states with no state income tax.
The Spokane River runs through downtown Spokane, which gets around 48 inches of snow in the winter but only around 16 inches of annual precipitation, leaving many sunny days to explore Spokane’s Finch Arboretum, Riverside State Park, golf courses, hiking trails, and other recreational activities.
Average Home Price: $349,000
Pros: Scenic community and abundant recreational opportunities
Cons: Cold, snowy winters
You can find smaller, more affordable towns in Idaho, a state known for its natural beauty, mountains, and some of the best trout fishing in the United states. If you enjoy having the dining, culture, and entertainment choices of a larger city, Boise, where the cost of living is 2% lower than the national average, could be a fine retirement destination.
Boise offers plentiful recreation, including the Boise Greenbelt, a 25-mile walking and biking trail through 850 acres of parks and nature along the Boise River. Boise also scored in the upper half of the Gallup-Sharecare State of American Well-Being Index, with high scores in feeling safe, enjoying life, and community pride.
Oregon is an expensive state to live in, particularly in cities like Portland, where the median home price is around $460,000, according to Realtor.com. If you’re looking for an affordable base to explore this state’s forests, waterways, wildlife, and lighthouse-dotted shorelines from, Salem, located in northwestern Oregon, has relatively affordable house prices compared to other cities in the state.
Retiring in Salem puts you around 100 miles from Oregon’s coastal towns and 50 miles south of Portland’s big-city amenities and quality health care options. Oregon doesn’t tax social security benefits, and the state also offers a deferred property-tax program to qualified residents aged 62 and older.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Average home price: $344,000
Pros: Natural beauty, and more affordable than Denver
Cons: Cold, snowy winters
Colorado’s majestic mountains, rivers, lakes, and streams set beneath a vast blue sky beckon plenty of retirees. While Denver, where the average house price is $515,000, may be out of reach, Colorado Springs’ cost of living is right around the national average.
Colorado Springs, located 70 miles south of Denver, has 1,200 acres of parks, trails, and natural-beauty spots, and ranks well on the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index when it comes to community satisfaction and good health. Recreational activities in surrounding parks and mountain ranges abound, and include the ability to explore the red-rock formations of Garden of the Gods or drive to nearby Pike’s Peak.
You’ll enjoy warm winters and sunny days in Tucson, where the overall cost of living is 3% lower than the national average. You’re also a leisurely road trip away from Sedona, Flagstaff, and the Grand Canyon for cooler weather during Tucson’s scorching summers. Want to vacation in California? Hop on a plane, and you’ll be there in 45 minutes.
Smaller, less congested, and with better air quality than Phoenix, Tucson offers Southwestern culture, museums, and a variety of dining options. In the city, you can enjoy folk and jazz festivals, the symphony, ballet, numerous entertainment venues, museums, and a wealth of outdoor recreational activities.
San Antonio, Texas
Average home price: $260,000
Population: 1.5 million
Pros: Warm winters, no state income tax, and no tax on Social Security benefits
Cons: Hot, humid summers
San Antonio offers many ways to make the most of your retirement income. Not only is the city’s overall cost of living 11% lower than the national average, but Texas residents don’t have to pay income tax and the state doesn’t tax retirees’ Social Security income.
San Antonio offers plentiful health care options, parks and recreation opportunities, and arts and culture venues. You can even explore the city by strolling the scenic 15-mile Paseo del Rio River Walk. San Antonio also ranked high on the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index for residents’ sense of purpose and community pride.
El Paso, located in southwestern Texas near the Mexican border, ranked 15th out of 186 cities in the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index. More specifically, the city scored high for sense of purpose, love and relationships, community enjoyment, and good health.
El Paso offers abundant sunny days, mild winters, and housing costs well below the national average. In El Paso, you’ll find concerts, plays, music and dance festivals, and plenty of authentic Mexican food.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Average home price: $294,000
Pros: Arts and culture, and scenic setting
Cons: Cold winters with some snow
The cost of living in Albuquerque is 12% lower than the national average. This central New Mexico city’s high-desert climate is ideal for those who hate rainy days. Albuquerque’s cultural offerings include museums, a vibrant performing-arts community, the National Hispanic Cultural Center, and the New Mexico Philharmonic.
Bordered on the east by the Sandia Mountains, Albuquerque offers many outdoor and recreational activities. You can also enjoy balloon-filled October skies every year when Albuquerque hosts the International Balloon Fiesta, a massive gathering of hot air balloons.
Louisville-Jefferson County, Kentucky
Average home price: $272,000
Pros: Vibrant city, and affordable cost of living
Cons: Cold, snowy winters
You’ll find plenty of art museums, galleries, concert venues, and affordable neighborhoods in this south-midwestern hybrid, where the cost of living is 6% less than the national average. Bon Appetit Magazine even sniffed out this city’s vibrant dining scene, recognizing Louisville as one of the “foodiest” small cities in America.
You can enjoy all four seasons in Louisville, from hot summers to cold, snowy winters. Louisville offers more than 100 public parks and outdoor music festivals, including Abbey Road on the River, the largest Beatles tribute and 60s music festival in the world, which takes place in nearby Jeffersonville, Indiana.
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Average home price: $211,000
Pros: Very inexpensive housing
Cons: Cold, snowy winters
If you’re looking to stretch your retirement income, a move to Fort Wayne could do the trick. You’ll find a slower Midwestern pace, a small-town feel, friendly people, and minimal traffic congestion here.
You’ll also get more house for the purchase price in Fort Wayne, compared to other cities. Housing costs are nearly 40% lower than the national average, and the overall cost of living is 14% lower than the national average.
Kansas City, Missouri
Average home price: $268,000
Pros: Health care access, and affordable housing
Cons: Cold, snowy winters
You’ll find affordable, older homes on tree-lined streets in Kansas city, along with concert venues, sports facilities, and more than 100 parks. Kansas City, where the cost of living is 4% lower than the national average, also has one of the nation’s largest holiday-light displays, which takes place in the famed Country Club Plaza shopping district.
Winters are typically cold and snowy, with the occasional spurt of mild weather. However, this city’s international airport is easy to navigate for winter getaways. Plus, two metro-area hospitals, the University of Kansas Hospital and St. Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City, consistently rank on the U.S. News & World Reports Best Hospitals list.
Harrisonburg, known as “The Friendly City,” is nestled in the scenic Shenandoah Valley, a 30-minute drive from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and Allegheny Mountains to the west.
Located 130 miles west of Washington, D.C., Harrisonburg has a vibrant downtown with farmers’ markets, museums, and events and is closely located to historic Civil War sites. Harrisonburg is also a very walkable community, with plenty of bike and walking trails to help you stay fit.
Average home price: $404,000
Pros: Senior-friendly community, and located close to mountains
Cons: Higher-than-average cost of living
The cost of living is around 3% higher in Charlottesville than the national average, but this small city’s quality of life is a standout. Charlottesville, Virginia ranked #5 of 186 cities on the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, scoring high for sense of purpose, good health, community enjoyment, social relationships, and ease of financial management.
Located in the eastern foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville is home to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Virginia, which offers courses and schedules tailored to seniors. There is plenty to keep you busy in Charlottesville, a city with arts and culture, excellent dining choices, local vineyards, and more than 30 wineries.
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, Virginia
Average home price: $309,000
Pros: Affordable housing, and close proximity to east coast cities
Cons: Heavy traffic, and cold, snowy winters
It’s tough to find affordable housing in a beach city, but in Virginia Beach, a coastal town at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, home prices remain affordable to many. In fact, Virginia Beach features a cost of living that’s 6% lower than the national average.
Tourists flock to the sandy beaches in Virginia Beach, so there are plenty of restaurants, shops, entertainment options, and outdoor activities. There are also many choices for quality health care in the Norfolk-Virginia Beach area, including Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, a highly ranked hospital in Norfolk.
Average home price: $372,000
Pros: Arts and culture, and relatively inexpensive cost of living
Cons: Cold, snowy winters
If you’re looking to retire in a city that’s affordable, yet close to the east coast, Pittsburgh has a cost of living 3% higher than the national average yet has much to offer its residents. House prices are affordable for the eastern region, and arts and culture opportunities abound with numerous theaters, museums, and concert venues.
U.S. News & World Report ranks University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Presbyterian Shadyside 15th on its list of top hospitals in the United States. Another plus for Pittsburgh: Seniors 65 and older ride free on Pittsburgh’s bus and rail systems.
Rochester, New York
Average home price: $305,000
Pros: Summer events and activities
Cons: Cold, snowy winters
If you love four seasons, festivals, affordable housing, and lots of snow — as in roughly 90 inches of snow a year —Rochester offers all of that, with an overall cost of living that’s 2% below the national average. Rochester also has theaters, museums, performing arts centers, and concert venues. Golf Magazine and the National Golf Foundation named Rochester one of the 10 Best Golf Cities in America.
Outdoor activities abound in summer months, including boating on Lake Ontario, since Rochester sits on the southern shore of the Great Lake. Rochester also hosts more than 100 music, arts and cultural festivals each year.
Savannah, located in Southeastern Georgia, has mild winters as well as proximity to popular coastal cities and beaches, including Hilton Head Island, which is 45 minutes away. Plus, house prices are affordable, and the overall cost of living in Savannah is 11% below the national average.
Savannah has a large national-landmark district and many historic homes, along with world-class golf courses, shopping, and museums. Georgia is tax-friendly for retirees, with no tax on Social Security and generous tax rules for retirement income.
Average home price: $264,000
Pros: Mile winters, and low income-tax burden
Cons: Climate can trigger seasonal allergies
House prices in Knoxville are nearly 30% lower than the national average, and the overall cost of living is about 17% lower than average. Winters are mild, for the most part, and you’d be only an hour from Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well as other popular recreation destinations.
Seniors pursuing life-long learning can audit classes for free at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Tennessee doesn’t tax earned income but has a limited income tax on certain income from interest and dividends.
Average home price: $224,000
Pros: Retiree-friendly, and moderate winters
Cons: Slightly higher-than-average rainfall
North Carolina was one of the top ten states people moved to in 2019, according to the United Van Lines Study. Winston-Salem, with a cost of living 10% lower than the national average, draws plenty of retirees, thanks to its warm winters, affordable housing, small-town feel, and abundant cherry blossoms in the spring.
You’ll find plenty to do in this college town, where you can explore the vibrant downtown and historic heirloom gardens, partake in the city’s craft-beer scene, and visit more than 45 wineries in the region.
Daytona Beach, Florida
Average home price: $253,000
Pros: Affordable housing. warm winters, and no state income tax
Cons: Hurricane region, and hot, humid summers
Daytona Beach is one of the more affordable cities in Florida, with a cost of living that’s 10% below the national average. Daytona Beach ranked well on the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, scoring highly in purpose, supportive relationships, and good health.
Home of the Daytona 500, this beach city appeals to more than motorsports enthusiasts. It offers museums, a performing-arts center, antiques and farmer’s markets, as well as art festivals. Health care options include AdventHealth Daytona Beach, a highly rated medical and surgical facility.
Port St. Lucie, Florida
Median home price: $252,000 (Realtor.com)
Pros: Affordable housing, warm winters, and no state income tax
Cons: Hot, humid summers, and hurricane region
This laid-back beach city on the Atlantic Coast of southern Florida boasts warm winters, miles of white-sand beaches, and affordable house prices. Port St. Lucie ranked high on the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, scoring best on sense of purpose, social relationships, financial management, and good health.
Port St. Lucie offers multiple waterways and coastal inlets, and hosts the New York Mets annual spring training. No state income tax frees up money for retirement adventures.
Greenville, South Carolina
Average home price: $259,000
Pros: Close to mountains, and mild winters
Cons: Fewer healthcare options than larger cities
If you like mild winters and nearby mountains, lakes, and rivers, Greenville, located in northwest South Carolina, could be the town for you. Smaller, less crowded, and more affordable than larger southern cities like Charleston, Atlanta and Charlotte, Greenville is a three-hour drive from South Carolina beaches.
Greenville ranked high for good health and community enjoyment on the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, and the overall cost of living is around 5% less than the national average. Retirees get plenty of fresh air and sunshine along the city’s Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 20-mile, multi-use trail system along the Reedy River.
Retiring Right Where You Are
Now that you know how far your retirement income would stretch across 22 American cities, don’t dismiss the option right on your doorstep: retiring right where you are.
Sticking around to retire in your own city, complete with an established social network, roads where you know all the shortcuts, and all your favorite shops and restaurants, could be your best option. If you agree that’s the case, you can always fund your retirement travel with all the money you would have otherwise spent on relocation.
Would you retire in another city or stay where you are? Share your experiences with others in the comments.