Inexpensive places to retire
Moving to a place with a lower cost of living can improve your retirement finances. If you sell a home in an expensive city and buy or rent in another city with more reasonable housing costs, you may be able to boost your retirement savings, retire sooner or enjoy a higher quality of life. A recent U.S. News analysis compared the 125 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. as potential retirement spots. The study included data about housing affordability, happiness, desirability, retiree taxes, the job market and access to quality health care. These are the cities with the most affordable housing that also scored highly on the U.S. News Best Places to Retire in 2020 ranking. Consider these affordable cities for retirement.
25. Corpus Christi, Texas
Located along the Gulf of Mexico, Corpus Christi is an affordable place to retire near the water. Housing costs a median of $1,388 for homeowners with a mortgage. The median rental expense in Corpus Christi is $940 per month. Wind and water sports such as sailing, wind surfing or even flying a kite with your grandchildren are popular activities. The nearby Padre Island National Seashore provides opportunities to kayak the Laguna Madre and watch baby sea turtles be released into the wild. This seaside city has been the backdrop for many films, including "Pearl Harbor" and "Selena."
24. Boise, Idaho
In Idaho's state capital city, you can catch a Boise State Broncos football game or a concert at the Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts. Locals enjoy hiking and biking along the 25-mile Boise River Greenbelt, as well as fishing, swimming or even floating down the Boise River in a raft or tube. Owning a home in Boise costs a median of $1,241 per month with a mortgage. You can rent an apartment in the Boise metro area for a median of $879 monthly. The city has two municipal golf courses and an ice skating rink that provides discounts to senior citizens.
The low cost of living makes it easy to relocate to Cincinnati. The median monthly housing cost is $1,361 for homeowners and $787 for renters. Several major companies have their headquarters in Cincinnati, including the Kroger Company, Macy's and Procter & Gamble, and the city supports major league baseball, football and soccer teams. Retirees can stay in shape climbing the Steps of Cincinnati, the series of city-owned staircases throughout the area. The city opened the five-car Cincinnati Bell Connector streetcar system in 2016, which runs on a 3.6-mile loop.
Indiana's state capital city is best known for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but this city of motorsports also has a more thoughtful side. The Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library commemorates the bestselling novelist who grew up in Indianapolis. The city also has an extensive collection of monuments dedicated to veterans and fallen soldiers. The reasonable housing costs make it easy to relocate. Homeowners pay a median of $1,226 per month to live in the Indianapolis metro area, which also includes Carmel and Anderson, and renters are charged a median of $859 monthly. Those 65 and older are eligible for half-price fares on the Red Line public transportation system.
Located on the southern shore of Lake Erie, Cleveland combines a low cost of living with a high quality of life. Housing costs a median of $1,327 per month for homeowners with a mortgage and a median of $779 per month for renters. The Cleveland Clinic is ranked the 4th best hospital in the country on the U.S. News Best Hospitals honor roll. The city has multiple institutions of higher learning, including Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland State University, the Cleveland Institute of Art and the Cleveland Institute of Music. The Cleveland Public Library has one of the most extensive public book collections in the country.
20. Rochester, New York
You need to enjoy winter to live in Rochester. The city has long winters filled with lake-effect snow. However, when the snow melts, the city comes alive with spring festivals, summer live music and delightful fall foliage. The area has multiple top colleges, including the University of Rochester and the Rochester Institute of Technology. The Strong Memorial Hospital of the University of Rochester provides health care services to the community. The area's low housing costs make it possible to live well in Rochester on a modest retirement income. The median homeownership expense is $1,347 per month, and rent costs a median of $848 monthly.
19. Tucson, Arizona
Tucson it known for its hot and sunny weather, with summer temperatures frequently topping 100 degrees. However, winters are mild, which makes Tucson an attractive spot for snowbird retirees. Bookworms will enjoy the Tucson Festival of Books, which takes place each March at the University of Arizona. Homeownership costs a median of $1,270 per month with a mortgage. You can rent an apartment in Tucson for a median of $861 per month. This desert city is nearly surrounded by parkland, including Saguaro National Park, home of the giant saguaro cactus.
18. Spokane, Washington
Spokane is located in eastern Washington state near the border with Idaho. The Spokane Lilac Garden has over 100 named cultivars, and the city celebrates this favored flower with a Lilac Festival and the Lilac Bloomsday Run each spring. The median cost of homeownership is $1,337 monthly. Renters in Spokane pay a median of $833 per month. Many of Spokane's best attractions, including Spokane Falls, the Riverfront Park Sculpture Walk, Gonzaga University's Jundt Art Museum and outdoor movies and concerts throughout the summer, are free of charge.
17. Daytona Beach, Florida
Retirement near the beach can be enjoyed on a modest budget in Daytona Beach. Homeowners with mortgages pay a median of $1,220 per month. Renting an apartment in Daytona Beach costs a median of $990 monthly. But don't expect a quiet retirement in this dynamic city that contains the headquarters for NASCAR and hosts several large motorsports events each year. Cars can even be driven on some of the white, sandy beaches.
16. Lansing, Michigan
Michigan's state capital city has a diverse economy with state government and education jobs as well as several major insurance companies. The 5,200-acre Michigan State University campus is located in nearby East Lansing and has over 50,000 students. Retirees can root for the Spartans or attend performances or concerts on campus. Lansing has four distinct seasons with cold, snowy winters and humid summers. Housing costs a median of $1,270 monthly for those who are making mortgage payments on a home. The median rent for an apartment in Lansing is $834 per month.
15. Augusta, Georgia
Augusta is a college town, and Georgia residents age 62 and older can take classes for free at Augusta University. The city has a large military base, Fort Gordon, which is the largest employer in the area. The median cost of housing is $1,183 per month for homeowners making mortgage payments. The median price to rent an apartment is $809 per month. Augusta hosts the annual Masters Tournament each spring, which brings some of the best golfers in the world to the area.
14. McAllen, Texas
This southern Texas city is located across the Rio Grande from the Mexican city of Reynosa. McAllen is one of the most inexpensive places to retire in the United States. Those with mortgages on their homes pay a median of $1,118 per month to live in the McAllen metro area, which also includes Edinburg and Mission. Renting is also a good deal, costing retirees a median of $699 monthly. The low housing costs can help retirees with modest incomes to enjoy a higher quality of life than they could in a more expensive city.
13. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach is a vacation destination located along South Carolina's Atlantic coast. Popular attractions include the beaches, amusement parks and a boardwalk with a 200-foot SkyWheel. The reasonable cost of living makes it possible for retirees to live near the beach all year long. Housing costs a median of $1,249 per month for homeowners with a mortgage. You can rent an apartment in Myrtle Beach for a median of $883 per month. Those interested in golfing during retirement will appreciate the dozens of local courses, including greens designed by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Robert Trent Jones.
12. Greensboro, North Carolina
Greensboro is a city of parks and flowers. Many of the city's carefully cultivated gardens are free to visit, including the Greensboro Arboretum, Bog Garden at Benjamin Park and the Tanger Family Bicentennial Garden. North Carolina's housing prices often feel affordable to those relocating from more expensive states. The median cost of homeownership is $1,177 per month, including mortgage payments. You can rent an apartment in Greensboro for a median of $777 each month. The city hosts the annual Greater Greensboro Senior Games athletic competition and art showcase to help those age 50 and older stay physically active and mentally engaged.
11. Pensacola, Florida
If you're looking for an affordable Florida beach retirement, consider Pensacola. This western Florida city is located on the Pensacola Bay near the Gulf of Mexico and the border with Alabama. You could spend your retirement years fishing, sailing or strolling along white-sand beaches spotting dolphins and sea turtles. Nearby beaches include Pensacola Beach, Perdido Key and the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The median homeownership cost is $1,247 per month with a mortgage, and renters are charged a median of $952 monthly. There's no state income tax in Florida, which can benefit those who plan to work in retirement.
10. Greenville, South Carolina
Located about halfway between Atlanta and Charlotte, Greenville has considerably more affordable housing than these larger cities. Homeowners making mortgage payments have a median of $1,158 in monthly housing costs. Renting a house or apartment allows you to test out a retirement spot before committing to a home purchase. It costs a median of $787 per month to rent a home in Greenville.
9. El Paso, Texas
This western Texas city borders Mexico and New Mexico, and is located directly across the Rio Grande from the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez. El Paso is one of the sunniest cities in the country, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data. Home prices are among the lowest of any metro area in the U.S., costing homeowners with a mortgage a median of $1,172 per month. Rent is also affordable, with retirees paying a median of $789 per month. The city has a large military base, Fort Bliss, and is home to the 26,627-acre Franklin Mountains State Park, the biggest urban park in the country.
8. Chattanooga, Tennessee
Chattanooga calls itself the "Gig City" because the area has a high-speed fiber optic network. Chattanooga is located along the Tennessee River in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. On a clear day, you can check out the view from the top of Lookout Mountain, which is easily accessible via the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway. Chattanooga's low cost of living makes it possible to live well on a limited budget. The median monthly housing cost with a mortgage is $1,188. You can rent an apartment in Chattanooga for a median of $771 monthly. Chattanooga even has its own typeface, Chatype, which is used on signage throughout the city.
Pittsburgh combines low housing costs with a high quality of life. The median cost of homeownership is $1,274 per month for those making mortgage payments. Renting is also an affordable option for retirees who don't want the responsibility of maintaining a home. The median rent in the Pittsburgh metro area is $776 per month. The U.S. News Best Hospitals Honor Roll ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside the 15th best hospital in the country. Pittsburgh is an ideal retirement spot for retirees who no longer drive. Free public transportation on the bus and rail systems is provided to residents age 65 and older.
6. Fort Wayne, Indiana
Relocating to a city with significantly lower housing costs than where you live now can allow your existing retirement savings to stretch further and improve your quality of life. It costs a median of only $1,018 per month to own a home with a mortgage in Fort Wayne. Renters in Fort Wayne pay a median of $714 monthly. You can research your family history at the Allen County Public Library's extensive Genealogy Center or visit the Fort Wayne Museum of Art for free on Thursday or with a senior discount on other days. Fort Wayne has several farmers markets that supply local produce and live entertainment.
5. Lakeland, Florida
Waterfront property doesn't have to be expensive if you consider retirement in this inland Florida area with 38 lakes. Lakeland is located within an hour's drive of both Orlando and Tampa, but has far less expensive housing than these larger cities. Retirees with a mortgage pay a median of $1,184 per month to own a home in Lakeland. Renters are charged a median of $913 per month. Lakeland retirees enjoy mild winters but must watch out for the humid summers and accompanying air conditioning bills. There's no state income tax in Florida, which helps to keep costs low for retirees with part-time jobs.
4. Knoxville, Tennessee
Living in a college town often has many perks for retirees. In Knoxville, the University of Tennessee allows senior citizens to audit classes for free, enroll in classes for credit at the significantly reduced rate of $7 per semester hour, and the University of Tennessee Medical Center provides health care services to the surrounding community. The median housing cost in Knoxville is $1,183 per month for homeowners with a mortgage and $779 for renters. The state of Tennessee doesn't tax wages and salaries, but does tax dividends and interest, although low-income seniors age 65 and older might be exempt.
3. Grand Rapids, Michigan
You don't need a fortune to retire in an artistic community if you live in Grand Rapids. The median homeownership cost with a mortgage is $1,221 per month. Renting an apartment can be a good way to test out a potential retirement spot and easily move on if the neighborhood doesn't suit you. The median rent is $826 per month in the Grand Rapids metro area. Grand Rapids has several art museums, including the Grand Rapids Art Museum and the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, but you can also view the public art on display throughout the city for free.
2. Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Many retirees are priced out of wine country in Napa Valley. But you can tend your own field of grapes and enjoy locally produced wines at a much more reasonable cost in the Yadkin Valley. The low housing costs make it affordable to relocate to the Winston-Salem area. Homeowners with a mortgage pay a median of $1,137 per month in housing costs. You can rent an apartment in Winston-Salem for a median of just $732 monthly.
1. Asheville, North Carolina
While it's certainly possible to splurge on Asheville's high-end culinary experiences, the area's natural beauty comes free of charge. There's no entrance fee for Great Smoky Mountains National Park or to drive along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. The mountainous terrain provides numerous waterfalls and dramatic fall foliage. Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty of opportunities for mountaintop summit hikes and mountain biking. Many of Asheville's artists, writers and musicians are able to earn an income from their creative pursuits. Asheville scores high marks for affordable housing, with a median monthly mortgage cost of $1,244 and a median monthly rent of $849.
The 10 Most Affordable Places to Retire:
1. Asheville, North Carolina.
2. Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
3. Grand Rapids, Michigan.
4. Knoxville, Tennessee.
5. Lakeland, Florida.
6. Fort Wayne, Indiana.
8. Chattanooga, Tennessee.
9. El Paso, Texas.
10. Greenville, South Carolina.