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All Contents © 2019The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Stacy Rapacon, Online Editor
| July 10, 2018
Are you hoping to retire your snow gear when you exit the workforce? We don't blame you. Harsh winters can be particularly difficult as you age. Older adults lose body heat faster than when they were younger, and their health can suffer before they even realize quite how cold they are, according to the National Institute on Aging.
We pinpointed one great place to retire in each state that offers attractive advantages for retirees, taking into account living costs, safety, median incomes and poverty rates for retirement-age residents, as well as residents' sense of well-being and the availability of recreational and health care facilities. To shovel out the more wintry locations, we used the Comfort Index from Sperling's Best Places. The scores are based on how many days per year each place enjoys temperatures between 70 degrees and 80 degrees—with penalties for days of excessive humidity. The U.S. average for comfort is 54 out of 100, and higher scores mean more comfortable climates year round. Also, we nixed places where the average temperature in January falls below freezing, whittling our selections to the following 10 great places to retire if you hate the cold. See if any feel just right for you.
The list is ordered alphabetically by state. See "How We Picked the Best Places to Retire" at the end of the list for details on our data sources and methodology.
Comfort Index Score: 80 (U.S.: 54)
Average low in January: 42℉
Cost of Living: 5% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $52,414 (U.S.: $53,799)
Community Score: 62.5 (U.S.: 61.9)
State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Mixed
Undoubtedly, many of you have considered the Grand Canyon State for its retiree-friendly climate and beautiful natural scenery. Unfortunately, the financial setting is not quite as picturesque: Average living costs in Arizona are above the national average while median incomes for seniors are 10.8% below average at $47,973. Phoenix, though, offers a pocket of affordability, plus typically higher incomes.
And being the capital city, you can find plenty of attractions to keep you busy—world-class restaurants, professional sports teams and an array of museums, theaters and other cultural attractions. Of course, outdoor enthusiasts have more than enough to enjoy, too, with many hiking and biking trails within the city limits and even more to explore in nearby Scottsdale, Glendale and Tempe.
Comfort Index Score: 80
Average low in January: 44℉
Cost of Living: 46.1% above the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $62,681
Community Score: 64.3
Part of the San Diego metro area, Carlsbad (city population: 115,330) offers a small-city feel with easy access to big-city amenities. It has a vibrant cultural community, ocean-side living and sunny climate. Plus, there are 25 parks, nearly 50 miles of hiking trails and a full calendar of artsy offerings, including Foreign Film Friday and free summer concerts. And you can choose among a host of retirement communities with ocean views.
Of course, you have to be able to afford it. Like much of California, which sports the second-highest living costs in the country behind only Hawaii, the cost of living is steep. For example, the median home value in the U.S. is $184,700; in California, it's $409,300; and in Carlsbad, it's $674,400. The taxes also weigh heavily on your wallet.
Comfort Index Score: 82
Average low in January: 53℉
Cost of Living: 6% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $50,143
Community Score: 64.8
State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Most Tax Friendly
With its desirable climate and favorable tax status, Florida is filled with popular retirement destinations. Many of our favorite retirement spots in the Sunshine State can be found along the Gulf Coast including St. Petersburg, Sarasota and Punta Gorda.
Cape Coral's metro area includes Fort Myers, yet another great place to consider for your retirement. But Cape Coral (city population: 183,365) is unique in its waterway access, offering 400 miles of canals for all your boating, fishing and water sports dreams. And land lovers can enjoy the area's beaches, golfing, tennis, parks and other recreational offerings.
Comfort Index Score: 75
Average low in January: 39℉
Cost of Living: 10.2% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $44,648
Community Score: 60.4
With its warm weather and low living costs, Georgia ranks third among our Best States for Retirement. The only two states to rate higher than Georgia for retirees are Hawaii and (surprisingly) South Dakota.
Savannah (city population: 146,444) is particularly peachy. 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.
Comfort Index Score: 95
Average low in January 64℉
Cost of Living: 45.8% above the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $57,916
Community Score: n/a
State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Tax Friendly
Hawaii is well known for its beautiful beaches, enviable climate and high prices. If you're hoping to retire in paradise, you can do so more affordably on the Big Island compared with Oahu, home of capital city Honolulu, where retiree living costs are 88.0% above the U.S. average. The median home value in Hilo is $298,500—still pricey, to be sure, compared with the U.S. median of $184,700, but much more reasonable than the $602,700 median in Honolulu.
And the local lifestyle is still priceless. The colonial town's mood is quiet and calm, but its location on the eastern coast of the island and near active volcano Mauna Loa offers plenty of opportunities for adventure. You can explore rainforests and waterfalls, as well as Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. In the downtown and waterfront areas, enjoy galleries, shops, restaurants and museums, including the Imiloa Astronomy Center.
Comfort Index Score: 70
Average low in January 41℉
Cost of Living: 9.5% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $52,059
Community Score: 62.4
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.
Unfortunately, the area's wealth does not reflect in many older residents' finances. Though the average income for people age 65 and older is just a bit below the national average of $53,799, the poverty rate for the age group is a high 14.1%, compared with 12.9% for the state and 9.3% for the U.S. On the bright side, the metro area has an abundance of health care facilities, with about 27 establishments per 1,000 seniors, compared with just 19 per 1,000 seniors in the U.S.
Comfort Index Score: 65
Average low in January 36℉
Cost of Living: 11.3% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $50,801
Community Score: 57.8
Low costs and friendly tax policies can make for a sweet retirement in the Magnolia State, and the capital is particularly alluring. Jackson is a surprisingly eclectic city that holds appeal to Civil War buffs, blues music aficionados and even ballet fans. Dancers from around the world flock to Mississippi to compete for medals, scholarships and spots in ballet companies. Similar competitions are held only in Russia, Bulgaria and Finland.
The Milken Institute ranks Jackson eighth among the best large cities for successful aging. On top of its affordability, Jackson offers an abundance of nurses, nurse practitioners and orthopedic surgeons, as well as caregiving option and geriatric facilities. Note, however, that the area's residents are prone to unhealthy habits that you don’t want to pick up in retirement, including low levels of activity and high levels of fast-food dining.
Comfort Index Score: 79
Average low in January 35℉
Cost of Living: 29.3% above the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $53,063
Community Score: 62.1
State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Not Tax Friendly
Portland is such a great place to retire that it rises above the high cost of living and the Beaver State's unfriendly tax situation, levying one of the highest top state income tax rates in the U.S.. As an original participant in the World Health Organization's Global Age-Friendly Cities Project, Portland is committed to satisfying the needs of its older residents. In the early stages of its action plan, the Age-Friendly Portland Advisory Council—with members from AARP Oregon, nonprofit Elders in Action and Portland State University's Institute on Aging—has held discussions about intergenerational activities and programs, ways for businesses to engage with older adults and developing age-friendly housing.
And you can already enjoy the pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, such as the popular Pearl District, as well as the public transit system, which costs only $1 a ride for those age 65 and older. For natural diversions, you don't have to go far. In the city, you can stroll Forest Park or hike extinct volcano Mount Tabor. Mount Hood and the Pacific Ocean aren't too far away.
Comfort Index Score: 85
Average low in January 39℉
Cost of Living: 4.0% above the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $52,827
Community Score: 64.5
Southern charm, a rich history, city living and nearby beaches combine to make Charleston a uniquely attractive retirement destination. History buffs, in particular, can appreciate the city's well-preserved antebellum architecture (the Preservation Society of Charleston is the oldest community-based historic preservation group in the country) and Civil War sites, including Fort Sumter.
Foodies, too, can find plenty to enjoy along Charleston’s cobblestone streets, especially in the brunch and comfort food areas. And if you need to work off some of those calories, water sports, including surfing, paddle boarding and kayaking, are popular local activities—along with boating and fishing. The population of the city proper is a manageable 134,875.
Comfort Index Score: 68
Average low in January 38℉
Cost of Living: 7.7% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $62,940
Community Score: 64.2
There's nothing weird about wanting to retire in Austin. The metro area offers low living costs even while its older residents tend to bring in well-above-average incomes. And the population has the opportunity to be just as healthy as their budgets. A great place to retire for good health, Austin is home to Zilker Park, a 350-acre green space with a 10-mile hiking and biking trail that encircles Lady Bird Lake.
The area also has an abundance of health care facilities, with more than 29 establishments per 1,000 seniors in the metro area compared with just 19 per 1,000 seniors in the U.S. That includes St. David's South Austin Medical Center with specialties including women's health, heart and vascular care, and oncology. In fact, the Milken Institute credits the Austin metro area's sterling health care system and health-minded population as one reason it ranks sixth among the best large cities for successful aging.
To pinpoint one great retirement destination in each state, we weighed a number of factors:
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