Best Places to Live

Best Places to Retire

Discover the best retirement destinations in the country based on quality of life, things to do and affordability.

Retirement. Ten thousand baby boomers a day are reaching that point in their lives. Getting to retirement is the culmination of many decisions and, ideally, a long-standing series of life and financial plans. One of the key questions, of course, is where should you live when you retire? Livability's ranking of the Best Places to Retire is a list of 10 varied cities throughout the U.S. Sure, many will decide to retire in place and stay rooted in the communities they've invested in over the years. Some will have financial or health considerations to weigh. Many others will have their retirement decisions driven by their family needs – grandkids can be powerful lures and mighty anchors. For those with freedom to move, however, we've crunched the numbers on 10 great retirement destinations.

We analyzed data on characteristics of livability that our research has shown are especially important to seniors: access to affordable and quality health care, climate and air quality, crime rates, cost of living and access to activities and, well, golf. We also looked for areas with high concentrations of senior citizens, of course. Once the data were in, our editors narrowed down the shortlist to make sure we had a great mix of cities. Whether you're looking for a traditional warm-weather getaway or a city with a more seasonal climate, we can help you plan a great retirement relocation.

Ranking Criteria

Health-care spending • Cost of living • Percentage of people age 60 and older • Crime rate • Weather • Parks • Walkability • Golf courses • Air quality

10. Scottsdale, AZ Population 227,471
9. Rapid City, SD Population 71,692
8. Charlottesville, VA Population 45,084
7. Lincoln, NE Population 269,726
6. Hillsboro, OR Population 97,751
5. Carson City, NV Population 54,482
4. Tacoma, WA Population 203,481
3. Plano, TX Population 275,645
2. Sarasota, FL Population 53,583
1. Santa Barbara, CA Population 90,401

Best Places to Retire

Utilizing a collection of data to measure health care, natural amenities, tax incentives and quality of life, we've determined the best places to retire in 2014.

How did we create our Top 10 list of best retirement cities?

First, we spent some time considering who was retiring and what retirement might look like for them. Each day, nearly 10,000 Baby Boomers are turning 65. Retirement is within reach. It’s time for days of leisure, travel, golf, and playing with the grandkids or in the area pickleball league. Nearly four in 10 Boomers plan to move when they retire, so this list is meant to provide some suggestions.

Today’s retirees are living longer, more active lifestyles. Access to affordable and quality health care is an important consideration. We used data from Esri and the County Health Rankings to find cities that have access to a large number of hospitals and doctors, and yet still have low health-care costs. We also looked at factors related to the quality of care including making sure that seniors and other at-risk groups have access to social and emotional support.

We looked for areas that have an active population and ways to stay active. Natural amenities, a temperate climate (as measured by the difference in January and July temperatures), golf courses, Walk Score and the number of golf courses were all considered.

For people on a fixed income, affordability is often an issue, so we looked at housing affordability measured by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Location Affordability Index. Overall cost of living was factored in as was the crime rate.

Most of these measures were selected from our overall Best Places to Live metrics with special attention paid to specific concerns of seniors and Boomers. But we also wanted to add some senior-specific metrics. We looked at Census data and data from Esri’s consumer segmentation system, Tapestry, to find areas with heavy concentrations of seniors and businesses and services that cater to them. Research has shown that people are staying in the workforce later in life, so we also analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to find areas with low unemployment for seniors. Finally, using data from Kiplinger, we gave bonus points to cities located in states that have a tax climate that is especially friendly to retirees.

The result is a geographically dispersed group of cities. Not all retirees want to settle down in Florida and Arizona or golf 365 days a year – but we have options for those who do, as well as those looking for some place with four seasons.

Take a look at the list and let us know about your perfect retirement destination in the comments. 

Ranking Criteria

Health Care • Cost of Living • Recreational Amenities • Crime • Walkability • Taxes • Age Diversity • Social or Emotional Support Services

10. Coeur d'Alene, ID Population 46,796
9. Missoula, MT Population 69,190
8. Tucson, AZ Population 528,374
7. Albuquerque, NM Population 556,092
6. Honolulu, HI Population 347,973
5. Wheat Ridge, CO Population 30,863
4. Largo, FL Population 79,737
3. Bellevue, WA Population 134,630
2. Knoxville, TN Population 183,066
1. Springfield, MO Population 163,763

Best Places to Retire

To determine our 2013 list of the best places to retire, we looked for cities with excellent and varied cultural and recreational options, vibrant atmospheres, and accessible, quality health care. Considering where to retire? Take a look at our picks.

When choosing where to retire, today's older adults consider the best places to retire as communities where they can stay active, healthy, engaged and inspired.

Baby Boomers, people born between 1946 and 1964 (and now aged 49 to 67), currently make up the largest part of the U.S. population. So for at least the next decade, Boomers' lifestyle habits will continue to impact communities, particularly as they redefine traditional ideas of what retirement means. These retirees prefer to keep learning and experiencing new things as they age, and tend to seek more diverse climates, demographics and activities. In other words, places offering little more than just sunny days on the golf course and heated games of bingo and bridge have become less appealing.

To better understand what retirees are looking for in a community, we worked with the Martin Prosperity Institute to parse the data in our exclusive livability survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs. They helped us measure the relative importance of livability criteria for retirees versus the population as a whole. We found that health care, housing and cost of living were most important to seniors, followed by transportation, parks, crime and cultural amenities. Starting with data used in compiling our Top 100 Best Places to Live index, we focused on those data points that mattered most to people at or near retirement age. Weather wasn't so much a factor. 

Many of our picks have colleges that provide residents with continuing education opportunities, and often free or discounted classes, lectures and workshops for senior citizens. The cities we found all fall into the midsize range with populations between 90,000 and 320,000 residents.

Considering where to retire? Take a look at our picks.

Ranking Criteria

Percentage of ages 55 & Up • Healthcare spending • Median home price • Low cost of living • Presence of college • Cultural amenities

10. Syracuse, NY Population 144,564
9. Cedar Rapids, IA Population 128,829
8. Birmingham, AL Population 212,211
7. Knoxville, TN Population 183,066
6. Roanoke, VA Population 98,736
5. Pittsburgh, PA Population 305,928
4. Provo, UT Population 115,345
3. Baton Rouge, LA Population 229,186
2. St. Louis, MO Population 317,850
1. Cincinnati, OH Population 297,397