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Why You Should Retire in a College Town

College towns aren't just for students — they're perfect places for retirees. Here's why.

By Sarah Von Bargen on September 13, 2018

To celebrate the release of our 10 Best College Towns in America list, we are highlighting all the reasons college towns are great places to live – and not just for students. Today we present a counterintuitive argument we stand behind: college towns are great places to retire. 

Why would you want to move to a college town to retire? Why not head to Florida or Arizona where it’s warm, dry, and you can be surrounded by people who are at the exact same place in their lives as you?

Counterintuitive as it might sound, there are actually tons of great reasons to retire in a college town. Here are six!

1. Your retirement fund will (probably) go further.

Of course, this depends on where you’re moving from and to. If you’re moving from rural Idaho to the college town of Malibu, CA (home to Pepperdine University) this advice will not apply.

But if you move from NYC to Bloomington, IN or from the Bay Area to Madison, WI like Livability reader Ada, you’ll be amazed by how far those retirement dollars can go.

When Ada and her husband relocated to Madison from San Francisco, their mortgage was cut in half, their home and car insurance went down 70%, and they discovered that gasoline was $1.50-$2.00 cheaper per gallon in Wisconsin than it was in California. Amazing, right?

2. College towns have great events, museums and culture.

One of the most common misconceptions we hear about small and mid-sized cities is that there’s not enough to do. If you retire in a college town, that complaint will never leave your lips.

Watch college sports! Check out senior showcases from the theater, dance, and art departments! Book tickets to the many concerts, speakers, and comedians hosted by the university!

Need more convincing? On Friday, September 14th, there are more than 25 different events happening at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. And those are just college events – that doesn’t even include all the things happening in the city of Madison itself!

3. College towns are diverse.

Colleges and universities pull students, staff and faculty from all over the world and college towns reap the benefits. In fact, Bloomington, Indiana was famously home to the Dalai Lama’s brother, Thubten Jigme Norbu, who was a professor of Tibetan Studies at Indiana University.

College towns are more likely to commemorate holidays outside of the traditional American celebration calendar – Ithaca College celebrates Chinese New Year with a concert and Fullerton College celebrates Dia de los Muertos. These collegiate cities are also more likely to have international restaurants and more diverse selections in the grocery store.

4. Easy access to good healthcare.

As we age, access to quality healthcare becomes increasingly important and it’s not always easy to find that in really small, rural or isolated communities.

But college towns are much more likely to have great clinics, hospitals and specialists. This is particularly true if you move somewhere with a renowned medical school. Rochester, MNDurham, NC; and Chapel Hill, NC are all home to top-rated medical schools.

If you currently live in a state that doesn’t offer Medicare supplemental insurance, it’s worth looking into potential new hometowns where that’s available. Here’s a helpful rundown of how Medicare supplemental plans vary by state.

5. You’ll be surrounded by youthful energy.

It’s invigorating to be surrounded by the energy of people just starting out in life – in a college town you’ll have a front row seat to wild fandom at football games, first dates at coffee shops, students celebrating the last day of classes, and freshman exploring their new city with wide eyes.

It does us good to remember the excitement, nerves and joy of that phase of life. It’s refreshing to be surrounded by people who are a little different than us or people who remind us of who we used to be. It’s also inspiring – seeing the creativity and excitement at a student art show might be the nudge you need to pick up your pastels again.

6. There are tons of opportunities to get involved.

Colleges are always looking for volunteers at events, mentors for about-to-graduate students, advisors for their organizations and guest speakers for their classes.

If you had a career in public relations, students who are majoring in communications would love to hear from you. Biology majors would love to hear about building a career as a research scientist and computer science majors would love to talk to you about your career in tech. There are countless ways to get involved in the college or community.

Moving after retirement is an undertaking. It requires research, commitment, and probably some downsizing. But if you’re looking for a fresh start for your second act, a college town is a great place to make that happen!

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