12 Underrated Places to Retire in the United States

Cardinal Financial February 23, 2018 | 6 min read
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12 of the top cities and towns to start the next chapter of your life.

When thinking about the “best places to retire,” most people’s minds automatically go to a quaint little coastal town somewhere warm, but according to Forbes, there are more important traits to look for than warm weather when considering a place to retire. Taking things such as cost of living, cultural events and attractions, and quality of life into account, we’ve pinpointed 12 of the best places to retire that may be a little underrated.

1. Athens, Georgia

Home to the University of Georgia, Athens, known as “the Classic City,” is the quintessential college town. Just 70 miles east of Atlanta, it’s only a short drive away from one of the South’s most happening cities. The cost of living is 8% below the national average and the median home price is $161,000. The climate is generally warm and the city has a vibrant downtown area that plays host to several cultural events throughout the year, from music festivals to bike races.

2. Bella Vista, Arkansas

Admit it. Nobody thinks Arkansas when thinking about a potential retirement home, but the charm of this small Ozark foothills town may surprise you. Located right on the Mississippi River, Bella Vista offers beautiful views of the river and the Ozark Mountains. With a cost of living that’s 13% below the national average and a median home price of $160,000, your retirement money can go a long way here. We can’t say the same for a pricey beach town.

3. Clemson, South Carolina

The second college town on the list shares its name with the university that calls it home. Clemson is settled on Lake Hartwell and is about an hour from Athens and about two hours from Charlotte, NC, the second most populous city in the South. The cost of living is right at the national average and the median home price is $129,000. With a warm climate and a high walkability rating, Clemson is a great place to be during any time of the year.

4. Colorado Springs, Colorado

Described as an “outdoor playground,” Colorado Springs is a city of about 455,000 just 60 miles south of Denver. The cost of living is a little high at 5% above the national average, but Colorado Springs has plenty of activities to get involved with to lead an active lifestyle well into retirement age. Bikes are very popular, as are volunteering and nonprofit organizations. The city also is home to several well-known cultural events throughout the year. The median home price is $242,000.

5. Green Valley, Arizona

Green Valley is a collection of dozens of retirement communities with a total population of about 32,000 just 20 miles south of Tucson. The cost of living is 4% below the national average and the median home price is $157,000. Days are hot, but nights are a lot cooler thanks to the town’s 3,000-foot elevation, and winters are barely winters at all. The crime rate is low and there’s a very good tax climate for retirees with no state income tax in Social Security benefits. Green Valley is the perfect place to settle in with plenty of things to do for retirement-aged people.

6. Savannah, Georgia

Just 30 miles inland from the Georgia coast lies the lush river city of Savannah. Savannah has a population of around 146,000 and is one of America’s oldest and most beautiful cities. The cost of living is 14% below the national average and the median home price is about $118,000, making Savannah one of the country’s biggest retirement spots as far as value goes. It’s a walkable city with a lot to do and get involved with, especially in the summer months.

7. Port Charlotte, Florida

Finally, a Florida town! Just 100 miles south of Tampa, Port Charlotte is a small inlet town of 56,000 on the Gulf Coast. You can expect the typical Florida weather, but with a cost of living at 6% below the national average and a median home price of $150,000, you’ll get more bang for your buck here than other places on the Florida coast. It’s a relatively new area as well, as it was founded in 1757 but remained undeveloped for more than two centuries.

8. The Villages, Florida

The Villages is a fast-growing, senior citizen-oriented community of about 171,000 just 60 miles northwest of Orlando. The cost of living sits right at the national average and the median home price is $250,000. There’s plenty to do for retirement-aged people including golf, recreation centers, entertainment, town squares, nature trails, and an abundance of lakes and rivers to explore. With the typical Florida climate and a thriving local economy, The Villages is a great place to start the next chapter of your life and invite your family to come hang out during the summer months.

9. Peoria, Arizona

Settled just northwest of Phoenix, Peoria is a decent-sized desert suburb of about 167,000. The climate is hot, and the cost of living sits at 9% above the national average, but this desert utopia more than makes up for it with plenty of golf courses, recreation centers, museums, and nature trails to spend time exploring. Median home prices are around $240,000 and the city has a thriving local economy. As the icing on the cake, Arizona doesn’t carry a state income tax on Social Security benefits.

10. Ocean Pines, Maryland

A beautiful, bikeable community on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Ocean Pines is a coastal town without the touristy feel of other popular retirement spots. It’s a small town of 12,000 just eight miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a bit pricier than some of the other places on this list with a cost of living sitting at 5% above the national average and a median home price of $215,000, but its moderate climate and coastal location make this wooded, waterfront paradise a retirement hotspot.

11. Wenatchee, Washington

150 miles east of Seattle on the scenic Columbia River lies the sunny city of Wenatchee. Thankfully, since it’s situated on the dry side of the Cascade Mountain Range, Wenatchee doesn’t see nearly as much rain as other cities in Washington. Known as the “Apple Capital of the World,” the city is home to a population of about 33,000 and a median home price of $225,000. The cost of living is about 11% above the national average, but it consistently ranks highly on lists of best cities for successful aging. If you’ve been interested in exploring the Pacific-Northwest, Wenatchee may be the place for you to retire.

12. Maryville, Tennessee

Nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Maryville, Tennessee is a charming small town of 28,000 just 18 miles south of Knoxville. The cost of living is a whopping 13% below the national average and a median-priced home will run you about $154,000. The weather is mild for most of the year, but there is some snow during the winter months. The local economy is thriving and you’re just a few miles from beautiful mountain views and the Tennessee River.

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