Choosing The Best Place to Retire (and it’s not Florida)

This article may contain affiliate links. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Privacy Policy.

Is retirement on your mind? We spend much of our working life planning for retirement, but once the planning is done, it’s time to think about living, really living in retirement.

There are many ‘best places to retire’ lists, and all roads lead to Florida. But what if you really dislike hot, humid weather and sand?

In this article, we help you begin the search to find your best place to retire.

The Best Location to Retire Might be Somewhere Else

According to the Washington Post, “Americans say there’s not much appeal to big-city living,” approximately eighty percent of Americans live in urban areas, but that’s not their preference.

We live in cities because that’s where the most work is available. Perhaps retirement is the perfect opportunity to decide where you want to live without the ties of work.

With over 4,500 cities in the United States, there are many questions you will need to answer to find a place that’s right for you.

Let’s start generating the best place to live in retirement – for you.

Start Researching ‘Best of’ Retirement City Lists

One of the most thorough best cities to retire in lists we found is the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging report on the Best Cities for Successful Aging. The report uses several assumptions, importantly including – “where you live affects your life expectancy.” Improved life expectancy is a great reason to find your perfect place!

Milken’s report lists the factors they considered when making their list, and we have put this into a spreadsheet for you to add to. You can reference the spreadsheet below.

Consider What Helps you Live a Longer Life

According to Healthbeat at Harvard Medical School, living a longer, happy life includes keeping busy and engaged and staying connected.

Think of activities that help make it:

  • Easier to connect. E.g., day trips for retirees, church
  • Create a sense of community. E.g., volunteer opportunities
  • Encourage social engagement for seniors. E.g., Friday afternoon socials
  • Help you to maintain an active body and mind. E.g., book Club, senior fitness classes

Also, consider what kind of family support you can expect in your new location and what you will need to hire for.

With global employment, it may not be realistic to expect that children, siblings, and other relatives will reside in the same city and be available to help you.

If this is the case, consider airport proximity and the availability of services that can supplement family support such as; meals on wheels and senior day trips.

Working in Retirement

When looking at your retirement life, take into account the availability of part-time jobs.

According to 401K Specialist Magazine, the number of Americans who plan to work in retirement is rising.

When it comes to Social Security, there are benefits to waiting until you are 70 years old to draw on Social Security – in fact, your benefit will increase to 132% from your payout at 65!

A part-time income may make it possible to not take social security benefits until age 70. Keeping the mind active has health benefits and potential financial benefits too.

Staying Active in Retirement

Your current vision of retirement life may be lying on the beach, sipping margaritas.

But, will this realistically occupy you long term?

Consider what activities you may like to adopt – walking along the beach, fixing up your dream car, walking, or bike riding around town or maybe choosing a new hobby.

Make a note of what will be important to fulfill that vision in terms of a town or cities infrastructure.

For example, if bike riding is an activity you enjoy, you may need bicycle trails and bike lanes. If you want to spend time working on cars, a large garage or workshop will be ideal.

Weather factors

Now you have your ‘wish list’ in place; it’s time to map out areas you know will not suit.

As much as you may have a wish list, also note what you don’t want to see in your retirement life. If you are tired of digging your way out of snow each winter, then put that on your list.

If the weather is a factor, look at average annual temperatures in the areas you are considering.

For example, if you have a ‘no snow,’ ‘no extreme heat’ requirement, you could rule out most of the East Coast, South, and Middle of the U.S. If the cost of living is a factor you could rule out most of Coastal California.

You can focus further on population and town size.

Housing costs

Housing affordability and living costs may also restrict where you live and the median house costs will let you know what you can afford.

Keep in mind that you will likely be downsizing your current house, and so a square foot average may be the best indicator of city housing costs.

Zillow is one place you can research different regions and cities in North America.

Research City Records for Hard Facts

Now comes the data collection to get facts. Google the information you want or try City Rating as one website that records city-data.


National Temperature and Humidity Averages in the U.S. from City Rating


Arizona Property and Violent Crime Statistics from City Rating
Arizona Property and Violent Crime Statistics Compared to National U.S. Average from City Rating

Housing Prices:

Arizona Market Overview from Zillow
Arizona Market Health from Zillow

Cost of Living:

Cost of Living Comparison from Boise, ID to Phoenix, AZ to the U.S. National Average

Visit the City as a Visitor and Then go Back as a Resident

Narrowing your choices based on data is the first step. It’s very important to go and visit the cities you prioritize to capture the things data cannot. How the city ‘feels.’ It’s so important to stay multiple times for shorter and longer visits and embrace living like a local person rather than as a tourist.

Talk to people. Go to local events. Sit in a café or restaurant and watch. Hang out in a store that has your hobby and chat to people.

How to Evaluate a City as a Visitor


Stay in an Airbnb or Vrbo home in a neighborhood that you could afford and would enjoy living in. If a hotel is the only possibility, then be sure to talk to hotel staff about living and working in the area.

Ask about the hobbies you enjoy and the activities you are likely to do in retirement. Visit a few Open Houses to get a feel for what kind of housing is available.

Access to Food:

Food deserts exist in cities where you may not expect it. Easy access to supermarkets and fresh food is important as you age.

Visit local supermarkets and Farmers Markets on the weekend to see first hand what it would cost you to eat well. Visit popular local restaurants too.


Visit the places you would spend time as a retiree– library, golf course, coffee shops, football games, churches, and more.

This is an opportunity to sit beside local people and to see if you will fit in with the community.


You may not always have access to a car but will still need to move about the city. Gather information from as many places and people as possible to help you evaluate the city.

You now have your top retirement cities based on research from experts and your personal experiences. We spend so much of our working life preparing for retirement that you really do deserve to live richly in your non-working years.

Now all you have to do is get through the working years to pay for your retirement.

Happy retirement hunting!

Meagan Mujushi

view post

More from Home category