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5 Best Cities for Retirement Living May Not Be Where You’d Expect

July 20, 2016 | By

Some 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day. Many will retire from full time employment and look for greener pastures, sunnier days, and beautiful scenery – or so goes the conventional thinking.

But as reminds us, some definable factors may go into our decision on where to spend our golden years, including weather (some people like four seasons), safety, cost of living, and taxes. Since many seniors will live on fixed incomes, high taxes and a high cost of living can become deal-breakers.

And then there are those unmeasurable and personal factors important to you — being close to family and friends, for example, or being in the desert or mountains. crunched data in nine categories (cost of living, climate, healthcare cost and quality, taxes, crime, well-being, walkability, and cultural vitality) gathered from sources like the FBI and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to pick its top retirement cities. Depending on the category, ratings range from “great” or “very high” down to “poor” or “very low.”

According to, this year’s list-toppers shared common themes of warm weather – aside from one notable exception – and a good quality of life. Their number one pick, Arlington, VA, offers a “wealth of cultural opportunities, a strong sense of well-being among seniors, and great healthcare.” Its main drawback, as noted by, was its “very high” cost of living.

For those Boomers hoping to retire soon and move to a new locale, here are’s top 5 recommendations (and if you’re curious to see the rest of the list, and the cities they ranked the worst, check out their amazing chart).

  1. Arlington, VA

Arlington, a suburb of Washington, D.C., and home to 209,000, has been called the “perfect urban/suburban middle ground.” It’s along the Potomac River and where you’ll find the Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Marine Corps Iwo Jima Memorial – cultural icons for many Boomers. It’s also along a metro line, so it’s easy to travel into D.C. for cultural events. Several housing options are available, including hundreds of historic homes. The city’s main drawback, as cited by, is its “very high” cost of living. The median home value is $623,300, which is considerably higher than the median U.S. home price of about $240,000 and the highest among the top 5.

  1. Alexandria, VA

Home to 150,000 residents, Alexandria is located just south of Washington, D.C., along the western bank of the Potomac River. The city is nationally recognized for its rich history and beautifully preserved 18th- and 19th-century architecture. Its historic Old Town along the waterfront offers dining and shopping. Its main thoroughfare, King Street, is where you’ll find the George Washington Masonic National Memorial and The Lyceum: Alexandria’s History Museum. Alexandria has been called highly walkable, with plenty of paths, plus the metro and Amtrak to help people get around without cars. Saving on gas and car expenses might be nice given the city’s “very high” cost of living. The median home value is $493,400. 

  1. Franklin, TN

Franklin, 20 miles south of Nashville, is known for its music scene and historic downtown. The town grew quickly during the last two decades, tripling its population to more than 72,000 today and has a “very low” crime rate and “low” cost of living. “The biggest challenge as we grow is that we continue to keep the charm we have and continue to be a destination where people want to live, work, and raise their children,” Ken Moore, who’s been the city’s mayor since 2011, tells The Nashville Ledger. Franklin scored well in cost of living, taxes, and cultural vitality, but had the lowest score among the top 5 in walkability. The median home value is $399,500.

  1. Silver Spring, MD

Silver Spring, north of Washington, D.C., is the third DC “suburb” in the top 5. This unincorporated area covers about eight square miles and is home to about 71,000. It features numerous parks (including Rock Creek and Sligo Creek Parks), lakes, and creeks. It was, in fact, named for a spring discovered there in 1840 with glittering mica flakes that gave the water a silvery appearance. Its “great” culture rating may reflect downtown improvements – an Arts and Entertainment District, the renovated historic Silver Theatre, and the Fillmore Silver Spring music venue. The area has a “high” cost of living, and taxes are also “high.” The median home value is $376,900.

  1. West Des Moines, IA

West Des Moines was the only town with a real winter – getting about 31 inches of snow annually – to rank in the top 5. But its low cost of living, low crime, and excellent health care must have made up for the need to shovel driveways several months of the year. And here’s a surprise: on average, there are 204 sunny days per year. “It got very good scores on everything,” Jill Cornfield, an analyst at Bankrate, tells CBS News. “It’s a town of 60,000 and it has a Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. That’s remarkable. The cost of living is very low, and the health care quality is off the hook.” The median home value in West Des Moines is $192,000, the lowest in the top 5.


Source: “1 great chart for comparing the best and worst cities for your retirement,” by Claes Bell, CFA, published on, and updated June 27, 2016.

  • small federal

    How can it be the best place to retire if living expenses are extremely high. Maybe it should be titled, the best place for the rich to retire.

  • LagunaLady27

    I wouldn’t live in any of them. Terrible weather.



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