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Best Urban Places To Retire

March 18, 2013
Personal Finance
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Want to remain in an urban environment when you retire? Retirees want to live in the most affordable cities–somewhere where their money stretches far, but they can retain a high quality of life.  We examined factors that are important to seniors, including affordability, social life, weather and walkability.

NerdWallet calculated the best urban retirement cities based on six main questions:

 1. Can you afford to live there?  We included a cost of living index to determine if the city is affordable for retirees on a fixed income.  The average cost of living index is 100 across all U.S. cities.

2. Can you afford help if and when you need it?  The cost of assisted living varies widely across cities, so our calculation includes the costs of homemaker services.  Homemaker services include basic household assistance such as shopping, laundry, personal hygiene and meal preparation, allowing older individuals to live in their own homes as they age.

3. Is healthcare affordable?  We assessed the relative cost of healthcare through the cost of a doctor’s visit.

4. Can you have an active social life? To assess whether seniors can have a peer group and active social life in these cities, we included the percentage of the population over 65.

5. Is the weather warm?  Many seniors prefer to move to sunny locales, so we incorporated cities with a high average annual temperature.

6. Is the city walkable?  We assessed how easy it is to live without a car through the Walk Score of each city.

For more information, check out our Cost of Living Calculator and City Life tool.

Best urban places to retire 

1.    Miami, FL

It’s no wonder Miami is a popular retirement destination—a full 16% of the city is over 65 years old, and the average temperature is a sunny 76.7 °F.   Beaches abound in Miami, making this scenic destination the perfect retirement spot, and it’s easy to avoid driving in this walkable city.  Miami has fun yearly festivals as well, including Calle Ocho Festival and Carnaval Miami.

2.    El Paso, TX

El Paso has extremely low-cost assisted living services, making the city very affordable for seniors.  The warm weather and high proportion of the population over 65 ensures that seniors can have an active social life as well.   El Paso has great dining, theater venues and museums, so the city offers plenty of entertainment as well.

3.    Jacksonville, FL

Jacksonville has a fairly low cost of living and very low healthcare costs, and although Jacksonville’s assisted living costs are on the high side, the warm weather makes up for it.  The city center is home to the Jacksonville Landing and Jacksonville Riverwalks, popular dining and shopping venues.

4.    Tampa, FL

Tampa has it all.  The city is affordable, warm and has a large population of seniors.  Full of museums, parks, zoos and major sports teams, the city has something for everyone.

5.    Memphis, TN

The low cost of living in Memphis can be enticing to seniors on a fixed income, and the warm weather doesn’t hurt, either.  The city has social events as well, including the month-long Memphis in May celebration, Africa in April and the Memphis Italian Festival.  There are also several film festivals in Memphis for movie buffs.

6.    Oklahoma City, OK

Oklahoma City is a full 10% cheaper than the average U.S. city, and although the city is not as warm as some other options, almost 12% of the population is over 65, giving seniors plenty of peers.  Oklahoma City has a rich arts culture.  Seniors can find art at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, ballet at the Oklahoma City Ballet and theatre at the Stage Center for the Performing Arts.

7.    San Antonio, TX

San Antonio’s hot weather is a plus for seniors, and the city is affordable as well.  The city has plenty of fun activities and attractions as well, including the Spanish Missions, the Alamo and the River Walk.

8.    Louisville, KY

Louisville is very senior-friendly, with a high population of seniors and a low cost of living.  Plus, the city has plenty of fun events, including the Kentucky Derby, the Humana Festival and Abbey Road on the River, a large Beatles festival.

9.    Tucson, AZ

Tucson is warm and affordable, making it a great city in which to retire.  With some of the best Mexican restaurants in the country, the city has a lot of offer retirees.  Tucson often holds public fairs and festival, and the Tucson Folk Festival is one of the biggest free festivals in the country.

10.   Nashville, TN

Nashville is very affordable, with a high percentage of seniors in the population.  Country music lovers will feel welcome in this city, with its Country Music Hall of Fame and regular concerts from top performers, and seniors can take classes at nearby Vanderbilt University as well.

Rank City Overall cost of living index Annual cost of in-home homemaker services Cost of a doctor’s visit Percentage of population over 65 Average annual temperature (°F) Walkability Score Overall score for retirees
1 Miami, FL 108.1 $36,608 $107 16.0% 76.7 73 67.0
2 El Paso, TX 94.6 $30,316 $74 11.2% 64.7 38 64.6
3 Jacksonville, FL 95.7 $40,040 $67 10.9% 68 33 60.9
4 Tampa, FL 92.2 $41,756 $85 11.0% 73.1 51 59.9
5 Memphis, TN 85.6 $37,752 $75 10.3% 62.4 39 58.2
6 Oklahoma City, OK 90.5 $38,896 $85 11.8% 60.1 36 56.4
7 San Antonio, TX 87.7 $40,040 $98 10.4% 68.7 41 56.0
8 Louisville, KY 91.6 $40,040 $83 12.6% 57 40 55.6
9 Tucson, AZ 93.8 $43,998 $100 11.9% 68.7 48 54.8
10 Nashville, TN 87.7 $38,896 $79 10.2% 58.9 36 54.6



Each city’s overall score for retirees was calculated from the following measures:

1.   Cost of living index from ACCRA Cost of Living Index.  The average for all participating places in each quarter is 100, so each city’s index is read as a percentage of the average for all participating places.

2.   Annual cost of in-home homemaker services and the Genworth 2012 Cost of Care Survey

3.   Cost of a doctor’s visit from ACCRA Cost of Living Index.  Price reported is the general practitioner average charge for an established adult patient.

4.   Percentage of the population over 65 from the U.S. Census

5.   Average annual temperature from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

6.    Walkability score from Walk Score

50 of the most populous cities were included in this analysis


Elderly couple image from Shutterstock