Finding the Best Places to Retire

From coast to coast, what's the best place to retire in the U.S.? We look at factors to take into consideration when planning a move in retirement, especially when living on a fixed income.

Two retirees sitting on their porch enjoying retirement

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The place where we live and work often holds a special place in our hearts. It’s the community we call home. We tend to gravitate towards living in places that align with our own personal goals and interests. Maybe it’s escaping the Midwestern winters to warmer climate, or being closer to family. Once retired, we want to find places that mirror the features of our home communities, but also add amenities that couldn’t be enjoyed before.

There are many factors to consider when it comes to where and how to retire. From location to health care options to community and transportation, here are some things to keep in mind throughout your decision-making process.

Making Retirement Income Planning a Priority

As you plan your retirement, make sure to consider changes to income. Many retirees are dependent on fixed income sources such as Social Security benefits or employer pension plans – the income from which is often significantly lower than income from a salary received during working years.

In 2021, an average of 65 million Americans per month will receive a Social Security benefit. As of December 2020, the average Social Security retirement benefit for retired workers, who were not disabled, was $1,544 per month.1^"Social Security Administration, Fact Sheet on Social Security,2021"

Implications regarding income are also affected by location. Taking 2021's best retirement city, 2^"Adam McCann,, 2021 best and Worst Places to Retire,September 2021"Orlando, Florida, according to a WalletHub Study, and comparing it to a Midwestern city like Des Moines, will create vastly different results. In 2021, Orlando is 31.3 percent more expensive than Des Moines, and a person with an annual income of $50,000 in Des Moines, would need to increase that income to roughly $65,000 to maintain a comparable lifestyle. 3^", 2021 Cost of Living Calculator"

Why Choosing Housing in Retirement Matters

Choosing housing that fits your retirement lifestyle and budget is an important decision. According to the 2021 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report by the National Association of Realtors, younger and older baby boomers traded for a home that has a difference of less than 100 square feet, essentially trading for a similar sized home. Similar sized homes were favored due to almost identical maintenance costs and a lack of renovations needed. According to the report, baby boomers are selling to move closer to friends and family and to start retirement. 4^"National Association of Realtors, 2021 home buyers and sellers generational trends, March 2021"

Another consideration when searching for the right place to live, is whether it belongs to a homeowner’s association. While most associations charge a fee for membership and benefits vary by association, it could be a small price to pay for the benefits a membership offers. Many homeowner groups use the membership fees to manage common areas such as roads, pools and clubhouses. Some associations will even manicure lawns and remove snow from the driveways of members. These benefits can help alleviate some of the strain of home ownership.

When choosing an area for retirement, consider cities with a historically stable housing market. It’s also important to look for an area with a real estate market that has affordable housing. While moving to a city with a volatile housing market does pose a set of risks, there are measures pre-retirees can take to minimize those risks, such as considering renting prior to purchasing.

Health Care Costs in Retirement and Questions to Ask

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of adequate health care and access to facilities that can prioritize an aging population’s needs. Making health a priority can lead to a happier retirement and help you enjoy your hard-earned nest egg even more.

Aging populations also need to have easy access to several types of medical facilities. Various illnesses and ailments can arise in older adults, increasing the need to see certain doctors and medical specialists on a regular basis. Look for areas that have state-of-the-art medical centers, Veterans Affairs medical centers, specialists and urgent care facilities.

Here are some health care facility questions to ask:

  • Is the hospital top quality? Does it include services for many specialty areas, including cancer, cardiology, geriatrics, diabetes, neurosurgery, heart surgery and more?
  • Is the hospital affiliated with any universities? Academic healthcare centers can offer numerous testing, medical research and case study opportunities.
  • Does the hospital have a variety of specialists and facilities? Is it well-known for its outpatient and rehabilitation services?

Health issues can often be unpredictable. It's important to be prepared and proactive about health care costs and coverage. Health care costs will consume 68 percent of the average 65-year-old couple's social security benefits in 2021, according to HealthView Services, a provider of health care cost projection software.5^"HealthView Services, 2021 Retirement Healthcare Costs Data Report, December 2020"

Access to Community in Retirement

With more free time, retirees might want to consider a location with easy access to amenities such as shopping areas, theater and musical venues, restaurants, gyms and fitness centers.

When getting from place to place, another thing to consider is the city’s infrastructure, including its public transportation system. Easy public transit may be vital, especially if driving a car isn’t a feasible option.

And, while you may be driving now, it’s a good idea to plan for the future when driving might become more of a challenge. Just over half a million older adults stop driving every year, according to a 2020 study by^", Aging Services, Transportation" Studies show, not being able to access transportation negatively affects seniors and can even lead to an increased risk of missing medical appointments or other important checkups.

According to a data report from Eldercare Locator, a public service supported by the U.S. Administration on Aging, “In 2018, 22 percent of all inquiries received by the Eldercare Locator were from individuals seeking information on local transportation options that enable them to maintain their health, secure their independence and stay connected to the community – all critical components to aging well.7^"Eldercare Locator Data Report: Transportation,2018"

Whether it’s for entertainment, health care or visiting family, transportation and the access to it is something to be mindful of when considering where to retire.

Everyone has different goals for their ideal retirement. There’s a lot of planning that goes into finding the right retirement locale to live in, especially on a fixed income. Whether it’s the mountains, beach, desert, rural farm or metropolis, it’s important to do the research to find the ideal place to enjoy your golden years. 



This content is for informational purposes only, and is not a recommendation to buy, sell, hold or rollover any asset. It does not take into account the specific financial circumstances, investment objectives, risk tolerance, or need of any specific person. In providing this information American Equity Investment Life Insurance Company is not acting as your fiduciary as defined by the Department of Labor. American Equity does not offer legal, investment or tax advice or make recommendations regarding insurance or investment products. Please consult a qualified professional. 
Annuities are long term vehicles designed for retirement income and are not suitable for everyone. They involve restrictions and charges, including possible surrender penalties for early withdrawals. Annuity distributions are subject to ordinary income taxes, and if taken before age 59-1/2 may incur an additional 10% federal penalty. Guarantees are based on the financial strength and claims paying ability of American Equity and are not guaranteed by any bank or insured by the FDIC.