Where you live could be a deal-breaker when it comes to a comfortable retirement. Roughly 1 in 3 older adults aged 65+ are economically insecure, and millions more struggle to meet their monthly expenses, even though they’re not considered “poor” because they live above the Federal poverty line, according to the National Council on Aging.
“There are several factors in considering where to retire but it comes down to location, location, and location,” says Steven R. Applewhite, a professor emeritus of social work at the University of Houston. Cost of living, home prices, family and friends, and climate (and the costs associated with living in certain climates) are all factors of location that can affect retirement, Applewhite says.
The largest shares of retirees’ expenditures are on housing, transportation, healthcare, food, entertainment, and taxes, so the costs of these should be considered when selecting a location, says Deborah Allen Hewitt, a clinical professor emerita of economics & finance at the William & Mary's Raymond A. Mason School of Business.
To live on a fixed income, she says, retirees should budget below what they expect their income to be. "The biggest mistake [retirees make] is probably expecting returns in the stock market to remain positive and relatively high and costs of living to remain low," Allen Hewitt says.
To find the worst places to retire, WalletHub compared the retirement-friendliness of 182 cities — including the 150 most populated U.S. cities, plus at least two of the most populated cities in each state — across four key dimensions:
- Affordability, which includes the cost of living, taxes, and cost of in-home services and adult day health care,
- Activities, which considers the number of recreation and senior centers, and opportunities for other activities such as golf, museums, theater, art galleries, music venues, and volunteer opportunities,
- Quality of life, which includes the share of the population that is over 65, age-friendliness, employment, walk score, access to transit, mild weather, the number of seniors living alone or in poverty, crime figures, and air and water quality.
- Health care—This includes Covid rates and vaccination rates, number of doctors, dentists, nurses, and health care facilities, as well as life expectancy and death rates of elders.
With cost being a significant factor in retirement, WalletHub’s analysis assumes retirees will rely on a fixed income. The lower their expenses, the better retirees will fare in a particular city.
These cities ranked the lowest for retirees.