4 Exciting, Affordable American Cities to Retire In

By Damian Davila on 6 March 2015 4 comments

Every month, more than a quarter-million Americans turn 65.

This means that either you or someone close to you is getting ready to retire in the near future. However, retiring from work doesn't mean retiring from life. You need to find a place that allows you to truly thrive in your golden years. (See also: 4 Exciting World Cities You Can Afford to Retire In)

While there are some great options abroad, there are also plenty of great domestic destinations to choose from. Here are the top four exciting (and affordable) American cities to retire in.

1. Columbus, Ohio

In 2015, Where to Retire Magazine has selected Columbus as the top domestic destination for retirement. This river city is no stranger to top retirement lists, because it topped the lists of most affordable places to retire in both 2008 and 2009.

On top of providing affordable living standards, Columbus offers a vibrant sports scene with the Columbus Blue Jackets (hockey), Columbus Clippers (baseball), and Ohio State Buckeyes (college football). With so many sports options available year round, it's not a surprise that Columbus is constantly on the top 10 of the U.S. manliest cities.

But if sports isn't your thing, don't worry. The city is also known for its many museums, theaters, performing arts venues, and 50+ fitness and recreation centers. Some of the top events are Shakespeare in Schiller Park, Red, White, and Boom! (largest fireworks display in Ohio), and Columbus Oktoberfest.

2. Santa Barbara, California

If you have done a good job building your nest egg, then why not splurge a bit during retirement in Santa Barbara? Known as the "American Riviera," the city of Santa Barbara is not only a popular tourist and resort destination, but also has been named a top retirement destination by Where to Retire Magazine. (See also: 7 Ways to Keep Your Retirement Funds From Disappearing)

This city is blessed with an ideal location along California's coast that provides warmer winters and cooler summers compared to cities farther inland. Santa Barbara is an exciting destination for beach lovers because it has four miles of beaches including East Beach, West Beach, Leadbetter, Shoreline Park, and it is bisected by the historic U.S. Route 101, which provides access to even more beautiful beaches up and down the California coast.

Foodies rejoice: Santa Barbara has an eclectic food scene, ranging from Mexican carnitas to British fish and chips. And while you're out, you may run into celebrities, such as Santa Barbara born and raised Katy Perry or TV mogul Oprah Winfrey.

3. Austin, Texas

With a motto like "Keep Austin Weird," this city in Texas is for those retirees looking for something off the beaten path. Its vibrant music, tech, and small business scenes all contributed to Kiplinger selecting Austin as the number-one best city for the next decade.

A major draw for retirees is the University of Texas at Austin. Retirees enjoy the opportunity to take courses or extend their professional learning through the university's continuing education programs. The university also offers several cultural offerings, such as art exhibitions, open air markets, and live performances. Plus, attending classes at an university is a way for single seniors to meet new people and make friends faster. (See also: Want to Be More Attractive? Work These 5 Magic Words (and Phrases) Into Your Vocabulary)

Austin has two strong economic draws for retirees. First, the city (like all others in Texas) has no state income taxes. Second, Austin's mortgage delinquency is only 1.3%, which is lower than the national average, 6.4%. This shows a healthy housing market and overall strong economic climate.

4. Jacksonville, Florida

If you talk about retirement, you have to talk about the Sunshine State. There are three strong reasons why retirees flock to Florida:

  • No state income tax;
  • No estate tax; and
  • No inheritance tax.

Jacksonville stands out from other cities in Florida because it offers the same comfortable winters at much more affordable prices. U.S. News includes Jacksonville as one of the 10 best places to retire on Social Security alone, and for good reason: Retirees age 65 and older pay a median monthly rent of only $861.

From the TaxSlayer Bowl in January, to the Jacksonville Jazz Festival in May, and the Holiday at St. James at City Hall in December, there is always something exciting happening in Jacksonville. You can get plenty of fresh air in the city's 57,373 acres of parks or 22 miles of sandy beaches.

The city's main landmark is the St. John's River. Along the river you'll find the ever-expanding Northbank Riverwalk, a popular attraction in downtown Jacksonville, and the Riverside Arts Market, a popular event in the Riverside Avondale Historic District.

Choosing a city to retire in is no easy task — and you can't just pick based on pure economic reasons. After all, you're going to have a lot of extra time available, so your city needs to offer enough exciting activities to keep you comfortably busy. These four American cities provide the right mix.

Where are you planning to retire — and why?

Additional photo credits: Cody Ellis, Kevin Corazza, Anne Worner, James Willamor
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Guest's picture
Guest

I live in Los Angeles. There is no way I'd be able to retire in Santa Barbara. Don't get me wrong--we love it there, and would move there in a heartbeat. But property values are really high.

Guest's picture
Guest

Santa Barbara is a joke, right? My mom grew up there and inherited a vacant 1/2 acre lot. The going rate for that empty piece of ground is around $1 million. I guess she could retire there and live in a tent.

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Guest

santa Barbara affordable? Not on this planet

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Guest

Also, is that woman in the photo supposed to be retired? She looks much younger than him...