4 More Exciting, Affordable American Cities to Retire In


As of February 2015, the average monthly Social Security benefit of a retired American worker was $1,331.44.

This means that a couple of retirees would have about $31,954 available in annual Social Security benefits. While some people have additional savings, 26% of Americans are planning to rely on Social Security as their primary source of income during retirement.

Savvy folks know that they need to plan ahead and find affordable cities to make the most out of their nest eggs. Here are four more exciting, affordable U.S. cities to retire in. (See also: 4 Exciting Affordable American Cities to Retire In)

1. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Financial advice website Nerdwallet put Pittsburgh at the top of its 2013 list of best places for baby boomers. Since over 25% of the city's population is between the ages of 50 and 70, and 13.8% is 65 years or older, retirees can enjoy an active social life.

Senior citizens can find affordable housing options in Pittsburgh, as the median monthly mortgage payment is $1,023 and the median monthly rent is $614. Getting around the city by bus, light rail (The T), or Mon Incline is free at all times for senior citizens age 65 or over that present a Pennsylvania Senior Citizen ID Card or a Medicare card at the time of fare payment.

Pittsburgh is a great retirement destination for sports fans, because the city is home to the Pittsburgh Panthers (college athletics), Pittsburgh Penguins (hockey), and Pittsburgh Pirates (baseball), and of course, the Pittsburgh Steelers. If sports isn't your thing, you still have the 14-block Cultural District, which offers opera, theater, ballet, and live music events.

2. Tucson, Arizona

If you're part of the 26% of U.S. retirees planning to rely primarily on your Social Security check, then take a good look at the state of Arizona. The Grand Canyon State doesn't tax Social Security income.

And it gets even better. Up to $2,500 total of military, civil-service, and Arizona state and local government pensions are also exempt from taxes. Plus, Arizona has no inheritance or estate taxes. Combine these tax breaks with the fact that Tucson's cost of living is 4% below the national average and you can quickly see how Tucson is one of the most affordable American cities to retire in.

But it isn't just about the tax savings, since there's also plenty of local fun year-round. Since 1986, this city has been home to the Tucson Folk Festival, which attracts more than 10,000 folk music lovers every year with more than 20 hours of free, live bluegrass, Irish, and old country and western music. Other popular annual events are the Tucson Rodeo (a 90-year old rodeo, also known as La Fiesta de los Vaqueros), the Tucson Meet Yourself (a celebration of folk and ethnic communities of the multinational Arizona-Sonora region), and the 4th Avenue Street Fair (taking place twice a year).

But I think it's all about the Sonoran hot dog, which people believe to have been invented in Tucson.

3. St. Louis, Missouri

In St. Louis, retirees with an annual adjusted gross income of less than $85,000 (less than $100,000 for married couples) enjoy a tax exemption on their Social Security benefits. For tax purposes, residential property is assessed at 19% of fair market value, and some retirees may qualify for a property tax credit. There is no inheritance tax or estate tax.

Baby boomers comprise about 28% of the St. Louis population for three reasons. First, the city has a low cost of living — about 16.30% lower than that of the U.S. average. Second, housing costs for retirees are affordable, at a median of $1,186 per month for those with a mortgage, $442 for seniors with a paid-off house, and $657 monthly for senior renters. Third, St. Louis is home to the Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University, a nationally-ranked hospital by U.S. News in several specialities.

But St. Louis is an exciting city for several other reasons:

  • Bud Selig, baseball's outgoing commish, proclaimed St. Louis as the best baseball city in 2015.
  • With the highest concentration of sports bars in the country, St. Louis stands at #6 in the list of manliest U.S. cities.
  • St. Louis ranks #4 in a list of America's best places for block parties.
  • The city operates more than 100 parks, including the Citygarden, the Tower Grove Park, and the Carondelet Park.
  • The city is within driving distance of more than 100 wineries and more than 6,000 caves.

4. Cleveland, Ohio

Located in the Buckeye State, Cleveland provides four tax breaks to retirees:

  • No state taxes on Social Security benefits;
  • No inheritance tax or estate tax;
  • Four tax credits for retirees; and
  • Homestead exemption for qualifying homeowners at least 65 years old.

A big draw for Cleveland retirees is the state-of-the-art Cleveland Clinic, which ranks within the top 10 U.S. hospitals for several specialties, including geriatrics, cardiology, rheumatology, and urology. According to the latest U.S. Census, Cleveland has 476 physicians per 100,000 residents, a number much higher than the national average.

Playhouse Square Center is the second largest performing arts center in the country, housing four theaters and attracting over one million guests every year to its more than 1,000 annual events. The Cleveland Orchestra is considered among the "Big Five" symphony orchestras leading the field in musical excellence and calibre of musicianship.

Due to all these reasons (and more), Cleveland often ranks among one of the best U.S. cities to retire in.

Planning for retirement is a two-step process. Not only do you have to maximize your nest egg, but also you have to minimize your living expenses during your golden years. In order to achieve both objectives, consider these four American cities when you're looking at retirement destinations. (See also: 5 Simple Ways to Boost an Underperforming 401(k))

In what U.S. city are you planning to retire — and why?

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Guest's picture

I was a Policeman for 28 years and I can tell you that the cities you have listed are crime riddled. If you will look at a cities crime index and the index is low, go from there to decide whether or not the city is worth retiring in. Otherwise you won't be safe using public transportation nor will you be safe living in a part of town you can afford on SS.

Damian Davila's picture

Thank you for the tip, Guest. I will take into consideration that factor for any upcoming lists.

Guest's picture

So, I guess you didn't factor in high crime for these cities?