By Emily Brandon
You don't need a huge nest egg to retire well, especially if you're willing to move to a place with a low cost of living. Relocating to one of these places could help you to get by on a combination of Social Security and a small amount of savings, or allow you to retire younger or maintain a better lifestyle than you could in a more expensive city.
To find places where retirees can live well on less than $75 per day, U.S. News analyzed recently released 2012 Census Bureau data. We looked for places where people age 60 and older spend the least on housing, including rent, mortgage payments and other housing costs, and places where retirees spends less than a third of their income on housing. Among the most affordable cities, we selected places with amenities retirees will need, such as medical facilities, services for seniors and recreation options.
Here are 10 places where it's possible to live well in retirement on less than $75 a day:
Once known for its rubber production, Akron is now home to the world's largest concentration of polymer research and development, thanks to The University of Akron's College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering. Seniors can get discounts to the Akron Art Museum and Akron Symphony Orchestra, or enjoy the 6,600 acres of metropolitan parks for free. The Akron General Medical Center and Summa Akron City and St. Thomas Hospitals are ranked as high-performing medical centers in a variety of specialties including geriatrics. These amenities are coupled with low housing costs. People age 60 and older pay a median of $1,087 per month with a mortgage, $646 in monthly rent or $420 per month if they own their homes debt free.
The best golfers in the world come to Augusta each spring for the Masters Tournament. The low home prices will tempt you to stay. The median monthly housing cost for people age 60 and older is $1,057 among homeowners with a mortgage, just $329 for those who have paid it off and $616 monthly for renters. Located along the Savannah River, this college town is the home of Georgia Regents University, which includes the Medical College of Georgia. Seniors can get discounted admission to the Augusta Museum of History, the Boyhood Home of President Woodrow Wilson and on boat tours of the Augusta Canal.
Chattanooga is nearly surrounded by mountains, and the Tennessee River flows right through it, offering ample opportunities for outdoor activities. Retirees can take in these views for a median of just $644 in rent, $1,023 in mortgage payments or $353 monthly without a mortgage. The city operates a fleet of zero-emission electric buses that seniors age 65 and older can ride for just 75 cents each way.
Des Moines, Iowa
Burl Pierce, 74, a retiree in Des Moines, has season tickets to University of Iowa football games and volunteers three days per week at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. "This is my means of helping to expand my knowledge of horticulture, but it's also become rather personal in that you enjoy the camaraderie of the volunteers that you are with," he says. It costs retirees a median of $1,134 in monthly mortgage payments to live in Iowa's state capital. Renters who have paid off their mortgages pay $456 in other monthly housing costs and renters are charged $678. If you're so inclined, you can meet the U.S. presidential candidates when they descend on the state for the Iowa caucus.
There's no shortage of free things to do in Greenville. You could take a stroll over the Liberty Bridge that curves over and around Reedy River Falls, ride on the Downtown Trolley or visit the Greenville County Museum of Art, all with no admission fee. Housing for people age 60 and older costs a median of $1,027 with a mortgage, $673 in rent and just $290 monthly for older homeowners without mortgages. "Part of the reason we were able to retire as young as we did is because the general cost of living is so much less in South Carolina than it was in California," says Linda Barnett, 57, a retired financial analyst from California who moved to Greenville in 2012. "The townhouse we have here would have cost three to four times that much in California." Barnett now spends her time volunteering for Meals on Wheels and hiking at nearby Jones Gap State Park.
Little Rock, Ark.
Little Rock's Riverfront Park provides 33 acres of parkland along the Arkansas River. Other free things to do include visiting the Arkansas Arts Center and the Historic Arkansas Museum. Retirees who rent pay a median of $627 monthly to live here. Senior homeowners pay a median of $1,064 monthly or $355 without a mortgage. "It's definitely a lot cheaper to live here in Little Rock on the same amount of income than it would be in San Jose," says Cynthia Conger, president of Conger Wealth Management in Little Rock. "An $800,000 home in California would be equivalent to a home that costs $200,000 or less here."
For a median of just $1,052 in monthly mortgage payments or $595 in rent, you could retire in the hometown of the Kentucky Derby. Costs are even lower – a median of $375 monthly – for people age 60 and older who have paid off their mortgages. Louisville's museum row has institutions dedicated to history, sports, art and science where retirees could spend a relaxing afternoon or find interesting volunteer opportunities. And Kentucky residents age 65 and older can take classes at the University of Louisville tuition free.
Pittsburgh's many professional teams make this city a sports fan's paradise. "I see almost every sport there is around," says Phil Coyne, 95, a retired machine shop worker who now ushers at 60 to 70 Pirates games each year. "I never miss a game. I try not to." There is also a ballet, symphony and enough museums to occupy everyone who prefers other forms of culture. People age 65 and older ride free on the bus, T or Monongahela Incline, thanks to a program paid for by Pennsylvania Lottery proceeds. Another perk of the city includes access to the UPMC-University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which is ranked 9th in the nation in geriatrics. Monthly housing prices for seniors are just $1,072 for retirees with mortgages, $422 among people with paid-off houses and $608 for renters.
There is no state income tax in Texas, and housing is often more affordable than in other parts of the county. Renters age 60 and older paid $671 monthly in 2012. Older homeowners paid a median of $1,184 each month toward their mortgages, which drops to $395 among those without housing debt. But watch out for the property taxes. "We do not have a state income tax, so a lot of the income is derived from property tax, which generally is going to be higher," says John Eaton, a certified financial planner for Cypress Wealth Advisors in San Antonio. "We have a very low cost of living, but if you come here and buy similar-cost housing, your taxes could be much higher."
While summer and fall can be beautiful in upstate New York, Syracuse is famous for its prolific snowfall, which pelts the city each winter. Snow removal and heating bills can be significant. What you won't worry about are other aspects of the cost of living, which are among the lowest in the county. Renters age 60 and older pay a median of $641 monthly, and homeowners pay $1,119 with a mortgage or $472 monthly once they have paid it off. Once you no longer need to worry about getting to work in the morning, you're free to have a second cup of coffee, look out your window at the pillowy snow drifts and think about all the money you're saving by not retiring in a more expensive area.
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