Photo: Stephan Rudolph via Flickr
When the time has come to transition away from the rat race and move into the golden years of retirement, choosing where to go can feel like a dream come true. But with more than half of Americans having less than $10,000 in their bank account for retirement, the need to find a place where you can stretch your dollars the furthest is a top concern.
According to finance news and features website GOBankingRates‘ newly released, 2017 list of the 50 Cheapest Places to Retire, retirees looking for affordability may want to consider heading south — as Birmingham, Alabama ranked No. 1 on the list.
“Almost all of the cheapest places to retire are in the South or Midwest. So if you’re looking for an affordable place to live in retirement, consider cities in those two regions,” Cameron Huddleston, GOBankingRates Life + Money Columnist, told Ladders.
“Only one city on the West Coast — Spokane —and two cities in the North — Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y. — made it onto the list,” she added.
Researchers took a look at the top 150 U.S. cities on Sperling’s Best Places to Live and boiled the list down to the top 50 cities for retirees — based on six cost of living factors, including the cost of healthcare, groceries, housing, transportation and overall cost of living. GOBankingRates compared each city’s index to the average annual expenditures by people aged 65 and older, drawn from a 2015 survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, to figure out where retirees can live the most comfortably.
Top cities to retire:
1.) Birmingham, Alabama
Retirees can get away with spending just $33,219 a year to live in Birmingham, including an average of $4,915 on healthcare (less than every other city in this ranking) and only $5,242 on rent annually (which is the monthly rent for some tiny apartments in Manhattan!) As the cheapest city to retire in on the 50-city list, Birmingham boasts a cost of living that’s a whopping 27.4% below the national average, among other points.
“Birmingham has many of the allures of urban life with a more affordable price tag than you’ll find in many similarly sized metro areas,” U.S. News and World wrote in its 2017 review of the city, adding that the town hosts the collegiate Southwestern Athletic Conference, the minor league Birmingham Barons’ baseball games and abundant outdoor activities including hiking trails in Red Mountain Park.
The town also features more green space per capita than any other U.S. city, according to GoBankingRates’ listing, and “has 15 golf courses, several nearby lakes that offer some of the best fishing in the South” and higher education institutions including the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Samford University, which have “an abundance of concerts and arts programming.”
2.) Detroit, Michigan
You can expect to spend $33,356 yearly in this city, the second-cheapest on the list. Annual health expenses in Detroit are $5,994 and annual housing expenses are $3,177. Although Detroit filed for bankruptcy in 2013 amid plunging population numbers and a nosedive by the struggling local auto industry, Detroit has taken great steps to re-brand itself as “America’s Great Comeback City,” according to GoBankingRates.
The town features the award-winning Detroit Institute of the Arts, The Ann Arbor Art Fair, “which presents crafts ranging from ceramics to paintings to jewelry, brings more than 500,000 people to the area every year, and Saugatuck, ‘the artist’s colony of the Midwest,’ has dozens of galleries and a small, but engaged, population of retiree artists,” according to MarketWatch.
3.) Jackson, Missisippi
“Big-city draws include a planetarium, ballet, zoo and opera, and the annual Rhythm and Blues Festival is a favorite. Students from both Jackson State University and Millsaps College are active in town, and seniors are welcome to continue education on campus,” according to Southern Living Magazine.
4.) Memphis, Tennessee
You’ll spend an average of $6,354 a year for housing and $5,694 annually for healthcare in Memphis, where you can live comfortably on $33,859 a year, analysts found.
The town, which served as a springboard for Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and others who worked with Memphis-based DJ and producer Sam Phillips’ Sun Records, is awash in southern rock and blues history.
“Graceland, the mansion that was home to ‘The King,’ is a major Memphis tourist attraction, attracting over 600,000 visitors annually, especially during Tribute Week around August 16, the anniversary of Presley’s death,” MarketWatch reported.
5.) Toledo, Ohio
You can expect to spend $35,095 a year, including $6,174 on healthcare and $4,925 on housing in “the cheapest of the five Ohio cities” in the rankings.
Toledo was featured in the Milken Institute’s Best Cities for Successful Aging report in 2014, where it ranked No. 8 out of the top 20 large metro areas.
“Toledo boasts safety, affordability, ample recreational facilities, and quality hospitals. Finding work or launching a business, however, can be difficult in the local economic environment. Health issues may weaken the workforce,” the report said.
“Unhealthy behavior and chronic diseases” and “lack of specialty health-care facilities” were listed as areas that need improvement in the city.
Cities on the bottom of the GOBankingRates list
Rounding out the bottom of this list were: Jacksonville, Florida at No. 45, Lincoln, Nebraska, at No. 46, Sioux Falls, South Dakota at No. 47, San Antonio, Texas at No. 48, Tampa, Florida at No. 49 and Spokane, Washington at No. 50.