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Best and worst cities for retirement in 2023

No city in Florida made our top 10

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If you’re thinking about where to live in retirement, Florida might be the first to come to mind. After all, it’s warm, has a high percentage of residents over 65 and low taxes. But what if you take into account other factors that can improve quality of life?

Fortunately, there are a number of other options throughout the U.S. to consider that aren't in the Sunshine State. In fact, according to our rankings, no city in Florida even makes the top 40.

Key insights

  • Lincoln, Nebraska, tops our list as the best city for retirement thanks to its healthy older population and access to parks.
  • Lake Havasu City, Arizona, earns the lowest spot on the list as the worst city for retirement because of its higher cost of living and low score on a community well-being index.
  • No matter what city you choose for retirement, the key is developing a strategy for stretching your income and taking advantage of resources for greater quality of life.
best and worst cities for retirement map

How we chose the best and worst cities for retirement

By 2030, all baby boomers, numbering around 73 million in the U.S., will have turned 65, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As many start to think about retirement, they will also consider the best place in which to live out life’s later years.

”Where you live plays a critical role in not only how long you live, but in your quality of life,” said Jennifer Tripken, associate director for the Center of Healthy Aging at the National Council on Aging. “Communities that are age-friendly are ones that promote health and are designed to meet the needs of diverse populations, including having inclusive and equitable policies, practices and services.”

To help you decide the best place for retirement, the ConsumerAffairs Research Team examined a range of factors, including financial (cost of rent, food, utilities and transportation) and quality of life (weather and temperature, walkability, access to green spaces) factors, as well as elements like the percentage of population 65 and older, crime rates, cultural and physical activities and access to health care.

With Social Security checks averaging $1,704 per month at the time of publishing, according to the latest Social Security Administration data, and the cost of living exceeding that in many areas, we weighed the cost of living highest, as finances are often the dominant deciding factor. All other factors were given the same weight, leading to the overall retirement score and rankings (read our full methodology below for complete information).

Top cities ranked best for retirement

Let’s break down why each of these cities ranks in our top 5:

best cities for retirement map

1. Lincoln, Nebraska

Not only is Lincoln the capital city of the Cornhusker State, but it also tops our list as the best city for retirement. It’s the second most-populous city in Nebraska, but it's the higher percentage of people over age 65 that may appeal to those in retirement age. The cost of living index is worth noting, too, because your dollars can stretch further for living expenses.

Other standout traits of Lincoln include its relatively low crime rate and lower rent costs. Lincoln’s average temperature during 2022 was about 53 degrees Fahrenheit, which falls below some cities on this list, but the greater access to parks and high community well-being score pushed the city to the top.

Lincoln may not be the only ideal choice for retirement living according to our data — Omaha earned the No. 25 spot on our list.

  • % of population 65 years and over: 14.6%
  • Crime per 100,000 people: 3,134
  • % of households with greater than 30% of income spent on rent: 43.6%
  • Walk Score: 42.7
  • Average temperature from February 2022 to January 2023: 52.8

2. St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis is our second choice for the best cities to retire. Its lower cost of living and high score for overall well-being boosts the city’s appeal. St. Louis is the most populous city in Missouri and also has a large population of adults 65-plus.

St. Louis offers great access to healthier foods and city walkability, and a high percentage of seniors have taken advantage of clinical preventive services. St. Louis does have a higher crime rate and higher rates of physical inactivity compared with other top picks, but offers a significant number of accessible parks.

Despite St. Louis’ ranking, not all cities in Missouri are as retirement-friendly. In fact, Joplin (91st), Springfield (99th) and Kansas City (100th) all scored much lower.

  • % of population 65 years and over: 15%
  • Crime per 100,000 people: 8,111
  • % of households with greater than 30% of income spent on rent: 47.3%
  • Walk Score: 65.5
  • Average temperature from February 2022 to January 2023: 58.7

3. Champaign, Illinois

Champaign, Illinois, home of the University of Illinois, is more than a college town – it’s also a top place for retirement. With numerous sporting events, a lively arts scene and diverse living options, it offers something for every retiree.

Champaign receives positive marks for its low crime, high percentage of seniors who are up to date on preventive services and good walkability.

Champaign is one of a few cities in Illinois earning favorable marks for retirees; Bloomington is another top choice, earning the 16th spot on our list. Decatur isn’t far behind, coming in at No. 26.

  • % of population 65 years and over: 11.4%
  • Total crime per 100,000 people: 3,408
  • % of households with greater than 30% of income spent on rent: 52%
  • Walk Score: 49.8
  • Average temperature from February 2022 to January 2023: 52.4

4. Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines is the capital of Iowa and is also its biggest city by population. Des Moines has quite a bit to offer residents of the Hawkeye State, from arts and agriculture to state fairs and walkable neighborhoods.

The capital snags a top spot on our list of top cities for retirement for various reasons, but of the top five, it has the lowest cost of living, making it easier to stretch your dollars.

Des Moines isn’t the only city in Iowa worth considering for retirement. The state boasts another five cities in the top 30 on our list, including Waterloo (13th), Iowa City (14th), Sioux City (15th), Cedar Rapids (17th) and Dubuque (28th).

  • % of population 65 years and over: 13%
  • Total crime per 100,000 people: 4,803
  • % of households with greater than 30% of income spent on rent: 47.3%
  • Walk Score: 44.9
  • Average temperature from February 2022 to January 2023: 51.1

5. El Paso, Texas

El Paso has a lot to offer retirees, including a low cost of living and low crime. The city doesn’t have as large of a population over 65, as much access to parks or as high of a community well-being score compared with other top options. It does, however, have the highest average temperature among the top five.

El Paso is one of several cities in Texas making an appearance on our list. McAllen (sixth), Corpus Christi (19th) and Houston (24th) all land near the top, too.

  • % of population 65 years and over: 14.1%
  • Total crime per 100,000 people: 1,864
  • % of households with greater than 30% of income spent on rent: 50.1%
  • Walk Score: 40.9
  • Average temperature from February 2022 to January 2023: 66.6

Other cities worth considering for retirement

These cities might not have made it to our top five, but they deserve mention because of numerous standout qualities:

  1. McAllen, Texas: Your money goes further and there’s relatively low crime, making McAllen a strong option.
  2. Green Bay, Wisconsin: It gets cold, but the high percentage of seniors and low cost of housing are a winning combination for Green Bay as a place to retire.
  3. Jackson, Mississippi: Low cost of living, warm temperatures and a sizable population of older adults give Jackson an edge over other cities.
  4. Akron, Ohio: A larger 65-plus population, lower cost of living and higher park accessibility propel Akron toward the top of the list.
  5. Great Falls, Montana: Great Falls has the highest population of 65-and-older individuals in our top 10, plus physically active seniors and a low cost of living.

Read more: How would you describe your dream retirement?

Top 50 cities for retirement, ranked

RankCityStateRetirement score
1 Lincoln NE 35.30
2 St. Louis MO 33.95
3 Champaign IL 33.48
4 Des Moines IA 32.77
5 El Paso TX 32.70
6 McAllen TX 32.37
7 Green Bay WI 31.86
8 Jackson MS 31.45
9 Akron OH 31.33
10 Great Falls MT 30.96
11 Minneapolis MN 30.93
12 Topeka KS 30.65
13 Waterloo IA 30.28
14 Iowa City IA 30.04
15 Sioux City IA 29.95
16 Bloomington IL 29.62
17 Cedar Rapids IA 29.34
18 Charleston SC 29.33
19 Corpus Christi TX 29.32
20 Casper WY 29.23
21 Lafayette LA 29.22
22 Albuquerque NM 29.13
23 Sioux Falls SD 28.82
24 Houston TX 28.75
25 Omaha NE 28.42
26 Decatur IL 28.41
27 Kalamazoo MI 28.39
28 Dubuque IA 27.60
29 Lake Charles LA 27.52
30 Albany GA 27.44
31 Amarillo TX 27.31
32 Odessa TX 27.26
33 Davenport IA 27.14
34 Las Vegas NV 27.14
35 Columbus OH 27.07
36 Pensacola FL 27.00
37 Oklahoma City, OK 26.83
38 Enid OK 26.37
39 San Francisco CA 26.27
40 Grand Forks ND 26.26
41 Boston MA 26.25
42 Tampa FL 26.22
43 San Diego CA 25.52
44 Rockford IL 24.72
45 Erie PA 24.41
46 Peoria IL 24.40
47 Buffalo NY 24.38
48 Lexington KY 24.26
49 Miami FL 24.08
50 Grand Rapids MI 23.95

Worst cities for retirement

Not all cities scored highly — and as a result, they take the bottom spots on our list. For example, Lake Havasu City, Arizona, has the highest 65-and-over population and a low crime rate, but its last-place ranking in access to healthy foods, low community well-being score and high cost of living contribute to it being No. 1 on our list of worst cities for retirement. Spartanburg, South Carolina, and Olympia, Washington, second- and third-worst, earned low marks for limited park access and the lack of neighborhood walkability, so if those are important considerations for you, then you may want to look elsewhere for retirement.

worst cities for retirement map

Worst 25 cities for retirement, ranked

RankCityStateRetirement score
1 Lake Havasu City AZ -5.38
2 Spartanburg SC -1.32
3 Olympia WA -0.72
4 Stockton CA 2.91
5 Vineland NJ 3.27
6 Flagstaff AZ 4.03
7 Harrisburg PA 4.81
8 Anchorage AK 6.23
9 Modesto CA 6.66
10 Utica NY 7.85
11 Pueblo CO 7.87
12 Lafayette IN 7.92
13 Bakersfield CA 8.40
14 Detroit MI 9.29
15 Charlottesville VA 9.31
16 Manchester NH 10.11
17 St. George UT 11.19
18 Nashville TN 11.24
19 Colorado Springs CO 11.49
20 Grand Junction CO 11.58
21 Albany NY 11.70
22 Little Rock AR 11.73
23 Eugene OR 11.81
24 Chattanooga TN 12.04
25 Bellingham WA 12.08

Preparing your income (and lifestyle) for retirement

No matter when you start planning for retirement, whether it’s your 20s, 30s, 40s or beyond, there are a few steps you can take to strengthen your overall financial picture.

Focus on financial planning

Retirement requires a different money mindset versus your younger and midlife years. Consider these steps before you officially retire:

  • Assess your finances: Take a serious, honest look at your savings, spending and what your true expenses will look like in your retirement age. Once you have all the facts, you can adjust where necessary.
  • Budget with your post-retirement income: The budget you have in your younger years will likely look quite different from retirement. Develop a budget with your realistic retirement income in mind, eliminating expenses you’ll no longer have but including new ones you anticipate.
  • Create an emergency fund: If you don’t already have one, an emergency fund in an easily accessible savings account can be a financial lifesaver for unexpected expenses. Plus, it can keep you from taking unnecessary withdrawals from your investment portfolio.
  • Reevaluate insurance policies: Retirement is an ideal time for adjusting insurance policies, such as life insurance policies and auto insurance, including deductibles, beneficiaries and coverage options.
  • Work with a trusted financial advisor: If you haven’t started working with a trusted financial advisor, it’s never too late to start. The right advisor can help you navigate your questions and gain confidence as you enter retirement territory.

READ MORE: Learning from financial hindsight

Consider relocation to stretch your dollars

Moving cities can be a part of your retirement strategy, having a major impact on both your wallet and your well-being.

“Some areas may have a lower cost of living, which can stretch your retirement savings further, while others might be more expensive and require careful financial planning. It's crucial to assess whether your retirement income, including pensions, savings and Social Security, will be sufficient to maintain your desired lifestyle in the new location,” advised Derek R. DiManno, a certified financial planner and the founder of Flagship Asset Services in Towson, Maryland.

DiManno expanded on the idea of moving cities further: “Research the local customs, climate, cost of living, safety and amenities available in the area. Visit the prospective retirement location before making a decision to get a feel for the community and lifestyle. It's also valuable to connect with locals, both retirees and residents, to gain insights into the daily life and challenges of the area.”

Know your available resources

Tripken also provided a list of resources offering support for the physical, mental, emotional and social well-being of aging adults, including:

  1. Health care services: Access to quality health care is fundamental to the well-being of older adults. Regular checkups, screenings and consultations with health care professionals help manage chronic conditions, detect health issues early and provide preventive care. Many of these are covered by Medicare and Medicaid.
  2. Senior centers: These centers serve as hubs for social interaction, recreational activities and educational programs tailored to older adults. They offer a sense of community, combat social isolation and keep older adults engaged and mentally active. Many senior centers also offer intergenerational programming.
  3. Nutrition programs: Senior nutrition programs are available in all communities. Programs such as Meals on Wheels deliver nutritious meals to seniors who may have difficulty shopping or cooking for themselves.
  4. Home care services: Older adults who prefer to remain in their homes can benefit from home care services. These services offer assistance with daily activities, medication management and medical care while allowing seniors to maintain their independence.
  5. Fitness and exercise programs: Staying physically active enhances mobility, strength and overall health. Exercise programs designed for seniors, such as low-impact aerobics, yoga and tai chi, help maintain physical well-being.
  6. Transportation services: Access to transportation is essential for maintaining independence and engaging in social activities. Transportation services tailored to older adults ensure they can attend appointments, visit friends and participate in events.

READ MORE: How much do I need to retire?

Bottom line

There are many who spend years building their savings for retirement and ensuring they can maintain a comfortable living, while others may start later in life to establish their nest egg. No matter what amount you have saved up, almost anyone can take actionable steps to improve both their financial picture and quality of life by carefully choosing a place to call home.

Improving your financial picture could include a relocation to one of our top cities for retirement. Selecting one of our top choices — Lincoln, St. Louis, Champaign, Des Moines or El Paso — or other cities on our list may mean a lower cost of living and a more comprehensive, supportive network of resources nearby.


To determine the best and worst cities for retirement, we gathered data from multiple sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, the FBI, NYU Langone Health’s City Health Dashboard and Sharecare, and compared metrics including the percentage of the population who are of retirement age, the cost of living adjusted for retired individuals, crime and community well-being.

We made each metric a positive or negative, while giving each city a score out of 10 for each metric by comparing it with the national average and assigning the highest (or lowest) resulting value a 10. We then combined the scores to create a retirement score. All 11 score factors shared equal consideration except for cost of living, which was given three times the weight. The factors included the following:

  • Cost of living index
  • Percentage of people 65 and over
  • Total crime (violent and property crimes) per 100,000 people
  • Rent burden (percentage of households spending 30% or more of household income on rent)
  • Preventive services (percentage of people 65 and older up to date on core set of clinical preventive services)
  • Access to healthy foods (percentage of people living more than half a mile from the nearest grocery store
  • Access to parks (percentage of population living within a 10-minute walk of a green space)
  • Physical inactivity score (percentage of population with no leisure-time physical activity in the past month)
  • Walkability (Walk Score)
  • Community well-being score (Sharecare index)
  • Temperature (Whether average temperature from February 2022 to January 2023 was between 65 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit)

ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
  1. U.S. Census Bureau, “Data.” Accessed Aug. 21, 2023.
  2. The Council for Community and Economic Research, “C2ER Cost of Living Index.” Accessed Aug. 21, 2023.
  3. Social Security Administration, “Monthly Statistical Snapshot, July 2023.” Accessed Aug. 21, 2023.
  4. Sharecare, “Sharecare Community Well-Being Index.” Accessed Aug. 21, 2023.
  5. FBI, “Crime in the U.S.” Accessed Aug. 21, 2023.
  6. NYU Langone Health, “City Health Dashboard.” Accessed Aug. 21, 2023.
  7. National Centers for Environmental Information, “City Mapping.” Accessed Aug. 21, 2023.
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