Most people don't get to have their cake and eat it too. Case in point: we know the best employers for workers over age 50. And we also know the best places to which Americans can retire. But where in America are the best 25 places for retirement jobs?
As difficult a question as that may seem to answer, we've done it. The research director at RetirementJobs.com has just finished evaluating for MarketWatch a bevy of factors -- including the presence of age-friendly employers and age-friendly jobs, housing costs, cost of living and proximity to health-care services, education institutions and travel facilities -- and has devised such a list.
But first the truth in advertising: The 25 cities on our list is not for retirement-age workers who still have their nose to their primary occupation grindstone, according to Robert Skladany, vice president of research and services at RetirementJobs.com.
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"Those workers often have to 'go where the jobs are' in their industry or profession, regardless of the location," Skladany said. "But for many age 50-plus workers, the 'best cities' are those that offer a wide range of industry and occupational choices as it becomes increasing acceptable to 'work around' in a variety of jobs beyond traditional retirement age."
As with any list of this sort, Skladany said the devil is in the details. To devise his list, Skladany considered and scored cities on the following factors, but especially on employment growth and the presence of professions that are most accepting of older workers:
- General employment growth. This is an important indicator of the strength and depth of the area's labor market offerings and resilience. Historic job growth and projected growth is derived primarily from U.S. Department of Labor information. Economic diversity is also a significant consideration.
- Prevalence of key retirement job opportunities. Certain industries, professions and occupations are particularly age-friendly. Health care; federal, state and municipal government employees; retail, banking and financial services; food services; customer services; sales and personal services from bus driver to home elder care aide to tutors; and temporary or contract employment. Industries with high rates of employees retiring at the traditional age are creating significant labor shortages with inadequate numbers of younger workers to fill the openings. Of note, the MetLife Mature Market Institute this week published a report designed to help employers hire and retain older workers. Read that report at this Web site.
- Presence of age-friendly employers. RetirementJobs.com evaluates employers against 35 "best practice" factors known to be present at employers eager to recruit and retain age 50-plus workers. (RetirementJobs.com has a list of age-friendly certified employers at this Web site and AARP has a list of the 2007 List of Best Employers for Workers Age 50+ at this Web site.)
- Unemployment rate. While a low unemployment rate tracks with strong employment growth, a low unemployment rate is a positive indicator that many jobs suitable for retirement-age workers will pay a higher wage than a similar job in a high unemployment city.
- Housing costs. Housing costs, including occupancy costs (utilities, taxes, maintenance), as a major component of total living costs, best be as low as possible. Retirees are often trading down from a larger and more costly home and moving to an area with low initial housing purchase prices.
- General cost of living. The overall cost of living, particularly health care, taxes and energy, is another major consideration in selecting a best city for individuals holding retirement jobs.
- Health-care services. Proximity to high-quality health care is important for age 50-plus workers to consider as are regional health-care costs.
Skladany first scoured the existing literature, including "Best Places to Retire" and "Best Places to Work," cost-of-living ratings and transportation service ratings to create a list of 200 cities. Then he used proprietary RetirementJobs.com information on the number and variety of retirement-type jobs available by state and city.
"The final list is a combination of the traditional high employment, larger cities and some surprising small- to midsize cities," he said
Skladany said these sorts of lists could easily become dominated by Arizona, Texas, Nevada and Florida because of their rapid job growth and moderate living costs. So, instead he selected cities from different geographic locations, the Northeast for instance, based on the type of work available, the presence of age-friendly employer operations, demographics (percent of population with college or advanced degrees), and general lifestyle issues known to be important to older workers and retirees.
Here's is the list of the top cities and regions for retirement jobs:
- Harrisburg/Lancaster, Pa.
- Nashua/Manchester, N.H.
- Bethesda, Md.
- Leesburg/Winchester, Va.
- Fayetteville, Ark.
- Raleigh/Durham, N.C.
- Washington D.C. region
- Tampa/Saint Petersburg, Fla.
- Sarasota, Fla.
- Louisville, Ky.
- Columbus, Ohio
- Knoxville, Tenn.
- Indianapolis, Ind.
- San Antonio, Texas
- Phoenix, Ariz.
- Las Vegas, Nev.
- Greeley, Colo.
Upper Midwest/Great Plains
- Madison, Wis.
- Ann Arbor, Mich.
- Minneapolis/St. Paul
- Kansas City, Mo.
- Seattle/Bellevue, Wash.
- Medford, Ore.
- Spokane, Wash.
- Sacramento, Calif.
Robert Powell has been a journalist covering personal finance issues for more than 20 years, writing and editing for publications such as The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, and Mutual Fund Market News.