Retirement can change your perspective on a lot of things. While you might happily accept higher costs in exchange for any number of nearby benefits when you’re still raising a family or working, living on a fixed income can really make you focus on every dollar you spend. After all, your nest egg is there not just to provide for the basics but to help you enjoy life without having to clock in five days a week. What you spend on housing or on your monthly electric bill, it’s all money you can’t spend on travel or leave to your grandkids.
That’s why GOBankingRates has nailed down the most affordable cities and towns in every state — except for Vermont due to lack of data — helping you to see which places might help you to get more out of your life’s savings. The study looked at Zillow’s Home Value Index (ZHVI) to get a sense of the local housing market. This is an index that adjusts for seasonality and the housing market to give a smoothed-out sense of what the average home in the area is worth. Then it added the cost-of-living scores from Sperling’s Best Places to give you a clear sense of which places you can expect to save you money. Then, to identify which affordable towns might be most appropriate for retirement, the study also took the percentage of the population over the age of 65 and the city’s livability score from AreaVibes — a metric that combines a city’s crime rates, amenities and quality of basic public services to give a final score between 1 and 100 for how “livable” it is. The towns in each state were then scored and ranked on those four categories to determine which towns are the most affordable while still being desirable to retirees.
So, here’s a deeper dive into which towns in your state are the best for getting the affordable retirement that you deserve.
Last updated: October 9, 2020
Honorable mentions (in order): Enterprise, Montgomery, Dothan, Huntsville, Mobile
The best place in Alabama for retirement is Gadsden, which lies to the northeast, about an hour from the Georgia border. The city has an average Zillow home value of $45,605, a cost-of-living score far below average — 72.5 — and a respectable livability score of 65. It has the highest population of seniors on the list, as well, at 18.7% of the population.
If Gadsden isn’t exactly in your backyard, Decatur and Florence — which lie to the north, northwest of Gadsden by a couple of hours — also made the top five. The two cities have similar senior populations, but you’ll see a pretty big jump in home values at $126,373 and $121,868, respectively.
If you’re looking for options in southern Alabama, though it comes in last, Mobile does get an honorable mention. Its livability score is very similar to No. 2 on the list, Bessemer, at 61 and 62, respectively. You’ll just find that the home values and the cost of living are significantly higher.
Honorable mentions (in order): Palmer, Meadow Lakes, Knik-Fairview, Tanaina, Anchorage
The fact that Alaska’s affordable locations are pretty well ensconced in natural beauty shouldn’t come as a huge shock to most. Kenai — which is southwest of Anchorage — is on the coast surrounded by Chugach State Park and near the Kenai Fjords National Park. Ketchikan, meanwhile, is tucked into the area that stretches along British Columbia and sits amid the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. And not only is Kodiak situated on the beautiful Kodiak Island, but it’s a stone’s throw from Shuyak Island State Park.
Even Fairbanks, one of the largest cities in the state, is surrounded by the Chena River State Recreation Area. However, the fact that just 8.1% of that city is 65 or older might mean some retirees will want to find somewhere with more members of their generation.
Lake Havasu City
Honorable mentions (in order): Buckeye, Mesa, Peoria, Avondale, Glendale
Arizona is not a state known for its lakes, but their relative rarity apparently hasn’t stopped Lake Havasu from boasting the most affordable city in the state on its shores. Not only is the lake right there, but you’re near the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge — which might make it easier to stomach a cost of living that’s slightly higher than the national average. Casa Grande, meanwhile, is located just south of Phoenix and has costs nearly 10% below the rest of the country as a whole.
Of course, if it’s the monthly bills you’re worried about, Yuma is even cheaper when it comes to basic necessities. And if it’s a college town you’re looking for, Tucson is the home to the University of Arizona and has costs of living that are right in line with those of Casa Grande.
North Little Rock
Honorable mentions (in order): Fort Smith, Jacksonville, Russellville, Bella Vista, Hot Springs
Pine Bluff is one great place to live if you want to save money — the cost of living there is over 30% lower than the national average and the home values mean you can expect to find something good for under $50,000. So if you like to keep your bills low and want to be able to visit the Arkansas Railroad Museum on a whim, you’re lucky to have an option this ideal for your retirement. West Memphis offers a similar perfect storm for any big music fans, as you’ll be saving almost 30% over the typical American as well as living just across the Mississippi from one of the most significant locations in American music history.
North Little Rock — situated just across the Arkansas River from its namesake — and Texarkana are both relatively expensive by Arkansas standards. You’ll only be saving about a quarter on the dollar compared to the average cost of necessities in America.
Honorable mentions (in order): Santa Clarita, Chula Vista, Riverside, San Diego, Fontana
While California has a well-deserved reputation as being an especially expensive place to live, that doesn’t mean there aren’t pockets of affordability if you know where to look. The state capital Sacramento, Stockton and Modesto — the town that inspired George Lucas’ debut film “American Graffiti” — are all just a short drive from San Francisco, Silicon Valley and the sort of places where home values are routinely in the seven figures. Those three towns, though, land at $365,078, $321,019.80 and $322,604 respectively on Zillow’s home value index — well within the realm of possibilities for many retirees.
Fresno and Bakersfield, meanwhile, are in California’s Central Valley in the I-5 corridor and have costs of living that are right in line with the national average. And while shelling out over $200,000 for a home is a bit much elsewhere, the fact that both these cities located just hours from San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco can boast home index values in the $250,000 to $275,000 range shows that an affordable lifestyle is possible for many retirees on the West Coast.
Honorable mentions (in order): Greeley, Centennial, Westminster, Longmont, Fort Collins
Not unlike Alaska, it would be difficult to find a place to live in Colorado that wouldn’t come with a pretty incredible natural setting. Loveland is just south of Fort Collins and sits right outside the breathtaking Rocky Mountain National Park. Similarly, the grand junction of the name Grand Junction might be the meeting of “gorgeous” and “amazing” if retiring there means you’re splitting your time between weekend trips to nearby Arches National Park and day trips to closer McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area and Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area.
Denver suburb Arvada has Denver-area prices with a cost of living nearly 30% over the national average, that also means it sits on the cusp of the Rockies. And if you’re not okay with paying a bit more to have that sort of access to both urban amenities and natural beauty, head down route 25 past Colorado Springs and you’ll find Pueblo, which is adjacent to Lake Pueblo State Park and has a cost of living almost 15% below the national average.
Honorable mentions (in order): East Hartford, West Hartford, Waterbury, West Haven, New Britain
Certainly, if you’re retiring to Connecticut you should expect a different standard of affordability than what you might find in the Midwest or South, but that doesn’t mean you won’t still have options. Torrington has a cost of living 11% below the national average and a home value index of $154,200.40. Norwich, likewise, has lower-than-average costs and home values that tend to fall short of $175,000.
Even in Middletown, the home value index of $229,078.20 is going to be in reach of many people as they enter retirement and the cost of living is right in line with the national average — and that comes with a livability score of 80.
Honorable mentions (in order): Georgetown, Claymont, Newark, Wilmington, Smyrna
New Castle sits on the Delaware River and is the home of the First State National Historical Park — all just outside of Wilmington — but those retiring there will be happy to know the typical home is valued under $200,000 and the cost of living is a little below the national average. Elsmere, though, has a ZHVI of just under $175,000 and even lower costs of living than New Castle while also being located in the Wilmington area.
Dover, Milford and Seaford, meanwhile, all have costs of living at least 6% under the national average — though Milford’s ZHVI of nearly $235,000 is significantly higher than the other towns listed here.
Port Saint Lucie
Honorable mentions (in order): Saint Petersburg, Lehigh Acres, Brandon, Gainesville, Tallahassee
You’ll likely be in for plenty of sunshine regardless of where you live as long as it’s in Florida, and there’s nowhere in the state that’s all that far from the beach. But in the case of all five of these affordable locales, they’re right on the water. Palm Bay and Port St. Lucie are both situated on the Atlantic Coast between West Palm Beach and the Canaveral National Seashore, and both have high livability scores of 76 and 80, respectively. Jacksonville is likewise on the Atlantic, though much further up the coast near the border with Georgia.
Cape Coral and Clearwater, meanwhile, are across the state on the Gulf Coast. Cape Coral does have a cost of living that’s just a bit higher than the norm, but it also boasts a livability score of 80, which might make up for its cost of living.
Honorable mentions (in order): Warner Robins, Valdosta, Athens, Marietta, Peachtree Corners
Georgia is one state where you can find some extremely affordable towns to retire. Both Macon and Albany have a ZHVI of under $100,000 and average costs of living about 25% under the national average, meaning you would have that much more of your nest egg to commit to something other than bills.
Augusta might be associated largely with its exclusive golf club, but the cost of living there is still about 20% below the nation as a whole and a typical home is still just over $110,000. Even in the priciest of these cities — Savannah — you’re still looking at much lower costs than the average American town and a ZHVI that’s under $175,000.
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Kailua (Hawaii County)
Honorable mentions (in order): Pearl City, Wahiawa, Waipahu, Kapolei, Ewa Beach
Given just how much of Hawaii’s food and other basic goods must be shipped great distances across the Pacific, costs of living there are much higher than anything you might see elsewhere. However, if you’re retiring to Hawaii, you might be willing to eat those costs because, well, it’s Hawaii. And while none of these towns are affordable when stacked up against most other states, their affordability relative to the rest of the state might actually make retiring to this Pacific paradise realistic.
Notably, Hilo’s ZHVI comes in under $375,000 — almost $300,000 less than any of those other four towns. Likewise, the cost of living comes in “only” 30% higher than the national average, while the other four towns are higher by about 60% or more.
Honorable mentions (in order): Idaho Falls, Chubbuck, Twin Falls, Garden City, Hayden
Not only is Blackfoot the most affordable city in Idaho, but it’s also the home to the Potato Museum & Potato Station Cafe — paying homage to the state’s most famous crop. That sort of amenity isn’t that out of the ordinary, though, as Idaho presents some consistently strong livability scores with all five towns scoring over 70 and Ammon registering an impressive 87.
But it’s not just that these are nice places to live, they’re also great places to save money. Mountain Home, Pocatello and Blackfoot are all at least 15% cheaper than the national average for basic costs of living, and all three also have a ZHVI score under $200,000. And even Ammon, with its excellent livability, has a cost of living that’s well below the national average and a ZHVI score under $270,000.
Honorable mentions (in order): Bloomington, Waukegan, Champaign, Elgin, Schaumburg
While the greater Chicago area is home to its share of high-priced enclaves, the state of Illinois is a lot bigger than the Windy City and has plenty of burgs where you’ll be saving a lot when compared to the average American. Three towns — Springfield, Peoria and Rockford — all have costs of living just under 25% lower than the national average. They’re all looking up to the state’s affordability leader, though, as Decatur’s costs are more than 30% below the national norm. Even honorable mentions Champaign, Bloomington and Waukegan are all at least 15% below average.
And it’s not just the money you can save once you’re living there; the cost of buying a home will make many of these locales ideal for retirees. Decatur, Peoria and Rockford both have ZHVI scores under $100,000 — almost $25,000 under in the case of Decatur. In Joliet — the priciest housing market listed here — the typical home is getting valued at under $150,000.
Honorable mentions (in order): Terre Haute, Fort Wayne, Columbus, Evansville, Lafayette
OK, so when you’re thinking of retiring to Kokomo, odds are good you’re not thinking Indiana. But, maybe you should be. After all, the town situated north of Indianapolis and southwest of Fort Wayne has a ZHVI score of $106,638.80. But by Hoosier standards, that’s actually pretty steep. It means that you would come within $1,000 dollars or so of being able to buy an average home in both Anderson — ZHVI of $67,883.60 — and in Gary, where the ZHVI is an eye-popping $40,173.
And the low cost of your home gives way to consistently lower bills as long as you’re living there. Mishawaka has a cost of living just slightly less than 25% lower than the national average, and that makes it the priciest of the five towns listed here. Anderson, in particular, comes very close to saving you 30 cents on the dollar when comparing your bills to that of the average American.
Honorable mentions (in order): Waterloo, Sioux City, Council Bluffs, Dubuque, Cedar Rapids
Burlington and Mason City are not only the two most affordable cities, but they’re also tied for second and first, respectively, for livability scores at 74 and 75. Burlington’s housing market yields a typical home value of just over $90,000, and Mason City just barely clears six digits.
While Ottumwa has a livability score of just 67, that also comes with some of the best value in the state. The southeast Iowa town has a ZHVI score of under $75,000 and costs of living approaching 30% lower than the national average. That would make Marshalltown — the other half of the tie for the second-highest livability score at 74 — significantly more expensive than the town well to its south. But that just means Marshalltown’s typical home value is about $110,000 and the cost of living is just 23.2% under the average.
Honorable mentions (in order): Leavenworth, Wichita, Derby, Prairie Village, Garden City
One thing you can dodge in Dodge City would be high prices, as the cost of living there is about 25% lower than the national average and the ZHVI score is under $115,000. And that just keeps going the higher up the list you get, with Hutchinson’s typical home being valued at about $100,000 on the nose and costs of living coming in slightly lower than Dodge City.
But what’s more notable about these five cities in Kansas is just how easy it is to live in them. All five cities fall between 70 and 80 for their livability score, with Topeka landing a 79. And the honorable mentions include three different cities with livability scores over 80 (but costs that allowed them to be edged out). Leavenworth scored an 83.1, Wichita an 82.1 and Derby an incredible 89.3.
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Honorable mentions (in order): Hopkinsville, Covington, Frankfort, Murr, Elizabethtown
Southwestern Kentucky’s Madisonville offers a solid combination of amenities and affordability, with a cost of living 25% below the national average, a ZHVI score of $97,511 and a livability score of 77. Ashland, meanwhile, still has a livability score in the 70s — situated right on the Ohio River — with a typical home value just over $80,000 and a cost of living slightly lower than Madisonville’s.
For the three remaining towns, home values are much higher than they are in Ashland and Madisonville. Paducah, Henderson and Owensboro all have a ZHVI score of $120,000 or higher. That might be much higher by comparison, but it’s hardly the sort of home values that are going to scare away many retirees.
Honorable mentions (in order): Marrero, Bossier City, Houma, Lafayette, Lake Charles
Northwest Louisiana’s largest city, Shreveport, tops the list of affordable locales in the state. Home values there average just into six figures while the cost of living is over 20% under the national average. New Iberia near the Gulf Coast and Alexandria just south of the Kisatchie National Forest might be located hundreds of miles apart, but they’re both the exact same 19.5% below the national average for cost of living.
Slidell is actually a touch on the pricey side for Louisiana’s most affordable — a ZHVI score of almost $175,000 and a cost of living only slightly below average — but it also boasts a livability score of 72.
Honorable mentions (in order): Bangor, Brewer, Old Town, Auburn, Orono
Caribou and Presque Isle are located near the northeastern tip of Maine — and therefore the United States. As long as you’re okay with being surrounded on three sides by Canada, you’ll probably be able to make a pretty cozy retirement in the area. Both are about 20% below the nation as a whole for cost of living, and both are in the low six figures for the typical home value — ZHVI scores of $103,482.40 and $114,477.20, respectively.
The remaining three towns are, rather unsurprisingly, located much farther south. All three do have higher costs as well, with ZHVI scores over $150,000 for Augusta and Lewiston. Of course, $150,000 is still going to seem pretty affordable to a lot of retirees who aren’t familiar with those north Maine prices, and all three towns have a cost of living below the national average.
Honorable mentions (in order): Glen Burnie, Columbia, Ellicott City, Waldorf, Rockville
Your options for affordable places to retire in Maryland vary pretty widely in terms of their affordability. Dundalk and Baltimore both offer very affordable prices, but livability scores that are lower than the other cities here — 63 and 57, respectively. Both those cities have a ZHVI score in the ballpark of $150,000, with a cost of living roughly 10% under the national average.
The other three burgs have home values that are more than double what you would expect in Dundalk and Baltimore, and higher costs of living than the nation as a whole. However, the trade-off appears to be fairly clear as those three pricier options have a livability score of 73 or 74.
Honorable mentions (in order): Wocester, Haverhill, Springfield, Waltham, Medford
Framingham and Quincy are both in the Boston area, with Framingham to the west between Beantown and Worcester while Quincy sits to the city’s south on Quincy Bay. That might explain why their level of affordability is much more relative, with ZHVI scores of nearly $465,000 and $550,000, respectively. And that’s before you get to the cost of living, which is over a third higher than the norm in Framingham and over the national average by half in Quincy.
The other three cities, though, are in the same area to the south of Boston and east of Rhode Island, and while that locale still has higher costs than many other states in this study, it appears to offer some relief for those high prices that arise closer to Boston. New Bedford — home to the New Bedford Whaling Museum — and Fall River are both coastal towns where the cost of living is less than 1% over the national average. And while Taunton is 7.7% over the national average for the cost of necessities, that does come with a high livability score in the town that plays host to the Old Colony History Museum.
St. Clair Shores
Honorable mentions (in order): Detroit, Warren, Southfield, Sterling Heights, Kalamazoo
Lansing is Michigan’s state capitol and a pretty lovely place to live, with nearby Michigan State University, meaning there’s an abundance of amenities nearby. More to the point, though, the typical house is valued at under $100,000 and the cost of living is nearly 25% below the national average.
Lansing is an outlier on this list, as the only town that’s not in the greater Metro-Detroit area of the five towns listed here. Livonia is just to the west of the city and boasts an eye-popping livability score of 90 even though the cost of living there remains below the national average and the typical home is worth roughly $225,000. St. Clair Shores, meanwhile, is north of towns like Grosse Pointe and Grosse Pointe Shores on Lake St. Clair and offers one of the best retirement options you’ll be likely to find. Not only are you right on the lake, but Detroit and all of its amenities — like the Detroit Institute of Art or the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village — are just a quick trip down I-94.
Honorable mentions (in order): Apple Valley, Minnetonka, Blaine, Burnsville, St. Louis Park
How much you actually enjoy a retirement in Minnesota is going to have a lot to do with how well you can handle winter weather. However, if you are a snowbird, Duluth could be just the ticket for you. The town might be among the northernmost in the Land of 10,000 Lakes — sitting on Lake Superior near the border with Wisconsin — but it’s also among the friendliest to your wallet with a ZHVI score just over $200,000 and a cost of living about 15% under the national average.
Minnesota also scores particularly well for livability, with three of these five towns tallying a mark over 80. Rochester, Bloomington and Coon Rapids had livability scores of 84, 84 and 81, respectively. And while they are pricier than Duluth, that doesn’t mean they’re outrageous. Rochester has a ZHVI score just over $250,000 with a cost of living below the national average.
Honorable mentions (in order): Clinton, Pearl, Jackson, Brandon, Biloxi
Mississippi is among the places with the absolute lowest cost of living in the entire country, so “affordable” is going to mean something radically different than it does in states like Colorado or Massachusetts. So if living in the birthplace of the blues strikes you as being appealing, you’re in luck — you’ll save a mint in the process.
Tupelo is the birthplace of one Elvis Aron Presley, and you can still visit his birthplace on the east side of town. Though, with a ZHVI score over $130,000, houses in Tupelo are actually a little steep compared to the rest of this list. Meridian, Greenville and Pascagoula all have housing markets where the typical home value is under $100,000, and all five of the towns listed here are at least 20% cheaper than the national average cost of living — with Greenville coming in just under 30% below that level.
Honorable mentions (in order): Jefferson City, St. Peters, St. Charles, Springfield, Blue Springs
Southwest Missouri’s Joplin has a lot going for it. Not only is it really inexpensive to live there — a ZHVI of $116,215 and a cost of living almost 25% below the national average — but it’s also a good place to hide out if you’re an interstate bank robber. Or at least, that’s what one might assume given that the town is home to the historic Bonnie and Clyde Garage Apartment.
Independence and St. Joseph are both on the state’s western side near the border with Kansas, with Independence being a suburb of Kansas City and St. Joseph sitting on the Missouri River just a short trip up I-29. Florissant and Cape Girardeau, meanwhile, are on the other side of the state, sitting on the other big river — the mighty Mississippi. Florissant also has the highest livability score of the town here at 81.
Anaconda-Deer Lodge County
Honorable mentions (in order): Havre, Laurel, Livingston, Billings, Helena
Big Sky Country gives way to the glorious, majestic peaks of the Rockies when you’re traveling east to west. For the entire state, though, low costs of living appear to be pretty consistent. The “least” affordable of the town listed here in terms of the monthly bills would be central Montana’s Great Falls. This city — situated on the Missouri River — can “only” claim to save you about 10 cents on the dollar compared to the rest of the country while the other four will save you about twice as much or more.
Housing prices are also relatively low, though that clearly has a lot to do with what they’re relative to. If you’re coming from one of the high-priced urban and suburban enclaves where home prices are routinely pressing seven figures, Great Falls’ ZHVI score of just under $200,000 is going to seem like a steal. Compared to the other four towns on this list, though — with ZHVIs ranging from about $135,000 to $180,000 — Great Falls is actually a bit steep.
Honorable mentions (in order): Columbus, Gering, Norfolk, Lexington, Fremont
Cornhuskers — just like the Hawkeyes next door — can boast some pretty low costs of living and housing values, making this a great option for retirees interested in living out their golden years on the Great Plains of the American interior. For the most part, you can expect to save 20% or so on the average American’s cost of living in these towns, and you can also expect to find home values that will stay right at or below $130,000 — something that will likely mean a lot more options for most people shopping for a retirement home.
But what really stands out about this quintet of Nebraska burgs are the livability scores, which are consistently very high. While Scottsbluff’s score of 78 might be good for the top spot in most of the states, it’s the worst score of the towns here. The scores of the top four towns are, in order, 89 for Beatrice, 88 for Alliance, a hefty 91 for Hastings and 87 in York. And that’s with two of the stronger livability scores in the country failing to make the cut: honorable mentions Columbus and Norfolk both had a livability score of 90.
Honorable mentions (in order): North Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Henderson, Carson City, Sun Valley
For people who love to gamble, Nevada can make for an ideal retirement paradise: All the heat of Arizona but with quick and easy access to one of your favorite pastimes. Of course, just how “affordable” anywhere in Nevada ends up being for someone with a gambling habit is a bit harder to say, but it’s important to note just how much of this state exists outside gaming meccas like Las Vegas and Reno — with an abundance of natural beauty that’s often overlooked.
Boulder City, for instance, sits southwest of Las Vegas — wedged between the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and the Sloan Canyon National Reservation Area. There, you’ll not only have an easy drive to see the Las Vegas Strip (or the Hoover Dam, for that matter), but you’ll enjoy a livability score of 82.
Honorable mentions (in order): Claremont, Laconia, Dover, Rochester, Lebanon
If you’re looking for a chance to retire in a beautiful natural setting while keeping your costs low, New Hampshire might be one place that can offer you a few different options that could fit your needs. Berlin, tucked in the state’s northeast corner near the border with Maine, sits in the shadow of Mt. Jericho and is subsequently convenient to Mt. Jericho State Park — facts that haven’t prevented the town from a ZHVI score just over $80,000 and a cost of living that saves you more than a quarter on every dollar spent by the average American.
And while you’ll have to head further south for any of the other four towns, most are still situated in or near nature preserves and/or other wilderness areas. Residents of Keene, for instance, might be keen on visiting the nearby Keene Watershed or the Greater Goose Pond Forest. Franklin is home to Webster Lake and the Ledgeview Overlook, Franklin Falls Recreational Trails and the Great Gains Memorial Forest. And Milford residents have easy access to the Tucker Brook and Hitchiner town forests as well as the Keyes Memorial Field and Granite Town Rail Trail.
Honorable mentions (in order): Trenton, Bayonne, East Orange, Plainfield, Perth Amboy
New Jersey has the highest population density in the country, but that doesn’t necessarily mean retiring there means you’re stuck in urban sprawl. Toms River, for instance, sits on the Atlantic coast with both the Brendan T. Byrne and Wharton state forests just inland and the Cattus Island Country Park on the seaside.
That said, “affordable” means something a little different in Jersey than some of the nation’s cheaper states. Hackensack and Clifton both made the top five in spite of ZHVI scores nearing $400,000 and a cost of living more than 20% higher than the national average. But, if you want to retire in Jersey without spending, look no further than Camden. The typical home there is valued at about $65,000 and the cost of living is almost 20% under the rest of the nation as a whole.
Honorable mentions (in order): Gallup, South Valley, Hobbs, Las Cruces, Sunland Park
Los Lunas has the highest average cost of living of the cities here, though that doesn’t make it expensive. The town — sitting on the Rio Grande just south of Albuquerque — has a cost of living that’s about 7% under the national average, but with the other four each coming in at around 25% under, it makes Los Lunas a relatively pricey proposition for New Mexico.
However, when it comes to buying a home, New Mexico certainly makes things a lot easier for retirees. Once again, Los Lunas stands out as being the priciest, but only because it’s the lone town to make the top five with a ZHVI over $150,000 at $168,660.
Honorable mentions (in order): Buffalo, Syracuse, Schenectady, Troy, Albany
Brace yourself: New York City is not among the five most affordable areas in the Empire State. That might come as a real shock to those with absolutely no familiarity with real estate in the Big Apple, but the vast majority of New York isn’t the city. Tonawanda is on the Niagara River just south of the falls in Upstate New York and it offers a rare combination of low costs and high livability scores. The average home there is usually valued at about $160,000, the cost of living is almost 15% under the national average and the livability score is 88 — one of the highest in this study.
Binghamton certainly can’t compete with that 88 livability score — it comes in at just 53 — but it does beat out Tonawanda in affordability. The ZHVI score there is under $100,000 and the cost of living is over 25% below the norm. Niagara Falls, similarly, is right in line in terms of the cost of living and just a hair more expensive in its housing market.
Honorable mentions (in order): Gastonia, Greensboro, Fayetteville, Concord, Jacksonville
The Tarheel State offers plenty of options for avoiding high costs in order to stretch out your nest egg that much longer. The most affordable would be Rocky Mount, just east of Raleigh. There, the typical home is valued at under $100,000 and the cost of living is almost 25% lower than the national average. Were it not for the low livability score of 58, it might have topped Burlington — where the typical home is worth a little over $130,000 and the cost of living is about 20% below average, but the livability score is 65.
The remaining three cities all have a cost of living between 18% and 19% below average. But Wilson is still more affordable when you factor in the cost of buying a home there. Its ZHVI comes to just over $125,000 while Winston-Salem and High Point each have housing markets where the average home is worth about $150,000.
Honorable mentions (in order): Beulah, West Fargo, Fargo, Grand Forks, Minot
While the largely rural state of North Dakota might have a cost of living in most places that’s in line with expectations about the basic costs of living, you might be a little surprised at the value of real estate there. Sure, you’re not going to have to shell out a half-million or more for a home, but the ZHVI score in all of the towns but Grafton fall into the $150,000-$175,000 range that’s affordable but still more than double the lowest values listed here.
However, all five cities will save you about 20% over the national average for basic costs, and Grafton’s typical home value is still short of six figures. Not to mention, livability scores are high throughout the state — Valley City and Devils Lake scored an 85 and 84, respectively, and the other three towns are all in the 70s.
Honorable mentions (in order): Cuyahoga Falls, Cleveland, Toledo, Springfield, Dayton
There’s affordable and then there’s Ohio. Youngstown might offer one of the best options for retiring on a tight budget of any of the cities listed in the entire study. The ZHVI score is just $26,818.80, meaning you could theoretically buy two homes there with one year’s salary based on the American average. What’s more, the cost of living there is almost 35% below the national average, so savings aren’t just coming from when you purchase your home.
And while nowhere else can quite match Youngstown for a buyer’s market on houses, Lorain, Akron and Euclid all have ZHVI scores under $100,000 and savings on cost of living at or over 25% on the rest of the country.
Honorable mentions (in order): Enid, Del City, Shawnee, Midwest City, Lawton
While no one Oklahoma city can quite match Youngstown for its flat-out rock-bottom costs, the collection of towns here is absolutely on par with Ohio’s for overall affordability. Just Bartlesville has a ZHVI over $100,000, with Muskogee featuring a typical home value under $70,000 — all of which should make moving there for retirement a much lighter lift. And costs of living are also low with every town costing 20% or more less to live in than the rest of the country.
Finally, livability scores in Oklahoma are still strong, especially given the low cost of living in the area. Duncan, Ardmore and Muskogee all have livability scores in the low 70s, and Bartlesville is at 80.
Honorable mentions (in order): Redmond, McMinnville, Springfield, Eugene, Beaverton
Salem and Albany are both city names more associated with the Eastern Seaboard, but the Oregon versions are among the state’s most affordable. That said, Oregon should make it clear that states that start with the letter “O” aren’t universally among the nation’s most affordable. Just one city — Salem — has a ZHVI score that comes in under $300,000, and the other four come in somewhere between there and $315,000 — prices that would get you several houses in Ohio or Oklahoma.
Costs of living in these towns won’t provide a lot of let-up, too. For the most part, all five of these cities have a cost of living right in line with the national average, save for Keizer, where costs are about 5% higher.
Honorable mentions (in order): Erie, Williamsport, Reading, Chester, Bethel Park
Sitting on the Susquehanna River well west of Philadelphia, Harrisburg is another town where low home values could provide a real lifeline to retirees who might not have saved as much as they liked. The typical home there is valued at just over $55,000 and costs of living are about 25% under the national average, helping that same nest egg last years longer than it might living elsewhere.
Wilkes-Barre can’t quite match that sort of buyer’s market for homes — the ZHVI score there is just over $70,000 — but it will save you a little on your monthly bills over Harrisburg. The cost of living there is almost 30% below the national average. Even the most expensive option here — Monroeville — still has a housing market where you should be fine with a budget of $150,000 and costs of living over 10% below average.
Honorable mentions (in order): Greenville, Pawtucket, Providence, Central Falls, Tiverton
The nation’s smallest state can’t boast similarly tiny home values, unfortunately for retirees interested in buying there. Woonsocket is the most affordable of these towns, but homes there are still usually worth about $235,000. And Cumberland Hill — the priciest of these five — has a ZHVI score roughly $100,000 higher than that of Woonsocket.
And that’s complemented by costs of living that are consistently above the national average. In the case of Cumberland Hill, it’s not negligible, with costs running nearly 15% higher than the national norm.
Honorable mentions (in order): Socastee, Florence, Greenwood, Greenville, Rock Hill
Just south of I-20 and west of Augusta, Georgia, you’ll find Aiken, which combines a livability score of 76 with home values that average out to under $180,000 and a cost of living about 15% below average.
If you’re interested in a higher livability score, your best option is probably Mauldin — which scored an impressive 88. And while it costs a bit more than Aiken, you’re still talking about home values under $200,000 and a cost of living over 10% below the national level.
And if you’re willing to give up some of that livability score to spend less, both Spartanburg and Sumter could work well for you. Both have home values around $125,000-$130,000, and costs of living are well below the national average — by about 20% for Spartanburg and about 25% for Sumter.
Honorable mentions (in order): Sturgis, Yankton, Vermillion, Watertown, Pierre
The costs of living across the five most affordable places to retire in South Dakota are remarkably consistent. Madison, Belle Fourche, Mitchell and Aberdeen all have a cost of living that’s between 23.1% and 22.4% lower than the national average. That makes Huron the lone outlier, but in the right direction — cost of living there should run about 27% under the national norm.
The ZHVI scores are also pretty remarkably similar for those same four towns, with home values averaging out between about $160,000 and $175,000 for all four. Once again, Huron is significantly less expensive at about $130,000, but that still means that all five of these towns make for a great retirement option if you love the area.
Honorable mentions (in order): Memphis, Cleveland, Gallatin, Columbia, Knoxville
If you’re thinking that your Tennessee retirement will mean living it up in Nashville, you might need to recalibrate your expectations — Music City is pretty expensive with a ZHVI of almost $300,000. However, two suburbs of Tennessee’s other famous musical cities — Memphis — are among the state’s most affordable places to retire. Bartlett would be the low-cost option with a ZHVI score a little over $225,000 and a below-average cost of living. Germantown is much pricier, with a ZHVI of over $365,000 and above-average costs that only make sense in the context of its excellent 86 livability score.
The state’s northeastern corner also landed two different towns, with Kingsport and Johnson City. Kingsport offers a typical home value under $150,000 and a cost of living nearly 20% below average. Johnson City, just to Kingsport’s southwest, is a little pricier in terms of home prices — ZHVI of just over $175,000 — but largely in line with Kingsport’s costs of living.
Honorable mentions (in order): San Antonio, Pasadena, Garland, Laredo, Arlington
Texas offers a number of great places to live, and that’s not just because of the abundance of Tex Mex and smoked brisket. The lowest livability score among these five is 74 (Corpus Christi and Lubbock), with Amarillo ticking into the 80s. And while higher livability scores generally mean higher costs — at least relative to their area — the overall affordability of the state means you can take advantage of these cities at a fraction of the cost compared to other states. Cost of living in all five towns is about 20% below the national average, and homes are valued in the $140,000-$160,000 range — with Brownsville as an outlier for a ZHVI just over $100,000.
Honorable mentions (in order): Layton, Provo, Spanish Fork, Taylorsville, West Valley City
Utah is largely a somewhat remote, mountainous state, which can be a major feature for retirees interested in spending their golden years gazing on panorama views. But, if you’re looking for those views to come from your back porch, you should be ready to spend compared to most other states.
Ogden and Logan have relatively cheap housing markets here, but both should leave you budgeting on about a quarter-million dollars for buying a home. For St. George and Orem, those same values are about $100,000 higher, and Bountiful appears to be something of a bounty for realtors as the ZHVI score there is nearly $400,000.
And basic cost of living is higher in Utah as well. Logan and Ogden both come in a little below the national average, but the other three cities will see you likely shelling out more for your monthly bills than the typical American. In Orem’s case, it’s just under 10% more expensive while Bountiful is more than 10% pricier.
Honorable mentions (in order): Suffolk, Newport News, Harrisonburg, Richmond, Portsmouth
Three of the five most affordable Virginia towns feature a ZHVI score under $200,000, including Lynchburg’s typical home value that’s just under $160,000. In spite of that and a cost of living nearly 20% below the national average, Lynchburg’s livability score is 81 — making it one of the best combos of livability and affordability in the study. That said, three of the five towns in Virginia had a livability score over 80, with the other two at 74 and 76 — indicating that there are a lot of cities in the state where the combination of amenities and services is good.
Tuckahoe’s affordability might seem suspect compared to other cities here — expect a home to run you about $300,000 and to pay about 4% more for bills than the national average. However, in the context of the city’s 86 livability score, those higher prices might be more than worthwhile.
Honorable mentions (in order): Pasco, Lakewood, Marysville, Bellingham, Tacoma
The Pacific Northwest is a truly gorgeous natural setting to call home for your golden years, unless, that is, you really hate the rain. Unfortunately, that also means that even the most affordable options there compare unfavorably to the most affordable options in places like Ohio or Mississippi. The ZHVI score for Yakima is in excess of a quarter-million dollars, and that’s the lowest level of these five. Vancouver’s houses have an average value of nearly $375,000.
And the everyday costs are consistently higher here as well. Spokane Valley, Spokane and Yakima all have costs below the national average, but not by as much as most of the other burgs featured in this study. And residents of Vancouver can expect to pay nearly 15% more than the average American for their regular bills.
Honorable mentions (in order): Clarksburg, Beckley, St. Albans, Oak Hill, Parkersburg
West Virginia provides some clear options for retirees looking to minimize their expenses to focus their life savings elsewhere. All five of these cities have a cost of living at least 20% lower than the national average, and typically more than 25%. And the cost of buying a home is likewise going to be much lower than you could expect elsewhere in the country.
The ZHVI score for Bluefield is just over $55,000, leaving retirees buying a home there anything but blue. And while others aren’t quite that cheap, Moundsville’s housing market means you can expect to buy with about $80,000 and Weirton’s requires about $90,000.
Fond du Lac
Honorable mentions (in order): Janesville, Greenfield, Appleton, Eau Claire, La Crosse
While there are a lot of options for affordable living in Wisconsin, none will save you quite as much money as Beloit. There, home values just barely reach six figures on average, and the cost of living there will save you a little more than a quarter on every dollar spent compared to the national average.
But Beloit also has a livability score of 69, and the other four towns here can do a lot better than that. The remaining four cities have livability scores of 83 for Wasau, 78 for Fond du Lac, 79 for Sheboygan and, b’gosh, Oshkosh registers an impressive 85. And while that 85 does mean Oshkosh is a bit pricier than these towns, a ZHVI under $150,000 and cost of living almost 20% below the national average means it’s mostly just other Wisconsin towns that make it look expensive.
Honorable mentions (in order): Lander, Cody, Casper, Douglas, Buffalo
If you hope to enjoy the majestic beauty of the Rockies during your retirement, few states might provide you with more opportunities than Wyoming. And while Wyoming certainly isn’t one of the cheapest states in the country, the towns listed here are certainly going to present options within reach for a great many people as they end their careers.
All five towns have below average costs of living — though less than 5% below average for Sheridan, Green River and Powell. Worland and Torrington, though, will both save you more than 10 cents on the dollar for your basic costs compared to the average American.
And while housing costs might seem a bit high for many, the livability scores of these five towns are all very solid. Torrington’s 70 is the lowest of these five, with the other four all landing between 79 and 83.
More From GOBankingRates
Methodology: In order to find affordable places to retire across the U.S., GOBankingRates first identified the 20 biggest places by population in every state according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey. Then, each place was scored against all others in its state on the following affordability and quality measures: (1) the percent of the total population 65 and older, (2) the average typical home value over the first five months of 2020 according to Zillow Home Value Index data, (3) the cost-of-living index score according to Sperling’s Best Places and (4) the livability score from AreaVibes. In the final ranking, factor No. 2 was given twice as much weight as the other factors. The 10 cities in every state with the best overall scores were then ranked, with No. 1 being the most affordable for its quality. Places had to have data available for all four factors to be included in the final ranking. Vermont was excluded due to a lack of data. All data was collected on and up to date as of July 6-8, 2020.