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Worst Places to Spend Your Golden Years -- And Where to Retire Instead

Joel Anderson

It’s an unfortunate reality that some of the best places to retire and the most affordable places to retire don’t have a ton of overlap. Frequently, the top locations on people’s lists of potential cities to live out their golden years don’t have a lot of crossover with America’s most affordable cities, leaving plenty of people struggling with the decision between getting the retirement they want and having to make painful cuts to their lifestyle.

However, while your first choice might be prohibitively expensive, a new study from GOBankingRates has dug deep into the numbers to give you some much more affordable options when you’re considering where to retire. Considering factors like the median listing price for a home, the average expenditures for someone 65 and older, crime rates, livability scores from AreaVibes and the weather by way of the Climate Index from Sperling’s Best Places, the study has identified which of the country’s cheapest places to live also offer a similar lifestyle to the pricier options that might spring to mind first.

So, before you immediately assume that you’ll need to work into your 70s to afford the retirement you want, you might find that these cheap places to retire have everything you want at a much lower price, giving you more financial flexibility and an easier time making ends meet on a fixed income. As you’ll see, it doesn’t necessarily take a lot to retire in a great city.

Don’t Retire in Miami

Miami has long been one of America’s best-known cities — gaining fame for its active nightlife and large Cuban-American community, among others. However, making this city your home in retirement comes at a steep cost, with the median list price for a house reaching nearly half a million dollars and the average annual expenditure for seniors is at $67,873.

Click to See: Best Places in Every State to Live on a Fixed Income

Instead, Choose Hialeah, Fla.

Nearby Miami is Hialeah, a community where the median list price is over $150,000 lower and the cost of living is about $3,000 a year lower for senior citizens. If you’re interested in a South Florida retirement but don’t want to pay Miami prices, this could be your ticket.

Don’t Retire in Los Angeles

The City of Angels offers nice weather year round and a wide variety of amenities. However, America’s second-largest city is also among its most expensive. The median list price for a home is about $800,000 and the cost of living is about double that of the national average, meaning the average expenditure for ages 65 and older households is nearly six figures.

See: 15 Best Places to Retire for Lower Healthcare Costs

Instead, Choose San Bernardino, Calif.

Good thing nearby San Bernardino offers many of the same benefits at a fraction of the price. The median home list price of $295,000 is less than half that of Los Angeles and the average senior spends less than $60,000 a year living there. Throw in a variety of options for local theater and closer access to Lake Arrowhead, Big Bear and Joshua Tree National Park and this could be a paradise for nature lovers looking to spend less.

Related: Best Age to Retire Ultimate Guide

Don’t Retire in Oakland, Calif.

The cost of living anywhere in the San Francisco Bay Area is quickly spiraling out of control. While Oakland might be the retirement spot of your dreams, the median list price of $650,000 is followed by an average cost of living for residents 65 and over that nearly reaches six digits. All told, for most Americans, retiring in Oakland is either well out of reach or would require major compromises elsewhere.

Instead, Choose Modesto, Calif.

Instead of Oakland, consider the inland city of Modesto, the inspiration for the George Lucas classic “American Graffiti” and a haven for classic car lovers who want to live a short drive from both the mountains and the beach. Modesto’s median list price — at just shy of $300,000 — is less than half that of Oakland, the average cost of living for seniors is just over $60,000 and the crime rate is close to a third lower.

Don’t Retire in Naples, Fla.

Deciding to retire in Florida is a cliche for a reason: The Sunshine State has a lot of offer to people in retirement. As such, it’s understandable that retirement in Naples would stand out as a goal for many. Unfortunately, you might not have such a sunny disposition when you get done shelling out nearly $400,000 for a home based on the median list price, or when you discover that under 10 percent of the city’s population are ages 65 and older.

Instead, Choose St. Petersburg, Fla.

St. Petersburg could offer you the retirement on Florida’s west coast that you want at a price you can afford. You’ll be nearby to Clearwater Beach — voted the No. 1 beach by TripAdvisor — with a median list price of $279,000, that’s $120,000 under that of Naples. That amount would cover two full years of expenses with over $10,000 to spare.

Don’t Retire in Santa Ana, Calif.

Santa Ana might be best known for its association with the Santa Ana winds, but it also has a lot to offer potential retirees. However, that would mean entering a blazing inferno of a housing market where the median list price is over a half million dollars — more than $100,000 higher than the national average — and the average annual expenditure for those who are 65 and older is a whopping $79,267.

Instead, Choose Henderson, Nev.

Meanwhile, Henderson across the border in Nevada could be your lower-cost alternative to retiring in Santa Ana. Directly adjacent to Las Vegas and all of the amenities it has to offer, the median list price for a home there is $363,000, and in addition to saving nearly $200,000 on a house, you’ll be saving on your annual costs as well: The average annual expenditure for those 65 and older is over $15,000 a year lower.

Read: How Much to Save in Every State If You Want to Retire Early

Don’t Retire in Anaheim, Calif.

Anaheim is located just south of Los Angeles and is home to Disneyland, making it a potentially attractive spot for plenty of retirees. However, some of the costs of living there will make you think you’ve wandered into the park without realizing it. The average annual expenditure for senior citizens is about $85,000 while the median list price comes in at about $600,000.

Instead, Choose Las Vegas

Instead of Disneyland, opt for Las Vegas — the Disneyland for adults. Aside from all of the shows, gambling and restaurants the city is famous for, the median list price for a home is almost exactly half that of Anaheim. And while you might be worried about the casinos eating into your spending allowance, it’s worth noting that the average annual expenditures in Las Vegas is just under $60,000 a year — meaning you’ll be saving almost $25,000 a year on basic necessities in Sin City.

Don’t Retire in San Francisco

If you want to spend your golden years in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, be prepared to pay, well, golden prices. The median list price for a home is a mind-boggling $1.25 million, and paying out that small fortune will only secure the privilege of paying another fortune for expenses as the average senior spends over $150,000 a year.

Prepare: 11 Signs Your Retirement Is Going to Be More Expensive Than You Thought

Instead, Choose Sacramento, Calif.

California’s state capital is just inland of San Francisco and offers a cost of living that’s much more in line with what most people can sustain in their retirement. Sacramento’s median list price of $312,000 is less than a quarter of San Francisco’s, and you’ll then be able to keep saving in a city where the average senior spends $63,413.76. All this comes with a crime rate that’s close to half that of San Francisco and a restaurant scene that helped the city win the title of America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital.

Don’t Retire in Riverside, Calif.

Riverside is one of the largest cities in Southern California’s inland empire, and it could be just the place to retire to enjoy California’s year-round sunshine and warm weather. Unfortunately, you wouldn’t be the first person with that idea. The average price of a home is $432,950 and the average annual expenditure for retirees is $72,826.74.

Instead, Choose Fresno, Calif.

If it’s warm weather and sunshine you crave, it’s worth noting that Fresno — in California’s central valley — actually scores an 84 for its climate index as compared to just a 77 for Riverside. And if that seems like a marginal difference to you, the over $150,000 you’ll save buying a home or nearly $20,000 a year in expenses should be anything but. And with seven stadiums to satisfy your various sports cravings, the annual Woodward Shakespeare Festival, and the unique Forestiere Underground Gardens, there shouldn’t be a shortage of fun ways to spend that money you’re saving.

Don’t Retire in San Jose, Calif.

San Jose currently sits in the middle of the tech-driven housing bubble of the San Francisco Bay Area, meaning that the decision to retire there is going to come with pretty significant costs. While not quite San Francisco-level bad, the median list price of $929,000 and average annual expenses of $128,809.20, probably means it’s not a realistic destination for most retirees.

Instead, Choose Stockton, Calif.

Stockton, however, is just a 90-minute drive from San Jose but offers a cost of living that’s actually realistic for someone on a fixed budget. The median list price of $295,000 is less than a third of San Jose’s while the average annual expenditure for those ages 65 and older of $59,945.82 is less than half that of the pricier burg.

Compare: How Long $1 Million in Retirement Will Last in Every State

Don’t Retire in Denver

While some might want to live near the water in retirement, plenty of others will find the mountains are more their speed. However, if that has you hoping to find a place in Denver to spend your retirement, you might want to reconsider: The median list price in the Mile High City is $469,000 with another $71,340.48 in average annual expenditures.

Instead, Choose Aurora, Colo.

But why set yourself up in pricey Denver when Aurora — which borders it to the east — is another option for retirement in the Rocky Mountains that won’t hurt your wallet in quite the same way. The median list price is just $359,450, the average annual expenditure for seniors is $64,404.60 and the crime rate is lower in this city, with 36.26 violent or property crimes per 1,000 people to Denver’s 43.88. Meanwhile, the “Gateway to the Rockies” is close enough that you can likely enjoy almost all of the same amenities at a fraction of the price.

Don’t Retire in Seattle

If you don’t mind the rain, the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest can be downright breathtaking. However, if that and a love for coffee have you circling Seattle in red as your destination in retirement, you should know that it comes at a steep cost. The median listing price for a home is a stunning $678,265 while the average retiree spends over $100,000 a year.

Instead, Choose Spokane, Wash.

Nearby Spokane might not be the birthplace of Starbucks, but it is a chance to enjoy the region without paying Seattle prices. The median home price of $235,500 translates to a savings of nearly $450,000 over Seattle, and that lands you in a city where the typical retiree spends under $50,000 a year. And if retiring to a college town interests you, don’t forget that Spokane is home to Gonzaga University.

Don’t Retire in Long Beach, Calif.

Retiring by the ocean is a dream plenty of people harbor, but life by the Pacific Ocean in Long Beach might mean having to figure out how to live at low tide, so to speak. The median listing price of $580,000 is a nonstarter for many, and even those who can afford it might still find themselves struggling to come up with $88,680.18 — the city’s average annual expenditure for someone over 65 — every year thereafter after blowing their budget on such a pricey home.

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Instead, Choose Corpus Christi, Texas

If it’s a retirement by the seaside that has you looking forward to your last day of work, Corpus Christi on Texas’ gulf coast could be the affordable option that makes that possible. The median list price in the city is just under $200,000, and the nearly $400,000 you’ll save by not buying in Long Beach will stretch that much further in a city where the average retiree shells out just $44,587.80 in expenses each year.

Don’t Retire in Honolulu

Plenty of people want to retire to Hawaii because… well, the reasons for that should be obvious. If you’ve haven’t been there yet, visit Hawaii and you should be able to figure it out. Of course, the only issue is that this island paradise comes with some positively outrageous prices to match. The $655,000 that a median home lists at is paired with an average annual expenditure for seniors that nearly hits $100,000 a year.

Instead, Choose Tampa, Fla.

Once again, swapping the Pacific for the Gulf of Mexico can mean living near water without having to suffer through the sort of high prices that tend to follow the swankiest beachside towns. Tampa’s median list price of $300,000 puts it within reach for many retirees while the annual expenditures of $54,000 means you’ll be able to save over $45,000 every single year just on your cost of living — money you can spend at places like ZooTampa, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay or The Florida Aquarium.

Don’t Retire in San Diego

San Diego is an ideal city for retirement in many ways, boasting sunshine and ocean access that will keep retirees warm, tan and having fun well into their golden years. Of course, the prices might mean you’ll be warm, tan and flat broke. The median list price for a home in this Southern California locale is $689,000 and you’ll still need close to $90,000 a year just to cover basic expenses.

More Options: 15 US Cities You Should Really Consider for Retirement

Instead, Choose Jacksonville, Fla.

If you’re okay with swapping the Pacific time zone for Eastern, Jacksonville might be the better option for you. Jacksonville touts itself as among America’s top 20 art destinations, has the largest urban park system in the country and features 1,100 miles of navigable water between its 22 miles of beaches and the beautiful St. Johns River. And all that comes at a major discount compared to San Diego, with the price of your home coming in at nearly half a million dollars lower and a year’s worth of expenses running you under $50,000 on average.

Don’t Retire in Reno, Nev.

The biggest little city in the world might seem like a great place to retire… until you see the biggest little costs in the world that come with that plan. Reno’s median list price for a house at $429,970 is over $100,000 higher than the national average, and you’ll also need to shell out over $60,000 every year thereafter to cover expenses, on average.

Instead, Choose Albuquerque, N.M.

As desert cities go, Albuquerque might be the ideal opportunity to avoid the Reno real estate market’s pricey options. Albuquerque boasts a thriving art scene, the National Hispanic Cultural Center and the National Institute of Flamenco in addition to an array of options for traditional New Mexican cuisine. Despite all this, the median list price in Albuquerque is a mere $220,000 and the average annual expenditure is just $48,551 — giving you plenty of spare cash to enjoy your Flamenco lessons and stuffed sopaipillas.

Click through to read more about how long $100,000 in retirement will last in every state.

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: You’ll Never Be Able to Afford Retirement in These Cities — So Look Here Instead