10 Great Places to Retire If You Hate the Cold

Looking to retire your snow gear when you exit the workforce? These 10 places are ideal for retiring if you hate the cold.

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by The editors of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine


Updated July 2018

Are you hoping to retire your snow gear when you exit the workforce? We don't blame you. Harsh winters can be particularly difficult as you age. Older adults lose body heat faster than when they were younger, and their health can suffer before they even realize quite how cold they are, according to the National Institute on Aging.

We pinpointed one great place to retire in each state that offers attractive advantages for retirees, taking into account living costs, safety, median incomes and poverty rates for retirement-age residents, as well as residents' sense of well-being and the availability of recreational and health care facilities. To shovel out the more wintry locations, we used the Comfort Index from Sperling's Best Places. The scores are based on how many days per year each place enjoys temperatures between 70 degrees and 80 degrees—with penalties for days of excessive humidity. The U.S. average for comfort is 54 out of 100, and higher scores mean more comfortable climates year round. Also, we nixed places where the average temperature in January falls below freezing, whittling our selections to the following 10 great places to retire if you hate the cold. See if any feel just right for you.

1. Phoenix, Ariz.

Comfort Index Score: 80 (U.S.: 54 )
Average low in January 42
Cost of Living: 5% below national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $52,414 (U.S.: $53,799)
Community Score: 62.5 (U.S.: 61.9)
State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Mixed

Undoubtedly, many of you have considered the Grand Canyon State for its retiree-friendly climate and beautiful natural scenery. Unfortunately, the financial setting is not quite as picturesque: Average living costs in Arizona are above the national average while median incomes for seniors are 10.8% below average at $47,973. Phoenix, though, offers a pocket of affordability, plus typically higher incomes.

And being the capital city, you can find plenty of attractions to keep you busy—world-class restaurants, professional sports teams and an array of museums, theaters and other cultural attractions. Of course, outdoor enthusiasts have more than enough to enjoy, too, with many hiking and biking trails within the city limits and even more to explore in nearby Scottsdale, Glendale and Tempe.

2. Carlsbad, Calif.

Comfort Index Score: 80
Average low in January 44
Cost of Living: 46.1% above the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $62,681
Community Score: 64.3 State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Mixed

With its vibrant cultural community, ocean-side living and sunny climate, Carlsbad is a great place to retire. It's a small city (population: 112,000) compared with nearby San Diego (population: about 1.4 million), but has no shortage of amenities, with 25 parks, nearly 50 miles of hiking trails and a full calendar of artsy offerings, including Foreign Film Friday and free summer concerts. Plus, you can choose among a host of retirement communities with ocean views.

Of course, you have to be able to afford it. Like much of California, the cost of living is high. For example, the median home value in the U.S. is $176,700; in California, it's $366,400, and in Carlsbad, it's $614,000. The taxes also weigh heavily on your wallet. One of the 10 least tax-friendly states for retirees (and everyone else), California taxes virtually all retirement income except Social Security benefits, and it has the highest income tax rates in the nation.

3. Cape Coral, Fla.

Comfort Index Score: 82
Average low in January 53
Cost of Living: 6% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $50,143
Community Score: 64.8
State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Most Tax Friendly

With its desirable climate and favorable tax status, Florida is filled with popular retirement destinations. Many of our favorite retirement spots in the Sunshine State can be found along the Gulf Coast including St. Petersburg, Sarasota and Punta Gorda.

Cape Coral's metro area includes Fort Myers, yet another great place to consider for your retirement. But Cape Coral (city population: 183,365) is unique in its waterway access, offering 400 miles of canals for all your boating, fishing and water sports dreams. And land lovers can enjoy the area's beaches, golfing, tennis, parks and other recreational offerings.

4. Savannah, Ga.

Comfort Index Score: 75
Average low in January 39 
Cost of Living: 10.2% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $44,648
Community Score: 60.4
State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Most Tax Friendly

With its warm weather and low living costs, Georgia ranks third among our Best States for Retirement. The only two states to rate higher than Georgia for retirees are Hawaii and (surprisingly) South Dakota.

Savannah (city population: 146,444) is particularly peachy. The historic Georgia city offers beautiful sights, just right for strolling through retirement, including classic American architecture, town squares and riverfront views. Tybee Island, with its wide beaches and still-operating lighthouse, is just a 20-minute drive east of the city. You can also enjoy an array of restaurants, museums and theaters, particularly in downtown Savannah.

5. Hilo, Hawaii

Comfort Index Score: 95
Average low in January 64
Cost of Living: 45.8% above the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $57,916
Community Score: n/a
State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Tax Friendly

Hawaii is well known for its beautiful beaches, enviable climate and high prices. If you're hoping to retire in paradise, you can do so more affordably on the Big Island compared with Oahu, home of capital city Honolulu, where retiree living costs are 88.0% above the U.S. average. The median home value in Hilo is $298,500—still pricey, to be sure, compared with the U.S. median of $184,700, but much more reasonable than the $602,700 median in Honolulu.

And the local lifestyle is still priceless. The colonial town's mood is quiet and calm, but its location on the eastern coast of the island and near active volcano Mauna Loa offers plenty of opportunities for adventure. You can explore rainforests and waterfalls, as well as Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. In the downtown and waterfront areas, enjoy galleries, shops, restaurants and museums, including the Imiloa Astronomy Center.

6. Lafayette, La.

Comfort Index Score: 70
Average low in January 41
Cost of Living: 9.5% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $52,059
Community Score: 62.4
State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Tax Friendly

If you're craving Cajun and Creole culture, Lafayette is the place to retire. Known as the "Cajun Capital City," the area is rich in history, distinctive foods and two-stepping tunes. Nature lovers can appreciate the area, too, located on the Mississippi Flyway and the Atchafalaya Loop of America's Wetland Birding Trail. Bird watchers have gotten a glimpse of 240 species, so far.

Unfortunately, the area's wealth does not reflect in many older residents' finances. Though the average income for people age 65 and older is just a bit below the national average of $53,799, the poverty rate for the age group is a high 14.1%, compared with 12.9% for the state and 9.3% for the U.S. On the bright side, the metro area has an abundance of health care facilities, with about 27 establishments per 1,000 seniors, compared with just 19 per 1,000 seniors in the U.S.

7. Jackson, Miss.

Comfort Index Score: 65
Average low in January 36
Cost of Living: 11.3% below the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $50,801
Community Score: 57.8
State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Most Tax Friendly

Low costs and friendly tax policies can make for a sweet retirement in the Magnolia State, and the capital is particularly alluring. Jackson is a surprisingly eclectic city that holds appeal to Civil War buffs, blues music aficionados and even ballet fans. Dancers from around the world flock to Mississippi to compete for medals, scholarships and spots in ballet companies. Similar competitions are held only in Russia, Bulgaria and Finland.

The Milken Institute ranks Jackson eighth among the best large cities for successful aging. On top of its affordability, Jackson offers an abundance of nurses, nurse practitioners and orthopedic surgeons, as well as caregiving option and geriatric facilities. Note, however, that the area's residents are prone to unhealthy habits that you don’t want to pick up in retirement, including low levels of activity and high levels of fast-food dining.

8. Portland, Ore.

Comfort Index Score: 79
Average low in January 35
Cost of Living: 29.3% above the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $53,063
Community Score: 62.1
State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Not Tax Friendly

Portland is such a great place to retire that it rises above the high cost of living and the Beaver State's unfriendly tax situation, levying one of the highest top state income tax rates in the U.S.. As an original participant in the World Health Organization's Global Age-Friendly Cities Project, Portland is committed to satisfying the needs of its older residents. In the early stages of its action plan, the Age-Friendly Portland Advisory Council—with members from AARP Oregon, nonprofit Elders in Action and Portland State University's Institute on Aging—has held discussions about intergenerational activities and programs, ways for businesses to engage with older adults and developing age-friendly housing.

And you can already enjoy the pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, such as the popular Pearl District, as well as the public transit system, which costs only $1 a ride for those age 65 and older. For natural diversions, you don't have to go far. In the city, you can stroll Forest Park or hike extinct volcano Mount Tabor. Mount Hood and the Pacific Ocean aren't too far away. 

9. Charleston, S.C.

Comfort Index Score: 85
Average low in January 39
Cost of Living: 4.0% above the national average
Average Income for Households 65+: $52,827
Community Score: 64.5
State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Tax Friendly

Southern charm, a rich history, city living and nearby beaches combine to make Charleston a uniquely attractive retirement destination. History buffs, in particular, can appreciate the city's well-preserved antebellum architecture (the Preservation Society of Charleston is the oldest community-based historic preservation group in the country) and Civil War sites, including Fort Sumter.

Foodies, too, can find plenty to enjoy along Charleston’s cobblestone streets, especially in the brunch and comfort food areas. And if you need to work off some of those calories, water sports, including surfing, paddle boarding and kayaking, are popular local activities—along with boating and fishing. The population of the city proper is a manageable 134,875.

10. Austin, Texas

Comfort Index Score: 68
Average low in January 38
Cost of Living: 7.7% below the national average
Average Income For Households 65+: $62,940
Community Score: 64.2
State's Tax Rating for retirees: Tax Friendly

There's nothing weird about wanting to retire in Austin. The metro area offers low living costs even while its older residents tend to bring in well-above-average incomes. And the population has the opportunity to be just as healthy as their budgets. A great place to retire for good health, Austin is home to Zilker Park, a 350-acre green space with a 10-mile hiking and biking trail that encircles Lady Bird Lake.

The area also has an abundance of health care facilities, with more than 29 establishments per 1,000 seniors in the metro area compared with just 19 per 1,000 seniors in the U.S. That includes St. David's South Austin Medical Center with specialties including women's health, heart and vascular care, and oncology. In fact, the Milken Institute credits the Austin metro area's sterling health care system and health-minded population as one reason it ranks sixth among the best large cities for successful aging.

How we picked the 50 best places to retire

To pinpoint one great retirement destination in each state, we weighed a number of factors:

  • Cost of living for major metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas, with data provided by the Council for Community and Economic Research, includes overall costs—across all age groups—for housing, food and groceries, transportation, utilities, health care and miscellaneous expenses. For select cities, cost-of-living data comes from Sperling's Best Places, as noted.
  • Household incomes, poverty rates and number of healthcare facilities are from the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Community well-being and physical well-being scores are provided by digital health company Sharecare, in collaboration with Gallup. These are two of the five elements of well-being that make up the overall Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index. (The other three elements are purpose, social and financial well-being.) The index is calculated on a scale of 0 to 100 and based on more than 2.5 million nationally representative surveys. Community well-being is defined as "liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community." Physical well-being is "having good health and enough energy to get things done daily." We display the community score for each place we chose.
  • Population data, including the percentage of the population that is age 65 and older, is also provided by the Census Bureau. The figures, which in almost all cases represent the populations of major metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas that might include multiple cities, are highlighted in these rankings for the benefit of readers, but were not factors in our methodology for ranking the best places to retire.
  • Taxes on retirees, based on Kiplinger's Retiree Tax Map, which divides states into five categories: Most Tax Friendly, Tax Friendly, Mixed, Not Tax Friendly and Least Tax Friendly. This information is provided for the benefit of readers but was not factored into our selections within each state.

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