If you’re looking for the best places to retire on a fixed income, you will find many cheap places to live in the U.S. But to find the cheapest places to retire, GoBankingRates studied three cost-of-living indexes from Numbeo, an independent, data-driven website that tracks cost of living.
We then used Bureau of Labor Statistics data on average consumer expenditures for Americans aged 65 and older — along with the BLS average cost-of-living, rent and grocery indexes — to further zero in on cheap places for retirees. In our analysis, we looked at large cities and estimated what seniors can expect to pay on average.
What we found might surprise you. The list of the cheapest places to retire does not double as a list of dullest places to retire. These cities are as vibrant as they are affordable, with everything from natural beauty and colorful histories to world-class culture and amenities. Check out the full list, which is ranked from No. 50 to No. 1.
Methodology: GoBankingRates.com examined three cost of living factors for 81 U.S. cities from Numbeo on Sept. 12, 2016: 1) cost of living index, 2) rent index and 2) grocery index. Then, we compared each city’s index to the average annual expenditures from Americans aged 65 and over from the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Consumer Expenditures Survey, 2014-2015 to come up with a formula to predict annual expenses in each city.
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- Annual expenditures: $44,589
- Annual amount spent on rent: $8,081
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,554
Do you like lakes? Orlando has more than 100 of them. The city also has more than 100 parks and 21 community centers, so your golden years can stay as active and in the outdoors as you like. If you’re more of a reader, the Orlando Public Library is the largest public library building in Florida at 290,000 square feet.
In addition, there are good economic reasons for retirees to flock to Florida — there is no state income tax, so you get to keep more of your Social Security or other retirement income, such as money from 401k plans or pensions.
Greensboro, North Carolina
- Annual expenditures: $44,501
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,068
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,595
If you’re the competitive type, you might love Greensboro. The city has a successful annual Greater Greensboro Senior Games, which had more than 50 events in 2016. More than 200 seniors competed in events such as archery, shuffleboard, golf, tennis, and even track and field.
Greensboro also offers many other activities for seniors, which can be found at the website of the city’s parks and recreation department. Participation is a great way to keep the doctor away —and the medical bills at bay.
Fort Worth, Texas
- Annual expenditures: $44,381
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,863
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,483
If you’re hankering for a little rodeo with your retirement, Fort Worth has you covered. Every Friday and Saturday night, the Stockyards Championship Rodeo goes down at Cowtown Coliseum in the Stockyards National Historic District — itself an impressive attraction. You will also find museums of modern art, science and history, and even the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.
- Annual expenditures: $43,909
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,503
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,362
It’s safe to say you won’t be bored in Detroit. Known as the hub of the auto industry, this city has much more going on than just cars. It hosts the largest free jazz festival in the world, and has a thriving theater scene and many pro sports teams. Plus, there are three major casino complexes in the downtown area.
Charlotte, North Carolina
- Annual expenditures: $43,864
- Annual amount spent on rent: $8,300
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,429
Looking for a big city on a small budget? Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina and the 20th largest city in the U.S.. As such, there is a lot to do in town. In addition to pro sports teams and world-famous golf courses, there are also many senior services.
North Carolina doesn’t tax Social Security income, but you will pay tax on withdrawals from retirement accounts.
- Annual expenditures: $43,829
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,019
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,561
Nestled between the southern Tennessee mountains and stretching along the Tennessee River, Chattanooga boasts more than a cool name. It also won Outside Magazine’s “Best Towns Ever” competition in 2011 and 2015.
In addition to some great attractions, Tennessee has no state income tax, although you do pay taxes on dividends and investment income. Tennessee does not tax Social Security or withdrawals from retirement accounts, which can add a little savings to the already low cost of living.
St. Paul, Minnesota
- Annual expenditures: $43,635
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,647
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,295
Located on the great Mississippi River, St. Paul is Minnesota’s capital city. It actually has more shoreline along the Mississippi than any other city, with 26 miles of riverfront. You will also find a lot to do in St. Paul. You can go to art museums, the theater and racetracks. Or, take a river cruise, watch professional hockey or play a round of golf.
One thing to keep in mind, however: The winters are notoriously cold, with the average January high creeping up to just 26 degrees Fahrenheit, and the average low dipping to 7 degrees.
- Annual expenditures: $43,427
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,701
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,086
If you like a little rain — or a lot — Tacoma might be your spot. Yes, it has less annual rainfall than New York, but it still comes in with 39.25 inches a year. It also has beautiful parks and other attractions, like the Museum of Glass.
- Annual expenditures: $43,334
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,094
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,274
If you like the idea of Washington but want a little more sun, Spokane might suit your retirement better. It’s in the sunny side of the state, with an average annual rainfall of 16.52 inches, less than half that of Tacoma. You can stay active for free — Spokane features access to Centennial Trail, a 37-mile path built for walking, running, skating or biking.
- Annual expenditures: $43,281
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,124
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,650
Voted as the “manliest city” by GQ magazine for its bourbon, baseball and horse racing, Louisville is a nice place to retire for both men and women. Plenty of free activities are available, such as the oldest free outdoor Shakespeare festival in the U.S., a free music concert every month, and free access to check out the fossils at Falls of the Ohio National Wildlife Conservation Area.
- Annual expenditures: $43,206
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,354
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,333
This big city offers many attractions, including free symphonies in parks and free Wednesday group workouts on Georgia Street. You can also get free admission on the first Thursday of the month at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
Indianapolis is also one of 50 cities in which OASIS operates. The national organization promotes healthy aging through “lifelong learning, active lifestyles and volunteer engagement.”
- Annual expenditures: $43,188
- Annual amount spent on rent: $8,261
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,267
Founded in 1837 and originally named Terminus, Atlanta was burned and severely damaged in the Civil War. Today, the capital of Georgia is a good base if you plan to travel in retirement, as it boasts one of the busiest airports in the nation.
Georgia does not tax Social Security income. Residents older than 64 get an annual tax deduction of $65,000 on retirement income. Georgia also has no inheritance or estate tax.
- Annual expenditures: $43,038
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,611
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,269
Walkscore.com names Milwaukee the 15th most walkable large city in the U.S., so it should be easy to stay in shape as well as cut down on fuel costs. Milwaukee also offers scenic views of Lake Michigan.
- Annual expenditures: $43,038
- Annual amount spent on rent: $8,769
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,188
If you’re concerned about living near medical facilities, Houston has you covered. It is home to the Texas Medical Center, the world’s largest medical center. The facility encompasses 21 million square feet and serves 4.8 million patients a year.
The city is also home to many pro sports teams and a 12,000-seat theater district that covers 17 blocks downtown.
- Annual expenditures: $42,985
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,525
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,264
Some researchers say the key to extending your “golden years” is to eat more beans. That is one of the habits of people who live in “blue zones” — places around the planet with the highest concentrations of centenarians.
Although Cincinnati isn’t a blue zone, it does boast a famous Cincinnati-style chili and more than 140 chili restaurants. So, if you move here, you better pack the Tums. The city also ranked No. 16 on the U.S. News and World Report list of the 20 best affordable places to live in the U.S.
- Annual expenditures: $42,848
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,614
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,304
Finding a pleasant outdoor spot to enjoy an afternoon shouldn’t be a problem in Jacksonville: The city has the largest urban park system in the country at more than 111,000 acres. Of course, they’re spread over the largest city in the continental U.S. — 840 square miles — but that just means more places to explore.
- Annual expenditures: $42,822
- Annual amount spent on rent: $6,518
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,387
If you’re into staying healthy by shopping at farmers markets, you’ll love Fayetteville. Three days a week, a large farmers market takes place in the town’s central square, which is also known for its gardens. You will also find great dining and performing arts.
Fayetteville’s low cost of living also helped it garner the top spot on the 2016 U.S. News and World Report list of best affordable places to live.
Fort Myers, Florida
- Annual expenditures: $42,760
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,282
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,342
Yes, Fort Myers has a lot of rainfall — 55.92 inches a year. But most of that rain falls in the summer months, and the weather stays warm year round. The average annual temperature in this Southwest Florida city is 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Fort Myers is great for outdoor types, as it offers golf, beaches and boating.
Little Rock, Arkansas
- Annual expenditures: $42,733
- Annual amount spend on rent: $7,048
- Annual amount spend on groceries: $3,471
According to U.S. News and World Report, Little Rock is an affordable place to live, with the median house price coming in at $147,750, well below the national average of $218,867. The fact that residents spend only about 27 percent of their annual average income on living expenses means Little Rock scored fourth place on the publication’s list of best affordable cities.
- Annual expenditures: $42,729
- Annual amount spent on rent: $8,074
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,390
Have you enjoyed music festivals all your life and don’t plan on stopping? Tampa is your spot. The Tampa Bay Margarita Festival, Sunset Music Festival, Tampapolooza and Springfest on Harbour Island are just a few of the music festivals that take place here during the year.
Tampa also has three major league sports teams — the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Tampa Bay Rays — in case you need entertainment. All that, and a decent cost of living to boot.
- Annual expenditures: $42,398
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,223
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,333
Andrew Jackson named Memphis after the ancient Egyptian city because of its location on the Nile-like Mississippi River. Memphis is now the largest city in Tennessee. As such, it has an active senior population, with six senior centers offering everything from leisure and wellness opportunities to education and free lunches.
Newark, New Jersey
- Annual expenditures: $42,371
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,784
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $2,854
Newark might not seem like a natural city in which to retire, but it has some great benefits. It has a reasonable cost of living and thriving culture — art, sports, dining and even an international film festival.
Use Newark Walks to discover the city while getting low-impact exercise. This app lets you listen to a narration of the history and culture of the city as you explore it on foot.
- Annual expenditures: $42,256
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,748
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,220
The state capital of Ohio and the largest city in the state also has a large and active senior program through the city’s parks and recreation department. Membership in the program is free in 2016 if you are 50 or older. It allows you to access senior fitness centers, sports programs, senior classes, and priority for vacationing and educational trips.
Raleigh, North Carolina
- Annual expenditures: $42,221
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,716
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,279
Raleigh has a lot to offer seniors on a budget. This city features free admission to three major state museums — in art, history and natural sciences. It also has more than 9,000 acres of parks and nearly 1,300 acres of water.
An acclaimed 152-mile-long greenway system connects many of the city’s 200-plus parks for walking, jogging and biking.
- Annual expenditures: $42,163
- Annual amount spent on rent: $8,544
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,170
Nashville is known for its country music roots and the number of celebrity musicians who played or got their start there. But it has some other cool stuff, too. For instance, Nashville features the world’s only full-size replica of the Parthenon. It also boasts attractively low cost-of-living numbers.
- Annual expenditures: $42,071
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,041
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,224
If you want to spend your golden years in a lot of sun — and yet far from a beach — Bakersfield might be the place for you. Average annual rainfall is just 6.45 inches and the number of sunny days per year averages 272.
It’s also pretty “hot” in the popularity department: Bakersfield is the fastest-growing city in the U.S. with a population of more than 250,000.
- Annual expenditures: $42,049
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,225
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,210
In addition to impressive cost-of-living numbers, St. Louis boasts great services for seniors through the St. Louis County Age-Friendly Community Action Plan. This entity provides volunteer drivers and calls to check on seniors’ health. Seniors also get home care and repair, legal assistance, and tax preparation help.
- Annual expenditures: $41,996
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,188
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,138
With Florida’s reputation as a retirement haven, perhaps it’s no wonder that six of the state’s cities landed on our list. Gainesville is located in central Florida and is home to the University of Florida. The university is also the site of Lake Alice, a nature reserve where you can spend time checking out alligators, turtles and bats.
Columbia, South Carolina
- Annual expenditures: $41,885
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,419
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,397
Seniors are the fastest-growing segment of the population in South Carolina’s Midlands region, of which Columbia is a part. As such, the city’s parks and recreation department is dedicated to offering more programs and leisure activities to seniors. These include low-cost trips, events from health screenings to balls, clubs, and exercise classes. That can add a lot to retirement at little cost.
- Annual expenditures: $41,837
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,523
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,058
Phoenix has warm winters, hiking and a lot of golf courses. Even better, Arizona does not tax Social Security income. Just make sure you’re ready for a big-city feel, as Phoenix is one of the nation’s largest metros. Also, bring sunscreen: Phoenix enjoys more hours of sunshine per year than Honolulu.
- Annual expenditures: $41,739
- Annual amount spent on rent: $9,085
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,085
Austin spent much of the past five years as the fastest-growing big city in America. But far from being extremely urban, Austin is in large part a series of suburbs, according to Slate. That means you’ll need a car to enjoy all the city has to offer, and that reality can take a bite out of your Social Security check.
- Annual expenditures: $41,708
- Annual amount spent on rent: $8,417
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $2,963
In addition to having an impressively low cost of living, many Dallas suburbs have been lauded as stellar places for retirees. For instance, real estate brokerage Movoto has highlighted Dallas suburbs that have plenty of great activities for seniors, including golf and art festivals. Dallas itself also features everything you would expect from a major city, from pro sports teams to zoos and world-class dining.
Greenville, South Carolina
- Annual expenditures: $41,655
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,671
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,359
How about a little senior softball? You will also find softball, yoga, badminton, horseshoes and other activities through Greenville’s department of recreation and other organizations.
If you’re planning to buy a home during retirement, Greenville’s $122,400 median home price is well below the national average of $170,100, according to Sperling’s Best Places data.
- Annual expenditures: $41,541
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,276
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,255
Located at the far west end of Florida’s panhandle on the Gulf of Mexico, Pensacola might not be for those who want a quiet retirement. The city is home to the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels, and the pilots fly their blue-and-gold F/A-18 Hornets over the city for practice from March to November.
Of course, the plentiful sunshine and white sandy beaches should put you back in relaxed retirement mode. Pensacola also has the honor of being the highest ranked of the six Florida cities that made our list. That is largely thanks to the city’s low average annual cost of living.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
- Annual expenditures: $41,421
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,151
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,319
Ready to slash healthcare costs during retirement? Moving to Sioux Falls can be a start. Healthline, a health information site, included the city in its 2016 list of healthiest places to live.
Healthline praised Sioux Falls for its 80 parks, aquatic center, and more than 28 miles of paved hiking and biking trails. One big plus is 123-acre Falls Park, located right in the middle of the city. Healthline also liked the city’s plentiful museums and historical sites, as well as its many healthy restaurants.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
- Annual expenditures: $41,276
- Annual amount spent on rent: $8,321
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $2,973
If you’re going for a young feel in your retirement years — and really, who isn’t? — you might like the fact that Ann Arbor is a college town and has one of the youngest populations among big cities, with a median age of 28. Ann Arbor is home of the prestigious University of Michigan, which means great college sports teams, including Big Ten Wolverines football.
- Annual expenditures: $41,196
- Annual amount spent on rent: $10,621
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $2,766
Although Freemont’s average annual rent cost is relatively high for our list of winners, it does have the second-lowest annual average food cost. Of course, don’t plan on buying an inexpensive home in this Bay Area city. The 2015 median home price was $760,000. Fremont does have many forms of inexpensive public transit, however.
- Annual expenditures: $41,055
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,392
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,263
Tulsa might be called the city of lakes: It has more man-made lakes than any city in the country. Tulsa’s also a great place for golfing retirees, since it has 16 public golf courses, including a lighted par-3 course at LaFortune Park.
Located near the Ozark Mountains, Tulsa can accommodate retirees who love boating and fishing.
- Annual expenditures: $41,046
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,310
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,111
Salem was named to Livability.com’s 2015 list of the top 100 places to live for its recreational, cultural and natural amenities, as well as its easy access to quality and affordable health care. Those features are the types of things that can make retirement more fun and comfortable. Oregon doesn’t tax Social Security, has no sales tax and has lower property taxes than the national average.
- Annual expenditures: $41,041
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,994
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,105
Planning to live on your Social Security income? You’ll be happy to hear that Wisconsin doesn’t tax Social Security. However, the state does tax pensions and retirement accounts like 401ks and IRAs. On a more scenic note, Madison has five area lakes, 260 parks, and more than 200 miles of paths and trails. That should help burn off all that cheese.
Kansas City, Missouri
- Annual expenditures: $40,984
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,366
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,045
Kansas City is centrally located in the country, which makes for easy family visits from any state. It also is a good choice for its transportation within the city. It has several bus systems, but also features a bike-sharing system. Just swipe your member card or credit card and a bike is unlocked for you. Ride it to your destination and turn it in.
The city also made the 2016 U.S. News and World Report list of best affordable places to live, finishing at No. 19.
Rochester, New York
- Annual expenditures: $40,586
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,421
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,067
Although sales and property taxes are relatively high in New York, Social Security and public pensions are not taxed. Also, income from private pensions and retirement accounts is deductible up to $20,000. If you want a retirement spot that has four distinct seasons, the city of Rochester is it. The summer average temperature is 78 degrees Fahrenheit, while the winter average temperature is 32.
Salt Lake City, Utah
- Annual expenditures: $40,529
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,619
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,066
If you want a little altitude with your retirement, Salt Lake City might be a great call. The city lies at 4,330 feet above sea level, with the ski parks at 7,000 to 8,000 feet. The good news: Thanks to the world-class skiing and white winters, your family will surely want to visit during the holidays.
- Annual expenditures: $40,008
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,461
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,046
It’s a good thing Omaha has such a low cost of living and modest grocery costs because Nebraska is not the tax-friendliest state for seniors. Social Security income that is taxed by the federal government is also fully taxed here. In addition, it is one of the few states that has an inheritance tax.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Annual expenditures: $39,641
- Annual amount spent on rent: $6,929
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $2,909
With a moderate annual average high temperature of 68.8 degrees Fahrenheit and 310 days of sunshine a year, Albuquerque enjoys a dry high-desert heat that many seniors might enjoy. And if you want to get even higher, Albuquerque is known for its hot air ballooning. The city also is a destination for those who love golf and spas.
- Annual expenditures: $39,566
- Annual amount spent on rent: $6,816
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,031
Got rain? Well, if you’re moving to Mobile, we certainly hope you want some during retirement. The city is the rainiest place in the country, according to Business Insider. Its average annual rainfall is 66.22 inches — that’s 5.5 feet, folks.
On the plus side, Mobile has famous Southern hospitality and the oldest Mardi Gras celebration in America.
- Annual expenditures: $39,402
- Annual amount spent on rent: $6,755
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,052
Looking for a great place to live a simple life? According to AARP The Magazine, Tucson is in the top 10 cities to do just that. An hour from the border of Mexico, this city is ringed by wilderness and enjoys 286 sunny days per year. And although other types of retirement income are taxed, Social Security is not.
- Annual expenditures: $39,248
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,282
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $3,109
With one of the lowest costs of living in the nation, Oklahoma City is an attractive spot for seniors on a budget. Oklahoma also fully exempts Social Security from taxation and provides a $10,000 deduction for other types of retirement income, such as 401ks or pensions. Sales taxes are high, but property taxes are low.
- Annual expenditures: $38,210
- Annual amount spent on rent: $7,729
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $2,873
The home of the Alamo is also the place of very low taxation for seniors. There is no state tax taken on Social Security income, or withdrawals from retirement accounts or pensions. Add those factors to warm weather and a low cost of living, and you can see why San Antonio is our runner-up big city in which to retire.
- Annual expenditures: $36,999
- Annual amount spent on rent: $6,781
- Annual amount spent on groceries: $2,633
The top spot for affordable places to retire on our list goes to the Georgia city of Athens, about an hour east of Atlanta. Its low cost of living and very low annual average grocery cost helped put Athens at the front of the pack.
Even better, Georgia is a very friendly tax state for seniors. It does not take taxes from Social Security income, and there is no state inheritance or estate tax. If you are older than 64, a $65,000 per person deduction on other types of retirement income applies. Property taxes and sales taxes also are low. Congratulations, Athenians.