The Best Cities for an Active Retirement - 2019 Edition

 

Retiring doesn't have to mean slowing down from your usual pace. There are plenty of places in the U.S. where it's easy to have an active retirement. Certain cities are more walkable than others, though, or offer more options in terms of recreation centers and gyms as well as golf courses. The more options available, the easier it is to stay active in your retirement.

To determine the best cities for an active retirement, SmartAsset looked at data on 544 cities across seven metrics: walk score, concentration of fitness-related businesses, number of golf courses, number of retirement communities, number of medical centers, senior population percentage and average effective tax rate. To find out more about our data sources and how we created this list, read our Data and Methodology section below.

Key Findings

  • Florida and California dominate - Cities in Florida and California claimed seven of the spots in our top 10. Of the top 25, a total of 14 cities are located in either Florida or California.
  • Coastal states are good for an active retirement - The cities in our top 10 are primarily located on either the East Coast or the West Coast. In fact, the only exception in the top 10 is Missoula, Montana.

 

  1. Wilmington, DE

    Wilmington, Delaware ranks as the best city for an active retirement in 2019. The city has a lower tax burden than any other city in our top 10, with an average effective tax rate of about 11.64%. That’s a top-five rate. Additionally, it ranks as very walkable, with a score of 73. This is the highest walk score of any city in the top 10, and a top-30 rate.
  2. Santa Barbara, CA

    Santa Barbara, California, the second-ranking city on our list of the best cities for an active retirement, stands out for its walk score and its number of golf courses. It has a walk score of 62, ranking 76th out of 544 total cities in our study for that metric. It also has 3.64 golf courses for every 100,000 residents, which is a top-60 rate. Unfortunately, as is true for every California city on this list, Santa Barbara has a relatively high tax burden. The city has an average effective tax rate of 16.91%.
  3. Missoula, MT

    Missoula, Montana stands out in the top 10 for its high percentage of fitness-related businesses. In this western Montana city, recreation centers and gyms account for 1.92% of all local businesses, which is the highest percentage in our top 10 and the third-highest out of all 544 cities in our study. If you’re more interested in hitting the links, Missoula has 4.15 golf courses per 100,000 residents, the fourth-highest rate in the top 10 and the 41st-highest in the study overall. It also has the third-lowest tax burden of any city in the top 10 and ranks in the top 15 for this metric overall, with an average effective tax rate of 14.50%.
  4. Delray Beach, FL

    If you’re looking for an active retirement in a place with plenty of other seniors, Delray Beach, Florida may be right for you. The city on Florida’s southeast coast has the largest senior population percentage of any city in our top 10 and the sixth-largest percentage in the study overall, with seniors accounting for 24.60% of the total population. The city also boasts the highest concentration of golf courses of any other city in the top 10 and the second-highest concentration overall, with 11.17 golf courses per 100,000 residents.
  5. Newport Beach, CA

    Like the two other California cities on this list, Newport Beach has a high tax burden with an average effective tax rate of almost 17%. On the bright side, it offers a large community of seniors and high concentrations of medical centers and golf courses. The city has 6.87 medical centers per 1,000 residents - the second-highest rate in the top 10 and fourth-highest out of all 544 cities in our study - and 6.22 golf courses per 100,000 residents - also the second-highest rate in the top 10 and 10th-highest overall.
  6. Fort Lauderdale, FL

    Fort Lauderdale, Florida has by far the highest concentration of medical centers compared to any other city in our study. According to our data, Fort Lauderdale has 11.00 medical centers per 1,000 residents. The city on Florida’s southeastern coast also stands out for its number of retirement communities, with 0.33 for every 1,000 residents, a top-30 rate. For those who value convenience and enjoy being active on their feet, the city has a walk score of 59, which is the third-highest of the top 10.
  7. Clearwater, FL

    Clearwater, Florida is another city with a robust senior population. Of the city’s total population, 21.30% are seniors, a top-20 rate. The city in Florida’s Tampa Bay also has a number of retirement communities, with 0.32 for every 1,000 residents, and ranks 31st for this metric overall. Clearwater has a decent number of golf courses as well, ranking 34th out of all 544 cities in our study for this metric. By contrast, however, at 0.82%, it has the second-lowest concentration of fitness businesses of any city in the top 10 and ranks 345th out of all 544 cities overall.
  8. Pompano Beach, FL

    Pompano Beach, Florida has a sizable senior population if that is a factor you are prioritizing in your retirement. Of the city’s total population, 19.30% are seniors, the fourth-highest rate in the top 10 and the 25th-highest overall. It has 0.31 retirement communities per 1,000 residents. It also has 6.72 medical centers per 1,000 residents, which is the sixth-highest rate overall. Where Pompano Beach lags behind the other cities in the top 10 is its number of golf courses. It has just 1.95 golf courses for every 100,000 residents.
  9. Medford, OR

    Medford, Oregon has the highest concentration of retirement communities of any city in the top 10 and the sixth-highest concentration out of all 544 cities in our entire study. According to our data, there are 0.48 retirement communities for every 1,000 residents. The tax burden in Medford is the second-lowest in the top 10 and fifth-lowest overall, with an average effective tax rate of 13.36%. Though there are a number of fitness-related businesses in the southern Oregon city, it has a walk score of just 37, which is the lowest walk score of any city in our top 10.
  10. Carmichael, CA

    A third California city rounds out our top 10. Carmichael, California has the second-highest concentration of retirement communities in our top 10, with 0.42 for every 1,000 residents. That’s a top-15 rate. Of its total local businesses, 1.62% are fitness-related, which is also a top-15 rate. Like the other two Golden State cities, though, it has a high average effective tax rate of 16.91%. It only has 1.57 medical centers per 1,000 residents, which is the lowest concentration in our top 10.

To determine which cities are the best for an active retirement, we analyzed data across 544 of the largest cities in the U.S. based on full data availability. More specifically, we examined seven metrics. The first four metrics focus on metrics relevant to all retirees, while the other three metrics measure how easily a retiree can live an active lifestyle in that location.

  • Retirement communities per 1,000 residents - This is the number of retirement communities in the area per 1,000 residents. Data comes from the Census Bureau's Zip Code Business Patterns survey.
  • Medical centers per 1,000 residents - This is the number of medical centers in the area per 1,000 residents. Data comes from the Census Bureau's Zip Code Business Patterns survey.
  • Senior population percentage - This is the number of seniors in the area as a percentage of the total population. Data is from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Communities Survey.
  • Tax burden - This is the average effective tax rate in the area. We calculated this using our retirement tax calculator based on income taxes, sales tax and applicable rules and deductions for a retiree earning $35,000 per year.
  • Walk score - This is a measure of the city's overall walkability. Data comes from walkscore.com.
  • Fitness-related businesses as a percentage of all local businesses - This is the number of fitness-related businesses (such as recreation centers and gyms) as a percentage of all local businesses in the area. Data comes from the Census Bureau's Zip Code Business Patterns survey.
  • Golf courses per 100,000 residents - This is the number of golf courses in the area per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the Census Bureau's Zip Code Business Patterns survey.

First, we ranked each city in each metric. We then averaged those rankings, giving double weight to walk score and single weight to the other metrics. We used this average ranking to assign a score to each city. The city with the best average ranking received a score of 100, with lower rankings corresponding to lower scores.

Tips for Getting Ready for Retirement

  • Take advantage of 401(k) match - One of the easiest ways to save for retirement is by contributing to your company's 401(k) plan. This is an especially good option if your company offers an employer match. It's important to start saving sooner rather than later, though, so you can better reap the benefits of compound interest.
  • Get expert help - Planning is an important part of ensuring you're ready to retire when and how you want to. A financial advisor can help you draft your roadmap. Finding the right financial advisor who fits your needs doesn't have to be hard. SmartAsset's free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you're ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Questions about our study? Contact press@smartasset.com

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