Cities Where Residents Need to Start Planning for Retirement the Most

Some two-thirds of Americans between 21 and 32 have not saved any money for retirement, according to the National Institute on Retirement Security. And given that Fidelity calculates the average couple retiring now will need $280,000 to cover healthcare costs alone, it’s important for workers earlier in their careers to start building their nest eggs. That’s harder to do if you’re housing-cost-burdened, which the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines as paying more than 30% of income on housing. Of course, some cities with a younger average population and cheaper housing costs may more easily allow residents to become homeowners and sock away more money for their golden years. Whereas other cities, with an older population that’s more likely to be housing-cost-burdened, may present particular challenges to save for retirement with a shorter time horizon. Below, we look at a slew of factors to rank the places that are most in need of retirement planning help.

To complete our ranked list, we compared 100 cities across five metrics. We measured data on housing costs as a percent of income, average age, average age of workers, percent of residents who are housing-cost-burdened and the homeownership rate. Check out our data and methodology below to see where we got our data and how we put it together to create our final rankings.

Key Findings

  • The clock is ticking - The average worker across the 100 cities we analyzed is 37 years old. That leaves 28 years or so to plan for retirement. But with the homeownership rate hovering around record-low figures and the long-term viability of Social Security up in the air, pre-retirement generations will need to implement a good strategy to achieve a secure retirement.
  • California and Florida take the top spots - Across the top 10, California and Florida are well-represented. In total, seven of the top 10 cities that need retirement planning the most are in those two states. These tend to be high-cost-of-living cities with older residents.


  1. Miami, Florida

    Workers in Miami don’t earn much relative to the cost of housing. Specifically, the average home costs 52% of the average worker’s income here. Also, fewer than 29% of Miami residents own their home. That is the second-lowest rate in the study.
  2. Hialeah, Florida

    Hialeah is another city where the cost of housing is high relative to local incomes. The majority of residents spend at least 30% of their income on housing. Workers and residents here are also fairly old. The average resident is nearly 47, while the average worker is older than 45. That leaves the average worker with less than 20 years to save for retirement.
  3. (tie) New York, New York

    The average New York worker may want to do more to prepare for retirement. New York is a renter’s city and has a homeownership rate of only 32.7%. More than 45.2% of New Yorkers, meanwhile, spend at least 30% of their income on housing. That hurts New Yorkers’ ability to save for retirement. On the positive side, the average worker here is just under 39, fourth youngest in the top 10.
  4. (tie) Honolulu, Hawaii

    Though Honolulu can provide a beautiful setting for your golden years, the data shows residents here are ill-prepared financially for retirement. The average worker here is fairly old and spending a large percentage of his or her income on housing. Housing costs are equal to 44% of income for the average worker. Workers who are spending large chunks of their income on housing are not exactly young, either. The average worker here is older than 40.
  5. Los Angeles, California

    Residents in Los Angeles are fairly young, which means they have more time to prepare for their golden years. But local housing costs eat up most workers’ incomes, and for the most part, residents in LA rent. The homeownership rate here is only 36.6%.
  6. Long Beach, California

    Nearly 47% of Long Beach residents are housing-cost-burdened, the seventh-highest rate in the study. On average, housing costs here equal 47% of income for workers. Workers here are 39 years old on average, giving them just about 26 years until they hit the typical retirement age.
  7. Oakland, California

    More than 42% of Oakland residents spend at least 30% of their income on housing, and just 39% of residents own their home. Oaklanders are fairly old as well, without much time left to focus on retirement plans. The average resident is nearly 37, while the average worker is older than 38.
  8. Newark, New Jersey

    More than 57% of Newark households here are housing-cost-burdened, the highest figure in the study. Plus, most of the people struggling to pay for housing are renters. Only 25% of households here own their home. For that metric, Newark also ranks first. Newark residents have time on their side, though. The average resident here is just slightly older than 34, relatively young by this study’s standards.
  9. Anaheim, California

    Average housing costs in Anaheim equal 64% of income for the average worker. Threading the needle between high housing costs and the need to save for retirement will require diligent planning and budgeting. In fact, more than 48% of residents here fit the definition of housing-cost-burdened. More than 44% of Anaheim residents own their home, an above-average rate for the top 10.
  10. Chula Vista, California

    Chula Vista is a city where housing costs eat up a large chunk of income for the average worker. To be specific, the average worker would need to dedicate about 54% of his or her income to pay for the average home. Nearly 44% of residents are housing-cost-burdened. Another concern is the age of workers. The average worker here is nearly 41 years old, giving the average worker about 24 years until the typical retirement age of 65.

Methodology

In order to rank the cities that need to plan for retirement the most, we looked at data for 100 cities. Specifically, we ranked the cities across the following five metrics:

  • Housing costs as a percent of income. This is housing costs as a percent of income for the average worker.
  • Housing-cost-burdened rate. This is the percent of residents who spend at least 30% of their income on housing.
  • Homeownership rate. This is the percent of homes that are owner-occupied.
  • Average age of residents.
  • Average age of workers.

All data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2017 1-year American Community Survey.

To create the final score, we took the average ranking for cities across the five metrics and gave equal weight to all metrics. We then indexed each city to a score between 0 and 100 based on each city’s average ranking.

Tips for Saving for Retirement

  • Start early - Saving a little bit over a long period of time will typically result in a better retirement strategy than saving a lot over a short period of time. In terms of your own life cycle, that means prioritizing saving in your 20s and 30s and letting your savings grow as you age rather than trying to create your whole retirement nest egg in your 50s and 60s.
  • Let an advisor help plan your retirement - Perhaps you have started to save for retirement but want to improve your overall strategy for when you reach your golden years. After all, there are a lot of ways to live out retirement. A financial advisor can help make sure your funds are in place to meet your specific needs. Check out our financial advisor matching tool to find the right financial advisor for your situation.

Questions about our study? Contact us at press@smartasset.com

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