From Sarasota and Fort Myers in Florida to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, here's where to retire in 2021 across the United States.

By Patricia Doherty
February 06, 2021
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When it comes to retirement planning, financial considerations are usually at the top of the agenda. For most future retirees, income is relatively quantifiable, with social security, pensions, investments, and savings. Anticipating expenses may be less precise, with unknowns like inflation, health care costs, and unexpected payments. Once the finances are established, a question for a number of retirees is where to live. 

Many are content to stay put, especially if their mortgage is paid off and their house and neighborhood are still ideal. For some, though, the nest is empty and there's too much unnecessary space to maintain. Children and grandchildren may have moved away. Daily needs like shopping, health care, socializing, and staying active might not be sufficiently convenient. Are weather-related necessities like snow shoveling, home heating, and landscape care becoming a burden? These are all considerations that come into play when planning for retirement.

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A variety of organizations periodically analyze the myriad of cities in the U.S. and around the world for their suitability as retirement destinations. Naturally, tastes as well as needs and interests vary, but basic criteria like affordability, weather, tax structure, health care availability, social activities, and safety are considerations in naming the best places to retire.

With input from several sources, we've compiled a list of 11 cities in the U.S. that are considered to be among the best places to retire.

Cities in Florida almost always top the list for where to retire in the U.S. The state's year-round warm weather is a definite draw, as is the lack of a state income tax, so let's start with the Sunshine State.

Sarasota, Florida

In addition to warm weather, this Gulf Coast city boasts white-sand beaches and a picturesque, walkable downtown area. Museums, art galleries, and performing arts centers provide a strong cultural element. Tourism is a major industry, and luxury hotels, restaurants, and shops serve residents as well as visitors. Both property and violent crime rates are lower than comparable metro areas, and health care is easily accessible. Plus, there is a vibrant retiree community in Sarasota.

Fort Myers, Florida

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Also on Florida's Gulf Coast, Fort Myers offers a range of housing prices. Unemployment is low — a plus for seniors who might want to supplement their income with part-time work. Like most Florida resort cities, Fort Myers sees an annual influx of snowbirds, and the Boston Red Sox spring training games attract even more. Art and science museums, restaurants, and a large retiree community put Fort Myers on the list of best destinations.

Port St. Lucie, Florida

Located on Florida's southeast coast, this fast-growing city still maintains its relaxed style and range of affordable homes. There's much to do outdoors, with the St. Lucie River, Port St. Lucie Botanical Gardens, St. Lucie Aquatic Preserve, and nearby Hutchinson Island, a barrier island just 12 miles off the coast. Golfers love the PGA Golf Club, and for baseball fans, there's the New York Mets spring training season. 

Naples, Florida

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This Gulf of Mexico city is known for its beautiful neighborhoods, elegant atmosphere, art galleries, and upscale shopping, as well as its miles of white-sand beaches. Nature lovers have easy access to the Ten Thousand Islands in Everglades National Park, which boasts more than 35,000 acres of mangroves and wilderness for fishing, kayaking, and wildlife spotting. Golf, tennis, museums, and strolling along the pier at sunset also keep residents busy and happy.

Nashville, Tennessee

Entertainment might come to mind first, with the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium, and an abundance of live music venues, but Nashville also offers moderate weather with four seasons and plenty of outdoor activities. More than a 100 parks, dozens of museums, two professional sports teams, and great restaurants are big pluses as well. A range of affordable housing and no state income tax might be attractive to some retirees. 

Asheville, North Carolina

The spectacular scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains is enough to attract many retirees to Asheville, but it also has a lively cultural and creative scene, with art galleries, museums, studios, and the River Arts District. Outdoorsy types will find many opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, kayaking, and simply enjoying the clean mountain air. Craft breweries, restaurants, and a range of places to live are draws, and North Carolina does not tax social security income.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania

A rural atmosphere with a lively downtown, plus the fact that it's a short drive or Amtrak ride to major cities like Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York, make Lancaster ideal for many retirees. A small-town vibe, art and music festivals, restaurants, galleries, and the Lancaster Central Market provide plenty to do, in addition to exploring the outdoors or visiting a local Amish community. Another bonus: Affordable housing and no tax on social security income.

Ann Arbor, Michigan

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Home to the University of Michigan, this city enjoys college town perks like restaurants, bookstores, taverns, craft breweries, and shops along its historic main street. The range of weather presents a variety of outdoor activities, from snowshoeing and ice skating in the winter to mountain biking and kayaking along the Huron River come summer. Summer is festival season, with the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, as well as public events in the city's many parks. 

Manchester, New Hampshire

Another destination for lovers of seasonal weather, this town is surrounded by mountains, forests, and stunning views. The area receives more than five feet of snow each year, so winter sports fans will have plenty to do. The fall foliage here is spectacular, and come summer, beaches are less than an hour away. Shopping at the farmers market and cheering for local high school football teams and professional sports clubs create a sense of community.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

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This vacation spot is home to about 30,000 permanent residents who enjoy the perks of living in a popular resort area, including golf courses, restaurants, hotels, festivals, and entertainment. One of the most tax-friendly states for retirees, South Carolina exempts social security benefits, and taxpayers ages 65 and older can exclude up to $10,000 of retirement income, along with other tax benefits. Property taxes are low, too, and there's a homeowners exemption for residents over 65.

Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas

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This fast-growing destination offers both a suburban and big-city lifestyle, giving retirees the option to choose a small-town feel with city conveniences nearby. Restaurants, shopping, and entertainment are readily available, plus sports fans have professional teams in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, and soccer. A range of housing is available, with property taxes considered high, even with exemptions for seniors. Texas has no state income tax.