Top 20 Happiest American Cities For Retirees


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Where you live can play a major role in how enjoyable your retirement is. So, where do the happiest retirees reside? To determine which cities in the U.S. are the happiest places to retire, we studied the 200 largest metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) using the latest U.S. Census Bureau population estimates, and consulted multiple sources, including the Sharecare Community Well-Being Index, Tax Foundation, Walk Score, Sperling’s Best Places, and County Health Rankings & Roadmaps.

By identifying key elements that contribute to happiness — social networks, financials, and health — and examining 13 pivotal rankings within them, such as community, cost of living, and healthcare access, we created the Happiest Places to Retire in the U.S. in 2024. Read on to learn about the 20 best places to retire in the U.S. to help you explore your options for where to live in retirement.

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Key Findings on Retirees’ Favorite Cities

  • Barnstable, MA is the happiest city to retire to, ranking #1 of all 200 cities we analyzed. It has the highest ranking overall for community well-being, and one of the highest percentages of residents who are 65-plus. The other cities at the top of the list: Naples, FL at #2, and Ann Arbor, MI at #3.
  • Colorado has the highest number of happiest cities for retirees on our top 20 list, beating out Florida. Boulder, CO is the #5 happiest city for retirees, and Fort Collins and Denver also made the list.
  • Colder climates are now attracting retirees. Three of our top 5 cities for retirement (Barnstable, MA; Ann Arbor, MI; and Boulder, CO) have average high winter temperatures in the 30s or 40s.
  • Naples, FL residents live the longest. The city has the highest average life expectancy (86.1 years) of all 200 cities we analyzed.
  • Ann Arbor, MI, has the lowest tax burden for retirees on our top 20 list, followed by Myrtle Beach and Charleston in South Carolina. Meanwhile, Akron, OH has the lowest cost of living of the top 20 cities for retirees, 80.8% of the U.S. average.

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Top 20 Happiest Cities to Retire

Looking for information on the happiest places to live after retirement? Whether you dream of an ocean breeze or mountain views, you have plenty of cities to consider.

The top 20 happiest cities for retirees offer a broad range of activities, amenities, and resources. They’re also located all across the nation, as shown in this map of the top 10, so you can find a place in the part of the country you’d most like to live in.

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1. Barnstable, MA

Coming in at the top of the happiest cities to retire in the U.S. list is Barnstable. Located on Cape Cod, its beachside beauty attracts retirees, making it one of the top three cities for residents 65 and up. While living here can be expensive (the median household income is $91,438) and there’s less access to healthcare than the other top contenders have, residents enjoy a high level of social interaction and plenty of entertainment and activities.

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2. Naples, FL

Those who want to live by the water and enjoy warmer weather can head south to Naples. The cost of living in this city is fairly reasonable, and there’s no state personal income tax, which means your retirement savings can go a lot further. Naples also has the highest life expectancy (age 86.1) of all 200 cities we analyzed.

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3. Ann Arbor, MI

Want to enjoy city life without the high prices? Ann Arbor, a college town, has plenty of big city amenities at an affordable price point. Another draw for retirees: Ann Arbor residents enjoy the highest level of healthcare access of the cities on our list, and ranks #1 for health overall.

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4. Durham, NC

Friendship and social interaction are important in retirement. Durham, one of the top cities to retire in the U.S., offers a strong sense of community and social well-being, according to the data. Residents will find plentiful healthcare in Durham as well. It ranks #2 out of the top 20 for healthcare access.

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5. Boulder, CO

If you like to hit the slopes, Boulder may be the ideal location for your retirement years. The city is #3 on the top 20 list for housing and transportation, so you should be able to find the right place to live and get around easily.

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6. North Port, FL

North Port is the second Florida city to make the top 20 list of the happiest places to live in the U.S. Community and social connection is high here, and there’s a sizable population of those aged 65 and up, making it easier to meet new friends. It also has one of the lowest tax burdens among the top 20 cities.

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7. Olympia, WA

Retirees who want to live affordably on the west coast can check out scenic Olympia, WA. It ranks as #1 in the financial category, which takes into account factors such as cost of living and household income. It’s also one of the best states to retire in for taxes, which can help retirees stretch their savings. Olympia has the lowest number of residents living below the poverty level of all 200 cities we analyzed.

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8. San Jose, CA

Retirees in San Jose enjoy the second-highest average life expectancy (after Naples, FL) of the 200 cities we studied, making it one of the top places for a long and healthy retirement. But there’s a tradeoff: The cost of living in San Jose is extremely high: a whopping 231% of the U.S. average.

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9. San Luis Obispo, CA

If being in a comfortable environment is one of your top retirement priorities, look no further than San Luis Obispo. Along with San Jose, the city scored the highest level of comfort for retirees on our top 20 cities list, thanks to its temperate weather.

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10. Madison, WI

A low average cost of living plus a high median household income ($83,214) make Madison not only one of the happiest places to live in retirement, but also one of the most affordable. In this relatively walkable city, you can save on transportation costs and live a healthier lifestyle.

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11. Honolulu, HI

Honolulu combines great weather, pristine beaches, and big city living. It gets high scores for comfortable weather and transportation. And Honolulu has some of the highest scores for social factors and community. Retiring in paradise comes at a price, however — namely, the city’s high cost of living (171.5% of the U.S. average).

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12. Salisbury, MD

Salisbury, in the Eastern Shore area of Maryland, is a popular place for retirees. More than a quarter of the population is 65 and over, which means you should have plenty of peers to socialize and do activities with.

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13. Washington, DC

If you’re interested in history and culture, Washington D.C. might be a good fit. And many of the city’s major attractions are free of charge. The nation’s capital is also the most walkable city on our top 20 list of the happiest places to live after retirement, so you’ll save on transportation as you get your steps in.

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14. Portland, ME

In this city on the coast, you can enjoy all that the ocean has to offer plus metropolitan amenities. Portland ranks as one of the best cities to retire in when it comes to community, and it also has abundant options for art, recreation, and entertainment, which can help you stay happily busy in retirement.

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15. Myrtle Beach, SC

Retirees settle down in this popular travel destination to take advantage of the reasonable cost of living and low tax burden. They also love the miles of beaches, plentiful golf courses, and comfortable weather. Myrtle Beach has the 4th highest population of people age 65-plus.

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16. Harrisburg, PA

The capital city of Pennsylvania is an affordable place to retire. It has a low cost of living, which means the city’s average median income of $73,739 can go farther. Fewer people live below the poverty line here than in many other cities. Retirees can be active here as well: Harrisburg ranks as #2 of our top cities when it comes to walkability.

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17. Fort Collins, CO

If you love the great outdoors, this city, located at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, has a lot to offer. All those outside adventures come with some nice health perks: Fort Collins has one of the higher life expectancies of our 20 top cities for retirees.

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18. Denver, CO

Where is the happiest place to retire? It might just be the state of Colorado. Denver is the third Colorado city to make the top 20 list of happy places for retirees to live. Denver has a high level of community and social well-being, which could make retirement a lot more fulfilling. It’s very walkable, too, coming in at #5 out of the top 20 in the walking category.

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19. Akron, OH

With the lowest cost of living (80.8% of the U.S. average) of the 20 best cities, Akron offers retirees affordability plus many opportunities for social and community connection. That can make it easier to make new friends in retirement.

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20. Charleston, SC

A vibrant cultural scene, great food, ocean access, and lovely architecture make Charleston one of the best places to retire in 2024. Charleston ranks #2 for art, recreation, and entertainment out of the 200 cities studied, following only Los Angeles, so you’ll find plenty to do here in your golden years. And the tax burden is one of the lowest on our 20 happiest cities list.

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Best Places to Retire for a Happy Retirement

Want to consider some of the different places that could make for a very happy retirement? This link shows the top five cities out of the 200 analyzed in each of the three key categories that contribute to happiness: social, financial, and health.

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Tips for a Happy Retirement

You’ve worked hard, now it’s time to enjoy yourself! These smart strategies can help you find happiness in retirement.

  • Create a budget. You may have fewer expenses when you’re retired, but you’ll still need a roadmap for managing them. This is where retirement planning and a budget come in handy. If you are already retired, create a budget that works well for your retirement income. If retirement is still in the future, map out a plan to see how much you’ll need to save to be properly prepared.
  • Keep tabs on your retirement savings. Don’t forget to check on your retirement savings regularly to ensure that you’re on track financially. And, of course, make sure you have retirement savings accounts like a 401(k) or a traditional or Roth IRA to help you reach your goal.
  • Don’t yet have a retirement account? Learn how to set up your own retirement account.
  • Prioritize health and wellness. To be at your best, strongest, and happiest in retirement, prioritize your physical and mental health with regular exercise, a balanced diet, and lots of social interaction.
  • Pursue your passions. Don’t let retirement slow you down. You can pursue your favorite hobbies, work on fulfilling and meeting your top ambitions and challenges, and do the activities you’ve always wanted to try now that you have the time and freedom for them. When choosing among the best retirement cities, be sure to look for places that cater to your interests.

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To find the happiest cities for people to retire in the U.S., we looked at the 200 largest metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2022 population estimates for 13 ranking factors across three categories (Social, Finance, and Health).

We graded each factor on a 100-point scale, where 100 was the highest possible score. Each factor was weighted differently.

Socioeconomic Score Factors

  • Community well-being
  • Social well-being
  • Comfort index*
  • Percentage of population age 65 and over
  • Percentage of art, recreation, and entertainment businesses

Financial Score Factors

  • Housing & transportation
  • Cost of living index*
  • Median household income
  • Percentage of people aged 65 and over living below poverty level
  • Tax burden**

Health Score Factors

  • Healthcare access
  • Life expectancy
  • Walk Score*

*Data represents city proper data (excluding surrounding metro).

**Data represents state level data.

Sources: U.S Census Bureau, Sharecare Community Well-Being Index, Walk Score, Tax Foundation, County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, Sperling’s Best Places.

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The Takeaway

When you’re ready to retire, choosing where to settle down is a big and important decision. Exploring our list of top 20 happiest places is a great place to start. You can look for cities that offer affordability, good access to healthcare, entertainment and cultural activities, and opportunities for making social and community connections.

And to ensure that your retirement is as happy and stress-free as possible, you’ll want to have your retirement savings in order. Contributing to your 401(k) or IRA can help you build the retirement nest egg you’ll need.

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

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