Really Cool Cheap Places to Retire in the United States

••• Siri Stafford/Lifesize/Getty Images

The idea of retirement has been transformed in the last few decades. No longer is retirement considered an end, but a beginning. The shackles of a five-day work week, family responsibilities and financial burdens are removed and replaced with 18 holes of golf, lazy afternoons, and economic freedom. But the ideal retirement has been harder to attain as stock portfolios, retirement accounts and housing prices were devastated during the recent economic recession. To offset economic hardships, retirees should begin looking for a place that is cheap, cool and meets your needs. The country has a diverse set of cities and towns that have low cost-of-living indexes and provide all the necessities for active, healthy retirements.

Des Moines, Iowa

It's not Florida. The weather is a little colder, okay, a lot colder, but that doesn't mean Des Moines should be scratched as a retirement destination. Spring, summer and fall bring moderate temperatures and the community offers a wealth of things for retirees to do. The area has 15 public golf courses, miles of walking and biking trails and plenty of entertainment. While housing prices are higher in Des Moines than in many other markets, they are also more stable. Cost-of-living index is 77.9 (100 is the average), lower than most Florida and Arizona cities. Des Moines is a Midwestern city with a population around 55,000, providing all the perks of big city living in a compact size. Des Moines affords all the entertainment needs for retirees with a zoo, playhouse, wide selection of restaurants, shopping and museums. Mercy Medical is an outstanding hospital, and Des Moines International Airport is a major Midwest transportation hub, providing flights to most American cities.

Lawrence, Kansas

Go back to school in Lawrence. For the retiree who wants to keep the mind sharp and feel the youthful exuberance of college life, the University of Kansas—the dominate presence in this academic city—allows residents 60 and older to attend classes for free. The summers are cool and the winters are moderate. As Kansas is directly in the middle of the country, it provides an ideal base for the gypsy retiree. Situated on the confluence of the Kansas and Wakarusa rivers, Lawrence provides plenty of scenic walks and bike rides. As the town is college-oriented, it is a Midwest mecca for music, arts and nightlife. The cost-of-living index is 85, 15 points lower than the national average. About 15 percent of the 88,000 Lawrence residents are over 55, providing a vibrant community of like-minded residents for socializing.

Fayetteville, Arkansas

Lazily wandering the farmer's market in the town square, shopping the beautiful Dickson Street, enjoying blues music and chowing down on barbecue are just a few of the many attractions in Fayetteville. This city, which has grown by 32 percent since 2000, was once a secret among the retirement sect. Block Avenue, located in the heart of Fayetteville, is lined with historic red brick buildings housing locally owned businesses. Situated in central Arkansas, Fayetteville offers a cost-of-living index of 87, while also ranking number eight on Forbes best places for businesses. This is the town for those retirees looking to be semi-retired. A progressive job market, small town atmosphere, warm weather and hospital and transportation facilities should put Fayetteville on anyone's potential retirement list. The city is also home to the University of Arkansas. The city offers a wide range of music, great Southern hospitality, fabulous restaurants and plenty of collegiate sports.

Port Charlotte, Florida

In a state that is synonymous with retirement, Port Charlotte manages to be a breed apart from the rest of Florida's cities. Port Charlotte is what retirement used to mean 30 years ago---lazy strolls on the beach, warm, humid afternoons, and almost no crime. The recent housing market collapse has significantly lowered home values in the area, and it has a cost-of-living index of 86, making the area affordable for those on a fixed income. Located in the southwest Gulf Coast region, Port Charlotte is within a two hour drive of Tampa, Sarasota, Orlando and Ft. Myers. Miami and the Florida Keys can be reached within three hours, making it ideal for retirees who like to take day or weekend trips. Moderately sized at around 45,000 residents, the area offers every outdoor activity imaginable, from casual walks at one of the many state parks and beaches to taking in baseball spring training games. With nearly 35 percent of Port Charlotte's resident older than 55, a well established retiree community exist in the area.

Bend, Oregon

Towering evergreen trees, granite laden streams, and a warm welcoming community is at the heart of Bend. Located in the middle of Oregon, about a four hour drive from Portland, Bend is a place for the retiree looking to leave it all behind, without sacrificing medical and entertainment services. The cost-of-living index rates just above the national average at 102, but it is low compared to West Coast cities. With more than 82,000 residents, Bend is large by Oregon standards, featuring museums, restaurants, public transportation, festivals and shopping. But the major draw is the outdoors. The area offers fishing, hiking, golfing, bird watching, canoeing, biking, horseback riding, skiing, hunting, ice skating, and almost anything your natural mind can conceive.


About the Author

Richard Ludwig has been a writer for over eight years and has had his work published in "Co-Ed Magazine," the "East Manatee County Observer" and the Disaster and Recovery e-magazine. He received journalism and sociology degrees from the University of South Florida.

Photo Credits

  • Siri Stafford/Lifesize/Getty Images