The Best Small Towns to Live in for Retirement

••• florida resort image by Dave from

According to surveys conducted by Money Magazine and the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch, Florida retains the lead as the top retirement destination for many Americans. However, many other states—especially along the booming Sun Belt—and even a few countries overseas have boosted the number of retirees flocking to them seeking permanent or semi-permanent residence. Although some of the towns attracting retirees are large, metropolitan areas, many are quite small, reflecting a changing shift in retiree preferences.

Pinehurst, NC

Anyone who is even only slightly familiar with professional golf will recognize the name Pinehurst. It’s the home of one of America’s oldest and most prestigious golf courses, Pinehurst Resort, but is also listed as one of Money Magazine’s “25 Best Places to Retire.” Pinehurst isn’t cheap, with a median home price of $300,000, but all residents of this small town of 12,000 in North Carolina are eligible for resort membership, which gives them access to eight golf courses, two dozen tennis courts, three swimming pools, and a 200-acre lake. Over half of the population is over the age of 50, so making friends with like-minded folks your own age won’t be a problem.

The Village of Pinehurst Government 395 Magnolia Rd. Pinehurst, NC 28374 910-295-1900

Port Charlotte, FL

Florida still attracts a healthy share of retirees, many of whom are putting down roots in Port Charlotte, a small town of about 48,000 off the Gulf Coast which was also listed a Money Magazine favorite. As befitting a coastal town, the atmosphere is laid-back, and retirees will love the ready access to world-class medical facilities. The town also offers plenty of cultural activities, many of which are centered on the Cultural Center, with its 500-seat theater and year-round classes and workshops. Many homes sit right on the water, and boating enthusiasts will be delighted with the harbor and cruising opportunities.

Charlotte Harbor Visitor and Convention Bureau 18501 Murdock Cir. Suite 502 Port Charlotte, FL 33948 941-743-1900

Asheville, NC

The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch lists Asheville, NC, as a top place to retire, and it’s no wonder. The town has seen a mini-population boom over the past two decades, from just over 65,000 in 1990 to about nearly 75,000 in 2010, with many new residents drawn to the area’s thriving arts and culture community, beautiful scenery near the Blue Ridge Mountains and the plethora of fine dining restaurants and funky cafes. It enjoys a mild climate, thanks to its Southeastern location, and offers active retirees plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, from its fishing and boating locations to the miles of hiking trails that criss-cross the area.

Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau PO Box 1010 Asheville, NC 28802 888-247-9811

Fredericksburg, TX

Lovers of the Lone Star State—and its lack of a state income tax—may want to consider Fredericksburg, TX, where Oktoberfest is celebrated in a big way every year, thanks to the town’s deep German roots. The town has a population of just under 11,000, but its proximity to San Antonio and Austin—both of which can be reached in less than an hour by car—makes it an ideal place for quiet, comfortable living. Beer gardens and bakeries, not to mention a golf course, Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park, and the many outdoor activities afforded by the Texas Hill Country allow residents to take full advantage of the mild Texas climate year-round.

Fredericksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau 302 E. Austin Fredericksburg, TX 78624 830-997-6523

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

San Miguel de Allende in Mexico receives a lot of international press for its booming expatriate community and thriving arts culture, but further south, in peaceful, democratic Nicaragua, the small coastal town of San Juan del Sur is slowly gaining more attention as an ideal retirement haven for many Americans. Many North Americans remember the vicious political unrest of the 1980s but don't realize that Nicaragua has long since become known as one of the safest and most stable countries in the region. Generous incentives for foreign retirees at least 45 years of age and with an income of at least $400 a month include tax exemptions on all foreign income. The cost of living is significantly lower than in the United States, and excellent medical care can be found in the major cities. While real estate prices--especially along the coastal areas--have increased over the last decade, ongoing development means that good bargains can still be found.

Nicaragua Embassy 1627 New Hampshire Ave., NW Washington, DC 20009 202-939-6570