4 Great Places for Baby Boomers to Retire

Fortune magazine’s Jim Rendon clues us in on hot spots for the next generation to retire

(Photo from Raymond James Financial TV ad) (Photo from Raymond James Financial TV ad)

As Fortune's Jim Rendon writes, the oldest baby boomers have begun turning 65 this year (a fact which has received curiously little attention). And while he notes that the previous generation was content to seek out an endless summer in Florida or Arizona, “no single approach to retirement is going to work for this diverse bunch. They have too much going on: They're educated; many love to travel; they're active, curious, and social.”

So this year he went in search of the best places to retire, identified four archetypes of next-generation retirees and found a place for each of them: a college town for the academically minded, a city for the urban-inclined, a mountain town for lovers of the outdoors, and an overseas destination for explorers.

1). Athens, Georgia
Population: 116,714
Median home price: $116,000, down 34% from the market peak

In Athens, retirement is just another excuse to continue the learning process. Retirees have been flocking here for some time, drawn to a cost of living below the national average, low home prices, and a myriad of cultural offerings, thanks to the University of Georgia. The Athens Community Council on Aging expects its over-65 population to more than double by 2030.

Like most college towns, the university is the main draw, but another is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a senior educational group affiliated with the university that links retirees with current and former professors for lectures, courses, and even trips -- this fall a retired geology professor is taking a group to the Canadian Rockies. The university itself, meanwhile, will let anyone over the age of 62 audit classes free.

Rendon also suggests San Luis Obispo, Calif. and Madison, Wis. in this category of college towns.

2). Seattle, Washington
Population: 608,660
Median home price: $361,000, down 24% from the market peak

An increasing number of retirees are opting to trade in sun and golf for life in the big city and the convenience of having stores and amenities in close proximity. Places like Denver, San Diego, and even New York City are seeing an influx of the over-65 set. When it comes to city living, though, it's hard to beat Seattle for its size, quality of life, culture and abundance of outdoor activities. For those who want to continue to work, it's particularly ideal: the area is home to Microsoft and Amazon.com, as well as plenty of startups hungry for expert business advice.

Despite its size, Seattle maintains a small-town feel; the city is a collection of neighborhoods with strong identities. Another benefit of urban living is access to health care. Seattle shines, with top-rated facilities including Northwest Hospital, which has a geropsychiatric center designed to address health issues connected to aging.

Rendon also suggests Portland, Ore. and New York in this big-city category.

3). St. George, Utah
Population: 72,897
Median home price: $155,000, down 56% from the market peak

Every October thousands of athletes over age 50 descend upon St. George for the Huntsman World Senior Games, where these "mature" sports-men and -women compete in everything from archery to the triathlon. Some of them must fall prey to its charms, because this mountain community — which cedes the spotlight to the better-known ski town of Park City across the state — has become home to a large and very active retirement population.

For those drawn to the outdoors, St. George is exactly where you'd place it if you had the choice: a mere 10 miles from Snow Canyon State Park, 45 minutes from Zion National Park and three hours from the north rim of the Grand Canyon.

Rendon also suggests Whitefish, Mont. and Maggie Valley, N.C. in this category.

4). San Rafael, Argentina
Population: 173,000
Median home price: N.A.; listed from $150,000

Retirees have been getting bold in recent years, flocking to overseas locales like Mexico, Europe and South America. In addition to adventure, they often find dramatically lower real estate prices. That's certainly the case in San Rafael, Argentina, a medium-size city in the heart of the nation's wine country, where the cost of living is about three-fourths that of the U.S. average, according to the Associates for International Research.

An hour and a half flight from Buenos Aires, San Rafael has plenty of amenities. It also has the feel of a small European town. Two major rivers flow from the Andes mountains toward the town, which means that rafting and fly-fishing destinations are a short trip away. Farms growing some of Argentina's best-known grapes surround the town and have lured about 400 expatriates, largely retirees, from the U.S., Canada and Europe.

Rendon also suggests Boquete, Panama and Ambergris Caye, Belize in this category of out-of-country escapes.

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