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10 Surprisingly Great Places to Retire in the US

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Yes, we’ve run them before — slideshows on the best places in the U.S. to retire. But this one’s a little different.

It’s from U.S. News & World Report, and it uses different criteria than we’ve seen before. U.S. News evaluated the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the country, based on how well they meet Americans’ expectations for retirement. According to Next Avenue, this first Best Places to Retire list came up with results that could surprise readers, and part of the reason is the way they went about scoring locales.

As Next Avenue tells it, U.S. News first asked people 45 and older to indicate the “attributes of a retirement destination that are most important to them” and collected responses from 841 of them.

People said that not only did a retirement destination have to be affordable, but retirees would have to feel happy there as well.

Not exactly rocket science, but not always taken into account in other studies. Folks 60+ were also surveyed on the things that made a retirement destination desirable to them.

Then researchers assigned weightings in indices of six broad categories: happiness living in particular metro areas; housing affordability for homeowners and renters; health care quality, based on the U.S. News Best Hospitals rankings; retiree taxes (sales and income); the strength of local job markets and what U.S. News calls “Desirability.”

That translates to how strongly people said they were interested in living in a specific metro area. Data sources include the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as U.S. News rankings of the Best Hospitals.

One thing that wasn’t covered in this study is the weather. With some people loathing winter, and others demanding four seasons, it was excluded from the criteria that draw people to an area.

So keep that in mind before tossing cold-weather gear. Scroll through the slideshow above to view these 10 places.

10. Washington, D.C.

One thing D.C. does not have is a high ranking for Housing Affordability; in fact, that’s at or near the top of its drawback list.

Nonetheless, it has happy residents and access to high quality health care.

Seniors get discounts on the metro, and there are plenty of employment opportunities within the federal government.

And if you’re a museum or zoo buff, free admission to the Smithsonian and the National Zoo will provide you with plenty of entertainment opportunities.

9. Austin, Texas

Texas’s state capital has affordable housing—not cheap, but reasonable for a city of similar amenities, with median home prices of $264,700. The city does also offer low taxes and above-average responses in the “happiness” category.

Then there’s the University of Texas at Austin, where seniors can take up to six hours of classes tuition free, as well as the music scene in the city.

Add to that major health care providers and plenty of major tech companies and it’s easy to see why lots of people would choose Austin.

8. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh already boasts happy residents, as well as access to high quality health care.

In fact, the UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside hospital is ranked 14th in the country—so if it’s not typically on a 10-best list, maybe it’s time for that to change.

A lot of those residents are probably sports fans, since Pittsburgh offers opportunities to see the Pirates, Penguins and Steelers—but those in search of more educational pursuits can pursue them at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, among other institutions.

A low cost of living, a public transit system (some of which retirees can ride for free) and low median home prices all combine to make it that much more tempting.

7. Daytona Beach, Florida

NASCAR aficionados will love that Daytona Beach made the list, but of course that’s not the only attraction for this Florida city.

Low median home values, at $173,000, make it an affordable retirement destination, while those in search of excitement during retirement will find it here not just in motor sports but in visits from spring breakers and plenty of tourists.

If you’re concerned about health care, there are Halifax Health and Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center to keep you in the pink.

6. McAllen, Texas

It might not be quite so easy to find a job in McAllen, which didn’t fare all that well in the Job Market category, but housing costs are really low here; the median home value among folks 60 and older is just $76,300.

Retirees with mortgages are usually on the hook for less than $1,000 a month on housing costs, while those with paid-off mortgages cover their housing expenses for a median of $347.

When it comes to rent, $477 a month is the median—one of the lowest in the country.

Then there are those low Texas taxes and, interestingly, above-average levels of happiness.

5. El Paso, Texas

The Desirability category was not one of El Paso’s strong points, but affordable housing, low taxes and above-average levels of happiness were.

Median home prices here are just $110,500, and retirees pay a median of $1,043 in housing costs; if the mortgage is paid off, that drops to just $376. Senior renters (age 60 and older) pay a median monthly rent of $566.

Those not quite ready to chuck the workplace altogether might be able to find part-time work at a multitude of call centers in the area, while Fort Bliss is actually the biggest employer in town.

4. Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids was a little weak in the Desirability category, but on the other hand it calls to artists and art aficionados, with the Grand Rapids Art Museum, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts and the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.

And for starving artists, it’s not as pricey as New York or Santa Fe, with median housing costs $1,126 for a homeowner’s monthly mortgage payment and $726 for a month’s rent.

Then there’s health care, courtesy of Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital and Mercy Health St. Mary’s Campus, among others.

3. San Antonio, Texas

Affordable housing, low taxes and above-average levels of happiness were common factors for all four Texas metro areas that made the list, especially since the state has no income tax.

But San Antonio also has a low cost of living. If you’re wondering, housing is not only plentiful here but a median home will only run you $148,900.

If you’re looking for work after retirement, or just a thriving business community, San Antonio figures high on the list there too, with Fortune 500 companies, military bases and grocery company HEB.

And for history buffs, well, remember the Alamo!

2. Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Not usually on “Best Retirement Places” lists, Lancaster scored high on this one thanks to happy residents and access to Lancaster General Hospital’s high quality health care—but it has plenty of other goodies to recommend it, including an area replete with history.

Boasting a station on the Underground Railroad, as well as the Lancaster Central Market—which claims to be the oldest farmers’ market in the country—there’s also the undeniable fact that marshmallow Peeps were born (hatched?) here.

1. Sarasota, Florida

Sarasota had high scores for Happiness, Desirability and Retiree Taxes, and the scores it got in the other categories weren’t too shabby either.

Although you might not want to move there just yet—the area is recovering from Hurricane Irma. As a rule, Sarasota is not just pleasant but edifying, home to the Sarasota School of Architecture and plenty of examples of midcentury modern in the area.

And if you’re into the arts, there are ballet, opera, orchestra and theater options to tempt you.

Health care? Both Sarasota Memorial Health Care System and Doctors Hospital of Sarasota are in residence, and the two happen to be among the area’s largest employers as well. Median home prices are just $226,000—and don’t forget: Florida has no income tax.

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