Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.
Updated on Monday, March 6, 2017
The rise of the FIRE (Financial Independence and Retiring Early) movement has given way to a new emphasis on retiring early. Rather than leaving the workforce at the typical age of 62, FIRE retirees aim to retire in their 40s or 50s. This lofty goal typically requires an aggressive savings plan, as early retirees must live off their savings until they can expect to withdraw benefits like Social Security or dip into their 401(k) or IRA savings without facing a penalty.
In a new study, MagnifyMoney ranked 217 U.S. cities to find the best and worst places to retire early.
We sought to find cities that had a combination of a low cost of living (highest priority), a great quality of life and access to employment if needed to supplement income.
Each city was given a final composite score out of 100 possible points. The composite score was based on those three factors, each weighted differently: cost of living (50%), quality of life (30%), and employability (20%).
Within each of these three categories, we looked at specific elements that play a key role in determining the best city to retire early.
Cost of Living: The cost of groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, health care and other goods and services.
Quality of Life: Weather (average annual temperature and number of sunny days); access to arts and entertainment services; walkability.
Employability: Early retirees may choose to incorporate part-time work into their lives even after they retire to stay active and supplement their existing savings. We looked at the minimum wage, unemployment rate, average commute time and state income tax for each metro.
Looking for a low cost of living? Move to the South or Midwest
Cities in the South and Midwest dominated the list of best places to retire early, mostly due to a lower average cost of living than any of the four regions studied. Southern and Midwestern cities boasted an average cost of living score of 63 —13 points higher than the average score across all 216 cities studied of (50).
The South and Midwest also boasted the two highest overall early retirement scores (57 and 56, respectively).
The South may be the best bet for early retirees looking for the option of part-time work to supplement their income as well. The region scored the highest employability score of any other area. The employability score was based on the unemployment rate, minimum wage, average commute time and state income tax.
Favor quality of life over low cost of living? Head Northeast
-Early retirees will need to save a pretty penny to retire in the Northeast, but they may find retirement more entertaining at least. Although the Northeast earned the highest score of any region for quality of life (67, well above the national average of 50), the region suffered due to its relatively high cost of living. It earned the lowest cost of living score of any region with a paltry 17.
Western cities had a poor showing in all three categories, barely eeking out a higher final score than the Northeast. But whereas the expensive Northeast was buoyed by its relatively high quality of life score, the West was dragged down on all three fronts.
The 10 Best Cities to Retire Early
The 10 Worst Cities to Retire Early
RANKINGS BY REGION
MIDWEST: The 10 best cities to retire early
MIDWEST: The 10 worst cities to retire early
NORTHEAST: The 10 best cities to retire early
NORTHEAST: The 10 worst cities to retire early
SOUTH: The 10 best cities to retire early
SOUTH: The 10 worst cities to retire early
WEST: The 10 best cities to retire early
WEST: The 10 worst cities to retire early
Cost of living:
Quality of life:
- Weather: usclimatedata.com, www.areavibes.com
- Entertainment: http://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/cbp.html
- Walkability: walkscore.com
- Commute time: U.S. Census https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_15_5YR_S0801&prodType=table
- Minimum wage: http://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/state-minimum-wage-chart.aspx
- Unemployment rate: https://www.bls.gov/web/metro/laummtrk.htm
- State income tax rate: https://taxfoundation.org/state-individual-income-tax-rates-and-brackets-2016/