The 25 Best Places To Enjoy Your Retirement In 2022
Forbes screened more than 500 locations in the U.S. for everything from climate change risk to availability of doctors to crime. We then compared those that made the cut for what they offered in the way of leisure pursuits—from the arts, learning and fine dining to hiking, skiing, sailing and golf.
hen they were ready to retire, Karen and David Griffiths sold their Spanish-style Los Angeles home and moved 700 miles north to a 134-year-old Eastlake Victorian in Ashland, Ore., with 11-foot ceilings, bay windows, a covered porch and views of the surrounding mountains. Karen, now 69, a neonatal intensive care nurse, and David, 70, an investment banker turned software CEO, turned screenwriter and producer, had long known they wanted to settle in a smaller, scenic locale. What drew them to Ashland was the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which stages nine months a year of productions ranging from the Tempest to modern musicals and is located just 300 yards from their home. Thanks to its famed theater complex, the town of 22,000 also punches above its weight when it comes to art galleries and fine dining— a priority for the Griffiths. “It was a good fit for us,’’ says David.
As it turns out, Ashland and the two other finalists in the Griffiths’ search, Santa Fe, N.M., and Boulder, Colo., all earned spots on Forbes’ new list of the 25 Best Places To Enjoy Your Retirement. There are several compelling reasons to make a long distance move in retirement: to be closer to family, to cut costs, to enjoy better weather. Another good one is to pursue your avocational passions. After all, Americans 65 years and older spend an average of about seven hours a day on leisure and sports, compared to the five or fewer hours for those of prime working age.
To that end, Forbes has identified 25 top places to follow seven leisure interests in retirement: arts/culture, fine dining, lifelong learning, volunteering, outdoor activities on water, outdoor activities on land, and a special subset, golf. Our choices span all four continental time zones and 16 states. Most are good for multiple passions, and one—Austin, Tex.—hits all seven. While our flagship annual best retirement places list identifies locales offering good retirement bang for the buck, this list seeks out value for the soul. That means high living costs or taxes aren’t in themselves disqualifiers—though notably, more than a fourth of our picks have housing costs near or below the current national median of $404,000.
We do take into account a variety of quality-of-life metrics, ranging from air quality and availability of doctors to the crime rate and a town’s walkability. One factor we now consider disqualifying is a very high susceptibility to climate change and natural hazards as measured by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s new National Risk Index, which looks at 18 natural hazard risks, plus communities’ preparation for and ability to cope with them. That’s why a number of otherwise appealing choices, including New York City, didn’t make the cut. You can read more about our data sources and selection methodology and how the Griffiths found their retirement bliss, here.
Annapolis, Maryland ⛵❤️
PASSIONS: Great for outdoors water activities and volunteering
MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $562,000, 39% Above National Median
COST OF LIVING: 26% Above National Average
Surrounded by water, most notably the Chesapeake Bay, this quaint state capital 30 miles east of Washington, D.C., is a mecca for sailors, powerboaters, kayakers and fishermen, with about a dozen boating schools and a generally comfortable climate. Plus, there’s a solid volunteering culture. At an elevation of 40 feet, Annapolis is also a somewhat walkable and very bikeable town with good air quality, and a surprisingly low natural hazards risk. One downside: a serious crime rate above the national average. Another: The state has both an inheritance and estate tax and the combined state and county income tax rate tops 8%, although Social Security benefits and $34,300 per person in pension payments and 401(k) withdrawals are exempt.
Asheville, North Carolina 🎨⛵🍁❤️
PASSIONS: Great for arts/culture, outdoor water and land activities, and volunteering
MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $439,000, 9% Above National Median
COST OF LIVING: 6% Above National Average
Outdoor experiences—forests, parks, hiking terrain and whitewater paddling—and in-town culture abound around this scenic city in the Blue Ridge Mountains region of western North Carolina. Doctors are abundant. Air quality is good. The city is somewhat bikeable, although not all that walkable. Elevation of 2,100 feet makes most summers non-sweltering. There is a high rate of volunteering. The state income tax rate is a flat 4.99% for 2022, but Social Security income is exempt and there’s no state estate tax. Asheville is at moderate risk for natural hazards. The serious crime rate is above the national average.
Ashland, Oregon 🎨🍴🎓🍁
PASSIONS: Great for arts/culture, fine dining, lifelong learning and outdoor land activities
MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $599,000, 48% Above National Median
COST OF LIVING: 26% Above National Average
Located 285 miles south of Portland, this artsy outpost offers galleries, a vibrant restaurant scene and the acclaimed nine-month-a-year Oregon Shakespeare Festival, all set amid scenic mountains and forests. Southern Oregon University hosts a lifelong learning institute and allows free auditing of college classes. The highly walkable downtown (elevation: 1,950 feet) is set in a comfortable climate with little snow, good air quality, a low serious crime rate and a high number of doctors per capita. Nature trails are just outside town. Ashland is at moderate risk for natural hazards. Oregon has no sales tax but makes up for that with an income tax rate that hits 8.75% at just $18,400 of income for joint filers (with Social Security excluded) and tops out at 9.9% for taxable income above $250,000. There is also a state estate tax.