Ah, the golden years. They’re supposed to involve carefree days filled with social activities, some competition on the golf course or pickleball courts, and lots of sunshine. But with the U.S. economy reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to contain the spread of disease, you may be rewriting your retirement plans. For many, the best option is to keep working until the stock market recovers or look at alternative ways to fund retirement expenses such as selling your life insurance policy through a life settlement.
Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t turn a hopeful eye to the future. You survived the Great Recession in 2008, and it’s best to assume this crisis has an endpoint, too. Why not do a little dreaming and planning about those golden years, even if the timeline is still uncertain? That way, once you are on solid financial ground and ready to break free from work, you’ll know exactly where you’d like to settle down.
The best retirement communities generally deliver on climate, proximity to healthcare, affordability, social activities, and retirement center amenities. They can range from cozy, close-knit neighborhoods, to sprawling city-like meccas where you never have to wander outside the gates. You can also find less formal enclaves of retirees in cities throughout the U.S. — some of which make great retirement destinations for those who don’t like the feel of a master-planned community.
Here’s a look at 15 retirement locations that might match your definition of the ideal place to retire.
Most Popular Retirement Communities
Where are the best retirement communities? The answer to that is entirely subjective, of course. But if you want to go by the popular vote, take a look at the biggest retirement living communities in the U.S. Five of them are below.
(Source: The Villages)
1. The Villages, Florida
Located one hour north of Orlando in central Florida, the Villages is a 32 square-mile retirement community with approximately 120,000 residents. In 2019, Orlando Sentinel reported that the Villages was the fastest-growing metro area in the U.S. As far as active retirement communities go, The Villages offers residents an impressive list of amenities. These include 12 championship golf courses, 100 pickleball courts, plus facilities for swimming, cycling, and adventure sports. You can also take classes in yoga or martial arts, join a team sport, or get involved in one of thousands of social clubs. The median home price in The Villages is $297,723.
(Source: Sun City Arizona)
2. Sun City, Arizona
Fun fact: The term “golden years” was first used in a 1959 advertisement for Sun City, which is considered to be the original master-planned retirement community. Sun City, situated about 16 miles northwest of central Phoenix, is home to about 40,000 residents. The community caters to an active population, with 11 golf courses, seven recreation centers, two bowling alleys, plus walking trails, swimming pools, fishing, racquet sports, and exercise studios. Sun City’s median home price is $202,201.
3. Sun City West, Arizona
Sun City West is 30 miles northwest of downtown Phoenix by car. The community measures 11 square miles and is home to about 25,000 residents. Like its predecessor, Sun City West was developed with the needs and tastes of retirees in mind. Outdoor activities are plentiful. You’ll find golf courses, tennis courts, pickleball courts, and swimming pools, plus bowling, billiards, darts, and bocce ball. The median home price in Sun City West is $271,014.
(Source: Laguna Woods Village)
4. Laguna Woods Village, California
You’ll find Laguna Woods in southwest Orange County, about 45 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. This 55-and-older community is tucked between the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and the residential community of Lake Forest. The Pacific Ocean and Laguna Beach are just five miles to the west. About 16,000 seniors live in Laguna Woods. These residents enjoy two golf courses, an equestrian center, swimming pools, and courts for tennis and pickleball. The median home price in Laguna Woods of $370,673 reflects the premium for Southern California real estate.
5. Green Valley Recreation, Arizona
In 2019, Where to Retire magazine featured Green Valley Recreation in Arizona as one of the country’s top retirement communities. Green Valley is 25 miles south of Tucson and 40 miles north of the Mexico border. The community’s 22,000 residents stay active thanks to 13 recreation centers and six fitness centers, along with clubs for dancing, swimming, tennis, and more. Green Valley’s median home price is $200,176.
Best Active Retirement Communities
Most retirement centers have sports facilities and recreation centers, but some take these amenities to the next level. Called “active retirement communities,” these are the premier neighborhoods for fit, socially active seniors. If you’re up for a golf game, fitness class, and cocktail party all in one day, these five retirement living communities can deliver.
(Source: On Top of the World)
1. On Top of the World in Ocala, Florida
On Top of the World covers 13,000 acres and is situated on a working cattle ranch, surrounded by rolling hills and horse farms. Pass the time in one of the fitness centers, out on the golf course, biking the trails, flying a drone at the remote-control field, or playing pickleball with friends. You can even get your hair done at the salon and cap the day off at the pub. The median home price in this community is affordable at $150,804.
2. Sun City Texas in Georgetown, Texas
Sun City Texas is located 35 miles north of Austin in historic Georgetown. The activities calendar includes musical performances, comedy shows, cooking classes, and dances. The community’s lifestyle team also arranges theme group trips to destinations near and far. You can play golf on three championship courses and join a club to hike, birdwatch, quilt, or woodwork with friends. You’ll spend a little more to live in Sun City Texas, where the median home price is $311,191.
(Source: Sun City Summerlin)
3. Sun City Summerlin in Las Vegas, Nevada
Sun City Summerlin is on the western edge of Las Vegas, just a short drive from the glitz and glam of the Las Vegas Strip. Three golf courses, softball facilities, pickleball courts, ping pong tables, swimming pools, and bocce courts are just a few of the activities that’ll keep you busy. When the sun goes down, you can also enjoy a nice meal in The Summit Restaurants plus a fabulous show in the 312-seat Starbright Theater. Sun City Summerlin homes sell at a premium, with a median home price of $330,796.
(Source: Del Webb at Lake Providence)
4. Lake Providence in Nashville, Tennessee
Lake Providence is a lush retreat just outside of Nashville. The community features a 15-acre lake where you can fish or take a ride on a paddleboat. Or head on over to the massive 24,000-square-foot clubhouse to swim in an indoor heated pool, take a dance or aerobics class, or work out in a state-of-the-art fitness center. You can also play tennis, pickleball, and bocce ball. Lake Providence is the priciest of these communities, with an average listing price of $480,300.
5. Solivita in Kissimmee, Florida
Solivita is situated on 4,300 acres, 21 miles south of Orlando. Golf is very popular among Solivita’s residents, and there are two, 18-hole championship courses on site. In addition, there’s an upscale recreation center featuring a modern fitness center, aerobics studio, heated lap pool, heated spas, plus lighted courts for tennis, pickleball, and bocce. You can also explore the lakes and wooded areas inside Solivita’s gates. Solivita’s median home price is $259,900.
Most Affordable Retirement Locations
More practical matters — like affordability and cost of living — may be your top priority. In that case, you’ll want to look at retiring in one of the country’s cheapest cities. You may not have access to championship golf courses and manicured walking trails, but you can get more bang for your fixed-income buck. Here are five retirement-friendly U.S. cities where the median annual income is $55,000 or less.
1. Columbia, South Carolina
U.S. News ranks Columbia as the third best place to live in South Carolina. This is a mid-sized city of about 134,000 residents with a rich dining and cultural scene. Home prices are 11% lower than the U.S. average, and the city’s median income is $42,875. Retirees appreciate the mild winters and the city’s proximity to Myrtle Beach and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
2. Phoenix, Arizona
Arizona as a whole has long been popular with retirees, thanks to warm winters and the generally dry climate. The Phoenix area has many amenities for residents of all ages, from golf to hiking. You have your choice of retirement communities in and around Phoenix, too. Home prices are 4% lower than the U.S. average, and the median income in Phoenix is $49,328.
3. Pensacola, Florida
Pensacola is a waterfront community in the Florida Panhandle offering gorgeous beaches, museums, and a historic downtown. Roughly 50,000 residents call Pensacola home and the median age is 39.3. Home prices are very affordable, some 21% lower than the U.S. average. The median income in Pensacola is $45,931.
4. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
If the amenities of a larger city appeal to you, Sioux Falls might be a candidate. With a population nearing 170,000, Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota. Healthcare is the city’s largest industry, which is a plus for retirees. As well, the city really does have a waterfall running right through it, and natural forests just outside its borders. Sioux Falls’ median income is $54,100 and the median home value is $161,500, about 13% lower than the U.S. average.
5. Tulsa, Oklahoma
Tulsa is more than twice as populous as Sioux Falls, with about 400,000 residents. Located right in the center of the U.S., Tulsa has a moderate climate with average temperatures that range from 28 in the winter to 93 in the summer. The city is known for its culture, art scene, and green spaces. The median income is $43,045 and the median home price is $126,000, some 32% lower than the U.S. average.
Choosing the best retirement community
Picking a retirement community that meets your needs is a highly personal decision. You may envision your golden years spent mostly on the golf course and hanging out with friends. In that case, look at master-planned retirement communities to get that resort lifestyle. Or, if you prefer wandering through art galleries and sipping coffee in a walkable downtown, explore retirement-friendly cities like Columbia, Phoenix, Pensacola, Sioux Falls, and Tulsa — where culture and local amenities have an affordable price tag.
If you’re looking for ways to pay for the move to a retirement community, learn how you can sell your life insurance policy for a lump cash sum through a process known as a life settlement. Our experts will help you determine the value of your life insurance policy and provide you with a FREE, no-obligation cash estimate on how much it could be worth. Contact us to get started today!