Most Affordable Places To Retire

David Bolton

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November 15, 2021

Most Affordable Places To Retire | Retire Fearless

Whether it’s right around the corner or still off in the distance, it’s hard not to daydream about your retirement, but where can you do it affordably?

The most affordable places to retire in the United States are Charleston, SC, Des Moines, IW, Cape Coral, FL, Messa, AZ, Athens, GA, & Rochester, NY. Whereas the most affordable places to retire abroad are Costa Rica, Portugal, the Philippines, Georgia, & Thailand.

If you have got retirement on your mind, then you are probably longing for the days that you will be able to sit back, relax, and say sayonara to the days of waking up to an alarm clock, waiting in traffic, and dragging yourself into an office. With that being said, retirement also means that your primary source of income will likely be put permanently on hold, which means that you are going to want to find a place that is not only nice for retirement but also affordable. Luckily, there are plenty of amazing places to retire within the United States and abroad, but it can be challenging to find somewhere that is ideal for you, as each location has something great to offer. To help you understand everything you need to know about affordable places to retire, we are going to highlight some of our top picks.

After years of working as a retirement planner, I have helped so many people strategize the most financially viable way to approach their retiree years. My experience has taught me that the most affordable places to retire are based on the individual’s budget and what key qualities they value in a place to live.

Most Affordable Places To Retire
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Affordable Places To Retire

For so many of us, retirement is the oasis that lies at the end of a long career of hard work and dedication. This is the reward that we get for our service to society and if there is ever a time in your life to truly enjoy living without stress and worry, it is retirement, which is why you should make sure that your later years are filled with nothing but joy and happiness. However, the idea of retirement can greatly vary from person to person, which is why you should try to ask yourself, ‘ where do I want to be when I retire’?

Traditionally, many people have glorified the idea of living out their lives on a warm beach in Hawaii, Florida, or even abroad, however, this is not always the retirement dream for every person, as each individual has their own fantasy for when they finally stop working. While warm weather and the beach are great, many people simply like the idea of living somewhere that has a nice community of people and, most importantly - is affordable!

Retirement planning can be tricky, as you are essentially calculating your finances for the rest of your life, which is something that you want to take quite seriously to ensure that you can live in peace and solidarity. With that being said, you should try to reflect on a location that suits you as a person, but you should also carefully consider what your legitimate budget is for your retirement, as this will likely be the dealbreaker for where you actually end up living.

Establishing a concrete budget for your retirement will be the foundation for how you choose your location and it will greatly help you narrow down your search options so that you are not wasting time reviewing unrealistic options. Once you have formulated a legitimate budget for your retirement, you should consider some ideal locations based on things like cost of living, surrounding scenery, and climate. We are going to help you out with this by detailing some incredible spots that are located within the United States and overseas so that you can get a full scope of what you have available to you. Keep reading to know more about the most affordable places to retire.

Affordable Places To Retire: United States

If you have lived in the United States your entire life and don’t like the idea of leaving home, then you have got nothing to worry about, as there are some amazing places for you to retire in without leaving the country. The United States is full of diversity, which can be felt in our culture, natural landscapes, and urban cities. This makes our nation one of the best places to retire in, as there is something here for every kind of person.

The hardest part of picking a place for retirement within the U.S. is choosing just one location to live out the rest of your life - given that there are so many options to consider. As you begin to evaluate your potential locations, you should think about what you want out of your retirement. Many people just want to find a small town with some kind folk and affordable housing, which is not going to be a problem in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

However, you may have fantasized about retiring somewhere that is warm and maybe even tropical. This seems to be somewhat of a classic idea of retirement here in the United States and while it is still attainable, you should keep in mind that a lot of other people have got the same thing in mind, which has inflated the cost of living in a lot of retirement hotspots around the country. Unfortunately, this means that certain locations such as Hawaii and many places in Florida are probably not going to be affordable options.

With that being, all hope is not lost if you want to settle down somewhere that is nice and warm, as there are some locations with great weather that are on the rise and well within the reach of retirees - even with a modest budget. Let’s dive right into the most affordable places to retire in the United States.

Charleston, South Carolina

One of our nation’s most beautiful and underrated cities is Charleston in South Carolina. This amazing east coast city is vibrant and full of American history that can practically be seen and felt on every corner of its downtown as you stroll down Charleston’s cobblestone streets.

With that being said, Charleston is an affordable place to retire but it is not necessarily cheap. You can expect an average home that has a good location to cost anywhere from roughly $350,000 to $400,000 and the average income for the city is about $37,000 per year. Technically, this is slightly higher than the national average but it is still within the budget of many retirees - especially if you plan on selling property or assets before moving here.

Once you have moved over to Charleston, you will be delighted by the pleasant atmosphere of the city. You can take walks through the city’s French Quarter and then head over to the Waterfront Park for gorgeous views of the harbor.

The city is full of culture and it has activities for just about every type of retiree, as you can visit Charleston’s wonderful museum, aquarium, and beautiful Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. In addition, Charleston has a very balanced population of just 140,000 people, which makes it a medium-sized city overall, but with a small-town vibe.

The climate in Charleston is pleasant to say the least - given that the area is technically categorized as subtropical. You can expect to have summers that feel like they last forever with warm weather starting in the middle of spring and continuing into the fall. However, you should expect a fair bit of humidity that lingers around throughout the entire year.

In addition, the winters are extremely mild and you will find that snow and freezing temperatures are not a common occurrence, but they do happen from time to time. This is great news for retirees that are coming from somewhere up north that want a break from the cold.

Des Moines, Iowa

A common location that many people overlook for their retirement is Iowa - specifically Des Moines. This city and state do not offer the typical glamor that many retirees envision for the final years of their life but that is also one of the appeals of this place.

Because Des Moines is such an untapped resource for retirement locations, you can expect it to be very affordable for just about any retiree, which is great news for those who are on a tighter budget. You can find a decent home in Des Moines for as little as $160,000 and the average annual income is just $30,000. This means that the cost of living is insanely cheap and you should not have to be intimidated by the price of your retirement.

While Des Moines and Iowa are very affordable locations to live in, they also offer some incredible lifestyle perks. Des Moines is full of fun activities such as state fairs, parks, and farmer’s markets, which all present a great opportunity to meet some of the city’s kind and welcoming locals. You can also enjoy Des Moine’s beautiful botanical garden for a lovely walk - or you can explore the city zoo. And if you are in the mood for some culture and arts, the city also has a great art center.

This Iowan capital is not a large city by any means but it is also not tiny. The city’s population is just over 200,000 people but when you factor in the entire metropolitan area, that number shoots up to over 600,000. This can increase the amount of traffic that the city has but compared to a larger urban area, it is still very manageable, which is great for retirees coming from big cities that want a sense of civilization - yet at the same time a place that is less busy.

Once you have moved over to Des Moines, you will find that you can easily explore some of Iowa’s scenery and activities that are located outside the capital such as kayaking in beautiful rivers and lakes or going out hunting for deer and pheasant. However, you should be aware that the weather in Iowa is not ideal for every retiree, as the 4 seasons are pretty ingrained. You can expect temperatures to get well below freezing in the winter and summers can be extremely hot with moderate amounts of humidity. If climate is not an important factor for your retirement plans, then you should put Des Moines at the top of your list - because if there is one thing that this city has going for it, it’s how affordable it is.

Cape Coral, Florida

Florida may just be the most classic retirement destination for so many people in the United States. While the state has seen a rise in rent prices over the years, its value as a prime location for retirement continues to be true thanks to places like Cape Coral.

This Florida city ticks the boxes for so many retirees - and rightfully so, as it is warm, affordable, and right on the water, which is a huge selling point for so many people that are looking to kick back and relax. The summers here are long and you can expect to feel the warmth predominantly throughout the year - with temperatures averaging around 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

With that being said, summers can be flat-out hot and wet, as there will be about 90% humidity in this tropical region. If you are someone looking to escape the cold entirely, Cape Coral has got you covered, as the winters here are mild, to say the least - given that temperatures during the coldest times of year will rarely drop below 55 to 60 degrees.

Aside from the amazing climate that Cape Coral has, it is also relatively affordable. Although some places in Florida such as Miami have seen a massive increase in the cost of living, Cape Coral has managed to stay within the reach of most retirees. The average income is just $30,000 per year for a single individual and the average cost of a home is right around $350,000.

If you decide to retire in Cape Coral, you will find that there is plenty to do to keep you occupied. At the end of the day, this is Florida, so you can expect the beach to be very close by - with some great options available to you within a relatively short drive. In addition, if you are the kind of person that likes to sail or go boating, Cape Coral has an excellent yacht club for you to get involved in.

However, if you want to change up the scenery you can always go explore the area’s gorgeous nature which surrounds the city and so much of the state. Furthermore, Cape Coral has a great farmers market, which is perfect for meeting some of the locals and it also has a very nice art scene. And if you are like many retirees, you have probably got some grandkids that will be visiting from time to time, which is why you will be delighted to find out that Disney World is just a few hours drive from home.

Messa, Arizona

An up-and-coming hotspot for many retirees is Messa in Arizona. If you are looking for a place that has great weather throughout the majority of the year and is affordable, then Arizona is a place that you should really consider. However, Messa in particular has some great qualities for retirees that a lot of other places within Arizona are lacking in.

While there are other great cities in the state such as Phoenix that are decent for retirement, they can be a little too busy for most people that are looking to settle down. Messa on the other hand has a very tame atmosphere which is pleasant and calm for retirees. However, with a population of nearly 500,000, you will find that this medium-sized city still has plenty to offer its residents.

This Arizona city is highly regarded for its impressive art center, as well as its Air Force museum and amazing food. However, one of the greatest attractions of Messa is the stunning scenery that surrounds the area. The natural beauty of Messa makes it a prime location for so many retirees, as you have got gorgeous mountains that are complemented by the desert landscapes that make up the entire state.

In addition, if you are living in Arizona, you have got so many incredible access points to the state’s incredible nature parks. Within just a few hours of driving through beautiful desert highways, you can enter any number of the state’s parks such as The Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Antelope Canyon.

Lastly, Messa is very affordable and should be within the budget of most retirees. The average income of this city is roughly $30,000 per year and the average cost of a home is anywhere from $300,000 to $400,000. However, you should be prepared for some blistering hot summers that have temperatures well past 100 degrees Fahrenheit. So, make sure that wherever you settle down in Messa has good air conditioning - because you are going to need it.

Athens, Georgia

The beautiful southern state of Georgia is a location that many retirees fail to consider when assessing their options. This quaint yet lively town has got plenty to offer its residents and if you are looking to retire somewhere on the cheap, you really can’t go wrong with Athens.

This is probably one of the cheapest options that you have available to you for retirement within the United States, as the average income is just over $20,000 and the cost of buying a decent home can be as little as $200,000 to $250,000. So, you can expect the overall cost of living in the area to be very affordable.

The inhabitants of Athens get to enjoy some lovely weather that is quite stable throughout the majority of the year, as you will have hot summers and a relatively warm climate in the off-season months. The winters in Athens do cool down a bit and will drop to right around freezing, but nothing too unbearable.

You should keep in mind that Athens is a college town, which depending on your points of interest could be a dealbreaker for your retirement destination. The youthful energy of this college town does mean that the town is quite lively - with nightlife, bars, and restaurants all being part of the Athens scene.

This can be great for retirees that enjoy having access to social activities and for those that simply enjoy living in a town that has upbeat energy. However, if you want to settle down somewhere that is completely quiet, you may want to carefully consider all of your options before committing to Athens.

Aside from that Athens has got some great activities for its residents such as an art center and a thriving music scene. So, if you want to retire somewhere that has a good atmosphere and a very reasonable cost of living that is suitable for every retiree - Athens is a great pick.

Rochester, New York

If there is one thing that we generally think of when we consider New York as a retirement destination it’s that it is probably pretty pricey. While this is certainly the case for New York City, you may be surprised to find that some of the alternative urban areas of the state are very reasonable to settle down in - in particular, Rochester.

Rochester is a small city by comparison to the state’s capital, as it has a population that is just slightly over 200,000 people. This makes it a great urban area for people to retire in that want the vibe of a city - without the chaos of dealing with one.

However, the best thing about Rochester is that it is a very affordable city to retire in. The average income for the city is less than $50,000 and you can find a home for as little as $200,000, which is not what we normally associate with New York. Perhaps one of the reasons why Rochester is so affordable is that it has a lot of different university campuses, which means that you can expect a student population to be present. Much like with Athens, Georgia, this can be good or bad depending on what kind of scene you want to retire in.

While you can expect any place with students to be more lively, you can also expect there to be great options for food and a fun nightlife presence - with live music being a cultural staple of the city. With that being said, the city also has a great zoo, science & art center, and Highland Park. If you feel like having an adrenaline rush, you can always visit the Seabreeze Amusement Park, which is not far from Rochester’s Ontario Beach.

In addition, Rochester also has some great surroundings within its vicinity. Given that New York is a relatively small state, you can cross state lines relatively easily to visit some other towns and cities. Furthermore, if you wanted to get a taste of the big city for a weekend trip, the Big Apple is just a 5-hour drive from Rochester.

Affordable Places To Retire: Abroad

When it comes to your retirement, you should really consider all of the options that you have available to you - and that may include leaving the country and living abroad for your later years in life. If you have always dreamed of traveling but simply did not have the time to pursue it during your career, there is no reason that you should deny yourself the pleasure of experiencing life somewhere else in the world as a retiree.

Despite what many people might tell you, living abroad can be extremely affordable - with many countries around the globe being actually cheaper than some places in the states, which is why you should seriously consider retiring abroad. With that being said, the world is a pretty big place and if you are considering living out your life in a foreign nation, you should try to carefully consider the kind of culture, natural beauty, and climate that you want to live in, as these are going to greatly vary from country to country.

In addition, to the type of qualities that you look for in a foreign country, you should also consider the fact that you are not a citizen of the nation that you want to live in, which is why you should always keep visas in mind for all of your options.

To avoid issues with visas, you should always try to confirm the visa options that each individual country has to offer, as some places offer retirement visas that are specifically catered to retirees. These are much more straightforward and essentially enable you to live in the country worry-free for life. Keep reading to learn more about the most affordable places where you can retire outside of the United States.

Costa Rica

If you are looking for an incredible country to settle down in, Costa Rica should be at the top of your list. This Latin American nation is beautiful, to say the least, and is very affordable for just about any retiree.

Costa Rica has been an amazing travel destination for decades, which is why so many Americans fly here to spend their vacation time when they want to travel overseas. However, many people with retirement on the horizon often overlook their favorite vacation destination as a great place for their retirement.

The great thing about moving somewhere like Costa Rica is that you can enjoy all of the things that you love about this country as a permanent lifestyle - instead of a quick in and out vacation stop. You can indulge in the simplicity of life in the tropics at a fraction of the cost of what you would spend in retirement hotspots such as Hawaii or Florida - with so many of the same perks.

Costa Rica is a country that you can live in for $1,500 to $2,500 per month easily with all of your expenses covered including rent, food, and entertainment. Ultimately, you can spend about as much or as little as you want to depending on your standards of living, which is great for people that have a tighter budget.

This country is particularly good for people that love nature. If you want to retire somewhere that literally feels like a national park, Costa Rica is going to be perfect for you. The stunning scenery, combined with a rich and friendly culture, makes Costa Rica an amazing destination for retirement. And most importantly - it’s affordable!

Portugal

When most people think of Europe, they immediately associate the entire continent with being expensive. However, nothing could be further from the truth and European nations like Portugal are proof that you can travel and retire in the EU affordably.

Portugal is one of the cheapest places to retire in mainland Europe given that most people’s average monthly expenses are below $2,000 - with some people paying as little as $1,200 to $1,500 per month to live here. For retirees coming from the U.S., this should be well within the reach of most people.

On top of the very reasonable cost of living, Portugal has some of the friendliest people that you can ever hope to meet. Their rich culture is vibrant and full of positivity, which makes sense considering that they have amazing year-round weather, stunning scenery, and cheap rent - who wouldn’t be happy?

In addition, Portugal is a safe country with a very low crime rate. So, you can walk around casually through even the busiest streets of its capital, Lisbon at ease. With that being said, urban areas such as Lisbon and other cities have so much to offer - with stunning architecture that is full of history and lively nightlife that is begging to be explored.

However, if you are the kind of retiree that wants to keep things relaxed, Portugal has got plenty of small towns that are quiet, quaint, and away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. With that being said, the one thing that you should keep in mind is that you will likely need to learn at least a little bit of Portuguese if you plan on retiring in this European nation, as most people will have a limited grasp of the English language.

The Philippines

For decades, South East Asia has been an international travel gem and it is widely considered to be a hotspot for retirees from around the globe. This part of the world has some incredible people and culture that is usually very friendly and accepting of foreign guests. However, some places have been used and abused by tourism, which has left some countries in the area a bit overcrowded.

With that being said, the Philippines is an up-and-coming retirement spot that is hands down one of the most beautiful countries on the planet and it has not yet seen the level of tourism that other countries in South East Asia have.

If you are looking to retire and find an affordable place to live in, the Philippines can be cheap beyond your wildest imagination. At the end of the day, this is still a developing country and the cost of living has to be balanced to what the locals can afford, which is why you can expect your monthly expenses to be anywhere from $750 to $1,500! Talk about a retiree’s dream!

While the cost of living is cheap, you should expect to get plenty of other lifestyle perks while living in this tropical nation. The Philippines is highly regarded as being one of the best travel international destinations for beaches and islands - with some of its islands regarded as some of the most beautiful in the world. Given that there are over 7,000 of them to explore, you will have plenty to keep you busy during your retirement.

However, if you want to just find a nice quiet place to enjoy for the rest of your life at peace, the Philippines has got you covered. There are plenty of low-key destinations in this country for retirees to settle down in and set up shop.

Another great thing about retiring in the Philippines is that you have quite a bit of variety as far as scenery and activities go. If you need a break from beaches, islands, and sunshine, you can always go to the country’s northern provinces that have a completely different climate and a contrast of scenery. And if you need a taste of city life, you can visit Manila - one of the largest cities on the planet. Regardless, wherever you decide to retire in the Philippines, you know you can do it affordably.

Georgia

One of the most amazing places that you can retire in is Georgia. Not the state but the country! This nation is located right on the border of Europe and Asia, which gives it a very interesting balance of culture from both regions.

For years, Georgia has been regarded by travelers as an amazing low-key destination that has a unique culture that is filled with kind and welcoming people. However, in recent years, retirees have been taking a closer look at Georgia and keeping it as a prime option for settling down. One of the main reasons for this is that this country is very affordable and is a perfect place for retirement - regardless of what your budget is.

The cost of living for a household of 4 in the country can be as little as just $1,500, which means that you can expect your expenses to be as low as $1,000 for a single retiree. This very reasonable cost of living makes Georgia one of the top contenders for affordable places to retire, as you can truly enjoy the comforts of life at a fraction of the cost.

In addition to the very reasonable retirement cost, Georgia is also a very beautiful nation. The country has unique natural landscapes that are filled with tall standing mountains and gorgeous green hills. This makes it perfect for retirees who want to have the great outdoors right at their doorstep. However, if you like the idea of living in a city, you can always find a nice place to stay in Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi - where you will have plenty of access to western comforts.

What you will also find is that Georgia has some amazing wine, which is not as internationally recognized as other regions such as France, California, and Italy, but just as delicious. If you love a nice glass of wine and want to live in an area that produces it locally, then Georgia is going to be a retirement destination to consider. On top of that, this nation has food that is absolutely delicious and unique to the region.

The one thing that tends to make retirees wary of Georgia is its weather. You can expect the winters here to be mild but still quite cold nonetheless. The average temperatures during the coldest parts of the year will hover right around freezing and snowfall does happen periodically, which is generally not ideal for someone looking to retire somewhere that is warm year-round. However, if you are willing to put up with the mild winter, you will be delighted to know that the rest of the year is very pleasant - with summers reaching temperatures of 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Thailand

If you have been longing for beautiful beaches and amazing weather, then you should strongly consider calling Thailand home for the rest of your life. This incredible country in Southe East Asia has been a tourist and retirement hotspot for decades - and rightful so.

Thailand has got so many things going for it, as not only is the nation itself beautiful, but the people are among the friendliest and most welcoming in the world, which is why Thailand has earned the name ‘The Land of Smiles’. Everywhere you go you will be greeted by friendly locals that have a big smile on their faces and a positive attitude that is guaranteed to add some joy to your day.

However, what we have seen in recent years is that Thailand has become such a popular international destination, that some of the prices have begun to go up. With that being said, Thailand is no longer the dirt cheap country in South East Asia that it once was but it is still very affordable for your retirement. It is estimated that you can live in Thailand for a mere $650 per month if you are on a lower budget and do not have such high standards of living, which is very reasonable, to say the least.

If you happen to enjoy a little more luxury in your lifestyle and want to opt for a nicer residence, the cost of living can increase dramatically. Having a lifestyle with a lot of western luxuries such as a nice resort and imported foods can result in your retirement costs tripling in Thailand. However, if you are willing to live a balanced lifestyle, then you should still be able to live in this country on the cheap - with most retirees spending anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 per month on their expenses.

A key takeaway with living in Thailand affordably is to stay away from expensive districts in places like Bangkok and island hotspot destinations such as Koh Phi Phi and Koh Samui. You can find affordable housing in these areas but it will take a bit more digging. Moving up north to areas such as Chaing Mai and Chain Rai will result in your monthly expenses dropping significantly.

If you do happen to choose Thailand for your retirement, you can rejoice in the amazing culture, stunning scenery, and amazing food, which will all be easily accessible to you. What you should be prepared for is the heat. WhileThailand’s temperatures do not exceed the extreme heat conditions of desert USA areas such as Arizona and Nevada, you can expect to be sweating year-round, as the humidity will pretty much hover at 90%. This is mitigated during the peak dry season months, which are considered to be the best times of the year. So, if you want an affordable place to retire that is warm, beautiful, and affordable, look no further. 5-hour

About THE AUTHOR

David Bolton

With multiple family members currently in senior living facilities, David is in the trenches every week, learning the ins and outs of nursing homes, assisted living, memory care, and general senior living.

Read more about David Bolton

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We love planning for retirement. It's somewhat of a hobby, and we want to share what we've learned with you. Over the years we've found the best ways to live, how to travel, take on new hobbies and give back. Happiness in retirement is the main goal, and having the right information allows us (and you) to achieve that.

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