7 great small towns for retirement

  • By Stacy Rapacon,
  • Kiplinger
  • Getting Ready to Retire
  • Getting Ready to Retire
  • Getting Ready to Retire
  • Getting Ready to Retire
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Big cities can offer many amenities for retirees: Public transportation, plenty of doctors and lots of things to see and do. The right small towns are packed with enough amenities to make them equally desirable for retirement as big cities. Plus, small towns offer the peace and quiet that some retirees crave.

We pinpointed the best places to retire in every state, taking into account living costs, safety, median incomes and poverty rates for retirement-age residents, as well as residents sense of well-being and the availability of recreational and health care facilities. Of our 50 retirement picks, these seven small towns have populations under 100,000. Take a look at our top picks for a small-town retirement.

Cost of living data provided by Sperling's Best Places.*

Niantic, Conn.

  • Population: 3,042
  • Share of population 65+: 29.5% (U.S.: 14.5%)
  • Cost of Living: 24.7% above the national average*
  • Average Income for Households 65+: n/a
  • State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Least Tax Friendly

Two hours from both Boston and New York City, Niantic offers a quiet and cozy retirement destination. The small town on the Long Island Sound covers only 3.5 square miles, but it still offers many attractions for retirees. Being a seaside village, Niantic has ample opportunities for water activities. The Niantic Bay Yacht Club hosts numerous sailboat races throughout the summer.

The coast of Connecticut is known to be a high-cost area. Niantic is no exception, but it's more affordable than other nearby places, such as better-known Mystic. For example, the median home value in Niantic is $283,000--pricey, but more affordable than the Mystic median of $404,900, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Milford, Del.

  • Population: 11,075
  • Share of population 65+: 19.5%
  • Cost of Living: 0.8% below the national average*
  • Average Income for Households 65+: n/a
  • State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Tax Friendly

If you're thinking about heading to one of Delaware's popular beach towns for retirement, brace yourself for sticker shock. Better yet, consider instead the more affordable Milford. About 40 miles north of Bethany Beach, Milford has a median home value of $174,900, well below the median of $477,900 in Bethany Beach, according to Zillow.

The small inland city is about 10 miles from Slaughter Beach. You can also enjoy some waterfront views in town along the Mispillion River. Downtown, there are numerous restaurants and boutiques, as well as the Milford Museum and the Riverfront Theater, where you can watch old movies. A community theater group, the Second Street Players, also performs there.

Annapolis, Md.

  • Population: 39,321
  • Share of population 65+: 15.5%
  • Cost of Living: 37.1% above the national average*
  • Average Income for Households 65+: n/a
  • State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Least Tax Friendly

With more than 400 miles of shoreline, Annapolis offers water-loving retirees a torrent of activities. Kayaking, canoeing, boating and fishing are common enjoyments on the Chesapeake Bay. On land, the historical city is filled with 18th century buildings and is commonly referred to as "a museum without walls." And, as home to the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis draws a number of military retirees.

But you have to be able to afford it. Maryland is, by and large, a wealthy area, home to a great number of millionaires, and the living costs reflect that. The median home value in the Old Line State is $290,400, compared with just $184,700 for the U.S. In Annapolis, it's a whopping $377,200.

Bozeman, Mont.

  • Population: 97,958
  • Share of population 65+: 11.2%
  • Cost of Living: 0.4% above the national average
  • Average Income for Households 65+: $47,969 (U.S.: $53,799)
  • State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Not Tax Friendly

If you've ever dreamed of retiring to the mountains, here's your chance. Bozeman is in southern Montana, nestled in the Gallatin Valley and surrounded by majestic ranges and national forests. Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks sit due south of Bozeman. The geography means you have to be comfortable hiking, mountain biking, skiing and backcountry exploring your way through retirement. Hunting and fishing are also popular local activities.

But don't expect total isolation. Montana State University's Bozeman campus is home to about 15,000 students. Exuberant co-eds might not be the neighbors you pictured in your mountain-view retirement destination, but you may enjoy the dining, culture and entertainment options that come with a college town.

Ocean City, N.J.

  • Population: 95,404
  • Share of population 65+: 23.9%
  • Cost of Living: 62.2% above the national average*
  • Average Income for Households 65+: $51,534
  • State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Mixed

The Garden State offers a number of appealing retirement destinations for those who can afford it. Ocean City is a particularly attractive spot, evidenced by the high share of seniors who have already chosen to reside there. Family-friendly beaches, a fun three-mile boardwalk and proximity to Atlantic City are notable draws.

But living there is going to cost you. Taxes are notoriously high all over Jersey, and housing is expensive. The median home value in city limits is a hefty $568,700, compared with $316,400 for the state and $184,700 for the U.S. Plus, you have to budget extra for insurance to protect against possible storm and flood damage. Note, too, that Ocean City is a dry town, but you don't have to travel far to buy your booze.

Kingston, R.I.

  • Population: 6,974
  • Share of population 65+: n/a
  • Cost of Living: 36.5% above the national average*
  • Average Income for Households 65+: n/a
  • State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Not Tax Friendly

Tiny Rhode Island packs in big living costs, and the village of Kingston is particularly pricey. But if you can afford it — the median household income for all ages is $76,250 a year — the location may well be worthwhile. Kingston offers easy access to some all-but-private beaches, and with its own Amtrak station the train ride to Boston and even New York is relatively quick. There's also high-speed ferry service to Martha's Vineyard.

And in town, the University of Rhode Island injects youth and vibrancy, and all the amenities that typically follow, into the community.

Cheyenne, Wyo.

  • Population: 63,624
  • Share of population 65+: 14.1%
  • Cost of Living: 0.4% below the national average*
  • Average Income for Households 65+: $46,399
  • State's Tax Rating for Retirees: Most Tax Friendly

Loner types should love the Cowboy State. It has a population of fewer than 580,000--that's just six people per square mile. (By comparison, the country's smallest state in size, Rhode Island, hosts more than a million people, with more than 1,000 people per square mile.) Even the capital city is relatively small, with just 63,000 or so residents.

The lack of crowds doesn't leave you a lack of activities. You have plenty of outdoor diversions, such as miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding; fishing and boating; and birding and other wildlife viewing. Train aficionados can enjoy the area's railroad history and displays of locomotives, including the world's largest steam engine (also retired). Another big local attraction: Every summer since 1897, Cheyenne hosts the world's largest outdoor rodeo and Western celebration, Frontier Days, now a 10-day event.

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