Forget Florida. Try retiring to Maine

AARP The Magazine has compiled a list of 10 livable and affordable retirement destinations. Some may surprise you.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Jul 25, 2011 10:54AM

© Denis Tangney Jr/Getty ImagesWhen I retire, I'd love to move to New York City for a few years. Not only is there a lot to do, but you also don't need a car. Unfortunately, I can't afford that. When you're looking for a place to retire, cost of living matters.

AARP The Magazine has come up with a new list of 10 affordable cities for retirement. The magazine considered not only cost of living, but also factors such as climate, recreation and culture.


You may be surprised at what they found. Not one city in Florida, Arizona or New Mexico, traditional retirement havens, made the list.

To compile the list, AARP looked at 350 cities, weighing property taxes, sales-tax rates, median housing price and taxes on pensions and Social Security. Then the analysts looked at lifestyle factors.


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Here are three of AARP's most interesting suggestions:

  • Portland, Maine. You don't necessarily think of moving north to retire, but Portland has made it onto several lists of affordable, interesting cities, including MSN Real Estate's list of Most Livable Bargain Markets. The median home price is $202,800, which is a bit higher than some of the others on AARP's list. But, as a former Portland police officer told the magazine: "On one hand, you have this relaxed urban environment, with all kinds of cultural and art opportunities, but you're just a short drive from everything that makes Maine such a great, outdoorsy place."
  • Winchester, Va. This historic small town 75 miles from Washington, D.C., has a downtown historic district and is one of a number of beautiful small towns in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. The median home price is $151,500.
  • Columbus, Ind. If you're interested in architecture, you might like this small city, which is about an hour south of Indianapolis and 35 minutes east of Bloomington, home of Indiana University. Columbus' innovative architecture rivals that of Chicago and San Francisco, AARP The Magazine reports, and the city has buildings and public art by a number of noted architects. The median home price is $124,200.

The other cities on the list were Gainesville, Ga.; Tulsa, Okla.; Wenatchee, Wash.;Cheyenne, Wyo.; Harrisburg, Pa.; Ithaca, N.Y.; and Midland, Texas. If you'd rather live in another country, AARP The Magazine also has a list of best places to retire abroad.

What do you think? Would you consider retiring to any of those cities? What qualities do you require in your ideal retirement destination? Let us know here or on Facebook.


CORRECTION: Forget Florida. Try retiring to Maine

July 27, 2011: Winchester, Va., is 75 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. The original version of this post included an incorrect location.


Jul 13, 2013 12:34PM

And you folks expected common sense from AARP????

Nov 4, 2011 5:57AM
Maine?  Really?  I've been here for 6 years and cannot wait to get out.  It is very expensive to live here.  You can get a house for cheap, but it will be very old, need lots of work and will not be energy efficient.  This becomes very apparent when you have to heat the thing in the winter.  Most homes run on heating oil.  It has to be delivered by truck, is very inefficient and VERY expensive!  I spend about $700.00 a month in the cold months to heat 1500 s.f.  Not to mention taxes and fees on just about anything you can imagine.  If you are considering this move - do your homework!  A cheap house is not cheap when it needs 40k in work. Utilities are high, property taxes are high, and the taxes and fees are ridiculous.  Living in Maine is like being pecked to death by ducks.  I know Roxanne Quimby caught a lot of flak for saying that Maine is a welfare state, but she was right. 
Jul 28, 2011 6:21AM
Howard - don't you think that the author should be wise enough to understand that a city (in this case Harrisburg) facing default/bankruptcy issues and trying to raise revenue by putting into place a tax on income will in fact have a direct cause and effect on the cost of living?  The City of Philadelphia has had to make other concessions with companies and even their residents because of their excessive taxes.  People in the suburbs will not even shop in the city because of the added taxes.  Punitive taxes is not a suggested way to generate long term revenue successfully and this is one reason Philadelphia has so many problems.   
Jul 27, 2011 11:00AM
Seems cost of living is the key factor in the locations selected. If one has the money, there are far better places to go. No matter. The vast majority of people do not move when they retire, and there are lots of goods reasons why. Familiarity, friends, and family to begin with.
Jul 27, 2011 10:20AM
@chrrd: You're right about the location -- thanks for pointing this out! We'll update the text.
Jul 27, 2011 9:13AM

Glad to know there is another Winchester Virginia 75 miles SOUTH of Washington D.C. 


Once visited the Winchester Virginia that is NORTHWEST of D.C. and wasn't all that impressed.

Jul 27, 2011 9:09AM

Harrisburg, PA? The city is bankrupt, all services (police, trash pickup, fire departments) are being reduced and downgraded. The state government may take over the city. I lived there many years and parts of Harrisburg are beautiful but there is a LOT of poverty and decaying buildings. Public transportation is good but I can only attest to the inner city/downtown area. Three Mile Island is just a stone's throw away and everyone in a 10 mile radius has to keep a supply of those iodine tablets "just in case".  Then there's the river. Beautiful but it has flooded the city in the past and still does almost annually flood the islands in the river itself. The 'burbs are rather pricey and you must have a car to get around.

Jul 27, 2011 9:04AM
I wrote my response before reading the comments and my initial statement still stands - this author is crackers!  I have kept up on news about Harrisburg, PA, but it appears that some of Ms. Mears' other location suggestions are just as bad.  I fear that Teresa Mears just likes to hear her own voice and has no credibility about actual facts.  Do the public a service and actually know what you are talking about before running off your mouth - we already have too many people in public office that don't know what they are doing and we don't need people like this giving out bad information online.  Jeff Foxworthy is right, "You just can't fix stupid!"
Jul 27, 2011 8:56AM
Harrisburg, PA - Is the author stupid or just arrive from Mars or some other planet in our solar system?!  Harrisburg, PA is broke and to make matters worse they want to copy the City of Philadelphia by taxing their residents (personal income tax) and people who work in Harrisburg.   Philadelphia has the one of the largest if not the most punitive taxing systems on personal income.  Even out of town ballplayers and musicians have refused to play in Philadelphia because they would be taxed.  Don't believe everything you read and do your due diligence BEFORE making plans to relocate and buy some place else.  Moreover, look at the medical care system in the area ESPECIALLY if you want to retire there. 
Jul 27, 2011 8:51AM
That's a weird list.  Cheyenne has low taxes, but lots of wind and cold.  I'll stay in Idaho.
Jul 27, 2011 8:47AM
Traverse City, Michigan ... GORGEOUS!!
Jul 27, 2011 8:34AM
The villages, are you kidding?  Didn't I read that the head of the Villages Homeowners is also the Florida Grand Dragon.  That's not exactly welcoming news for many people.
Jul 27, 2011 8:34AM
If you want to retire in Gainesville Georgia I would recommend learning to speak Spanish first. The chicken processing facilities have imported illegals by the bus load and the social services in the area are completely overwhelmed. I lived in the adjacent county and my uninsured motorist insurance rates skyrocketed over the last few years. Property theft went up as well, any corellation there? I have many friends from all over the world including Latin countries, I am not a racist, I am a realist.  
Jul 27, 2011 8:16AM
Not having The Villages on the best place to retire is insane!
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