Here Are The New Table Stakes For 2020s Retirement Meccas

Forbes' top 25 "Best Places to Retire in 2021" map a shifting geography of "next adventure" living for 55-plus present and future.

John McManus June 22nd, 2021
  • Connection ... to family, friends, good health care, culture, and food
  • Comfort ... aesthetic, natural beauty, temperature, and walkability
  • Safety and security ... protection from natural hazard risk and human-related dangers, including evil taxes

Check these boxes and you're looking at the table stakes for retirement Meccas in the continental United States, according to Forbes' latest annual installment of its Best Places To Retire In 2021, put together by contributor William Barrett from research compiled by Forbes.

Last year, we noted work-from-home would enable some boomers to move while still on the job. But Covid-19 also led to a jump in the number leaving the workforce—3.2 million retired in 2020, more than double the number the year before. With housing prices up 11% since March 2020 and mortgage rates still near record lows, now would seem to be an ideal time for newly vaccinated boomers aiming to either downsize or move to a cheaper housing market to start their search.
Where to look? As it happens, Knoxville is for the first time on Forbes’ Best Places To Retire list, which aims to identify places that provide exceptional retirement value—meaning they combine a high quality of life with affordability. The National Association of Realtors reports the national median home price has climbed to $329,000, but the median for our list averages $246,000 and all but two of our picks are under the national median. We also look closely at taxes and the strength of the local economy (should retirees want to work part time or resell their homes), the availability of medical care, the level of serious crime and factors conducive to a healthy and active lifestyle, such as air quality, and convenience for walking and biking.

Noteworthy among the 25 cities listed from 18 states in all four time zones, Fargo, N.D., stands out for having made the Forbes rankings in all 11 of the annual "Top Places to Retire" lists over the years. Here's why.

Its median home price of $228,000 is 20% below the national median, and Fargo real estate is a safe investment with the population growing at a steady rate of about 4 percent per year, nearing 125,000 at last count.
People have gravitated to Fargo for jobs in a number of industries: healthcare, technology, education and agriculture. The $500 million Sanford Medical Center just opened in 2017 as the largest hospital in North Dakota, complete with a Level 1 trauma center, cancer research and cardiovascular care to give aging adults peace of mind. Microsoft’s Fargo campus employs 1,600, and North Dakota State University enrolls more than 13,000 students.

Among emerging factors that influence whether a place should or should not rank high as a retirement magnet – beyond walkability, access to healthcare and food and recreational experiences, and a spectrum of home prices as well as low taxes people on retirement incomes hunt for – climate, particularly, risk of natural hazards like storms, wildfires, drought, and other disasters loom larger.

We consulted a University of Notre Dame Urban Adaption Assessment which focuses on issues like sea level rise and heat. This year, we also used the new FEMA National Risk Index for Natural Hazards which calculates for every county a vulnerability measure for 18 natural hazards, including flooding, hurricanes, landslides, earthquakes and wind.

Alphabetically, here's the Forbes 25 "Best Places to Retire in 2021" roster:

  • Asheville, NC
  • Augusta, GA
  • Beaufort, SC
  • Charlotte, NC
  • Clearwater, FLA
  • College Station, TX
  • Columbia, MO
  • Fargo, ND
  • Green Valley, AZ
  • Iowa City, IA
  • Jacksonville, FLA
  • Knoxville, TN
  • Lawrence, KS
  • Lincoln, NE
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Pittsfield, MA
  • Roanoke, VA
  • Rochester, MN
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Savannah, GA
  • Sioux Falls, SD
  • Sun City, AZ
  • The Villages, FLA
  • Wenatchee, WA

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John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.


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