10 Smart Places to Retire
Kiplinger's Personal Finance|August 2019

These college towns aren’t just for students. Along with a mix of classes, culture and community, they offer first-class health care and modest taxes.

St. Augustine

Retirees can attend free lectures, concerts and art exhibits at Flagler College.

If you are among the growing number of people thinking about moving in retirement, we have some great suggestions—in fact, 10 of them. For this year’s list, we focused on cities and towns sprinkled throughout the U.S. that are home to at least one college or university. Each offers a wide variety of intellectual and cultural activities for local residents, who can enjoy all the things they loved about college, such as concerts, interesting lectures and sports, without the drawbacks, such as final exams and 8 a.m. French class. Most of our cities have a moderate cost of living, and all are located in states that exempt all or a portion of retirement income from taxes. Because health care is an important concern for retirees, our cities also have at least one hospital nearby that has received four or five stars—the highest rating—from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (For advice on making the decision to relocate, see “Living in Retirement,” on page 62.)

ST. AUGUSTINE, FLA.

POPULATION: 14,576 COST OF LIVING: Not available MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $343,000 COLLEGE PERK: Low-cost continuing education courses on everything from digital marketing to belly dancing.

St. Augustine and the surrounding St. John’s County offer more than just surf and sand wedges. But retirees looking for fun in the sun will find it here in spades, along with plenty of cultural activities, affordable luxury living, and firstclass health care.

The 42 miles of sand on St. John’s Atlantic coast offer something for everyone. St. Augustine Beach, located 10 minutes from downtown, is backstopped by laid-back restaurants serving up the day’s catch to folks in flip-flops. If a peaceful hammock is more your vibe, chill with the local wildlife on the secluded beaches of 1,600-acre Anastasia Island State Park.

A short drive north will land you in Ponte Vedra Beach, replete with ritzy beach clubs and golf courses. Here you’ll find TPC Sawgrass, home of The Players Championship, one of the PGA’s most prestigious annual events. The area is also home to the World Golf Hall of Fame and the PGA Tour Academy—for golf legends both real and aspiring.

You can’t walk very far in St. Augustine without being reminded that it is the oldest European-established city in the U.S.—one that houses more than 60 historic sites and attractions, including a town square that dates to 1573. The city is still very much alive, however. Pedestrian-only St. George Street, lined with bistros, boutiques and bars, bustles all day and well into the night, with live music coming from practically every other open door.

Also keeping the city young: Flagler College, which operates as a center for educational and cultural enrichment for students and locals alike. Retirees can take in free lectures, plays, musicals, concerts and art exhibitions on campus.

Living costs in greater St. Augustine aren’t cheap by national standards, but retirees—especially those from the northeast—are snapping up its relatively affordable beachfront property, says real estate agent Carrie Reynolds. Oceanfront condos with pools in St. Augustine Beach run about $500,000, compared with $1 million or more in Miami or Fort Lauderdale, she says. She recently showed a 2,222-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bath house in nearby South Ponte Vedra Beach for $520,000. Residents can walk through a tunnel under the adjacent highway straight onto the beach.

Florida has a plethora of health care providers. The Mayo Clinic’s Jacksonville campus, a five-star hospital, is about an hour from St. Augustine.

Florida is among the tax-friendliest states in the country for retirees. There is no state income, estate or inheritance tax. RYAN ERMEY

SAVANNAH, GA.

POPULATION: 145,862 COST OF LIVING: 88 MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $225,000 COLLEGE PERK: You can buy the work of up-and-coming artists and designers at the Savannah College of Art and Design’s retail store.

Savannah isn’t your typical college town, but if you enjoy the arts— from film to fashion—this city might be for you.

Herbert and Brenda Singleton grew up in Georgia, but their careers took them to Fort Wayne, Ind. Forty-one years later, family and warm weather lured them to the Savannah area. “The area has breathtaking botanical scenery,” says Brenda, 71. “It’s close to the ocean and beaches. We love seafood, and there are so many restaurants to choose from.” Herbert, 72, enjoys the multitude of cultural events, too. “You can literally go broke if you try to take advantage of all the artistic and cultural opportunities here,” he says.

The private Savannah College of Art and Design doesn’t have a traditional campus. Rather, it operates out of historic buildings it has renovated, mostly in the downtown area. Many school-sponsored activities are open to residents. One of the most popular is the annual Savannah Film Festival. It features more than 100 films, some from Hollywood studios, that haven’t yet hit theaters.

Savannah is also home to Savannah State University and the Armstrong Campus of Georgia Southern University, public institutions that offer free tuition for residents age 62 and older. But you don’t need to sit in a classroom to learn history here, because it’s all around. Savannah, founded in 1733, was the first city in Georgia.

It has one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts, and each year the months-long Georgia History Festival culminates in February with a parade and Super Museum Sunday, when more than 100 historical sites and museums open their doors for free.

Savannah has plenty of parks where Spanish moss hangs from massive live oaks. Forsyth Park is the largest, at more than 30 acres, and it features a 161year-old fountain that’s one of the city’s most photographed sites. The water in park fountains is dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day. (Savannah boasts of having one of nation’s largest St. Patrick’s Day Parades.)

Hot and steamy summers are a drawback. But many here escape the heat by heading 18 miles east to Tybee Island’s beach.

Home prices in the popular downtown area can run from $300,000 for a three-bedroom house to $1 million or so for a renovated house on one of the historic squares, says Tommy Danos, president of the Savannah Area Realtors. A three-bedroom house outside downtown typically sells for $220,000, he says. Rents run $1,000 to $2,500 a month for a two- or threebedroom apartment, but Savannah has numerous short-term vacation rentals that allow people to test living in the city, he says.

Many retirees flock to The Landings, a golf community on nearby Skidaway Island, where home prices range from $250,000 to more than $2 million.

Effingham Health System, which Medicare rates as a four-star hospital, is about 30 miles away in Springfield, Ga. Travelers can fly out of Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, a dozen miles northwest of the Historic District.

Georgia is one of Kiplinger’s top 10 tax-friendly states for retirees. Social Security income is tax-exempt, and so is up to $65,000 of most types of retirement income if you’re 65 or older (up to $35,000 if you’re 62 to 64). EILEEN AMBROSE

RICHMOND, VA.

POPULATION: 228,783 COST OF LIVING: 95 MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $258,000 COLLEGE PERK: Retirees can join Virginia Commonwealth University’s Commonwealth Society for short courses, lecture series and travel opportunities.

Richmond is historic and southern, but it’s anything but sleepy. Around town, you’ll find a mix of magnolias and colorful murals, preppies in pastels and bohos with turquoise hair and tattoos. “One day, Richmond woke up and it was hip!” says Cathy Saunders, a local real estate agent.

The centers of the city’s intellectual and creative life are Virginia Commonwealth University, a state university; the University of Richmond, a private school; and Virginia Union University, a private, historically black university. Relocating retirees are often alumni or discovered the city when their children attended college there.

Students from VCU’s School of the Arts present their work at the W.E.

Richmond

The James River offers plenty of recreational activities and respite from the summer heat.

Singleton Center for the Performing Arts and other venues. The Institute for Contemporary Art presents art, lectures and performances with local, national and international artists. Adults of all ages can join the Commonwealth Society for short courses, lecture series and travel opportunities. Membership costs $100 a year.

On the city’s west end, the University of Richmond’s Modlin Center for the Arts attracts retirees with programming that includes music, dance, theater, visual arts, live broadcasts, lectures and more. Because Richmond is also the state capital, cultural offerings are plentiful. Venues include the Altria Theater, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Virginia Science Museum, the Black History Museum, the Elegba Folklore Society (which celebrates African and African-American culture) and the Virginia Holocaust Museum.

The city straddles the James River, which offers some respite on hot summer days. At Belle Isle, accessible via a pedestrian bridge, you can walk on shady paths and watch great blue herons glide down to rocks midstream.

Bicyclists, runners and walkers enjoy the Virginia Capital Trail, which runs 52 miles between downtown Richmond and the Jamestown Settlement near Williamsburg. Retirees can visit or volunteer at Maymont, a gilded-era home and 100-acre property with gardens and a nature center.

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