Ready to retire on the East Coast? Looking for a blend of affordability and livability? We’ve done at least some of your homework for you.
To determine the best East Coast cities for retiring with about $3,000 a month to spend, GOBankingRates just analyzed 64 popular cities from 16 states based on the following:
- 2023 Average Rent (Zillow Observed Rental Index)
- Cost of living indexes (Sperling’s Best Places)
- Livability Score (AreaVibes)
- National averages for expenditure categories, Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021 Consumer Expenditure Survey (for people over 65)
- Cost of living indexes by city
Greensboro, North Carolina
Greensboro only managed a middle-of-pack rating for livability, ranking 35th out of the 64 cities. Its monthly cost of living, however, rockets it to the No. 3 spot on our overall list. Retirees in Greensboro enjoy modest monthly living expenses of about $2,950.
And when it comes to livability, there’s plenty to like about Greensboro – the largest of three cities in the Piedmont Triad (the others are Winston-Salem and High Point.) It’s a city of about 300,000 that maintains a small-town feel, with the Blue Ridge Mountains accessible to the east, beaches in range to the west, and easy access to North Carolina’s larger cities.
Greensboro is also home to numerous outdoor activities, the popular Antique Marketplace, the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, and the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park – the site of a key battle during the Revolutionary War.
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Greenville, South Carolina
Greenville’s blend of high livability (tied for 18th out of the 64 cities rated) and reasonable living expenses for retirees ($3,151 a month, 14th best) lands it in the No. 2 spot in our study. Located at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in South Carolina’s Upstate region, Greenville itself is home to about 75,000 residents.
The city’s attractions include Roper Mountain Science Center and its giant telescope, multiple minor league sports teams, a healthy arts scene and loads of outdoor activity options. Greenville made the New York Times “52 Places to Go in 2023” list, and it was recently named the sixth-best small city in the US in the Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards.
You’ll need to spend a few hundred dollars more than $3,000 a month, but no city in our survey had a better blend of livability and affordability for retirees than Lakeland. Tied for sixth in livability, “Swan City” will cost you less than $3,400 a month on average.
Located 35 miles east of Tampa on Interstate 4, Lakeland is home to about 115,000 residents, nearly 40 named lakes, and a robust swan population descended from a pair donated by Queen Elizabeth II nearly 70 years ago. Be ready for hot and humid summers, but ideal temperatures for much of the rest of the year.
Attractions include Lake Mirror Park, Hollis Garden, the Polk Museum of Art, and the downtown Historic and Antiques District. Wildlife watchers and hikers flock to the Circle B Bar Reserve, a 1,300-acre park with miles of hiking and biking trails. Major league baseball’s Detroit Tigers train in Lakeland each spring. And architecture enthusiasts will enjoy Florida Southern College’s massive collection of buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Plus, if you ever do run out of things to do in Lakeland, the best of Central Florida is an easy car trip away. Attraction-laden Orlando is less than 60 miles to the northeast.
Honorable and Not-So-Honorable Mentions
Top-ranked cities for livability include Port St. Lucie, Florida; Cumming, Georgia; Arlington, Virginia; Cape Coral, Florida; and Woodbridge, Virginia.
The most affordable cities for retirees in our study include Erie, Pennsylvania ($2,555 a month); Columbus, Georiga ($2,737), Greensboro (see above), Fayetteville, North Carolina ($3,014); and Buffalo, New York ($3,039).
On the other end of the spectrum, the most expensive city may not surprise you. New York City clocks in at $5,840 a month. The Big Apple is followed by Miami ($5,136); Boston ($4,933); Naples, Florida ($4,928); and Boca Raton, Florida ($4,795).
Cities that struggle the most in the livability ratings include Reading, Pennsylvania; Syracuse, New York; Lake Worth, Florida; Rochester, New York; and Baltimore, Maryland.
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