Finding the right place to retire can be difficult. On the one hand, preparing to live on a fixed income and stretching your hard-won nest egg as far as you can has to be a priority. On the other, your golden years are supposed to be a time to really enjoy yourself.
Major cities have a wide range of amenities, but they’re also pricey. You might be able to spend less in small towns, but they probably won’t offer everything you’re looking for. College towns are the perfect balance — they tend to feature a wider variety of cultural attractions, and many are also located in relatively small cities in inexpensive states, which makes them some of the most enjoyable and cheapest places to retire.
East Lansing, Mich.
- University: Michigan State University
The “ivy-covered halls” referred to in Michigan State’s alma mater “MSU Shadows” are part of what makes the campus so beautiful, but beyond the scenery, East Lansing has a lot to offer. You can attend concerts at the Wharton Center, visit the beautiful Horticultural Gardens or enjoy some ice cream at the MSU Dairy Store.
- University: University of Wisconsin
Outdoor life in Madison is lovely, with five lakes covering 15,000 acres and plenty of hiking and biking trails. There are fun events and culture to take in as well, from outdoor concerts like “Opera in the Park” at Garner Park to the Henry Vilas Zoo.
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- University: Miami University
If you just did a double-take at the presence of a Miami in Ohio, you should be aware that Miami University alumni are fond of pointing out that Miami was a university before Florida was a state. The university’s hometown since its founding in 1809 — Oxford — is scenic and beautiful, offers plenty to do for students and area residents alike, and is located in Ohio, where the median home price is just $130,300.
- University: University of Georgia
Harvard might be the first university founded in the United States, but the University of Georgia is fond of staking claim to the title of the first public university founded on these shores, in 1785. Retirees in the city have plenty to enjoy, like visiting its historic house museums or the Georgia Museum of Art.
Iowa City, Iowa
- University: University of Iowa
Not only is the cost of living in Iowa below the national average, but Iowa City — home to the Hawkeyes — has a variety of attractions that can help make for an exciting retirement. You can look at 375 million-year-old fossils at the Devonian Fossil Gorge, visit the Museum of Natural History or even check out the beautiful migrating butterflies at the Monarch Festival.
- University: University of Nebraska
The home of the Cornhuskers, Lincoln is also one of the cheapest places to retire in America. But the lack of costs doesn’t mean a lack of things to do. Lincoln has plenty to offer, including the 57-foot-tall, multicolored Ascent Tower from artist Jun Kaneko or playing golf at the Hidden Valley Golf Club.
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San Marcos, Texas
- University: Texas State University
San Marcos is home to Texas State University, but there’s a lot more going on than just the university. San Marcos features a variety of attractions, from brewery tours to Dick’s Classic Garage Car Museum. And, if you’re interested in potentially opening a business and having a second career in retirement, Texas is the state to do it in.
- University: Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo is located in the one of the states with the lowest cost of living in the country, but retiring there isn’t just about saving money. The city is the home to Bell’s Brewery — named the best brewery in America by the American Homebrewer Association — in addition to the Kalamazoo Air Zoo, the Gilmore Car Museum and the W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary.
- University: University of Kansas
Whether it’s walking in the Prairie Park Nature Center, learning about the history of “Bleeding Kansas” at the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area or even using your newly acquired spare time to learn to play an instrument at the Americana Music Academy, the abundance to activities in Lawrence might have some retirees shouting, “Rock, chalk Jayhawk!”
- University: University of Mississippi
Mississippi is home to the lowest cost of living in the country, making it an ideal spot to consider retiring to. And Oxford could be just the place to take advantage of those low costs, with live music at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts and the Powerhouse or independent bookstores like Square Books in William Faulkner’s hometown.
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- University: University of Alabama
While not as cheap a place to live as neighboring Mississippi, Alabama is nonetheless still very affordable. And choosing to spend your retirement in Tuscaloosa not only means being close to the stomping grounds of the Crimson Tide, but it can also mean anything from strolling down the Riverwalk, shopping at the River Market or even catching a concert at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater.
- University: Montana State University
While Montana might be among the states that are least tax-friendly to retirees, anyone planning on enjoying nature in their retirement likely won’t do much better than Bozeman. Reasonably close to both Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, Bozeman is a college town ensconced in natural beauty.
- University: University of Kentucky
Not only is Lexington a great place to retire where rent is under $1,000, but many will find it’s just a great place to retire, period. You can visit the Kentucky Horse Park or take the Horse Farm Tour to explore the state’s rich tradition of raising horses, learn about area history by visiting one of the five Historic Homes — including houses owned by Henry Clay and Mary Todd Lincoln — or even see a restored Shaker community at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill.
- University: University of Arkansas
Tucked in the Ozark Mountains in northwest Arkansas, Fayetteville offers a wide variety of outdoor activity in the area. But even if hiking and biking aren’t your speed, there’re plenty of indoor destinations as well, from visiting the Clinton House Museum to checking out local artisans and crafts at Terra Studios to taking in a show at Theatre Squared. And all in a state where the median home price is just $121,000, meaning retirees can probably expect to find a nice house without shelling out too much of their savings.
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- University: University of Indiana
Bloomington can be so nice it’ll make you wonder what Bobby Knight was so angry about all those years. From visiting the beautiful local lakes for fishing or swimming to taking in a show at any of the city’s many theaters and concert halls to just strolling around beautiful downtown Bloomington, you should find plenty of options for enjoying your time off.
Click through to find out how long $1 million in retirement will last in every state.
More on Retirement Planning
- Why $1M Might Not Be Enough for My Retirement Dreams
- What a Comfortable Retirement Will Cost You in Every State
- Here’s Exactly How Much You Need Saved for Retirement in Your State
- Watch: Living in These States Can Make It Easier to Save $1M for Retirement
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