5 Overrated Places To Retire — and Where You Should Go Instead

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floridastock / Getty Images/iStockphoto

If you’ve been saving for retirement and your date is drawing near, where you take your nest egg will determine how well you live off of it. The country’s most popular retirement destinations are popular for a reason — they’re great places to spend your golden years.

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The tradeoff is that the secret is out about every single one of them, and when demand increases, so does the cost of living. 

Some of them have gotten so expensive so quickly that they’re now more overrated than they are advisable for all but the most well-heeled retirees. The good news is that each and every one of these overrated places to retire has a comparable counterpart that will let you stretch your dollars further without skimping on quality of life. 

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Overrated: Boca Raton, Florida

  • Median home price: $610,570
  • Cost-of-living index: 120.8

Generations of Americans have aspired to retire in Boca, which is sandwiched between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach just north of Miami — and it’s not hard to understand why. It offers postcard-pretty beaches, tropical weather, dozens of parks, several golf courses, a high quality of life and countless amenities — but it’s prohibitively expensive.

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Try Delray Beach Instead

  • Median home price: $383,300
  • Cost-of-living index: 105.2

Considering that you can drive from one to the other in about 10 minutes, the climate in Delray Beach is identical to that of Boca Raton — but there, life in the American tropics is a whole lot easier to fit into your budget. For a much lower cost of living, you’ll get the same weather, the same beautiful beaches and comparable accommodations, amenities, nightlife and culture — and you can always just take a day trip to Boca 9 miles away any time you like.

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Overrated: Palm Springs, California 

  • Median home price: $717,063
  • Cost-of-living index: 133.8

The heart of California’s famed Coachella Valley, the name “Palm Springs” is synonymous with retirement in paradise. Impossibly perfect year-round weather, art, culture, golf, shopping, world-class outdoor recreation, soaring palm trees, endless tourism dollars and old-Hollywood glamor have drawn retirees there for decades. But do you have the old-Hollywood money needed to pull it off?

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Try Desert Hot Springs Instead

  • Median home price: $384,074
  • Cost-of-living index: 109.7

Immediately to the north of Palm Springs is Desert Hot Springs, which offers the same pure cold and hot mineral springs that make the valley a literal oasis in the desert. Boutique hotels and shops draw tourists from far and wide, and the town is nestled against the San Bernardino Mountains, the lush wetlands of the Wildlands Conservancy and Joshua Tree National Park — all for much less than its more famous neighbor to the south.

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Overrated: Phoenix, Arizona

  • Median home price: $413,234
  • Cost-of-living index: 108.7

Phoenix remains one the country’s most popular retirement destinations for its unbeatable weather, unique culture, long list of things to do and, of course, its status as America’s premier golf city. Phoenix is a sprawling metropolis with many unique neighborhoods and an impressive array of options for nightlife, entertainment and outdoor activities — but it’s gotten quite expensive.

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Try Tucson Instead

  • Median home price: $327,052
  • Cost-of-living index: 95.7

Less than two hours drive to the southwest of Phoenix is Tucson, which delivers all the same statewide tax breaks that draw people to Arizona, plus a much lower cost of living. Offering city life on a rural budget, Tucson has the same great weather as Phoenix and similar amenities, including more than a dozen museums, a botanical garden, many golf courses, world-class restaurants and endless opportunities for outdoor adventure in the heart of the Sonoran Desert.

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Overrated: Charleston, South Carolina

  • Median home price: $529,058
  • Cost-of-living index: 109.8

The first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter, which was built to defend Charleston, and that’s just one piece of the city’s old, rich and significant history — and the city looks the part. Cobblestone streets and antebellum houses remind all who visit that Charleston has roots dating back to the 1600s. It’s a beautiful, charming port city with much to do no matter your interests, but in terms of price for comparable amenities, you can do better.

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Try Greenville Instead

  • Median home price: $308,656
  • Cost-of-living index: 88.7

Walkable, family-friendly and more affordable than most places you’d actually want to live, Greenville is packed with the same kind of quaint charm and rich history as Charleston for a fraction of the price. Riverside gardens, waterfall views, multiuse trails and the presence of several colleges and universities make Greenville one of the unsung cities in the state and in the South.

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Overrated: Minneapolis, Minnesota

  • Median home price: $332,355
  • Cost-of-living index: 105

Not all retirees crave four seasons of warmth and sunshine, and for those drawn to the Northern Midwest, Minneapolis is tough to beat. It’s a growing and bustling city with an uncountable list of attractions like museums, theaters, venues, markets, entertainment, nightlife, bars and restaurants. A few hours north is Lake Itasca, whose glacial waters are the source of the mighty Mississippi River that separates Minneapolis from its twin city, which delivers just as much for less.

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Try St. Paul Instead

  • Median home price: $287,322
  • Cost-of-living index: 98.6

One of the most liveable and affordable cities in America, St. Paul is packed with colleges, Fortune 500 headquarters, breweries, live music venues, famous residents, lakes, parks and history, just like Minneapolis. The primary difference between the two cities — whose downtowns are separated by just seven miles — is price.

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All home values come from Zillow and all cost-of-living data is from Sperling’s Best, with a score of 100 representing the national average. 

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