Retire in One of America’s Most Affordable Cities

Forbes likes to publish rankings of places and things based on economic factors. Some are quite helpful to potential retirees and down-sizers, including a recent list of America’s Most Affordable Cities.

Forbes researched and assembled the rankings based by studying all cities (MSAs actually) having populations of at least 100,000. Each metro area was then ranked based on local costs of a consumer goods and services, including groceries, health care and transportation.  Forbes also assessed monthly housing costs relative to household income.  The unemployment rate was also considered to exclude areas that became affordable because their economies were depressed.

Here are the top ten most affordable cities based on averaging these criteria:

City Cost-of Living Unemployment Housing Costs
1. Oklahoma City 12 4 2
2. Pittsburgh, Pa. 6 15 1
3. Buffalo, N.Y. 16 9 3
4. Rochester, N.Y. 25 1 8
5. Nashville, Tenn. 3 23 11
6. San Antonio, Texas 19 9 10
7. Houston, Texas 7 22 13
8. Louisville, Ky. 2 37 4
9. Birmingham, Ala. 5 26 14
10. Austin, Texas 15 6 25

I was glad to see our current home base – Nashville – on the list.  I was also not surprised to see Louisville and Birmingham.

On the other hand, I did not expect to see Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Rochester evaluated as being affordable. According to Forbes, their economies are “post-industrial” success stores. I do not believe these rankings considered taxes (and clearly not weather) so for retirees, these rust belt cities would not rate highly.

Also, retirement does not necessarily mean living in a major metropolitan area, but I expect that nearby smaller towns would have similar costs of living.  I enjoy rural living. (See Retiring in a Small Town or Rural Area.)

What are your thoughts on this list?

Link to Forbes article: Americas Most Affordable Cities


  1. Kathryn says

    I am a native Texan who has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for nearly 30 years, and in southern California for 12 years before that. I have also lived in southern Louisiana and in southern Illinois.

    I saw in your earlier post that CA is on the “worst” list and now I see 3 Texas cities are on the “best” or most affordable list.

    I know we are paying a premium for weather, to some extent, but having lived here for so long, I also know that our property taxes are much lower ($2000/year) here than they’d be in TX, where they would probably double, at least. The Bay Area is expensive, but bargains are to be had, these days.

    I also know here we use our air conditioner maybe 5 days/year. You KNOW that is much less often than use in TX, and I know their winters are more severe than here, too, so we are saving a bunch on utilities.

    I compare notes with my relatives back there. They always tell me that if it’s too hot, I should just stay inside. The concept of enjoying outdoor living, to the extent we do, is just foreign to them.

    It’s mid-January and it’s about 60 degrees outside just now, sunny, and gorgeous.

    However, it’s not just our weather here; it’s that we can breathe our air. In Houston, I suffocate from the heaviness of all that humid air, Austin scorches my lungs, and although I can’t recall as much about San Antonio weather, I still imagine it wouldn’t be as appealing for me.

    Oh, yes, and the ocean!!! I am 40 miles away, and that is just about far enough.

    We have also looked into WA State, but I finally realized that, as Bill Bryson has written about England, it would be, for me, like “living in Tupperware.”

    We can afford it now, in early retirement (55 and 57), and I hope we are able to stay. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I hope I never have to.

  2. says

    This is a very interesting post. Since I am almost reaching retirement it is great to know where there are low costs of living. I have always been one to travel, so I would not mind downsizing and moving to a different state. I personally think is a great idea to get a certified retirement financial advisor if you need help planning for your future. Life after retirement should be very enjoyable. No one should spend time worrying about finances, but rather do things that they enjoy and now have time to do.

  3. C. Mendez says

    There’s no doubt Forbes did its research when it ranked Pittsburgh, Pa as one of the affordable states in terms of housing cost.

    But we’d prefer retiring in communities outside big cities. Alden Place in Lebanon County, Pa. is one good option. Some communities in Hershey, Pa. have also attracted retirees.

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