1. Melbourne, FL
Cost of Living: 9.6% lower than national average
Median Home Cost: $128,900
Top State Income Tax: no state income tax
Located along Florida’s “Space Coast,” Melbourne offers retirees low-cost living near beaches, waterways and universities. Miles of beach flank Melbourne’s coast, and part of the town lies on a barrier island, separated from the mainland by the Indian River Lagoon. Being surrounded by so much water has made boating and fishing popular activities for retirees in the region, though Melbourne also isn’t without its share of culture. The small town boasts the Brevard Symphony Orchestra, Henegar Center for the Performing Arts, Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts, Historic Rossetter House Museum and the Liberty Bell Memorial Museum.
The area is also home to a number of university campuses, including the Florida Institute of Technology-Melbourne, as well community and civic centers with special programs for seniors. The city is well-suited for sports lovers too, and features to two golf courses, as well as the Space Coast Stadium, home to the Washington Nationals’ Spring Training camp.
2. Paris, TN
Cost of Living: 17.8% lower than national average
Median Home Cost: $59,400
Top State Income Tax: State income tax of 6% on dividends and interest income only
This small Tennessee town has an enviable cost of living that is nearly 18% below the national average, and a median home price of less than $60,000. Combine that with the state’s income tax of 6% on dividends and interest income only, and you’ve got a great deal for retirees. Paris’s claim to fame may well be it’s man-made lake; with an area of 250 square miles, it’s the largest manmade lake by surface area in the United States east of the Mississippi River.
Other nearby attractions include the Land Between the Lakes, a 170,000 acre recreation area with hiking trails, boating, campgrounds and an off-road vehicle area. Birdwatchers can explore the National Wildlife Refuge, while golfers will enjoy the town’s proximity to at least six nearby golf courses.
3. Ocala, FL
Cost of Living: 13.8% lower than national average
Median Home Cost: $92,000
Top State Income Tax: no state income tax
The beaches may be missing, but many Central Florida towns still offer retirees warm, year-round weather with a low cost of living. Ocala is one such affordable destination, known for its beautiful horse farms. Sprawling, idyllic horse ranches are scattered throughout the region, making it an ideal destination for those who love riding.
Tours of the horse farms, including a carriage ride through a number of the properties, are a favorite way to explore the ranches. Other equine events popular with locals include horse shows and rodeos.
The town also houses the Ocala Speedway and the Museum of Drag Racing, Ocala National Forest, as well as Silver Springs – Nature’s Theme Park, which features historical displays, amusement rides and natural hot springs. One of the most popular attractions in the region is Crystal Springs, where it’s possible to have the extraordinary experience of swimming with manatees.
4. Aiken, SC
Cost of Living: 8.2% lower than national average
Median Home Cost: $142,500
Top State Income Tax: 7%
Once a vacation retreat for the wealthy, Aiken still boasts the sensibility of a genteel Southern town, but at a very affordable price. Residents of the town will be privy to all manner of amenities, including 13 golf courses and more than 30 stables which feature rides and special autumn equestrian events.
Hitchcock Woods, which is said to be the largest urban forest in the nation, and the Hopeland Gardens outdoor concert pavilion are also easily accessible. Retirees will want to explore Aiken’s historic downtown, where they’ll stroll past an array of restaurants, shops and galleries.
In conjunction with the University of South Carolina, the Aiken Academy for Lifelong Learning offers seniors a range of continuing education courses. Course topics are as diverse as Islamic art, introduction to metal detecting, mastering finances in retirement and memoir writing. Retirees can choose to live in single homes, condos or 55+ retirement communities sprinkled throughout the area.
5. Winston-Salem, NC
Cost of Living: 10.3% less than national average
Median Home Cost: $143,200
Top State Income Tax: 7.75%
Winston-Salem is known as one of the country’s top retirement havens, thanks to its vibrant music and cultural scene, its proximity to excellent golf courses, and its easy access to multiple universities. Whether looking for an apartment, house or retirement community, retirees will have plenty of housing options to choose from.
The town has earned the nickname, “City of the Arts and Innovation,” thanks to a strong dedication to performing arts, fine arts and technology. History lovers will be thrilled to explore Old Salem town (c. 1750 – 1850) as well as the nearby Horne Creek Historic Farm.
Did we mention the wineries? Yep, Winston-Salem lies on the cusp of the Yadkin Valley, one of the East Coast’s up-and-coming wine producing regions. There’s also a number of local breweries.
Shoppers and bargain hunters will be pleased to discover that Hanes Mall, one of North Carolina’s largest shopping malls, is located in Winston-Salem, and the surrounding area has morphed into the town’s largest shopping district.