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The Best Cities for Boomers to Pre-Retire

These top 10 metropolitan areas are ideal for working full time then sticking around for retirement

By Divya Raghavan

This article previously appeared on

Many boomers are trying to maximize their dollars as they start thinking about retirement, as well as continuing to learn, work and socialize. So NerdWallet crunched the numbers to find the best cities for boomers, many of whom strive to lead active, social lives while keeping costs low.

Think of this Top 10 as a “Best Places to Pre-Retire” list.

The winning metropolitan areas – chosen from the 50 most populous – are where you might consider living in your 50s and 60s while still employed full time — then stay through retirement, when you may want to work part time.

(MORE: Ideal Places to Grow Older in America)
NerdWallet calculated the overall scores according to the following four factors:

Affordability To measure this, we used ACCRA’s cost of living index (a measure of key expenses compiled by the Council for Community and Economic Research). This index uses 100 as the average cost of living score for all U.S. cities; metro areas with a score below 100 cost less to live in than the average city and ones with a higher score cost more.

Available Health Care Based on the number of physicians per 100,000 people.

Social Activities We measured this by looking at the percentage of a city’s population between 50 and 70; the higher the percentage, the more likely a boomer will find new friends in his or her age group.

Accessibility The quality and scope of public transportation.

Details on the methodology that determined our rankings are listed below. For more data about living costs around the country and what life is like in particular metropolitan areas, check out our Cost of Living Calculator and City Life tools.

Top 10 Places for Boomers

1. Pittsburgh Over a quarter of Pittsburgh’s population is between the ages of 50 and 70 and health providers are highly accessible. 

Lifelong learners can benefit from the variety of continuing education classes, including architecture classes at AIA Pittsburgh (a chapter of the American Institute of Architects) and the Certificate in Spiritual Formation from the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

For those who enjoy the arts, the 14-block Cultural District showcases theater, music and art.

2. Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor Cleveland has plenty of doctors per capita as well as an award-winning hospital system, the Cleveland Clinic, which has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top five hospitals in the nation.

(MORE: Where in the World Should You Retire?)

There's a wide range of continuing education programs at Cleveland State University, where boomers can take computer and business classes, a nursing refresher course and more. Artistic types can enroll at the Cleveland Institute of Art.

The Cleveland Orchestra is one of the best in the country and the Cleveland Art Museum hosts rare works and the popular Summer Solstice music festival.

3. Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y. Buffalo’s affordability and public transportation make it a standout city for boomers. Plus, a full quarter of the city is between 50 and 70.

Buffalo State offers useful continuing education programs in, among other things, teacher certification and autism spectrum disorders.  

Check out the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Burchfield Penney Art Center for cultural attractions.

4. Baltimore-Towson, Md. Residents have access to the world-renowned Johns Hopkins Medical Center as well as a whopping 511 physicians per 100,000 residents. 

Additionally, the Community College of Baltimore offers a variety of life enrichment classes – you can learn a new art form, language, sport or life skill.

The city offers plenty in entertainment as well. Free Fall Baltimore is a citywide arts celebration in October that presents hundred of arts activities.

5. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Fla. Miami has it all. This metro area has the weather and gorgeous beaches that appeal to many retirees, but it still entices the younger crowd with its active social scene. 

The University of Miami has more than 100 non-credit courses, as does Miami Dade College.

The city is also one of NerdWallet’s best cities for sports fans because it has teams in all four major sports, including the NBA champion Miami Heat.

6. Louisville/Jefferson County, Ky. The Louisville/Jefferson County metro area boasts a low cost of living, making it an ideal place to save money while enjoying a high quality of life. 

(MORE: The Best Place to Retire Is Where Everyone Knows Your Name)

The University of Louisville has plenty of continuing education courses for lifelong learners and Bellarmine University features an entire catalog of non-credit summer classes.  


Sports lovers will be excited to follow the area’s college basketball games as well.

7. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash. Seattle’s excellent public transportation and large population of older Americans contributed to its high ranking on our list.

It's a great area for active boomers, with plenty of hiking, biking and camping spots.

Seattle University offers continuing education classes at five colleges, including schools of business, arts and sciences, education, law and theology. The University of Washington lets students take online classes, making this a great option for those who’d prefer to learn from home. Additionally, South Seattle Community College lets you sign up for more than 150 classes on everything from computers to cooking.

8. St. Louis St. Louis’ low cost of living is a big draw for residents in their 50s and 60s, which helps explain why boomers make up almost a quarter of the population.

St. Louis Community College’s continuing education program teaches more than 40,000 students a year, on campus and online. For those who want to earn certificates, the University of Missouri-St. Louis has courses in digital media marketing, software and numerous other subjects.  

This is also one of NerdWallet’s top cities for history buffs as well — the Missouri History Museum is a must-see.

9. Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, Wis. The Milwaukee area offers easy access to health providers and there are plenty of other boomers for socializing, perhaps with some great beer at one of the many summer festivals.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee boasts more than 1,200 programs a year in its School of Continuing Education, ranging from business to writing to photography. With that variety, it’s easy to find stimulating classes.

Milwaukee is also a gem for outdoorsy people and dog lovers; the city has plenty of parks and woods to explore.  

10. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington Philadelphia offers reliable public transportation, a large boomer population and plenty of physicians.

Interested in the arts? Check out The University of the Arts’ adult programs to learn Photoshop, photography and more. Temple University Center City also offers college degree programs for working adults.

Philadelphia’s thriving music scene makes it a great place for your ears, too.



The following factors were included in the analysis:

  • ACCRA’s cost of living index is weighted at 40 percent of the overall score.
  • The number of physicians per 100,000 people, from the U.S. Census, is weighted at 20 percent of the overall score
  • The percentage of the population between 50 and 70, from the U.S. Census, is weighted at 20 percent of the overall score
  • Public transportation coverage (the share of working-age residents near a transit stop), from the Brookings Institution, is weighted at 20 percent of the overall score

Divya Raghavan is an analyst for NerdWallet, a consumer advocacy and financial literacy website that helps consumers access business advice, personal finance tips and economic analyses.

Divya Raghavan is an analyst for NerdWallet, a consumer advocacy and financial literacy website that helps consumers access business advice, personal finance tips and economic analyses. Read More
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