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Best Cities to Retire and Work In

Forbes' top 25 metro areas with expanding economies

By Richard Eisenberg

Odds are that when you retire, you’ll continue working part-time – either because you want to, because you have to, or both. A recent study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that 74 percent of workers said they planned to work in retirement, up from 70 percent in 2010. So a big question you’ll likely face is, Where should I live if I plan to work part-time in retirement?


A recent Forbes article, Top Places to Retire – and Work, has 25 suggestions.


William P. Barrett’s list focuses on metropolitian areas with what he calls “expanding economies,” using the 2011 Milken Institute’s Best-Performing Cities Index rankings that are based on data for jobs, wages, salary and technology growth.


Starting with those places, Barrett then hunted for metro areas with: unemployment rates below 7.0 percent, a cost-of-living below the U.S. average, median-priced homes that sold for less than the national average of $164,200, low taxes, a low violent-crime rate, a high doctors-per-capita rate, and good weather and climate.


The winners, in alphabetical order (which is the way Forbes lists them): Athens, Ga.; Austin, Texas; Bismarck, N.D.; Bloomington, Ill.; Cheyenne, Wyo.; College Station, Texas; Columbia, Mo.; Corvallis, Ore.; Fort Collins, Colo.; Great Falls, Mont.; Harrisonburg, Va.; Huntsville, Ala.; Iowa City, Iowa; Jonesboro, Ark.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Las Cruces, N.M.; Lexington, Ky.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; Pittsburgh; Provo, Utah; Rapid City, S.D.; Salt Lake City, Utah; San Angelo, Texas; Shreveport, La.; and State College, Pa.


A few things worth noting about the Forbes list:



Many of the metro areas are college towns. As I discovered when I ran Money’s “Best Places to Live in America” rankings, college towns often have low unemployment. They’re often recession-resistant (students come in good economies and bad) and are often job incubators. Although Forbes didn’t factor in low-cost entertainment activities, college towns typically offer residents plenty, which helps explain their popularity to retirees.


Some highly populated states and regions didn’t make the cut. You won’t find any of Forbes’s “top places to retire -- and work” in Florida, California, New York or New England. This is likely due to the high cost of living (California, New York, New England) or the particularly rough economy (Florida).   


No place is perfect. Although Barrett looked for metro areas that met all his criteria, some fell short in certain categories. Forbes concedes that some of its winners have high home prices (more than $200,000 in Corvallis and Harrisonburg, for example) or cold winters (I'm talking about you Bismarck, Cheyenne and Fort Collins). 


And I’d add one more caveat: Before you pick up and retire to a new city where you expect to work part-time, find out how well retirees are doing finding jobs there. A recent piece by 24/, called "The Worst Cities for Retirees to Find Work," noted that although Austin (one of Forbes’s winners) has a low unemployment overall (7.1%), the unemployment rate there for people 65 and older is 10.3%.


Photograph of Richard Eisenberg
Richard Eisenberg is the former Senior Web Editor of the Money & Security and Work & Purpose channels of Next Avenue and former Managing Editor for the site. He is the author of "How to Avoid a Mid-Life Financial Crisis" and has been a personal finance editor at Money, Yahoo, Good Housekeeping, and CBS MoneyWatch. Read More
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