With my parents nearing retirement — and my husband and I starting to really put our retirement savings in gear — I have spent a great deal of time lately thinking about where to retire. While my parents will probably stay in the same town they’ve lived their whole lives, they have had a good time coming up with fantasy retirement locales. Though I know it’s unlikely that my folks will retire to Maine or Hawaii, I would love to see them (and their friends) find a fun, temperate, social and inexpensive place to retire.

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Where to Retire

If you can’t think of where to retire that doesn’t involve Florida or Arizona — or a vineyard in France — here are some low cost options that will have you loving retirement:

1. Retire to a College Town

There are many factors to consider when retiring, and college towns can fulfill many of those needs. Because of transient student populations, college towns tend to have great culture and activities, so you will never feel bored. College towns are often also pedestrian friendly, and offer plenty of small town benefits, like locally owned shops and farmer’s markets, with big city services, like world-class university hospitals. Finally, being around the young population of the school can help you to feel young in your golden years.

Some popular college towns to retire to: Durham, North Carolina; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Hattiesburg, Mississippi; Eugene, Oregon; Tallahassee, Florida.

2. Retire in a City Center

If your blood hums to the sound of middle of the night traffic, retiring to a large city might be the right course of action for you. Although living in a large city might be a little more expensive in terms of housing, you can save a great deal of money by using public transportation — which can also keep you independent even if you are no longer able to drive. In addition, cities offer great medical care, large social networks and opportunities for staying in shape, even if you’re just walking every day to run your errands.

Some great urban retirement locales: Chicago, Illinois; Houston, Texas; Portland, Oregon; Columbus, Ohio; Seattle, Washington.

3. Retire to Small Town, USA

Many retirees dream of the kind of small town living that we all used to see on television. With friendly and connected populations, affordable homes, pedestrian-friendly downtowns, proximity to rural and natural areas, and the opportunity to become an important part of the life of the community, small towns may be the perfect fit for your retirement. Be sure to factor in the cost of living. The lower your costs, the longer you can stretch your retirement dollars.

Some small towns that might be worth a look: Easton, Maryland; Sandpoint, Idaho; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Flagstaff, Arizona.

Bottom Line

No matter where you decide to retire, take the time to research your new home and decide what will work best for you. It might seem like the only options out there are retirement communities, but in your retirement, the world can be your oyster. Figure out what you want to be doing and what you want to be surrounded by for the next few decades and make it happen.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.