This Is the Best City and State If You Want to Retire Early

A new study suggests there's one particular Southwest region that offers an ideal mix of livability and affordability

Aerial View of the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert, AZ with Downtown Gilbert in the foreground and residential areas and mountains in the background.
Gilbert is one of four Arizona cities in the top 10 list for best early retirement.
Davel5957 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

If you want to retire before the age of 62, head (south)west.

That’s the conclusion reached by a new study from financial advisors SmartAsset, which examined and ranked 100 U.S. cities across four categories (tax friendliness, elderly care, affordability and livability) and 14 metrics. The so-called “early” retirement age of 62 was based on a prior 2022 survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which found a small but increasing number of people who say they’ll stop working by or before that age (we were aiming for 50, but alas).

The results: Four of the top 10 cities for retirement are based in Arizona, with the city of Gilbert coming out on top. One major reason for The Grand Canyon State’s high ranking? SmartAsset suggests that “the effective income tax rate for retirees [in Arizona] is less than 19% on average in all four cities and the state of Arizona does not tax capital gains.” Housing costs related to income and low violent crime were also major factors.

SmartAsset top 10 early retirement cities
SmartAsset’s top 10 early retirement cities

Some other key findings:

  • Across the top 10 cities for an early retirement, median housing costs make up 20.42% of the median household income on average (30% is considered a good ceiling).
  • The largest and best-known city in the top 10 is Pittsburgh, which came in at no. 9.
  • If you’re looking for a specific attribute when choosing a retirement city, Hialeah, FL, had the best tax-friendly rate; Irvine, Anaheim and Santa Ana, CA, grabbed perfect scores for elderly care; Fort Wayne, IN, was the most affordable city for retirees; and Arlington, VA, topped the most livable category.
  • Interestingly, Irvine scored worst on affordability.
  • New Orleans was the worst-rated among the 100 cities, with a 0 score for elderly care.

As for my retirement? New York came in at no. 83, scoring well for elderly care and livability but horribly on affordability and tax friendliness. So I’ll be working on this list again in 2034.

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