The Best & Cheapest Retirement Locations

The best place for your retirement depends on what's important to you. For example, a location with the widest variety of health care options may not be warm enough or may be too far from family. But, if you define the best places to retire as those locations that allow you to stretch your retirement income and have the highest standard of living possible for your retirement dollar, you want to consider locations with a low combined income and sales tax rate, a low cost of living, low housing costs and readily available services and recreational activities aimed at seniors.

Tucson, Arizona

The cost of housing in Tucson has seen an 88 percent decrease in the past few years, and the cost of running a home is lowered by the moderate year-round climate, which reduces heating costs. Kiplinger,, taking into consideration sales, property and retirement income tax plus seniors tax breaks, gives the state of Arizona a 'most tax friendly' designation for retirees. Tucson sports a large number of services and amenities aimed at the 30 percent of its population that's over 60, including a bustling senior center and eight major medical facilities.

Sarasota, Florida

Sarasota is another city where the cost of housing has taken a huge dip, decreasing by about half over the past few years. The warm climate reduces heating costs in the winter, and the decreased humidity on Florida's Gulf Coast makes the heat of summer manageable. Florida as a whole has a cost of living slightly below the national average, and rates a 'most tax friendly' for retirees. A long-time retirement destination, Sarasota boasts several retirement communities that provide recreational amenities to their residents.

Tampa, Florida

Another Florida option is Tampa, also located on Florida's Gulf Coast. It manages a cost of living 7.6 percent below the national average and a median home price of below $140,000 while still being centrally situated, with access to Braedenton, Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Clearwater. And, just across the state is Orlando, with it's variety of Disney-owned parks, an attractive lure for the grandchildren. Orlando has a lower than average retirement population for the state, which may appeal to younger retirees who aren't looking for a retirement community lifestyle.

Gainesville, Georgia

Gainesville boasts a moderate climate with cost of living and housing costs less than the nation average. Like it did for Arizona and Florida, Kiplinger gives the state of Georgia a 'most tax friendly' rating. Gainesville's Lake Lanier provides affordable and accessible recreation and draws about eight million tourists a year with the offer of all manner of water sports. Recreational opportunities are compounded by the area's 15 golf courses.

Alexandria, Louisiana

Alexandria offers a cost of living 4.9 percent below the national average with a warm climate bested only by Florida and Hawaii. Louisiana is another 'most tax friendly' state for seniors according to Kiplinger. Activities abound in this city, including golf at the OakWing Golf Club, and culture at the Alexandria Museum of Art and the River Oaks Square Arts Center. There's also the Alexandria Zoological Park.