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We get $2,470 a month from Social Security and want a warm, friendly city near the ocean. Where should we retire?

Have a question about retirement, including where to retire? Email chill@marketwatch.com for suggestions.

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By Catey Hill, MarketWatch


iStock
Bridges connecting Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte.

Dear Catey,

I am 67 and retired, my wife is 64 and retired. Both of us are in pretty good health, but my wife has some COPD issues that a warmer, healthier climate could definitely improve. Our present combined Social Security income is about $2,470 a month. Our total retirement savings are presently about $136,000. If we sold our home, we could probably walk away with $45,000 to $65,000. We don’t have debt — just cards that we use for purchases and generally pay off monthly.

We would like to find a friendly place to live, that has good climate with nice warm days most of the time and that’s within a short distance from the ocean. We’d like affordable housing that’s a short distance to stores, restaurants, entertainment, etc. We also want low crime rates and scenic places to walk. This place could be in the U.S., or in a country not very far from the U.S. If it is in another country, it must have good, accessible and very affordable health care.

We basically want to live a good life on the income we have currently. I am able also to work and earn some income if need be. I am very handy and mechanically skilled and a former welder of 49 years. Hope you can help us in choosing what’s right for us.

Thank you,
R.C.

Dear R.C.,

Sunny, warm weather is within your reach — especially if you can work part-time to supplement your $2470-per-month income. Though you have $136,000 in retirement savings, I want to leave that untouched if possible, as you’ll likely need it for out-of-pocket health-care costs in retirement. The proceeds from the sale of your home might be enough for a nice down payment for a home in your future city.

With that in mind, I looked for retiree-friendly warm weather spots where the cost of living was below average and housing affordable. You’ll see that they cluster in the South, which tends to be significantly cheaper than the West or Northeast, while also providing easy access to the beach. You had a long list of criteria, so not every spot hits every want of yours, but I tried to get most of them or at least get close to what you wanted. (For example, it’s often hard to find affordable housing that also lets you walk to the amenities of a town, so I looked for spots with walkable downtowns so you can walk when you get there if you find you can’t afford an apartment downtown.) Here are three spots to consider.

Punta Gorda, Florida


iStock
Punta Gorda, FL

Many a retiree has left a colder climate for Florida, thanks to warm temperatures and no state income tax — but that popularity means a lot of spots in the Sunshine State are out of reach for your budget. However, under-the-radar Punta Gorda isn’t — and it offers much of what you’re looking for, including low crime , friendly vibes, a lower-than-average cost of living and proximity to the beach ( here’s a list of nearby beaches ).

Kiplinger’s named Punta Gorda — which is north of Fort Myers on Charlotte Harbor and the Peace River — as one of the 7 best places to retire in Florida this year noting that it “knows how to appeal to retired folks” (with a majority of residents being 65 or older). (Bonus: Sarasota -- which has one of the best hospitals in the state, according to U.S. News — is just an hour away, and there is a smaller hospital in town .)

In Punta Gorda, there is “plenty of golfing, plus a Fishermen’s Village waterfront complex with 30 shops and restaurants,” Kiplinger’s writes. “Also in town, the Harborwalk along Charlotte Harbor is just a portion of the 18 miles of bike trails and pedestrian pathways you can enjoy.” You can stroll around both Fisherman’s Village and Harborwalk, and TopRetirements.com points out that one big perk of Punta Gorda is the “restored and charming downtown which is walkable and full of interesting restaurants.” Admittedly, though, the most affordable housing here is not right in downtown and on the whole Punta Gorda isn’t considered all that walkable.

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