Where Should I Retire?

Aug. 14, 2021, 10:24 a.m. EDT

I’m 66, get $26,300 a year in Social Security and want to live in a small city by the ocean — so where should I retire?

Looking for ideas on the best place for you to retire? Email HelpMeRetire@marketwatch.com

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By Catey Hill, MarketWatch

A couple walls along a beach in Florida near Palm Coast.

Dear MarketWatch,

I am 66, single, and hoping to retire soon. I currently live in Connecticut, where taxes are quite high, and am looking for a less expensive place that is also warmer.

I have cash assets of about $900,000 and another maybe $200,000 in equity in my house (but I might want to keep the house for rental income). I’d like my main source of retirement income to be my Social Security of about $26,300 a year.

I want to travel, so I don’t want to spend a lot on housing, and I would like a small city, no more than 30 minutes from the Atlantic Ocean. I’d also like a city that’s two hours or less by car from an international airport. It would be great if the city has a college or university and/or a mixed population including retirees. Any great ideas?

Thank you,
MAM —————————————————————————————————————————Dear MAM,

You’re part of a big trend: People getting the heck out of the Northeast for cheaper living and warmer weather — many of them to the South. And while the South has its downsides, like sweltering summers, you’ll certainly be able to find a reduced cost of living, mostly mild weather for many months of the year, and plenty of good food and culture.

That said, it may be a bit of a struggle to live solely on your Social Security — at least if you want a compelling city right by the coast. But if you’re also getting some rental income from your home, you should be able to do it, while also using some of your savings for travel. With that in mind, here are some affordable spots near the ocean that should meet most of your criteria.

Palm Coast, Fla.

A couple walls along a beach in Florida near Palm Coast.

Nestled between St. Augustine and Daytona Beach, this under-the-radar Florida retirement spot — which sits on 70-plus miles of canals and the Intracoastal Waterway — proves that “Florida still can be an inexpensive place to live,” Annette Fuller, the editor of Where to Retire magazine , tells MarketWatch.

The cost of living is roughly average for the U.S. Median homes in Palm Coast cost around $215,000 (with property taxes that are lower than average for the U.S.), and the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is under $1,000, according to Sperling’s Best Places . (Fuller adds that there is “lots of active-adult housing” in the region.) Another perk in Florida: You’ll avoid income tax.

Residents often come to the area for the Atlantic beaches, but in Palm Coast they find lots of outdoor activities, too, including “tennis, golf, pickleball and even croquet,” Fuller says. Palm Coast has more than 125 miles of walking and biking paths, as well as fishing and boating. And bird watching is also popular here, especially at St. Joe Walkway and Linear Park.

Related: People who live on the coast are typically happier than those who don’t

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