William P. Barrett
Retirees, surveys shows, are generally happier than working folks. The big reason? They have the time and freedom to pursue activities they love. For example, in a study conducted last year by think tank Age Wave for Merrill Lynch, those aged 65 to 74 reported having more fun than any other age group---and particularly more than younger folks. Still, the study noted, despite all the emphasis on planning financially for retirement, the notion of planning for leisure in retirement is "uncharted territory."
To help map that ground, Forbes scoured the country to identify great places to retire to pursue seven main areas of interest: the arts, fine dining, lifetime learning, volunteering, outdoor activities on water, outdoor activities on land, and the sub-category of golf.
After evaluating hundreds of places across the country, reviewing databases and previously published assessments by enthusiasts, and applying our own metrics, we're recommending 25 sites, spread across 18 states in all four continental time zones. For the full list of 25 Great Places To Follow Your Passions In Retirement, including extensive details on each place, click on the picture above of the couple sitting in chairs.
Most of the places on our list are good picks for more than one passion, and two--Austin, Tex. and Seattle, Wash.--hit all seven. At the other extreme, four are standouts for just one pursuit: Crossville, Tenn. and Pinehurst, N.C. for golf; Palm Bay, Fla., for outdoor water activities; and Claremont, Calif. for learning. (Five of seven of the top ranked Claremont Colleges consortium allow town residents 60 and older to audit classes for free.)
Besides activities, the data we reviewed in making our selections include serious crime rates, the strength of the local economy (in case you want to work part-time or later sell a house into a strong climate) and the availability of health care as measured by relative physicians per capita. We also took note of whether a given area ranks high or low on the 2017 Milken Institute of Best Cities for Successful Aging report, which evaluates 381 metropolitan areas on dozens of factors considered indicative of a good retirement.
Because high living costs and taxes by themselves didn't disqualify a place from this list, we've included some expensive cities, including Boulder, Colo., New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. But we can also recommend locations like Athens, Ga., Crossville, Dallas, Iowa City and Palm Bay, Fla., where the median home price is less than $200,000.
While we didn't disqualify pricier locales, you might want to. So each slide includes information on living costs, median home prices and tax issues of concern to retirees, including taxes on Social Security, special breaks for pension income and whether there's a state estate or inheritance tax.
If you figure you'll make your own fun wherever you go, and living in a nice affordable locale is your main concern, we suggest you consult our list of the 25 Best Places To Retire in 2017. It heavily weights factors like median home price, cost of living and state taxes, as well as quality of life factors.
Not surprisingly, there's some overlap here. Two places on our passions list are also among our 2017 picks for the best retirement places, overall. They are Athens and Iowa City.
In February we published our first ever list of the Best Places To Retire Without A Car. To make the carless cut, a city or town had to have high scores for walkability and bikeability, good public transit, access to services like Uber and Lyft, and low crime. Seven cities on that list--Boulder, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, Ore., Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Seattle--are also places we recommend for pursuing your passions.
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