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Where's the Best Place to Retire in the Midwest? 5 Options for Retirees

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Retirement Planning
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There's more to the U.S. than coastal cities and beach towns for retirees.

While you could spend your golden years near sea shores or mountain ranges, there are plenty of great retirement destinations across the U.S. Some even in places you may have overlooked.

The Midwestern U.S. is a prime example. America's heartland has a lot to offer, from below-average housing and living costs to culture and amenities. If you're looking for the best place to retire in the Midwest, here are five spots to consider.

Key Takeaways

  • If you're set to retire, looking beyond the coasts to the Midwest may provide more options. From Columbia to Fargo, there are a number of places that can offer an affordable retirement filled with arts and culture.
  • Approximately 14.2 percent of the population in Appleton, Wisconsin is age 65 and older, which means you may find a community of like-minded retirees if you decide to call the city home.
  • Columbia, Missouri — which is home to several colleges, including the University of Missouri — has a lower cost of living than its coastal counterparts.
  • One recent study named Troy the top place to retire in the Midwest. The Detroit suburb is more affordable compared to other metro areas.

1. Appleton, Wisconsin

Appleton balances historic charm with urban living and has long been a sought-after place to retire. With a population of roughly 75,000,1 Appleton is less than two hours from Milwaukee and even closer to Green Bay. Approximately 14.2 percent of Appleton's population is age 65 and older, which means you may find a community of like-minded retirees if you decide to call the city home.

Appleton is also part of the Fox Cities Region, which boasts an average housing price of $171,300 — lower than both the state and national averages, according to the Fox Cities Regional Partnership.2 Appleton itself boasts a cost of living that's about 5.6% below the national average.3 Plus, with a performing arts center, baseball stadium and popular convention center that hosts everything from trade shows to entertainment events, there's enough to keep retirees busy year-round.

2. Columbia, Missouri

Want urban living in a more tax-friendly state? Columbia may be worth consideration. Missouri's tax rate tops out at $291 plus 5.3% for taxable income over $8,968.4 The state also offers a standard deduction that's equal to the federal standard deduction. That means if you're a retired married couple that files jointly, you'd receive a $25,900 deduction when you file your 2022 return.4 Plus, there's no estate tax, which means retirees can pass on more assets to their loved ones.

Columbia — which is home to several colleges, including the University of Missouri — also has a lower cost of living than its coastal counterparts. The area's median home price as of 2021 was $215,300,5 compared to a national median of $396,800 for the same period.6 Additionally, nearly 11% of the population is age 65 or older, so you may find a thriving community of retirees if you move there.5

3. Fargo, North Dakota

Although the movie and TV series may have imposed a reputation on this city, Fargo is an attractive option if you're considering a Midwest retirement. Health care is one of the city's main industries. Fargo is home to 305 doctors for every 100,000 seniors, putting it near the middle of the pack compared to other Midwest cities, according to USA Today.7 Sanford Medical Center, the largest hospital in the state, is also in Fargo.8

Fargo has a lower cost of living in its favor as well. The median home value is $232,900, which is below Midwestern cities like Chicago, where median home values are $277,600.Fargo is a great option for those looking to stretch their retirement dollars and enjoy cultural activities.

4. Iowa City, Iowa

Home to the University of Iowa, Iowa City is another college town that is one of the best places to retire in the Midwestern U.S.

The city has a population of nearly 75,000 people and a median home price of $230,700.10 Iowa doesn't tax Social Security benefits,11 and retirees typically don't have to pay state income tax on their pension income.12

Aside from the area's favorable tax climate, there's also no shortage of things to do.13 You can visit the Old Capitol Museum, stroll through the city's pedestrian mall or enjoy music at one of the city's live entertainment venues. But the city is all about the Hawkeyes, so if you're into football, consider joining more than 69,000 locals and visitors at Kinnick Stadium to cheer on University of Iowa athletes.14

5. Troy, Michigan

One recent study named Troy the top place to retire in the Midwest.15 The Detroit suburb is more affordable compared to other metro areas. The median home price is just over $335,000.16 What's even better is that Troy's median home price is still more than $100,000 lower than the current national median of $467,700.6

As of 2020, seniors accounted for more than 17% of the city's population.16 They'll find great health care in Troy because the city has more than 21 medical centers for every 10,000 residents, according to the SmartAsset study.15

Honorable Mentions

While the above locations may have lots to offer retirees, they're not the only areas deserving of consideration. The following cities also have a lot to offer individuals enjoying retirement:

  • Kansas City, Missouri. The city has a thriving arts and restaurant scene as well as professional sports teams like the Chiefs and Royals, offering a wide variety of exciting opportunities for active retirees.
  • Springfield, Illinois. While Chicago tends to get the most attention, Illinois' capital city offers some of the most affordable housing in the region, with median home values of $132,900.17
  • Cincinnati, Ohio. In addition to several Fortune 500 companies being headquartered here, this city is also home to dozens of museums and multiple professional sports teams.
  • Southfield, Michigan. Another suburb of Detroit, this city has proven popular with retirees as 21% of the population is age 65 or older.18 Additionally, there are numerous medical centers, which aging individuals may appreciate.
  • Rapid City, South Dakota. A haven for outdoor enthusiasts, this city offers proximity to multiple national parks and national monuments (such as Mount Rushmore). Of course, there's also a lot to do indoors, such as sampling creative cuisines and learning about the area's historic past.

Are You Ready to Retire in the Midwest?

If you're set to retire, looking beyond the coasts to the Midwest may provide more options. From Columbia to Fargo, there are a number of places to retire in the Midwest that can offer an affordable retirement filled with arts and culture. You've saved all these years for retirement, so why not spend it in a place where your dollars could potentially go further and where you can truly enjoy it? If you think you could benefit from a personalized look at your finances, consider speaking with a financial professional who can help you identify your retirement goals.

Sources

  1. QuickFacts: Appleton city, Wisconsin. U.S. Census Bureau. Accessed January 18, 2023.
  2. Your dollar goes further in the Fox Cities Region. Fox Cities Regional Partnership. Accessed January 18, 2023.
  3. Cost of living in Appleton, WI. Salary.com. Last updated June 28, 2022. Accessed January 18, 2023.
  4. Individual income tax year changes: 2021 legislative session. Missouri Department of Revenue. Last updated August 28, 2022. Accessed January 18, 2023.
  5. QuickFacts: Columbia city, Missouri; Kansas City city, Missouri. U.S. Census Bureau. Accessed January 18, 2023.
  6. Median sales price of houses sold for the United States. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Last updated January 17, 2023. Accessed April 12, 2023.
  7. Suneson G, Stebbins S. Midwest is best, when it comes to the 30 best cities for older Americans in retirement. USA Today. Updated April 25, 2019. Accessed January 18, 2023.
  8. Sanford Medical Center Fargo. Sanford Health.
  9. QuickFacts: Fargo city, North Dakota; Chicago city, Illinois. U.S. Census Bureau. Published July. 1, 2021. Accessed January 18, 2023.
  10. QuickFacts: Iowa City city, Iowa. U.S. Census Bureau. Accessed January 18, 2023.
  11. Reportable Social Security benefits for 2021. Iowa Department of Revenue. Accessed March 10, 2022.
  12. Pension/retirement income exclusion for 2021. Accessed March 10, 2022.
  13. Football Weekend. Think Iowa City. Accessed March 10, 2022.
  14. Kinnick Stadium: The Home of the Iowa Hawkeyes. University of Iowa. Accessed March 10, 2022.
  15. Geier B. Best places to retire in the Midwest — 2022 study. SmartAsset. Published January 5, 2022. Accessed March 10, 2022.
  16. QuickFacts: Troy city, Michigan. U.S. Census Bureau. Accessed January 18, 2023.
  17. QuickFacts: Springfield city, Illinois. U.S. Census Bureau. Accessed January 18, 2023.
  18. Southfield named among 10 best places to retire in the Midwest. City of Southfield. Published March 16, 2022. January 18, 2023.

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