Quaint Brittlebank Park by the Ashley river in Charleston.
Quaint Brittlebank Park by the Ashley river in Charleston. (Credit: Daniela Duncan / Getty Images)

Charleston, SC, has won the top spot on WalletHub’s new best and worst places to live list. But for those looking for a retirement city that checks the boxes for affordability, warm weather and social opportunities, GOBankingRates says that Des Moines, IA, is the place to be.

WalletHub and GOBankingRates are the latest organizations to categorize the best cities for retirees based on a variety of factors — most notably affordability.

Activated Insights CEO Jacquelyn Kung, one of the industry experts cited by WalletHub, said the biggest mistake that older adults make when planning retirement is not considering a purpose or vocation. 

Kung added that she also sees a lack of consideration for driving proximity to family, or at least airport convenience.

“As hospitalizations and long-term care needs arise, family members often must come to help,” she said. 


WalletHub compared the “retiree-friendliness” of more than 180 cities across 46 key metrics related to affordability, activities, quality of life and healthcare to rank the 2022 Best & Worst States to Retire.

No. 1 Charleston and No. 2 Orlando flipped spots from last year’s WalletHub list as the overall best retirement cities. They were followed this year by No. 3 Cincinnati; No. 4 Miami; and No. 5 Fort Lauderdale, FL.

California dominated the list of “worst” cities for retirees, with No. 178 Stockton, No. 179 Rancho Cucamonga (No. 178 last year) and No. 180 San Bernardino. Newark, NJ, (No. 175 last year) came in at No. 181, and Bridgeport, CT, (No. 176 last year) came in as the top worst city at No. 182.

If cost of living is the most important factor in a retirement city, then it’s noteworthy that Texas claimed three of the top five spots: Brownsville, No. 1; Laredo, No. 2; and Amarillo, No. 4. Fort Smith, AR, came in at No. 3, and Jackson, MS, is in the No. 5 spot.

In contrast, cities claiming the highest cost of living were dominated by California — San Jose and San Francisco — and Hawaii — Pearl City and Honolulu. All of those cities tied with New York for the most expensive cities, at No. 165.

Older adults looking for recreation opportunities and access to senior centers will find what they are looking for in Philadelphia; Chicago; Honolulu; and Washington, DC, which all tied for first place. Cities providing the fewest socialization and recreation opportunities included No. 97 Madison, WI; No. 98, Durham, NC; No. 99 St. Louis; No. 100 Lexington-Fayette, KY; and No. 101 Kansas City, MO.

Cities boasting the highest population of older adults were No. 1, Pearl City, HI; No. 2, Scottsdale, AZ, and No. 3, Cape Coral, FL. States with the youngest populations were No. 182, Irving, TX; No. 181, Fontana, CA; and No. 180, West Valley City, UT.

Middle-income gems

Meanwhile, GOBankingRates ranked cities based on average 2022 rent prices, cost of living and healthcare index scores to come up with a list of the 12 best places to retire for $2,000 a month or less — attractive characteristics for a growing population of middle-income older adults. Qualifying cities had to have at least 10% of their population aged more than 65, meet a livability score for cost of living and offer average-temperate weather conditions.

Des Moines, IA, topped the personal finance website’s list, with the lowest rent for a one-bedroom apartment at $760. The city offers a slightly cooler climate, with an average high temperature of 61 and an average low temperature of 41. Healthcare costs, however, are on the higher end, at an average of $495 per month.

Abilene, TX, claimed the No. 2 spot for its bustling retirement community; 15% of the population is aged 65 or more years. A one-bedroom apartment rents for $767, on average, and monthly healthcare costs are higher, falling at an average of $499. The average high temperature is 76 degrees.

Jeffersonville, IN, came in at No. 3 for its excursion opportunities. The city has the lowest monthly healthcare costs, at an average of $358, and a one-bedroom apartment rents for an average of $792 a month.

Rounding out the top five cities are College Station, TX, at No. 4 for its warm weather, and Norman, OK, for affordable living.

The remaining cities to make the list were No. 6 Baytown, TX; No. 7 San Angelo, TX; No. 8 Huntsville, AL; No. 9 Longview, TX; No. 10 Roanoke, VA; No. 11 Temple, TX; and No 12 Pittsburgh.