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Image shows two U.S. military veterans standing together. SmartAsset analyzed data from various sources to conduct its 2021 Study: Best Cities for Military Retirees.

When the time comes for members of the American military to hang up their uniforms for good, they’ll inevitably face the same question anyone else asks themselves when nearing retirement: Where will I live? There are a number of factors that make a city or town a good place to retire. But which cities are best for military retirees?

To answer this question, SmartAsset compared 200 of the largest cities in the country across various metrics, including the percentage of the population who are veterans ages 65 and older, number of retirement communities, estimated senior tax burden, number of Veterans Administration health facilities and benefit offices, median veteran income, percentage of veterans living under the poverty line and unemployment rate. For more details, read the Data and Methodology section below.

Key Findings

  • Boise, Idaho, is best for military retirees. Boise is the top-ranked city for military retirees, in large part due to its third-best military retirement friendliness score, as well as the city’s low veteran poverty rate.
  • Veterans in top-ranked cities have a poverty rate 3.2% lower than those in the study average. On average across the top 10 cities, 5.2% of veterans are living under the poverty line. The study-wide average is almost one-third higher (8.4%).

Image is a map by SmartAsset titled "Top 10 Cities for Military Retirees."

1. Boise, ID

In Boise, 3.41% of the population is made up of veterans who are 65 and older, which is the 15th-highest percentage for this double-weighted metric. Meanwhile, Boise had the third-lowest unemployment rate (2.5%) as of August 2021 and the 15th-lowest percentage of veterans living under the poverty line (2.8%). Boise also ranks 17th for its number of retirement communities per 10,000 residents (1.41).

2. Vancouver, WA

This city in southern Washington State has the ninth-highest score for the military retirement friendliness index, including the second-most retirement communities per 10,000 residents (4.06). Vancouver, Washington, also has the 24th-highest percentage of residents who are veterans ages 65 and over (3.03%).

3. Sioux Falls, SD

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, boasts the ninth-best score within the resources for veterans index. This city of more than 183,000 residents ranks 23rd out of 200 cities for its number of Veterans Administration benefits offices per 100,000 veterans (1.75). Sioux Falls also has the ninth-lowest estimated senior tax burden across our study (13.92%).

4. Chesapeake, VA

Chesapeake, Virginia, ranks sixth overall for its economic environment, which is made up of these three economic metrics: median veteran income ($60,707), percentage of veterans living under the poverty line (3.4%) and August 2021 unemployment (3.8%).

5. Anchorage, AK

Anchorage, Alaska, ranks highly for its military retirement friendliness (sixth). Within this category of metrics, Anchorage has the most retirement communities for every 10,000 residents (4.93) and the lowest estimated senior tax burden (8.07%) across our study. This city of 288,000 people also has nearly 14 VA benefits offices for every 100,000 residents, second-most among all 200 cities.

6. Virginia Beach, VA

Virginia Beach, Virginia, has the fourth-highest percentage of residents who are veterans and 65 or older (4.03%). This city of 450,000 residents also has a relatively low unemployment, with only 3.6% of workers unemployed in August 2021 (the 18th-lowest unemployment rate across our study).

7. St. Petersburg, FL

St. Petersburg, Florida, has the second-best military retirement friendliness score thanks in part to having the 13th-highest percentage of residents who are veterans ages 65 and over (3.59%). This city of 265,000 residents on Florida’s west coast also has the 18th-lowest estimated senior tax burden (14.51%) and 19th-most retirement communities per 10,000 residents (1.39).

8. Roseville, CA

Roseville, California, ranks fifth overall for military retirement friendliness, including the 12th-most retirement communities for every 10,000 residents (2.06). Veterans who are 65 and older comprise 3.32% of the population in this northern California city, the 17th-highest percentage across our study.

9. Honolulu, HI

Honolulu, Hawaii is a great place for veteran retirees, coming in at No. 9. The city ranks 15th overall for veterans resources, including the third-most VA benefits offices (9.96 for every 100,000 veterans). A city of 345,000 residents, Honolulu also has an estimated senior tax burden of 14.89%, which is 23rd-lowest out of all 200 cities in our study.

10. Oceanside, CA

Located between Los Angeles and San Diego, the city of Oceanside has the ninth-highest percentage of veterans who are 65 and older (3.72%). Oceanside also ranks for its relatively low percentage of veterans living under the poverty line, 3.6%, which is the 25th-lowest across our study.

Image is a table by SmartAsset titled "Best Cities for Military Retirees."

Data and Methodology

To conduct our study, we compared 200 of the largest cities in the U.S. across the following three categories of metrics:

Military Retirement Friendliness

  • Percentage of the population who are veterans ages 65 and older. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-Year American Community Survey. This metric was double-weighted.
  • Retirement communities per 1,000 residents. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 County Business Patterns.
  • Estimated senior tax burden. This estimates the income and sales tax burden for seniors. Specifically, we calculated effective income tax rates based on a retiree earning $35,000 annually (from retirement savings, Social Security and part-time employment). We subtracted income taxes paid from gross income to determine disposable income. From there, we factored in sales taxes, assuming disposable income was spent on taxable goods. Data comes from SmartAsset’s tax calculators.

Resources for Veterans

  • VA health facilities per 100,000 veterans. Data come from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • VA benefits administration offices per 100,000 veterans. Data come from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.

Economic Environment

  • Median veteran income. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-Year American Community Survey.
  • Percentage of veterans living under the poverty line. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-Year American Community Survey. This metric was double-weighted.
  • August 2021 unemployment rate. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and is taken at a county level.

First we ranked each city in each metric. From there, we found the average ranking for each city, giving all metrics a full weight except for the two metrics that were given a double weight. Then we averaged the rankings across the three categories listed above. We created our final ranking by calculating each city’s average score for all three categories.

Retirement Planning Tips

  • Are you on track? SmartAsset’s free retirement calculator can help you calculate just how much money you’ll need to save before retiring.
  • Calculate your Social Security benefit. Social Security plays an important role in the retirement of most Americans. SmartAsset’s free social security calculator can help you estimate what your benefits will be based on your age and income.
  • Work with a professional. A financial advisor can help you assess what your income needs will be in retirement and create a plan to meet them. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors in your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Questions about our study? Contact press@smartasset.com.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Willowpix

Patrick Villanova, CEPF® Patrick Villanova is a writer for SmartAsset, covering a variety of personal finance topics, including retirement and investing. Before joining SmartAsset, Patrick worked as an editor at The Jersey Journal. His work has also appeared on NJ.com and in The Star-Ledger. Patrick is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire, where he studied English and developed his love of writing. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, trying out new recipes in the kitchen and watching his beloved New York sports teams. A New Jersey native, he currently lives in Jersey City.
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