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While many people look to sunny skies and year-round golf when picking a place to retire, there are also those who want to maintain a connection to all four seasons in their golden years, or perhaps those who want relatively easy access to all corners of the country. For these folks, a retirement in the Midwest probably makes sense. With that in mind, SmartAsset has crunched the numbers to find the best cities to retire in the Midwest.

To do so, we considered data across eight metrics in 98 Midwestern cities: the percentage of the population that is retirement age, housing costs as a percentage of average retirement income, estimated senior tax burden, residential communities, medical centers, violent crimes, property crimes and unemployment. For more details on how we found and analyzed our data, read the data and methodology section below.

Key Findings

  • Small cities beat out big cities. While there are plenty of bigger cities in the Midwest, smaller locales lead this study. Chicago, the biggest city in the region, ranks near the bottom in our study, and other major urban centers like Indianapolis and Columbus don’t fare much better.
  • Housing costs, on average, won’t be a burden. In the United States, you are considered burdened by housing costs if you are spending more than 30% of your income on housing. On average, housing costs for the cities in this study make up 26.78% of average retirement income. And that figure is even lower across the top 10 cities, where housing costs average 24.19% of retirement income.

Image is a map by SmartAsset titled "Top 10 Cities to Retire in the Midwest."

1. Troy, MI

There are 21.32 medical centers for every 10,000 residents in Troy, the most in this study. The city also places in the top 10 when it comes to a lack of violent crimes with just 79 for every 10,000 residents, placing seventh. The population is 18.33% people over the age of 65, the 10th-highest percentage.

2. Bismarck, ND

Bismarck’s unemployment rate in September of 2021 sat at just 2.2%, tied for the 10th-lowest in this study. The city also ranks 10th for retirement communities, with 1.57 for every 10,000 residents and 12th in estimated tax burden for seniors (14.72%).

3. Rapid City, SD

The estimated senior tax burden in Rapid City is just 13.59%, the lowest in this study. The city ranks sixth for the percentage of population over 65 (19.08%). Rapid City has 16.61 medical centers for every 10,000 residents, placing ninth for this metric.

4. Eau Claire, WI

Eau Claire’s estimated tax burden for seniors is 14.19%, ranking ninth for that metric. There are plenty of places for retirees to live in the city, with 2.68 retirement centers for every 10,000 residents (placing third in the study). Housing costs represent 22.35% of the average retirement income, the 15th-lowest observed in the study.

5. Youngstown, OH

Youngstown’s population is 19.4% people over 65, the fifth-highest percentage observed in this study. Furthermore, it has the sixth-lowest housing costs as a percentage of average senior income, at just 20.32%. That said, those who want to keep working at some level in retirement should know that the unemployment rate in Youngstown was 5.8% in September 2021, ranking near the bottom for this metric.

6. Oshkosh, WI

Oshkosh is tied for second place when it comes to senior tax burden, with seniors expecting to hand over just 13.73% of their income in taxes. It places fifth in retirement communities, with 1.92 for every 10,000 residents. Plus, the senior population makes up 17.31% of Oshkosh’s total population, ranking 15th.

7. Appleton, WI

Seniors in Appleton tie with those in neighboring Oshkosh for the second-lowest tax burden in the top 10 (13.73%). Appleton also has the eighth-most retirement communities for every 10,000 residents (1.65). Housing costs represent 22.62% of the average retirement income in the city, the 17th-lowest observed in the study.

8. Southfield, MI

Southfield is a popular place for older people, with 21.36% of the population being age 65 or older (the second-highest percentage in this study). That said, it is rather expensive, with housing costs representing 31.51% of average retirement income, ranking near the bottom of the cities in the study. There are 21.32 medical centers for every 10,000 residents, placing first for that metric.

9. St. Charles, MO

St. Charles has the 12th-oldest population in this study, with 17.74% of the population sitting at age 65 or older. The city ranks 16th in unemployment, with a rate of 2.5% as of September 2021. The tax burden for seniors is 15.81% of income, ranking 20th.

10. Springfield, MO

Rounding out the top 10 is Springfield, Missouri, where housing costs represent just 17.86% of average retirement income (placing third for that metric). Crime, though, could be an issue. Springfield is in the bottom five for both crime metrics, with 1,519 violent crime incidents and 7,793 property crime incidents for every 100,000 residents. Even then, the city ranks in the top half of the study for both of those metrics.

Image is a table by SmartAsset titled "Best Cities to Retire in the Midwest."

Data and Methodology

SmartAsset found the best places to retire in the Midwest by looking at data on 98 cities with populations of at least 65,000. We compared cities across eight metrics:

  • Percentage of the population that is 65 and older. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Housing costs as a percentage of average retirement income. Average retirement income includes private retirement income from savings, IRAs, 401(k)s or pensions along with Social Security income. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • 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.
  • Retirement communities per 10,000 residents. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 County Business Patterns data.
  • Medical centers per 10,000 residents. Medical centers include physicians’ offices and other health offices. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 County Business Patterns data.
  • Violent crime rate. This is the number of violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program and is for 2019. We used data from Neighborhood Scout for cities where FBI data was not available.
  • Property crime rate. This is the number of violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program and is for 2019. We used data from Neighborhood Scout for cities where FBI data was not available.
  • Unemployment rate. This data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and is for September 2021. It is measured at the county level.

Retirement Planning Tips

  • Thinking of retiring to a city in the Midwest? Get a professional to help you prepare. 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.
  • One of the keys to retirement planning is knowing how much money you will need. Use SmartAsset’s retirement calculator to get a sense of what your goal should be and if you are on track.

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

Photo Credit: ©iStock/emholk

Ben Geier, CEPF® Ben Geier is an experienced financial writer currently serving as a retirement and investing expert at SmartAsset. His work has appeared on Fortune, Mic.com and CNNMoney. Ben is a graduate of Northwestern University and a part-time student at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®). When he isn’t helping people understand their finances, Ben likes watching hockey, listening to music and experimenting in the kitchen. Originally from Alexandria, VA, he now lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
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