Not everyone retires in Florida. For some, the Northeast is a preferable retirement destination for its seasonal changes, blend of cities and countryside, and rich history. Despite generally high costs of living when compared with other regions of the country, a comfortable retirement in the Northeast is possible if you know where to look.
To determine the best places to retire in the Northeast, we considered cities with populations of at least 65,000 residents in these nine states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. We compared 55 cities across eight different metrics: percentage of the population above the age of 65, housing costs as a percentage of retirement income, estimated tax burden for seniors, number of retirement communities, number of medical centers, violent crime rate, property crime rate and unemployment rate. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, read the Data and Methodology section below.
- Pennsylvania is an unlikely retirement haven. The Keystone State is well-represented with four cities ranked in the top 10. Bethlehem (No. 1), Erie (No. 3), Scranton (No. 7) and Pittsburgh (No. 9) all have relatively low housing costs compared to the average retirement income. While average housing costs are 37.53% of the average retirement income across the 55 cities in our study, housing expenses in these four Pennsylvania cities are less than 30% of the average retirement income.
- Retirement communities emerge as an important metric. Six of the 10 best places to retire in the Northeast rank highly for their ratio of retirement communities. These six cities all fall in the top 10 for this single-weighted metric, which considers the number of retirement communities per 10,000 residents.
1. Bethlehem, PA
Located 70 miles north of Philadelphia, the city of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is the top-rated place to retire in the Northeast. Bethlehem has the seventh-most retirement communities per 10,000 residents across our study (0.79) and eighth-highest percentage of residents who are 65 and older (18.07%). Meanwhile, housing costs in this city of 76,000 residents are 29.77% of the average retirement income, the 11th-lowest percentage out of all 55 cities that we studied.
2. Danbury, CT
With nearly 85,000 residents, Danbury, Connecticut, ranks highly for its relative low crime rates. Danbury has the fifth-fewest violent crimes per 100,000 residents (114) and eighth-fewest property crimes per 100,000 residents (1,227). This city in southeastern Connecticut also has the 11th-most medical centers per 10,000 residents (15.14) and 12th-highest percentage of residents who are 65 and older (16.63%).
3. Erie, PA
Located in the northwestern corner of the state, Erie, Pennsylvania, has the third-lowest housing costs compared to average retirement income (23.24%). This city of over 95,000 people also has the 11th-most retirement communities per 10,000 residents (0.70) and 15th-lowest estimated senior tax burden (15.99%). Meanwhile, just under 16% of the population in Erie is 65 and older, the 16th-highest percentage across our study.
4. Portland, ME
One of the smallest cities in our study (66,000 residents), Portland, Maine, shouldn’t be overlooked as a retirement destination. Located on the picturesque Maine coastline, Portland has the second-most retirement communities and medical centers per 10,000 residents (1.02 and 17.76, respectively). With an estimated senior tax burden of 14.51%, Portland ranks third overall for this metric. This city also has the ninth-highest percentage across our study, with 18% of the population age 65 and older.
5. Nashua, NH
With zero sales tax and no state income tax on earned wages, it’s no surprise that Nashua, New Hampshire, has the lowest estimated senior tax burden in our study (11.07%). Nashua also has the fifth-most retirement centers per 10,000 residents (0.86) and the seventh-fewest violent crimes per 100,000 residents with 144.
6. Warwick, RI
Warwick, Rhode Island, has the highest concentration of retirement communities in our study with 1.10 per 10,000 residents. The city also has the second-highest proportion of residents who are 65 and older (20.84%), as well as the third-lowest violent crime rate (94 per 100,000 residents).
7. Scranton, PA
Scranton, Pennsylvania, isn’t just the setting of the cult TV show “The Office,” it’s also a viable place to retire in the Northeast. Scranton has the fourth-most retirement communities per 10,000 residents (0.91), as well as housing costs that are only 24.05% of the average retirement income, the fifth-lowest across our study. Meanwhile, 18.33% of Scranton’s population is 65 and older, the seventh-highest percentage out of all 55 cities included in our analysis.
8. New Britain, CT
New Britain, Connecticut, ranks in the top 20 for five different metrics: retirement communities per 10,000 residents (0.63), medical centers per 10,000 residents (14.87), estimated senior tax burden (16.18%), percentage of the population that’s 65 and older (15.57%) and housing costs as a percent of average retirement income (33.72%).
9. Pittsburgh, PA
With 300,000 residents, Pittsburgh is the largest city in the top 10. The Steel City has the third-most retirement communities (1.01) and medical facilities (17.31) per 10,000 residents. Housing costs in Pittsburgh are also relatively low, just 28.39% of the average retirement income, which is good for the eighth-lowest across our study.
10. Toms River, NJ
Toms River, New Jersey, located 60 miles due east of Philadelphia, has the fifth-highest percentage of residents 65 and older (19.24%). This Jersey Shore town of nearly 92,000 people has the fifth-lowest estimated senior tax burden of 15.18%. Toms River also has the second-lowest violent crime rate across our study (77 per 100,000 residents).
Data and Methodology
SmartAsset found the best places to retire in the Northeast by examining 55 cities, all with populations of at least 65,000 residents, and then comparing them 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 August 2021.
First, we ranked each city in each metric, assigning a double weight to the percentage of the population that is 65 and older and housing costs as a percentage of average retirement income. We assigned a half weight to the two crime-related metrics and a single weight to the remaining metrics. Using these weightings, we found each city’s average ranking. The city with the best average ranking received a score of 100. The city with the worst average ranking received a score of 0.
Retirement Planning Tips
- Consider a catch-up contribution. If you’re still several years away from retirement, consider increasing the amount of money you contribute to your 401(k) or IRA. While the IRS caps annual 401(k) contributions at $19,500 in 2021, the government allows individuals who are 50 and older to contribute an extra $6,500. Those with IRAs can save an extra $1,000 per year on top of the $6,500 limit.
- Work with a professional. A financial advisor can help you save for retirement and plan for your income needs in retirement. 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 us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Alex Potemkin