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best places to retire in california

California, here we come… There’s certainly an allure to retiring on the left coast and living out your days under the California sun. The Golden State has more than just great surfing, though, and you can surely find a city to retire there that will fit all your needs. This guide will take you through the top 10 best places to retire in California, explaining what each city has to offer. No matter where you are thinking of retiring, you may want to find a financial advisor to work with using SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service.

How We Determined the Best Places to Retire

A number of factors went into determining which cities rank as the best places to retire in California. Tax burden for retirees is one, because anyone retiring wants to know how much of their money will be eaten up by taxes. Healthcare becomes even more important as you get older, so we also included the number of medical centers per 1,000 residents. It’s also important to think about how you’ll spend your retirement, so we considered how many recreation centers exist per 1,000 residents. Finally, to examine how friendly the town is to retirees, we looked at the percentage of the population made up of seniors and the number of retirement communities per 1,000 residents. We weighed each of these factors and ranked the cities accordingly. Here are the top 10 places to retire in California.

1. Beverly Hills

This Southern California city tops our list and ranks as the third-best place to retire in the entire country. Beverly Hills leads this list with 24.26 medical centers per 1,000 residents and 29.02 recreation centers per 1,000 residents, so you can be assured you’ll have plenty of options for both healthcare and fun. It’s also just half an hour from the beach and downtown Los Angeles. It does tie for the highest tax burden on this list at 17.80% though, so make sure you know the cost of living going in.

2. Westlake Village

This town in Los Angeles County has the second-highest number of medical centers per 1,000 residents on this list, and it lands in the top 10 best places to retire nationwide. The tax burden here is 16.50%, which ties it for the lowest on this list. Westlake Village is ranked second on this list for medical centers with 18.65 per 1,000 residents. It’s a short drive from Malibu, where you can enjoy the sun, surf and plenty of celebrity spotting. Westlake Village is also adjacent to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, so those looking for hiking and other outdoor adventures have great options.

3. Rancho Mirage

Rancho Mirage is the highest-ranked inland city on this list. The town is in the top 50 places to retire in the nation. It ranks third on this list in terms of the size of its senior population, with seniors accounting for 51.50% of the total population. Rancho Mirage also has 9.23 medical centers per 1,000 residents, so there are lots of healthcare options. It is near popular tourist towns like Indio and Palm Desert, plus you can easily take your grandkids to Coachella each year and be the coolest grandparent on the block. The tax burden in Rancho Mirage is 16.90%.

4. Auburn

This is the highest-ranked Northern California town on this list, and it also boasts the highest number of retirement communities, with 1.23 retirement communities per 1,000 residents. The city has 6.24 medical centers and 1.60 recreation centers per 1,000 residents. It’s tied for last place on this list for tax burden though, with a tax rate of 16.50%. Auburn is located near the California capital of Sacramento. It’s famous as a home for endurance sports, hosting multiple races and horse rides of long distances, which can be cool attractions whether you want to participate or just watch.

5. Laguna Woods

best places to retire in california

Laguna Woods, located in Southern California’s Orange County, is comprised almost entirely of a gated retirement community. This means that the city is a shocking 81.10% seniors, so you’ll have no problem meeting new friends. Laguna Woods Village, the retirement community, has tons of recreation activities, including golf, shuffleboard and swimming pools. The town does rank towards the bottom for most of the metrics used to make this list though, including having just 0.79 medical centers and 0 recreation centers per 1,000 residents.

6. Ojai

Located in the Ojai Valley north of Los Angeles, Ojai ranks third on the list in terms of medical centers, with 4.61 medical centers per 1,000 residents. It ranks second for retirement communities, as it has 1.05 retirement communities per 1,000 residents. The town is known as a center for hippie culture, so if you’re interested in New Age shops or mysticism, you’re likely to think Ojai is far out. Legend has it that John Lennon and Yoko Ono used to come to Ojai when they needed to escape their celebrity lives, so you know it’s hippie credentials are legit. Ojai’s 16.50% tax burden ties it for the lowest on this list.

7. Los Alamitos

In this spot, we have another Orange County city. Los Alamitos ranks third on this list for medical centers with 12.95 medical centers per 1,000 residents. It also boasts 2.06 recreation centers per 1,000 residents, placing it third on this list in that metric. The Los Alamitos Race Track is technically in nearby Cypress, but it is still there for those who want to play the ponies in retirement. Los Alamitos has population that is 15.60% seniors, the second-lowest on this list.

8. Marina del Rey

best places to retire in california

Marina del Rey is a seaside town in Los Angeles County. It ranks fourth on this list, with 11.95 medical centers per 1,000 residents. It ranks second for recreation centers, with 10.77 recreation centers per 1,000 residents. Marina del Rey’s prime location right on the water makes it perfect for retirees who want to take advantage of California’s beaches, or for anyone who wants to hit the open sea in a boat. The town is home to the California Yacht Club. The tax burden in Marina del Rey is 17.80%.

9. Grass Valley

This Northern California town is just 90 minutes west of Reno, so you won’t be far from a fun weekend in Nevada. Grass Valley itself has 5.83 medical centers per 1,000 residents, which lands it in seventh on our list. However, this is still a fairly high number comparatively speaking, so medical options likely won’t be an issue. The tax burden in Grass Valley is 16.80%, the fourth-highest on this list. The town also ranks fourth on this list for retirement communities, with 0.70 per 1,000 residents.

10. Indian Wells

Indian Wells is another inland city, located right near the San Bernardino National Forest. It also is not far from Joshua Tree National Park, so opportunities to see natural beauty are bountiful. The city has the second-highest percentage of senior citizens on our list at 62.20%. The tax burden in Indian Wells is 16.90%. The town ranks sixth on this list for recreation centers, with 1.94 recreation centers per 1,000 residents. Should you be a tennis fan, you can try to get tickets to the annual Indian Wells Masters tournament. It’s one of the nine tournaments ranked just below the tennis Grand Slams. This means you’re likely to see some great matches starring top players.

Retirement Tips

  • If you find yourself California dreamin’ on a winter’s day, you can get ready for your retirement by finding a financial advisor to help you achieve your goals. SmartAsset can help you find one with our free financial advisor matching service. All you have to do is answer a few questions. We’ll match you with up to three advisors in your area. We fully vet our advisors and ensure they are free of disclosures.
  • You can figure out how much you’ll need to save for retirement using SmartAsset’s free retirement calculator. This can help you determine if you’re on track to make your retirement dreams a reality.
  • If California doesn’t seem like the place for you when it comes to retirement, there are plenty of other places to consider. Check out our lists of the best places to retire in North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Arizona and Texas.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/wellesenterprises, ©iStock.com/Cecilie_Arcurs, ©iStock.com/Onfokus

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. 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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