What Are the Best College Towns to Retire?

College towns can be a great option for retirees

Retiring in a college town provides a active and modern lifestyle.

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One of the most important decisions involved in retirement planning is deciding where you'll live when you retire. While college towns may not be a traditional choice for retirees, they have a lot to offer for seniors who seek an active lifestyle.

But where are the best college towns to retire? And what sets them apart from other cities that have a strong student focus? This list highlights 10 college towns that may be an ideal place to spend your retirement years.

Key Takeaways

  • College towns may not be a traditional choice for retirees, but they have a lot to offer seniors who seek an active lifestyle.
  • The best college towns to retire share a combination of livability and affordability.
  • The factors used to evaluate towns include cultural activities, walkability, health care, and cost of living.
  • The list of best college towns for retirees includes Athens, Georgia; Madison, Wisconsin; and Austin, Texas.

Best College Towns to Retire

The best college towns to retire are very different but they have certain things in common that make them more attractive for seniors. The factors used to evaluate college towns for inclusion on the list are as follows:

  • Arts, cultural and outdoor activities
  • Sporting events
  • Walkability
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Access to senior education
  • Health care
  • Housing costs and overall cost of living

The 10 cities here reflect the best overall combination of livability and affordability for retirees.

1. Athens, Georgia

Athens is home to the University of Georgia and it's close enough to Atlanta to make day trips realistic. This could be a great choice for college football fans, as well as retirees looking for a combination of a lower than average cost of living and favorable tax treatment. Georgia has no state income tax on Social Security, as well as no state inheritance or estate tax, making it a good spot if you have sizeable assets you plan to pass on to the next generation.

2. Madison, Wisconsin

Madison is one of the best college towns to retire if you don't mind a colder climate in winter. The University of Wisconsin offers continuing education opportunities for seniors but if you prefer to spend time outdoors, there are numerous hiking and biking trails to explore, as well as five lakes in the nearby area. On the health care front, Madison is home to the state's only comprehensive cancer treatment center and University of Wisconsin Hospitals is the number one regionally ranked hospital statewide.

3. Austin, Texas

Austin tends to attract a younger crowd thanks to its thriving music and cultural scene but retirees may feel just as at home here. The University of Texas-Austin campus offers extended learning classes for seniors and surrounding neighborhoods rate well for walkability in case you're interested in car-free living in retirement. Texas is also tax-friendly to seniors, with no state income tax on all forms of retirement income, including Social Security benefits. The catch is that Austin carries a slightly higher than average cost of living.

4. Boone, North Carolina

Appalachian State University attracts students to Boone but retirees may be drawn here by the spectacular mountain views and low median home prices. Boone is a nature lover's paradise, with everything from tubing to ziplining to hiking to keep you busy. There's a high number of doctors per capita, so health care is accessible. Just remember to prepare for colder, longer winters as Boone sees its fair share of snow and ice from November to April.

5. Lincoln, Nebraska

The University of Nebraska draws crowds to Lincoln, particularly football fans looking to cheer on the Cornhuskers. What makes it one of the best college towns to retire, however, is cost—the cost of living is well below the national average, which could make a great fit if you're retiring on a budget. If you plan to take up a new hobby in retirement, golf and fishing are popular among the locals.

6. Gainesville, Florida

A Florida retirement may be in your plans if you'd rather escape cold winters. Gainesville hosts a University of Florida campus and retirees can attend classes for free along the 50,000+ enrolled students. Home prices are highly affordable here, particularly compared to some of Florida's other college towns, such as Sarasota or Fort Myers. The city also has a high concentration of health care providers so you won't need to search high and low for a doctor.

7. Iowa City, Iowa

Iowa City is another place to consider if you're drawn to the midwest, versus living in a beach town or heading to the mountains in retirement. Some of the benefits of this college town include a low cost of living, a low crime rate, a strong economy, tax favorability for seniors and good access to healthcare. Aside from watching the Hawkeyes play at the University of Iowa, the city is chock full of museums and hosts a regular schedule of festivals and fairs.

8. Oxford, Mississippi

Oxford ranks as one of the best college towns to retire for seniors who desire a low cost of living and want to steer away from larger cities. The city has a strong literary history, as the hometown of southern gothic writer William Faulkner, and the Ford Center for Performing Arts celebrates local artists and musicians. As far as the climate goes, you can expect milder winters and warmer temperatures in summer.

9. Lexington, Kentucky

Horse racing and the University of Kentucky Wildcats are what Lexington is best known for and as a potential destination for retirees, it's got all the things you'd want. It's both highly walkable and bikeable, there are numerous ways to get involved with volunteering, home prices aren't sky-high and crime is low, as are state income taxes. One potential downside: there are fewer doctors here compared to some of the other college towns on the list.

10. Bloomington, Indiana

Bloomington is very tax-friendly for retirees and it's a no-brainer if you're a college basketball fan. Whether you prefer the great outdoors or the arts scene, there's no shortage of things to do here and the cost of living makes it a suitable choice for virtually any retirement budget. Bloomington has a moderate crime rate and while the winters may be on the harsher side, you'll have a hard time being bored here.

Article Sources

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  3. University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. "University of Wisconsin Hospitals Again Ranked No. 1 in Wisconsin."

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  6. County Health Rankings. "Health Outcomes for Watauga County North Carolina."

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