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Retire to a Good Life for Less

10 low-cost cities where you can live in comfort no matter how big (or small) your savings account


En español | Want to retire on $30,000 a year? Or just want to know you could if you had to? We found the 10 most livable, low-cost cities in the U.S. — places where you can retire in comfort no matter how big (or small) your savings account.

Daytona Boardwalk Amusement Area and Pier (David A. Land)

The Daytona Boardwalk Amusement Area and Pier offers games and indoor and outdoor rides. — David A. Land

Daytona/Deltona/Ormond Beach: Florida's Best Kept Secrets

Population: 514,450
Median home price:
Median mortgage payment:
Median property tax: $1,161
State tax on Social Security:
State tax on pensions:

Great eating: Try Tia Cori's Tacos on North Beach in Daytona: Tacos start at $1.50; margaritas are $4.

Catch a game: Join the Silver Sluggers Club for $15 and get in free to all Tuesday games at Jackie Robinson Ballpark, home of the Class A Daytona Cubs.

Favorite freebie: The Art League of Daytona Beach

Ask David Simms, 76, what makes Daytona Beach such a great retirement city, and he's a little stumped. The beach? The weather? Or the fact that he can stroll down the block and catch a game at Jackie Robinson Ballpark?

Actually, it's all of these reasons. "I love it here," Simms says. "It's easy. It's relaxed. And it's great for walking." And yes, it's extremely affordable. Simms, who relies on an income of about $1,400 a month (a combination of Social Security, a government pension and proceeds from the recent sale of his home), lives in a downtown residence for older adults run by the Good Samaritan Society. His rent is $600 and includes one big meal a day, which keeps his other grocery costs well in line. Plus, his electric bill runs about $17 a month.

Daytona isn't the only affordable gem in the area, particularly in the wake of the recession, when home prices fell 47 percent on average. Joe Perez, 66, one of the first city commissioners when the nearby town of Deltona was incorporated back in 1995, says he and his wife, Alba, 58, own a small RV and spend many weekends exploring the nearby state parks.

Because the area offers easy access to the Atlantic, the Gulf and freshwater, it's also a paradise for fishing, says Chris Nabicht, 51, a Deltona city council member and retired firefighter, whose favorite pastimes include surf casting near Turtle Mound and bass fishing in Lake Monroe.

Pocatello Idaho Sunrise (Jen Judge)

Sunrise over Pocatello, Idaho. — Jen Judge

Pocatello, Idaho: Northwest Wonderland

Population: 88,500
Median home price:
Median mortgage payment:
Median property tax:
State tax on Social Security:
State tax on pensions:
Yes (with some exemptions)

Great eating: Try a latte and hear live music at the Co Ho coffeehouse.

Clean up your act: Tour the Museum of Clean for the most fun you've ever had while pondering housework.

Favorite freebie: Self-guided walking tours downtown offer an up-close look at historic buildings and architectural landmarks.

For Jane Riley, who lives on her $1,200 monthly Social Security payment, Pocatello has provided a retirement that is rich beyond measure. At 71, she fills her days with classes (Idaho State University's New Knowledge Adventures, open to anyone 50 or older, costs $35 per semester, for unlimited classes). She loves to dance, especially the hula, and belongs to a dance group that meets often. But most of all, she's smitten with the region's famously big sky.

Riley spends $305 a month on her mortgage. Almost all of her health care — because her late husband was a retired naval officer — is paid for. Utility expenses are minimal. (Thanks to its massive rivers, Idaho's hydroelectricity is among the cheapest power sources in the nation.) And because of a wide variety of supermarkets, including the bargain-packed WinCo, food is inexpensive.

But affordability isn't the only reason residents love Pocatello. When Dana Olson, 57, retires next year from her job as the Outdoor Adventure Center director at ISU, she plans to stay right here. "I can make it from my house to the base lift at Pebble Creek, the nearest ski area, in four minutes," she says. Those who are 66 or older can score an all-day lift ticket for just $26. Add to that some 1,000 miles of recreational trails for biking, horseback riding and hiking — as well as white-water rafting and kayaking. Outdoor aficionados, take note.

Next page: The great outdoors and big city buzz. »

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