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Top 10 cities for early retirees

Among extreme savers, the biggest retirement craze is to leave the work party early.

Scores of people in their 30s, 40s and 50s aim to save at least half their take-home pay so they can pursue their dream lifestyles sooner rather than wait until their golden years.

A key part of that financial plan is to keep housing costs in check by living in affordable areas. Why? Because early retirees must live off their savings until they are eligible to tap their 401(k) plans and IRAs without a tax penalty at age 59½, qualify for early Social Security retirement benefits at age 62 and enroll in Medicare at age 65.

Looking for your own base of operations that is easy on the wallet? MagnifyMoney, a price comparison website for financial products, ranked 217 U.S. cities to find the best spots for early retirees.

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MagnifyMoney's ratings are based on data about cost of living, quality of life and job opportunities from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Conference of State Legislatures and other sources.

"We were searching for cities that are not only low cost, but walkable and have arts and entertainment options," said Mandi Woodruff, MagnifyMoney's executive editor who helped compile the list. "Cities also had to have access to employment opportunities in case early retirees wanted to go back to work."

Each city was given a score out of 100 possible points — the higher the better — based on cost of living (half of the total score), quality of life (30 percent of the score) and employment opportunities (20 percent of the score).

Cost of living is weighted so heavily because it is a critical part of the early retirement lifestyle.

The average U.S. household spent $34,935 on food, housing and transportation in 2015, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Meanwhile, the average user of Reddit's Financial Independence subreddit, a popular forum for early retirees and those who aspire to join them, paid out roughly $24,700 for those top three expense categories last year, according to a recent survey of more than 5,100 of its members.

Here's MagnifyMoney's list of the top 10 cities for early retirees:

Many of the top cities on MagnifyMoney's list are located in Tennessee and Texas. If Southern living is not your thing, Woodruff and her team also ranked the best cities for early retirees by region:


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