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What makes retirement cities great

Retirement promises time for leisure and escape. For many, that means packing up and moving, perhaps somewhere warm and near plentiful recreational activities.

"You want to go when you're young enough so that you can enjoy these activities," said Nancy Anderson, a certified financial planner in Park City, Utah.

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And if you can get it all for a smaller price tag, that's just gravy.

"If you're living in Idaho or New York City, [your retirement lifestyle] is a completely different conversation," said Alex Benke, a certified financial planner and product manager with online advisory firm Betterment.

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General affordability is key. But look beyond how much it will cost to rent or buy a home or order a three-course meal. Take the matter of taxes, for example.

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Some states tax pensions and Social Security benefits. Others might tax capital gains and dividends. Some states have high property taxes or income taxes, which Anderson said is an important consideration if you plan on an encore career in the years leading up to retirement.

Given that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that 31.9 percent of people age 65 to 74 will be working in the year 2022, this might indeed become a bigger factor in deciding where to live.

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"Some states are better than others from a tax standpoint," said John Smith, a certified financial planner with Balasa Dinverno Foltz, which has compiled a report on the tax pros and cons of each state.

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"Nevada and Texas have no state income tax, for example, but Nevada has a high sales tax, and Texas has high real estate taxes," Smith said.

Another important consideration for retirees is health care. Most urban areas have doctors and clinics aplenty. But if you choose a less populated region, research how you'll access a large metropolitan hospital if you need more specialized care. Might it make sense to buy evacuation insurance, for example?

"It's one thing to be a tourist, and quite another to live somewhere." -Karen Altfest, executive vice president of client relations, Altfest Personal Wealth Management

"You may be in good health when you move, but that could change in 10 years," said certified financial planner Karen Altfest, executive vice president of client relations at Altfest Personal Wealth Management.

Altfest recommended that people start researching where they want to live in retirement five years in advance. They should visit often, talk to others who have already made the move, and look into real estate and the availability of doctors.

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Finally, suggested Altfest, take your retirement locale for a spin by living there for six months at a stretch. "It's one thing to be a tourist, and quite another to live somewhere," she said, likening the process to what parents of young children go through when deciding which school district to call home.

Taking a number of factors into consideration, CNBC.com has put together a sample list of some of the best cities to spend your post-career years. Our top 10 picks for retirement spots, in alphabetical order, are:

  • Austin, Texas
  • Charleston, South Carolina
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Panama City, Panama
  • Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Ruidoso, New Mexico
  • St. Augustine, Florida
  • St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Tucson, Arizona

(See accompanying slideshow for more detail.)

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Retirement