Personal Finance

Don't expect sunshine in this 'best city to retire'

Key Points
  • ranked the top 50 U.S. cities for retirement; metros that performed well on the health-care metric did well on the overall ranking.
  • Only one of the top five cities boasts year-round sunny weather.
Bill Boback, 58, a retired train driver who was born and lived all is life in Pittsburgh is seen with the Downtown area of Pittsburgh, Pensylvania, in the background on June 2, 2017.
Eric Baradat | AFP | Getty Images

When it comes to retirement, there's nothing more important than sand and sun, right? Wrong — especially if you're looking for one of the "best" places to retire.

"It's like that saying, 'don't go into a grocery store hungry,'" said analyst Taylor Tepper.

After working for decades, you may be tempted to find the most tropical, relaxing destination on the map. But it's important to look beyond climate to lifestyle and financial factors like health-care costs, which can be one of the biggest expenses for retirees, Tepper said.

To find the best places to retire, assessed 50 U.S. metro areas, comparing things such as weather, health-care quality and affordability, cost of living, crime rate, taxes, senior well-being, friend factor (percentage of population ages 65-plus), cultural vitality and public transportation.

Think about where you'll get the best health care, where your dollars will go the furthest, [and] really be rational. Don't think, 'I've been working for 35 years and I'm ready for the beach.'
Taylor Tepper

You'll find year-round sunny weather in only one of the site's top five cities for retirement:

1. Pittsburgh
2. Boston
3. Los Angeles
4. Denver
5. Providence, Rhode Island

Although Pittsburgh scored poorly for weather, the metro area's low crime rate, cost of living and high friend factor helped pull it to the top. The city also boasts top-notch health care at the University of Pittsburgh.

In fact, four of the top five metros scored high on health care. Los Angeles was the only one that didn't.

"Cities that performed well on the health-care metric did really well on the overall ranking," Tepper said. "When you think about retirement, you think about going to the beach, and that's definitely an important thing to people. But one thing that's less sexy is that you're going to have a lot of health-care costs. You're going to see your doctor a lot."

Make the most of your Health Savings Account

An August analysis from Fidelity Investments estimates that a healthy, 65-year-old couple retiring this year will need $275,000 to cover their health-care costs in retirement. That's up 6 percent from the $260,000 estimate last year.

"Think about where you'll get the best health care, where your dollars will go the furthest, [and] really be rational," Tepper said. "Don't think, 'I've been working for 35 years and I'm ready for the beach.'"

WalletHub conducted a similar study this year into the top 150 U.S. cities for retirement. The personal finance site had many of the same findings as, ranking Pittsburgh and Denver among the top 15 cities and San Bernardino, California, among the worst.

But there was some dissonance when it came to Providence. Although the Rhode Island capital ranked fifth in the study and had the second-highest health-care score, Wallethub ranked it second-to-last, rating its health care 143 of the 150 cities.

Here are the best (and worst) places to retire