Heading south for retirement? Here are the top 10 cities where your should spend your golden years

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When you think of Southern living in the U.S., a sunny climate and warm hospitality may come to mind.

So it should come as no surprise that moving south is a popular choice for retirees. But with so many options to choose from, where should you look to spend your golden years?

While every choice is an individual one — such as whether you want to spend your time on a beach or exploring a city — GOBankingRates has compiled a list of the top Southern cities for retirement.

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“Affordability is key, but qualitative factors such as safety and the composition of the population (i.e., amount of residents who are retired) are very important, too,” said Andrew DePietro, a head researcher at GOBankingRates.

Climate is also important, he said. In a recent GOBankingRates survey, 28 percent said “living in a better climate” was their main reason for relocating, he added. It was the highest response, tied with “change of scenery.”

To come up with its ranking of what it calls Southern “gems,” the financial website first compiled a list of the 60 biggest Southern locations by population size.

It then looked at a number of criteria: safety scores, according to NeighborhoodScout; the percentage of seniors living in the area, sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau; livability scores, from AreaVibes; and the annual expenditures of a 65- to 74-year-old, based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and then adjusted each city’s respective cost of living, according to Sperling’s Best Places.

The outcome: Nine out of the top 10 locations are either in Florida or Texas. Both states do not tax income and, therefore, don’t tax Social Security or retirement income, DePietro pointed out.

Here are the top 10 places to retire down south, according to GOBankingRates:

House median list price: $399,000
Annual expenditures: $66,876
Seniors 65 and older: 51.50 percent of the population

This southwestern Florida city sits at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico and boasts art galleries, clothing boutiques and, of course, sandy beaches. It also has a historic downtown area.

DePietro said it snagged the No. 1 spot because its median home price isn’t excessive, it has low crime and a high percentage of retired people.

House median list price: $374, 945
Annual expenditures: $65,886
Seniors 65 and older: 12.10 percent of the population

Plano is located just north of Dallas, which means its residents can enjoy all the amenities the big city has to offer. Or, they can stay in town and find plenty of activities nearby — like golfing, visiting the city’s art district and shopping. Plano’s Legacy West, a 255-acre development, has been called a “city within a city” and has restaurants and retail stores.

House median list price: $174,900
Annual expenditures: $47,957
Seniors 65 and older: 12.20 percent of the population

El Paso, located just north of Mexico on the Rio Grande, sells itself as place to enjoy “big city amenities without big city hassles.” The city’s official website points to perks such as affordable housing, low crime rates and minimal traffic congestion.

The city also ranked No. 13 on GOBankingRates’ recent list of best cities to retire on a budget of $1,500 a month. Notably, El Paso has low health-care costs — residents spent 11 percent less than the average American, the website reported.

House median list price: $359,900
Annual expenditures: $59,122
Seniors 65 and older: 7.40 percent of the population

Located between Dallas and Forth Worth, Irving sees an average of 233 sunny days per year, according to Sperling’s Best Places.

For those who like to spend time outdoors and enjoy the nice weather, there are gondola rides on the Mandalay Canals and a park along Lake Carolyn that offers a farmers market, music festivals and walking paths. The city is also home to one of the largest equestrian sculptures in the world, The Mustangs of Las Colinas.

House median list price: $400,000
Annual expenditures: $73,146
Seniors 65 and older: 24.60 percent of the population

Known as “Boca” to locals, this city is one of the more affluent retirement havens on the list.

With almost a quarter of its population being retirees, there are a variety of activities and housing options — from gated communities to beach-side living. The city boasts two miles of sandy shores, as well as golf courses, art museums, jazz clubs and concerts at its downtown shopping center, Mizner Park. It is located about 30 miles north of Miami, along Florida’s Atlantic Ocean coast.

House median list price: $289,990
Annual expenditures: $59,617
Seniors 65 and older: 24 percent of the population

When it comes to Florida cities, Bradenton is a cheaper alternative to Boca Raton and Naples, with its median housing prices less than its two counterparts, as well as its annual expenditures. It also has a retiree population on the higher side of GOBankingRate’s list.

Located south of Tampa, on the Manatee River, the city has a park along the water and a manatee aquarium. It is also a short drive to Anna Maria Island, Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach.

House median list price: $181,995
Annual expenditures: $49,882
Seniors 65 and older: 8.80 percent of the population

Laredo may not have the biggest population of senior citizens, but it is one of the more inexpensive options on the list.

The city calls itself a community on the edge of a country. It is located on southern border at mile marker 1 of Interstate 35. Laredo’s rich history is evident across the city, with a number of historic districts throughout. Over the last 261 years, its residents have sworn allegiance to seven different countries.

House median list price: $302,450
Annual expenditures: $63,577
Seniors 65 and older: 12.7 percent of the population

The coastal city of Virginia Beach, which lies where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, has 38 miles of beaches. However, officials like to point out that it offers more than just beautiful shores. There are seven districts, each with its own personality. And there is no shortage of activities available — from kayaking in the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge for the more active seniors to enjoying a night at the theater.

House median list price: $349,000
Annual expenditures: $59,837
Seniors 65 and older: 26.50 percent of the population

Sarasota lies about an hour south of Tampa and is the gateway to several sandy beaches along the Gulf of Mexico, including Siesta Key Beach. It also has a number of art and cultural attractions, such as the Ringling Museum of Art, as well as activities like golf and shopping.

Because of all it has to offer, Sarasota is a popular choice for retirees. And GOBankingRates isn’t the only one to recognize its perks. U.S. News and World Report ranks it as the No. 3 best place to retire, and notes that “a retiree in Sarasota likely has a busier social calendar than someone half his or her age, as the area caters to its older residents.”

House median list price: $199,999
Annual expenditures: $49,552
Seniors 65 and older: 13.20 percent of the population

In southern Texas, Corpus Christi sits on an inlet off the Gulf of Mexico and is close to the beaches on the barrier islands, such as South Padre Island and Mustang Island. It also has a number of museums and is home to the Texas State Aquarium.

While the median home price is on the lower end of the scale, it also has affordable rentals. The median rent is $949 a month, according to GOBankingRate.

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