10 Best Cities for Retirees in the South (Where Your Money Could Stretch Far)

Looking to retire in the South? Check out these 10 cities for retirement inspiration.

old couple driving in retirement
Updated May 28, 2024
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If retirement is on your mind, you might be wondering which places offer the most benefits for retirees. Apart from moving closer to family, you have loads of factors to consider. But with so many options available, how do you choose? 

Using data from PayScale.com, Numbeo, Zillow, and other sources to account for cost of living, health care, and home values, here are 10 southern U.S. cities that could provide an ideal retirement destination.

Amarillo, Texas

spiritofamerica/Adobe Interstate 40 to Amarillo Texas on Highway 40

If you’re saving for retirement, your cost of living is likely top of mind when considering where to live. PayScale.com measures cost of living by U.S. state with factors such as housing, utilities, groceries, and transportation. Amarillo’s overall cost of living was 14% lower than the national average.

According to Zillow, the typical value of U.S. homes as of March 31, 2022, was $337,560. In the same time frame, Amarillo home values were at $186,069, or well below the national average.

Amarillo is within close proximity to Palo Duro Canyon State Park and lies within the midway point of U.S. historic Route 66. There’s also no state income tax, which could be a consideration if you’re planning to work during retirement.

Population: 200,393 (according to 2020 U.S. Census)

Cost of living: 14% lower than the national average

Health care rank: 69.07 (the closer you are to 100, the better)

Home values: $186,069

Augusta, Ga.

Kevin Ruck/Adobe Savannah River and Augusta

If you’re interested in Georgia, but want to avoid Atlanta, consider Augusta instead. Cost of living and home values are lower than the national averages, but you still get the amenities of a big city.

Augusta is located on the Savannah River along the border of South Carolina. It’s home to the Masters golf tournament and is a few hours’ drive from the coast. But if you ever want to play at the Augusta National Golf Club, you're in for a big bill — it's one of the most expensive country clubs in the world.

Population: 202,081

Cost of living: 13% lower than the national average

Health care rank: 70

Home values: $163,397

Birmingham, Ala.

Felix Mizioznikov/Adobe residential apartments with swimming pool

An easy way to save in retirement is to find inexpensive housing. Since this upfront cost could immediately cut into your retirement funds, you might not want to put a lot of your savings toward an expensive home.

Birmingham has affordable housing, a low cost of living, and is famous for its civil rights history, Alabama barbecue, and its proximity to outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, kayaking, and more.

Population: 200,733

Cost of living: 9% lower than the national average

Health care rank: 70.13

Home values: $103,431

Chattanooga, Tenn.

Michael Carroll/Adobe Sunset Rock Chattanooga Tennessee

If you want a retirement filled with outdoor activities, look no further than Chattanooga. Located across the northern border of Georgia, this Tennessee city is surrounded by mountains, parks, rivers, and forests — making it easy to enjoy all the benefits of nature.

But it’s still a fairly large city with house values lower than the national average and a high health care score. Even better, Tennessee has no taxes on income wages, retirement income, Social Security income, or pension income.

Population: 181,099

Cost of living: 3% lower than the national average

Health care score: 75.62

Home values: $263,373

Durham, N.C.

jayyuan/Adobe Students walking in front of Duke University Chapel on campus

Home to Duke University and situated close to the University of North Carolina, Durham is a popular college town that could be an excellent city for retirement. Home values are above the national average, but the cost of living is lower and the health care ranking is high.

Since homes are slightly more expensive here on average, you might want to research the best jobs for working during retirement. The proximity to multiple large universities could be helpful in finding employment.

Population: 283,506

Cost of living: 11% lower than the national average

Health care rank: 75.67

Home values: $398,339

Greenville, S.C.

Kevin Ruck/Adobe Falls Park and Liberty Bridge Panorama in Greenville

The Carolinas offer some remarkable opportunities to settle down, including in Greenville. While not exactly a college town, Greenville is close enough to Clemson that it could be considered such. For any retirees seeking a college atmosphere with loads of local events, this could be an option for you.

Home values are below the national average, as is the cost of living. The population here isn’t too small to lack amenities, but it’s small enough to not feel like a huge city.

Population: 70,720

Cost of living: 5% lower than the national average

Health care rank: 77.13

Home values: $281,007

Lafayette, La.

Jacob/Adobe Lafayette State of Louisiana

If retirement to you means plenty of good food, don’t overlook Lafayette. New Orleans likely has more eating options, but heading somewhere nearby like Lafayette could make more sense for your wallet.

You’ll still have good famous Louisiana dishes and your overall cost of living, including housing affordability, is likely to be lower. If you want to explore some of the larger, nearby cities, Baton Rouge and New Orleans are easily within driving distance.

Population: 121,374

Cost of living: 10% lower than the national average

Health care rank: 77.78

Home values: $203,788

Raleigh, N.C.

Mark Howard/Adobe cityscape of downtown Raleigh North Carolina

Close to Durham, but with a much larger population, Raleigh is a happening place for many different reasons. This could include its proximity to Duke and the University of North Carolina, but you’re also close to a variety of parks, lakes, and recreation areas.

The cost of living here is lower than the national average and the health care rank is high, but you have higher home values. Home prices are still likely lower than many major U.S. cities and the increased cost could be worth living here.

Population: 467,665

Cost of living: 5% lower than the national average

Health care rank: 75.64

Home values: $436,641

Spartanburg, S.C.

Kevin Ruck/Adobe Main Street Drone Panorama of Spartanburg

Just up the road from Greenville, Spartanburg is a less-populated city with potentially more affordability. If you want a bit more distance from the college atmosphere and more of a small-town feel, this could be an ideal location for you.

The home values are well south of the national average and the cost of living is lower. The health care rank is lower compared with other cities on this list, but you’re reasonably close to many large cities if needed, including Charlotte, N.C., and Atlanta.

Population: 38,732

Cost of living: 12.3% lower than the national average (according to Salary.com)

Health care rank: 59.44

Home values: $194,105

Vero Beach, Fla.

Felix Mizioznikov/Adobe aerial photo upscale homes Vero Beach Florida

A list of southern retirement cities wouldn’t be complete without an addition from Florida. The Sunshine State has seen a large population growth in recent years as people flock to warmer climes, but there’s still room for more.

Vero Beach, located on the Atlantic coast between Miami and Orlando, is a small city with beautiful beaches and weather. The housing prices are higher than the national average, but that’s to be expected for houses close to the beach.

Population: 16,354

Cost of living: 2% lower than the national average

Health care rank: 66.44

Home values: $349,691

Bottom line

wavebreak3/Adobe couple using calculator in kitchen

Choosing a place to live during retirement isn’t always as easy as moving close to family. There are loads of factors to consider, including how much it’s going to cost, what amenities are available nearby, and what type of lifestyle you want to lead.

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Author Details

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®, is credit cards specialist. For over a decade, he's leveraged credit card points and miles to travel the world. His expertise extends to other areas of personal finance — including loans, insurance, investing, and real estate — and you can find his insights on The Washington Post, Debt.com, Yahoo! Finance, and Fox Business.