9 Southern Cities That are Getting Too Expensive for Retirees

You may want to retire in a warm, sunny city in the South, but check the cost of living before you pack up the moving van.
Updated May 16, 2024
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Whether you’re looking to retire soon or just planning ahead, choosing where to live is the keystone to avoid wasting your retirement savings.

Selecting a location to spend your golden years impacts the cost of living, healthcare, taxes, and ultimately how far your dollar will go. Many retirees flock to the South not only for warmer weather but also for the tax benefits.

However, before you pack the moving van, consider these southern cities that are becoming too expensive for retirees.

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Palm Beach, Florida

lunamarina/Adobe Singer Island beach at Palm Beach Florida US

Florida is a popular spot for retirees. Sun, sand, and no income tax, what’s not to love?

In Palm Beach, over 25% of residents are over the age of 65. And despite the median income being just around $76,000, the median listed home price is $1.5 million.

Retirees who don’t want a hefty mortgage should steer clear of Palm Beach.

Brentwood, Tennessee

Jon/Adobe Tennessee Sunrise

Brentwood’s low crime rate and mild weather make it a hotspot for retirees. With its proximity to the Music City, there are plenty of shows, museums, and restaurants to keep you busy.

About 15% of Brentwood residents are over 65, but affordability may be a problem since home prices have risen almost 13% in the last year.

Even though Tennessee's cost of living is lower than the national average, with a median listed home price of $1.2 million, you may want to steer clear of Brentwood.

Naples, Florida

Andriy Blokhin/Adobe multicolored cityscape with water fountain statue of Poseidon

Those contemplating retirement in Naples, Florida, are probably excited to live close to the beach and enjoy world-class dining and museums.

You won’t have to worry about paying taxes on Social Security benefits or retirement income, but you might need to worry about healthcare costs.

The average monthly cost of nursing home care in Naples is $9,277, which is $1,369 more than the national average.

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Charlotte, North Carolina

David/Adobe Charlotte north carolina skyline

With over 200 days of sunshine per year, Charlotte has been one of the top locations for retirees to settle down in recent years.

Unfortunately, most of the costs of living are higher in Charlotte than the state’s average. It’s not just housing costs that have gone up. Everything from food to doctor visits seems to cost more.

Retirees may want to avoid this city if they’re looking to make their retirement dollars go further.

Boca Raton, Florida

Venu/Adobe Boca Raton Florida gated community

Boca Raton is a long-standing favorite location for retirees. With almost 25% of its population over the age of 65, the City draws the older crowd with a mild year-round climate.

Unfortunately, younger crowds have discovered this hidden gem. Over the last few years, the downtown development has included million-dollar hotels, bars, and office buildings.

Retirees looking for a slower pace and relaxation may not love all the newcomers and construction, not to mention the higher cost of living that comes with it.

San Antonio, Texas

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe san antonio under beautiful orange sky

San Antonio has been a top destination for retirees for the last few years.

With no income tax and a warmer-than-average climate, people over 65 have been flocking to this southern city in the Lone Star State.

However, high property taxes and rising sales tax may have you rethinking about joining this southern community as a retiree.

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe lighthouse at Hilton Head South Carolina

In Hilton Head, more than 30% of the residents are 65 or older. However, home prices have jumped up to 20% in recent years.

Now, the median cost of a home is over $697,000. Healthcare and grocery prices are also above the national average.

Comfortable year-round temperatures and numerous amenities have drawn retirees, although the cost may be prohibitive moving forward.

Bella Vista, Arkansas

westtexasfish/Adobe glory hole falls arkansas

Bella Vista has a large retiree community, with more than 30% of the population being over age 65.

Unfortunately, Arkansas requires seniors to pay taxes on retirement income. Home prices have also been on the rise. The city has seen a huge jump in home prices over the last three years.

Although the median home price of $337,500 is still below the nation’s median of $433K, according to Redfin, seniors may want to reconsider settling here, given how housing costs continue to escalate.

Asheville, North Carolina

jonbilous/Adobe mountains and buildings in downtown Asheville

For years, retirees have been drawn to Asheville's small-town feel.

You can be close to nature and 10 minutes away from walking down the main street exploring restaurants, shops, breweries, the local live music scene, and more. Unfortunately, this pristine retirement location comes at a cost.

Housing and healthcare are both higher than the national average, and thanks to the influx of people who’ve discovered this gem of a city, costs don’t seem to be coming down anytime soon.

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Bottom line

winnievinzence/Adobe Sales man closing deal from business agreement contract

If you’re looking for a stress-free retirement, you should take your time to find a location that meets all your needs and fits into your budget.

Just because a location is popular with other retirees doesn’t mean it's the only option.

Take into consideration not only your current needs, like leisure activities and housing, but future concerns, like access to medical facilities and long-term care costs.

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Holly Humbert Holly is a writer who recognizes that there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to personal finance. She is passionate about entrepreneurship, women in business, and financial literacy. With more than four years of experience, her work has been featured on MarketWatch and The Ways to Wealth.

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