12 Northeastern Cities That Are Getting Too Expensive for Retirees (Plus Some Affordable Alternatives)

Your dream of finding an affordable city where you can enjoy your retirement is completely achievable, but you should consider ruling out these 12 overly expensive cities.
Updated April 12, 2023
happy senior couple on vacation sitting on stairs of cafe holding cup of coffee

We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Whether you already live in the area or want to retire early to a city that’s closer to relatives, the Northeast has plenty to offer retirees. However, the area definitely has a reputation for being one of the more expensive regions in the U.S., especially compared to the South and Midwest.

Of course, there are tens of thousands of cities in the Northeast to retire to, many of them well within the average retiree’s budget. But if you’re looking for an affordable Northeastern retirement, cross these 12 cities off your list of future hometowns. 

While many cities in the region are perfectly affordable, these ones aren’t — so keep reading to learn where not to start your search.

Boston, Massachusetts

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe skylines of massachusetts

Boston isn’t just one of the most expensive cities in the Northeast. 

According to one study from late 2022, rent in Boston was more expensive than in any other city in the country besides New York City. 

If your heart is set on the Boston area, consider checking out more affordable areas like Lynn and Salem.

Bridgeport, Connecticut

Trudy/Adobe houses in connecticut on a foggy day

Bridgeport’s median rent is $1,225, nearly $1,000 higher than the national median. The high cost of living makes sense given the city’s size: It’s the largest in Connecticut by population. 

If you’re willing to trade an oceanfront view for more affordable housing, try looking into cities like Torrington (median rent: $1,010) that are further inland.

Burlington, Vermont

Cavan/Adobe people walking around on church street in burlington vermont

Life in Burlington, Vermont is an average of 16% more expensive than elsewhere in America. 

The city’s expensive housing costs contribute the most to the high cost of living: The median rent in Burlington is $1,381 while the median home price is around $338,000. 

If you’re committed to retiring near Lake Champlain, your wallet might prefer a smaller, more suburban community like Swanton to the north.

Do you dream of retiring early? Take this quiz to see if it's possible.

Cambridge, Massachusetts

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe cambridge massachusetts skylines in front of water during dawn

Unfortunately, Boston’s suburbs aren’t always less expensive than living in the heart of the city itself — especially not Harvard’s home, Cambridge. 

The median rent in this city of over 100,000 people is a staggering $2,388 and a key reason Cambridge’s cost of living is 73% above average.

Cape Elizabeth, Maine

lucky-photo/Adobe portland lighthouse in maine

Cape Elizabeth is a suburb of Portland, Maine’s biggest city. 

It’s also home to multiple historic lighthouses, seaside parks, and beautiful islands, which helps explain why its real estate is in high demand: The median cost of a home in the city is twice that of the national median. 

Looking at homes in a mid-coast city like Camden can keep you on Maine’s coastline without breaking your retirement budget.

Hanover, New Hampshire

Wangkun Jia/Adobe new hampshire commercial buildings with cars parked outside in parking during day time

Hanover is the home of Dartmouth College, and while the area isn’t as expensive as Harvard’s hometown of Cambridge, it definitely isn’t cheap. The median rent is $1,695 while the median home cost is over $577,000. Prices that high made Hanover’s housing market the fifth most expensive in the state in 2021 — and ensured Hanover was the only non-coastal town to make the top five.

Jersey City, New Jersey

dbvirago/Adobe skylines of new jersey with statue of liberty in front of water under cloudy sky

Jersey City is located just across the border from New York, but the New Jersey town might as well be part of NYC based on its high prices. 

Housing costs in Jersey City are nearly 75% higher than the country’s average. Depending on the neighborhood you live in, that could mean you’d pay between $1,600 and $2,380 in rent.

Honestly, if you plan to spend much time in NYC, you might as well live in the Big Apple instead of Jersey — gas, commuter fare, and other transportation costs are 10% higher in Jersey City than the national average.

Nashua, New Hampshire

thomas/Adobe trees with orange leaves during fall in new hampshire

If you prefer peaceful riversides to crowded beaches, you might have looked at homes near Nashua, New Hampshire. The city marks the meeting point of the Merrimack River and one of its tributaries, the Nashua River, and much of the watershed area is still heavily forested.

Unfortunately for budget-conscious retirees, the city’s median rent is around $1,416. Proximity to Boston and low taxes have driven up housing costs. 

Living in a suburb like Pelham instead of Nashua keeps you close to the river while saving you a few hundred dollars on housing.

Norwalk, Connecticut

miro/Adobe view of the downtown from veterans park on sunny day

Norwalk was first established as a town in 1651, where residents planted flax and built farms. 

Today, Norwalk’s beautiful coastline stretches and proximity to NYC are its major draws. While the city is definitely cheaper than New York City itself, the median rent is still quite high at $1,750.

Ocean View, Delaware

Nicole/Adobe dewey beach shore with buildings and trees

With a population of fewer than 3,000 people, Ocean View is one of the smallest cities on our list. More people flock to the area during the summer to enjoy the cozy village vibes and lovely ocean views. 

If you value your money, you should probably join the day-trip visitors rather than the permanent Ocean View residents: The median rent payment is more than $1,700.

Old Greenwich, Connecticut

Brian/Adobe greenwich avenue shopping district in downtown greenwich

Old Greenwich is just one neighborhood in the city of Greenwich, Connecticut, and its zip code is one of the most expensive in Connecticut. 

Like many of the most expensive cities on our list, Old Greenwich is located on the coast, and most Old Greenwich beaches are accessible only to residents. 

If you’d rather not buy a $1 million home as the price of beach entry, drive up from your more affordable home elsewhere in Connecticut, then purchase a pass online for beach access.

State College, Pennsylvania

Christian Hinkle/Adobe skylines of pittsburgh pennsylvania from schenley park

State College is a central Pennsylvanian town of around 40,000 people. It’s about halfway between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and (in case the name didn’t give it away) it’s also the site of Pennsylvania State University’s main campus. 

The city’s median rent of $1,112 is below the national median, but you can do better: For instance, Harrisburg is located an hour and a half to the southeast and has a median rent of only $867 a month.

Bottom line

moodboard/Adobe happy senior african american couple walking on beach

Even if you’re doing better than average financially, you might still be priced out of some popular cities in the expensive Northeast. 

Here’s the good news: With a little research, you can still find your retirement home near one of them. Now that you know where you shouldn’t bother to look, you can direct your time and attention toward finding places that meet both your budgetary and lifestyle goals for retirement.

Smart Asset Benefits

  • Get matched with fiduciary financial advisors
  • Advisors are vetted and certified fiduciaries
  • Take the mystery out of retirement planning
  • Their matching tool is free

Author Details

Michelle Smith Michelle Smith has spent a decade writing for and about small businesses. She specializes in all things finance and has written for publications like G2 and SmallBizDaily. When she's not writing for work at her desk, you can usually find her writing for pleasure near large bodies of water.