Best places to retire: DC area falls in US News’ 2020 rankings

The D.C. area took a tumble in U.S. News and World Report’s latest rankings of the best places to retire.

The 2020 list has D.C. falling to No. 34, down from 2019’s No. 12. Emily Brandon, U.S. News’ chief editor for retirement, said housing costs were the biggest factor.

U.S. News compiled their rankings by taking data from their own surveys, other polling and the U.S. Census Bureau, and putting them into six categories: Happiness, Housing Affordability, Health Care Quality, Retiree Taxes, Desirability and the Job Market (for those who still want to work part-time, Brandon said). Each category was then weighted based on responses by more than 2,500 people 45 and older nationwide.

“The biggest drawback of retirement in the D.C. metro area is the high cost of living,” Brandon said, and affordable housing is one of the most important factors. D.C. wasn’t the only big metropolitan area to take a spill in the rankings.

The area did well in other categories, though: People who have already retired in the area are content to live here — that’s the Happiness index. Health care is also good, and prospects of getting a part-time job are high, she added.

D.C.’s Desirability index, which measures how much older Americans are in retiring to a given place, also dropped — “we think because of a perceived lack of affordability,” Brandon said. “People who are already living in D.C. are saying their content with their quality of life, but people who aren’t living there yet are maybe looking for a place that’s a bit more affordable.”

She concluded, “Overall it was just high housing costs … retirees who often have very fixed and very limited incomes often look for ways to keep their housing costs low.”

That’s true nationwide, she said. Four of the top seven places to retire are in Florida; two are in North Carolina. “They had affordable housing, and the current residents there were very happy, and people who weren’t living there yet desired to live there,” Brandon said. Florida’s low tax rates help them to do well.

The three top places to retire in 2020, according to U.S. News and World Report:

  1. Fort Myers, Florida
  2. Sarasota, Florida
  3. Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Looking out a bit from the Washington area: Virginia Beach, Virginia, came in at No. 71; Baltimore was No. 72.

See the full list from U.S. News.

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