Sure, Florida still holds allure for retirees, but Lancaster, Pa., nabbed the top spot for the best retirement destination amid concerns about housing affordability.
According to U.S. News & World Report, the 2022–23 ranking of best places to retire in the United States, Pennsylvania earned three of the top five spots, surpassing Florida in overall top 10 appearances.
Lancaster, in southeastern Pennsylvania some 75 miles west of Philadelphia, moved up four spots to secure the No. 1 rank due to its scores on healthcare for seniors, retiree tax rates and overall resident happiness, the magazine said.
Read: We want to spend our retirement traveling on bicycles and need a low-tax ‘home’ for legal purposes. What’s the best home base for us?
This year’s list evaluated the country’s 150 most populous metropolitan areas based on how well they meet Americans’ expectations for retirement, with measures including housing affordability, healthcare, desirability and overall happiness — resulting in four new areas in the top five.
Also in the Keystone State, the capital city Harrisburg rose 11 positions to the No. 2 spot, and Pensacola, Fla., rose seven positions to No. 3. Tampa moved up two positions to No. 4, and York, Pa., saw the largest jump to a top-five position, rising 12 positions to No. 5.
“The drastic shift in the housing market, high inflation and concerns of a pending recession have retirees weighing housing affordability more heavily when considering where to retire,” said Emily Brandon, U.S. News senior editor for retirement, observing that “with COVID still a concern and access to good, affordable healthcare being of importance to retirees,” Pennsylvania was advantaged in the rankings.
Of course, Florida remains a highly desired location for retirees overall, with several areas placing high in the rankings and a total of nine appearances in the top 25.
“Retirees might be still dreaming about the Florida beach retirement if they can afford it, but Pennsylvania really dominated for affordability,” Brandon said. “So many places in Pennsylvania did so well this year, edging out Florida. We weighted housing more heavily this year as affordability has been top of mind.”
But the 2022–23 ranking’s emphasis on housing affordability, retiree taxes and overall happiness gave way for Fort Wayne, Ind., to soar 43 spots to No. 15. Other notable top 25 increases include Youngstown, Ohio, moving up 38 positions to No. 21, and Toledo, Ohio rising 30 positions to No. 23. (See the full list here.)
This year, housing affordability is most heavily weighted out of the six factors in the places-to-retire methodology, which also includes happiness, healthcare quality, retiree taxes, desirability and job-market ratings.
“With fixed-rate mortgage rates more than doubling over the past year, it stands to reason that falling affordability would lead to changes in the rankings,” said Patrick Duffy, a real-estate economist.
“As long as both rates and home prices are high, indexes related to things like happiness or healthcare quality, while important, will take a back seat to affordability. For those lucky buyers able to purchase with cash, as investors, they should still be mindful of housing values adjusting lower to compensate for rising mortgage rates,” Duffy said.
With mortgage rates surging to 6% to 7%, mortgage affordability has become a serious impediment for home buyers, who also are still contending with lofty home prices. Rental prices, meanwhile, also have been surging, making it difficult to budget for large increases.
Read: Housing affordability plunges to lowest level since 2006. The property market’s ‘great slowdown’ is here, Bank of America says.
MarketWatch boasts its own tool to help navigate retirement destinations that allows readers narrow down choices by sifting through myriad data ranging from housing and weather to taxes and healthcare to theater, hiking and craft breweries. Find the tool here.
Read: Where Should I Retire?
Of course, there are other factors that weigh on a decision to retire, such as where friends and family live. There’s also plenty of Americans who want to age in place and not move for retirement — they want to say where they have community and connections. It’s a very personal and individual decision.
The six measures factored into the U.S. News rankings this year were weighted based on a public survey of individuals across the U.S. who are nearing retirement age (ages 45-59) and those who are of retirement age (60 or older) to find out what matters most when considering where to retire.
Data sources include the U.S. Census Bureau, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the health and wellness information provider Sharecare , as well as U.S. News Best Hospitals rankings. The retirement rankings are part of the U.S. News real-estate channel, which provides rankings, tools and advice to help individuals navigate the housing market, from getting a mortgage and home-value estimate to working with an agent and buying and selling a home.
2022–23 U.S. News Best Places to Retire : Top 10
1. Lancaster, Pa.
2. Harrisburg, Pa.
3. Pensacola, Fla.
4. Tampa, Fla.
5. York, Pa.
6. Naples, Fla.
7. Daytona Beach, Fla.
8. Ann Arbor, Mich.
9. Allentown, Pa.
10. Reading, Pa.