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Retirement Resilience: Cities with the Most Financially Secure Seniors

Is where you live hampering your chance of a financially secure retirement?

The financial landscape for retirees across America is far from uniform, with factors like earning potential and housing costs varying widely from city to city. Location is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to living a healthy financial life, and ultimately, for achieving a financially secure retirement.

But which U.S. cities foster financial security for their senior residents?

To get to the bottom of this question, we performed a comprehensive analysis of 170 U.S. cities with populations exceeding 150,000. Using U.S. Census Bureau data, eight key variables were weighted and compared, including senior poverty rates, homeownership rates, mortgage status, reliance on food stamps, private retirement income, and household earnings. The result is a ranking of cities across America where retirees can find the greatest level of financial resilience in their golden years.

Key highlights

  • Cary, North Carolina tops the list of cities with the most financially secure seniors due to its high senior homeownership rate (77.4%), and high percentage of seniors with private retirement income streams (71.2%).
  • Metro Phoenix, Arizona cities are home to some of the most financially secure seniors in the nation, including Scottsdale (No. 4), Tempe (No. 12), Gilbert (No. 17), and Peoria (No. 18).
  • Coastal California cities also rank among the top zip codes for a financially secure retirement, including Huntington Beach (No. 2), Fremont (No. 3), and Sunnyvale (No. 8).
  • Newark, New Jersey, ranks worst for retirement security, with 26.8% of seniors living at or below the poverty line and over half of all seniors (50.9%) burdened by housing expenses.

Charming Cary, North Carolina tops our list of the most financially secure retirement havens. Here, an impressive 71.2% of seniors enjoy the security of private retirement income and only 19.9% of senior homeowners in Cary find themselves burdened by the cost of housing payments.

While California often carries a reputation for its high cost of living, Huntington Beach and Fremont, CA rank 2nd and 3rd, respectively, among the nation's best locations for a financially healthy retirement. Retirees In Huntington Beach bring in the 6th highest mean retirement income in the nation ($48,763), and Fremont ranks 8th in mean household retirement income nationwide ($46,263), defraying some of the costs of living in prime real estate zones.

Heading inland, Madison, WI (No. 4 overall) mirrors Cary in its high percentage of seniors declaring private retirement income (70.0%), and Scottsdale, AZ (No. 5) boasts the 6th highest mean household earnings for seniors in the nation ($110,432).

The remaining top 10 cities, including Plano, TX (No. 6), Huntsville, AL (No. 7), Sunnyvale, CA (No. 8), Fort Collins, CO (No. 9), and Chesapeake, VA (No. 10) feature a combination of low senior poverty rates, high retirement incomes, and generally low percentages of cost-burdened senior homeowners.

Top 10 cities with the most financially secure seniors

#1. Cary, North Carolina

In Cary, NC, an impressive 71.2% of seniors enjoy the peace of mind that comes with private retirement income, making Cary home to the second-highest percentage of seniors with private retirement income in the nation. Additionally, only 20% of senior homeowners are considered "house poor", and just 2.7% of seniors in the city are on food stamps. With a mean household retirement income of $40,571, and 59% of senior homeowners without a mortgage, many senior residents of Cary have plenty left over for spending on leisure and recreation.

#2. Huntington Beach, California

Sunset views and laid-back culture define Huntington Beach, CA. Huntington Beach seniors have the 4th highest household incomes in the nation and the 6th highest mean retirement income in America ($48,763 annually). Despite living in a zip code with hefty price tags, almost 6 in 10 (59.9%) of Huntington Beach residents are living mortgage-free by the time they hit retirement age.

#3. Fremont, California

A commuter town serving both San Francisco and San Jose, Fremont attracts a diverse population of high achievers – the city ranks 8th for highest mean senior household earnings nationwide, which translates into the 10th highest mean household retirement income in the nation ($46,263). Just 6.8% of the 65 and over community in Fremont live at or below the poverty line. And despite the competitive real estate market, fewer than 1 in 3 (29.4%) of Fremont households are considered cost burdened by their mortgage payments.

#4. Madison, Wisconsin

Adored by outdoor enthusiasts, Madison, WI consistently ranks among the nation’s top cities on quality-of-life rubrics, and the perks don’t stop at retirement. Madison ranks 3rd in the nation for the highest percentage of seniors with private retirement income (70%). On top of that, 73.6% of seniors in Madison are homeowners, and a whopping 62.2% of them live without mortgage payments, meaning those private income streams can be funneled directly into bucket list trips and fancy new hiking and biking gear.

#5. Scottsdale, Arizona

It’s no wonder Scottsdale is home to a thriving retirement community – warm winters, spa culture, and over 200 golf courses within a half hour’s drive fit the brief. Seniors in Scottsdale generally have more than enough financial stability to enjoy these amenities; senior residents report the 6th highest mean household earnings in the nation ($110,432), and a mean household retirement income of $45,771. Additionally, just 2.1% of Scottsdale seniors are on food stamps, and just 28.9% of retirees are cost-burdened by housing payments.

#6. Plano, Texas

When people talk about the glitz and glamor of the Dallas elite, they’re often referring to residents of Plano. With white collar, well-paid jobs being the city’s norm, Plano ranks 7th in the nation for highest senior household earnings ($109,517). Nearly three quarters (72.6%) of Plano seniors own homes, and 63.9% are living mortgage-free, leaving just 23.9% of seniors cost-burdened by their homes.

#7. Huntsville, Alabama

If you live in Huntsville, the phrase, “sweet home, Alabama” probably rings true for you – Huntsville is home to the lowest rate of house-poor seniors on our list. 81.4% of Huntsville seniors own their homes, 56.6% of those seniors are living mortgage-free, and only 15.7% of seniors living in Huntsville are considered “house poor.” Additionally, 64.6% of the retired community of Huntsville have private retirement income, making Huntsville home to the 7th-highest rate of seniors with private retirement income in the nation.

#8. Sunnyvale, California

As the name suggests, Sunnyvale’s Mediterranean-like climate acts as a beacon for retirees across the country. And they’re in the right spot – the city ranks 5th for highest mean senior household earnings in the U.S. Despite eye-watering real estate price tags, 75.6% of senior residents own their homes, and 61.5% have cleared their mortgage payments by the time retirement rolls around. With a relatively low senior poverty rate (8.1%), and a small fraction of seniors relying on SNAP government assistance (4.5%), flush Sunnyvale seniors can be found dining out at the region’s plentiful fusion food destinations.

#9. Fort Collins, Colorado

Hiking, biking, and prudently balancing the books are all part of life in Fort Collins, CO. Residents of the Fort Collins area have their housing situation locked down by retirement age, with 78.3% of seniors owning their home, and only 22.9% of seniors qualifying as cost-burdened homeowners. Mean household retirement income sits at a cool $43,967 per year, and with 58.6% of seniors enjoying a private retirement income stream, the 65 and over community of Fort Collins has plenty of extra cash to splash out on outdoor fun.

#10. Chesapeake, Virginia

Moving to the Great Dismal Swamp isn't synecdoche for retirement in Chesapeake, VA; it's merely one of the unique landmarks in a city where seniors thrive. Chesapeake boasts the 4th-highest rate of private retirement income in the nation among its senior population. Far from being dismal, the city offers a vibrant environment for retirees. Seniors in Chesapeake enjoy the 6th lowest senior poverty rate at 6.3% and the 4th highest senior homeownership rate at 82.1%. With a mean household retirement income of $38,267, retirees in Chesapeake can comfortably explore the region's diverse geography and enjoy their golden years in style.

Cities with the least financially secure seniors

Retirement is supposed to be a time of relaxation and enjoyment, but this isn’t always the case. Of the 170 cities analyzed for this study, seniors in Newark, New Jersey are most likely to struggle the most, with 26.8% of seniors living at or below the poverty line, 26.7% receiving SNAP benefits, and over half of all seniors (50.9%) feeling cost-burdened by housing payments.

The East Coast overall proves to be a tough place to sail into your golden years with ease. Seniors living in cities including Springfield, MA (3rd worst), Providence, RI (5th), and Jersey City, NJ (7th) struggle with low household retirement income rates compared to the cost of living, and many seniors rely on SNAP to make it month-to-month.

Nowhere is public assistance for seniors more critical than in Hialeah, FL, the nation’s 2nd worst city for a financially stable retirement – 30.4% of Hialeah seniors live at or below the poverty line, and over half of all seniors in Hialeah (51.4%) rely on food stamps to get by. Seniors living in Orlando, FL (6th worst) and Miami, FL (9th worst) also struggle, with problems of low mean senior household income plaguing Orlando, and the highest senior poverty rates in the nation (32.8%) being found in Miami.

Since the establishment of Social Security in the 1930s, retirees in the U.S. have relied on a combination of government benefits, personal savings, and pension plans to fund their golden years. However, economic factors such as inflation, rising healthcare costs, and market volatility complicate a clear path for seniors looking to maintain their standard of living in retirement.

By strategically choosing where to settle down ahead of time, seniors can avoid some of the shocks of uncontrollable financial factors and lay a solid foundation of security that allows them to thrive in retirement.


To determine our ranking, we analyzed 170 cities with a population of 150,000 or more via the U.S. Census Bureau. We compared these cities across 8 weighted variables: senior poverty rate, senior homeownership rate, percent of senior homeowners without a mortgage, percent of “house poor” senior homeowners (housing costs exceeding 30% of household income), percent of seniors on food stamps (SNAP), percent of seniors with private retirement income, mean household retirement income for seniors, and mean household earnings for seniors.

The Census Bureau defines monthly housing costs as the sum of payments for mortgages, deeds of trust, contracts to purchase, or similar debts on the property (including payments for the first mortgage, second mortgages, home equity loans, and other junior mortgages); real estate taxes; fire, hazard, and flood insurance on the property; utilities (electricity, gas, and water and sewer); and fuels (oil, coal, kerosene, wood, etc.).

It also includes any applicable monthly condominium fees for condominiums, mobile home costs (personal property taxes, site rent, registration fees, and license fees). Selected monthly owner costs were tabulated for all owner-occupied units for units with a mortgage.

Each variable was graded on a 100-point scale. To determine an overall score, each city’s weighted average was calculated across all metrics.

  • Senior Poverty Rate (20 points): This is a critical factor for determining financial security among seniors.
  • Senior Homeownership Rate (15 points): Homeownership can contribute significantly to financial stability in retirement.
  • Percent of Senior Homeowners without a Mortgage (12 points): Seniors who own their homes outright are likely to have fewer financial obligations related to housing.
  • Percent of Seniors on Food Stamps (8 points): This factor indicates the level of financial assistance seniors require for groceries. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides food benefits to low-income families to supplement their grocery budget.
  • Percent of Cost-Burdened Homeowners (10 points): Seniors spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs may face financial strain.
  • Percent of Seniors with Private Retirement Income (10 points): Having private retirement income can indicate additional financial security beyond government assistance.
  • Mean Household Retirement Income for Seniors (13 points): The average retirement income can provide a good overall picture of seniors' financial well-being.
  • Mean Household Earnings for Seniors (12 points): This factor represents the average earnings of seniors, which can reflect their overall financial status.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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