If you're like most Americans, your retirement savings are probably looking a little sparse. Only a quarter of baby boomers think they're saving enough for retirement, according to a report from the Insured Retirement Institute, and 42% of boomers have nothing at all stashed away for the future.
As a result, more people end up depending on Social Security to get them through retirement. But when the average Social Security check amounts to just $1,300 per month, that doesn't leave you much to work with.
While relying on Social Security to make ends meet isn't ideal, it doesn't mean you have to give up your retirement dreams. If you've always envisioned yourself spending retirement relaxing on the beach sipping a cold drink, that could still be a reality even if you're short on savings. If you're willing to pack up and move, you could be sitting beachside for less than $1,500 per month in these cities.
1. Pensacola, Florida
Pensacola is more than just a popular tourist destination. With loads of restaurants, museums, and, of course, miles of sugar-white beaches, it's a retirement haven for those who are looking for a place to relax yet still explore. The best part, though, is the city's relatively low cost of living.
The median home value is just $145,000, and the average renter pays around $950 per month. Home values are quickly rising, though, according to predictions from Zillow, so if you're thinking about buying a home in Pensacola, now is the time. And if home values continue to increase, you may be able to make a nice profit if you decide to sell later -- boosting your retirement income even more.
There's also a major tax advantage to living here: Florida residents don't have to pay income tax, which also applies to retirement income. If your savings are already stretched thin, saving some money on income taxes can help stretch every dollar.
2. Corpus Christi, Texas
Tucked away off the Gulf of Mexico, Corpus Christi offers both a quiet retreat on the beach as well as a bustling city life with plenty of activities.
From the Texas State Aquarium to the Art Museum of South Texas to a busy restaurant scene, the city has something for everyone. Mustang Island State Park is just a short drive away, and it offers nearly 4,000 acres and 5 miles of beachfront. Padre Island National Seashore is another popular destination for beach lovers, with 70 miles of coastline, prairies, and dunes with wildlife galore.
Texas residents are also exempt from income taxes, making it another ideal retirement location for those on a budget. The median home value hovers around $150,000, and the average rent is around $975 per month.
3. Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
Bay St. Louis is a quaint city with a population of roughly 13,000 people, and it has plenty of small-town charm. It also has the 400-acre Buccaneer State Park right off the gulf, perfect for beachgoers and nature enthusiasts. As a bonus, it's also only about an hour's drive from New Orleans.
The median home value in Bay St. Louis is around $155,000, and you can find apartments right off the beach for less than $1,000 per month. Mississippi is also tax-friendly for retirees, and you won't need to pay taxes on any type of retirement income.
The city also offers milder temperatures than some of the other beach towns out there, with the average temperature in the warmest part of the year hovering around the 80s, while the colder months see average temperatures in the 50s and 60s.
Before you start packing your bags...
Think you're ready to pack up and move to the beach? Make sure you think through the decision first, because there's more to choosing a retirement destination than just price alone. Think about what type of environment you're looking for. If you're dreaming of spending your evenings at different restaurants, theaters, and concerts, a small, quiet town may make you miserable -- even if it's right within your budget. On the other hand, if all you want is to relax on the beach, the hustle and bustle of a busy city may cause more stress than it's worth.
Also don't forget about factors like healthcare, visiting family and friends, and potential part-time work. If you have significant health issues, it's a good idea to look for a destination with quality hospitals. If you're moving far from home and expect to fly back to visit friends and family often, living close to an airport may save you some time and money. And for those hoping to pick up some part-time work during retirement, check out the job market in your potential new city before you move to see what your options look like.
You don't have to be a millionaire to enjoy a sun-soaked retirement on the beach. Even if most of your retirement income comes from Social Security benefits, if you're strategic about it, you can still live the beach life you've been dreaming about.