Many workers spend years dreaming of the day they can finally retire, and for some, early retirement would be a dream come true.
Approximately 60% of soon-to-be retirees say retirement will be the most liberating phase in their entire life, according to a survey from TD Ameritrade, and 50% of survey respondents said they would like to retire by age 60. However, while many workers want to retire that early, only a third said they expect to be able to do so.
When you're saving for retirement, a lot of focus is put on saving enough to meet your financial needs. But another factor to consider is whether you can lower your costs in retirement. By living a less expensive lifestyle, you can retire earlier and live more comfortably without breaking the bank.
General living costs will likely be your most significant expense in retirement, and those costs are largely impacted by where you live. Move to one of these more wallet-friendly cities, and you may be able to save enough to retire early.
1. Sun City, Arizona
If you're looking to move to a community designed specifically for retirees, you can't beat Sun City. The median home value in the city is around $180,000, according to Zillow -- much less than the median U.S. home value of $229,000.
Once you start collecting Social Security benefits, you won't pay any state income taxes on them in Arizona. While you shouldn't rely too much on Social Security in retirement, the tax break can help save some money.
The general cost of living is slightly higher in Sun City than the national average, but the city has plenty of activities for retirees. With various clubs, events, and other recreational activities, it's easy to keep yourself busy during retirement while sticking to a budget. And because you'll be surrounded by other retirees your age, it will be easier to make friends and find ways to stay occupied without spending too much money.
This is key if you're planning to retire early because you'll likely have decades of free time. If you spend all your free time traveling or learning expensive new hobbies, there's a good chance you'll blow through your retirement savings too quickly.
2. Fort Meade, Florida
There's a reason why the Sunshine State is such a popular retirement destination. Not only does it have beautiful beaches and nearly year-round sunny weather, but Florida residents don't pay state income taxes on Social Security benefits -- making it one of the more tax-friendly retirement destinations.
There are several cities in Florida that make for ideal retirement destinations, but Fort Meade is one of the most affordable. The median household income is just under $60,000 per year -- nearly $20,000 more per year than the national average -- yet the city has a relatively low cost of living. The median home value in Fort Meade is just $108,000, and the overall cost of living is nearly 20% lower than the national average.
A small town with a population of less than 6,000 residents, Fort Meade is a good option for those looking for a quieter retirement. Yet the city is also only an hour's drive from Tampa, so there are still plenty of entertainment options when you're itching to get out of the house for a day trip.
3. Idaho Falls, Idaho
Idaho may seem like an odd retirement choice, but it has potential to be the perfect retirement destination for many people. Just over a third of people who have moved to Idaho in 2018 said their primary reason for moving was to retire, according to a survey from United Van Lines, and the state is one of the most popular destinations in the country for those looking to relocate.
Idaho Falls has the best of both worlds in that it's a relatively big city with plenty of amenities, yet the cost of living falls close to 10% below the national average. Idaho is also among the states that does not tax Social Security benefits, so the tax advantage can help your retirement income go further.
The city has plenty of museums, restaurants, and other social activities, so you'll have no shortage of ways to enjoy your retirement in Idaho Falls. The city is also a nature lover's dream, with miles of hiking trails along the Snake River and beautiful scenery, complete with the city's famous waterfalls. For those on the adventurous side, you can even visit Wilderness Ridge Trail Llamas to enjoy a hike through the mountains from the back of a llama.
Is moving during retirement the right option for you?
Before retiring early to move across the country on a new adventure, be sure to do your due diligence and decide whether it's the best retirement option for you. If you're determined to retire early, take a close look at your savings to see just how early you're able to retire.
Don't forget about healthcare costs and Social Security benefits, too. You're not eligible to enroll in Medicare until age 65, and the earliest you can begin claiming Social Security is age 62. Also, there's a possibility that Social Security benefits could be cut in the next few decades. So as you're planning for retirement, make sure you're not going to be relying too heavily on your benefits to cover your expenses.
If you've decided that early retirement is right for you, make sure to do your research before moving to a new city. Take a couple of weeks to visit your prospective new town to find out whether you could see yourself living there. Try to live like a local and see whether it feels like home. Do you fit in with your prospective new community? Does the city have enough amenities to keep you busy in retirement? Will your friends and family be able to visit? Giving your new city a trial run can ensure you're happy there before you start packing your bags.
Not everyone can retire early, but it's not impossible. You'll likely need to supercharge your savings to make sure you have enough to last several decades, but lowering your costs by moving to a less expensive city can also help your money last longer -- and create a more enjoyable retirement for decades to come.