Picking a place to retire is a pretty big deal. Any good financial planner will advise you to start thinking about where you want to live well before you enter those retirement years.
If you don't plan to retire in the home you've lived in for years, you may go to one of those "Best places to retire" lists.
We wanted to try something different. We have a list of great places to retire that many of you may not have thought about, all great communities, but not on the radar of the masses.
What made us choose these places? They have all the things retirees want when they start looking for a place to spend their golden years.
"Retirees want relatively low cost of living and housing, a favorable tax situation, a low crime rate, an active downtown, good medical facilities and, more than ever, a range of activities that can keep them fit and healthy," says Annette Fuller, managing editor of Where to Retire magazine. "Big cities still attract, such as Austin and Santa Fe, but the little guys - such as Mountain Home, Ark.; Natchez, Miss.; and Port Townsend, Wash. - have many relocated retirees who proudly boast of their new home and delight in finding an off-the-beaten-path location."
Here are five cities and towns for consideration.
1. Hendersonville, N.C. Most people know Asheville, N.C., in the western mountains of the state. But, according to Terri King, CEO of Coldwell Banker King in Asheville, people are discovering the outlying areas. Twenty-five minutes south of Asheville is Hendersonville (pop. 13,000) which has many of the qualities sought by Baby Boomers, King says.
She calls the city a "remarkably friendly yet sophisticated social experience." Among the attributes, a 72-piece orchestra (the smallest town in the USA that has one, she says). It is also home to the official state theater, the Flat Rock Playhouse. And it's 25 miles from Mission Hospital, which was ranked in the top 15 health care systems in 2013 by Thomson Reuters.
"It has easy walking, waterfalls and a national forest," King says. "And you are two to three hours from cities like Atlanta and Greensboro.
"It's very conducive to a retired individual," she says. "For Baby Boomers, it has a mild, four-season climate. People retirement age are done with the extremes in life."
Steve Wike, 64, publisher of BlueRidgeTravelGuide.com, and his wife, Mickie, moved to Hendersonville in 2010. "There is everything imaginable to do here," he says. "I wouldn't trade it. I love it here."
"There are over 200 waterfalls in Western North Carolina," Wike says, and you can hike to almost all of them." And, of course, there's golf.
"I don't play golf, but for the guys around here who do, they say they can get on any private course. It's like $35 for 18 holes," says Wike, who grew up in Northern Virginia. "They love it. They say the views and courses are beautiful."
2. St. Augustine, Fla. (pop. 13,500) Beautiful weather, one of the top outdoor concert venues in the USA the 3,400-seat St. Augustine Amphitheater are all among the attractions," says Rob West, CEO of Coldwell Banker Premier Properties. There's no state income tax and low sales tax. And it's 45 minutes from Jacksonville, he says
"We were just named by a magazine as one of the top 10 places to retire," West says. "It's the oldest city in the U.S., so we are rich in history and cultural arts. And we have world-class beaches."
West says the average home price is about $200,000, but retirees are trending more to the $300,000 to $400,000 range.
Chuck and Pamela Nauss are among the retirees who have made St. Augustine their home. Pam Nauss, 57, is from Birmingham, and her husband is from Long Island. When they looked for retirement communities, they looked in North Carolina and South Carolina before they settled on St. Augustine. "It's got that charm and appeal that a lot of other areas lack," she says.
It features a historic district of downtown, art community, museums, tons of shopping and great restaurants, she says. Other attractions: water sports, a low crime rate and year-round golf.
"There are multiple rivers," she says. "It is a great place for boating. We love the vibrancy. ... It's just nice. People are just nice here. Your life becomes simpler."
3. King of Prussia, Pa. (pop. 20,000). "
"King of Prussia is one of the most centralized places to live," says Ron Clarke, CEO of Century 21 Alliance, which has 14 offices in Philadelphia and its suburbs. "You can get to the shore in 15 minutes, the mountains in two hours. It has easy access to shopping, with two of largest malls in the state. In the Delaware Valley there is a tremendous amount of 55-and-older age-restricted housing. That's attracted people from outside the area."
The proximity to Philadelphia has made much of the Delaware Valley a retirement magnet, Clarke says. The No. 1 reason is the availability of health care. There are five teaching hospitals in Philadelphia Jefferson University Hospital, Hahnemann University Hospital, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University Hospital and Einstein Health Care Network.
Also, Clarke says, Pennsylvania ranks fourth in the nation in the percentage of the population over 65. (Florida, West Virginia and Maine are the top three). "A lot of that is people who started there stay there," he says. "It is a friendly state and the only state where all the lottery proceeds go to benefit seniors."
4. College Station, Texas. (pop. 97,500, which swells by 50,000 when Texas A&M students are in town). "
"We see a lot of people who, when they chose to retire, come back to College Station," says Raylene Lewis, broker with Century 21 Beal in College Station. " A lot buy a home in the historic district, so they can have tailgate parties and walk to the game."
She says College Station is centrally located between Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, and the beach is three house away.
Other attractions: a warm climate, low housing costs and low crime.
"Average sales price is just under $200,000," she says. "You can still get a really nice house at a great price."
5. Branson, Mo. (pop. 10,000) "Some hidden-in-plain-view cities like Branson, Mo., are popular, as the retirees become Branson 'insiders' and watch the tourists come and go, living alongside three gorgeous, peaceful lakes," says Where to Retire's Fuller.
"Even though our population is a little over 10,000, on any given day, we operate as a town of more along the lines of 60,000 to 70,000 (because of the tourism)," Mayor Reanne Presley says. "You have services that support that amount of folks police, fire, health care, all those things that are important."
She says people are also attracted to the nine golf courses, associated with big-name golfers such as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Payne Stewart and Tom Watson. "We have all the fun things," she says, "the shows, dining, outdoor recreation and fun places to shop."
Dustin Hall, co-owner of Sunset Realty Services in Branson, says taxes are low and home prices are inexpensive. "You can get a three-bedroom, two-bath, for under $150,000," he said. "You can get into something a little nicer for less than $250,000. Or you can buy a two-bedroom condo for less than $100,000.
"What's really good is we are so centrally located the rest of the family can come visit, will want to visit," he says.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)