Best Cities to Retire

I recently stumbled upon a fascinating website, the Milken Institute’s Best Cities for Successful Aging.

I was doing some research to try and determine whether moving to a state without income tax like Florida or Texas really made a difference to an overall retirement plan.  I created a hypothetical client and ran 10,000 scenarios that were identical other than the state where the client retired.

As I expected, the difference in outcomes was marginal.  Avoiding state taxes is appealing, but my conclusion was that you should live where you want to live with the local tax regime as a distant consideration behind family, friends, weather, etc.

I don’t know much about the Milken Institute except that it was founded by Michael Milken, the disgraced Wall Street bond trader who epitomized greed in the go-go 1980s and has spent his life after prison as a major philanthropist in education, medicine, economic development and aging.

What I found at the Milken Institute’s website, found here, is an absolute treasure trove of data.  The idea behind the site is that America’s population is aging and attitudes about getting older is shifting and people need data to make good decisions.

When I looked at their ranking of ‘best’ places to age, I was very surprised to see Madison WI at the top of the list.  I’ve been to Madison and it’s a lovely town, but not many retirees that I know seem to head north into the cold to a city that gets 53 inches of snow each year.

But the Milken institute scores cities on a surprising number of dimensions from wellness and healthcare to transportation and community engagement.

Even more impressive than the eight broad categories are the indicators that create those categories.  Within healthcare, there are 18 indicators from the number of doctors, hospital beds, physiologists, nurses and dialysis centers to ER wait times and the percentage of hospitals with medical school affiliations.

Like a lot of cities that scored well, Madison benefits from being a university town.  That makes sense because the hospitals are affiliated with the medical schools, but universities also have a large number of arts, entertainment and recreation facilities.  As someone who lives less than a mile away from Washington University, it makes perfect sense.

While weather is a consideration in their index, it’s just one factor among 80.  The number of golf courses, public libraries, marinas and fitness centers along with cost of assisted living and senior volunteer rates, matter just as much.

Interestingly, the Milken Institute is pushing for change by having mayors sign a pledge that commit them to improving their cities for older adults.  I’m not sure if the mayors are quite that powerful, but I was happy to see that Francis Slay has signed on.

Of course I love this kind of data and think it would be useful for people making decisions about where to live in retirement, although where your friends and family live should probably top the list of criteria.