This riverside city is a surprising best place to retire

See ya, Sunbelt. The best place to retire is now Harrisburg, Pa.

That’s according to the latest ranking by U.S. News & World Report, which extolled seven Pennsylvania cities as top 10 retirement destinations. Daytona Beach, Fla., was the only southern town to make the top 10, coming in at the No. 8 spot. 

Harrisburg saw its ranking move up one spot to take the No. 1 spot for the 2024 listing, a result of its scores for healthcare for older adults, tax rates for retirees and overall happiness of its residents, U.S. News said. The previous No. 1 city, Lancaster, Pa., dropped to the No. 3 spot. 

“Harrisburg was No. 2 last year, so it’s been quite strong. It rose further due to its healthcare quality, happiness [and] favorable retiree taxes, and it has a nice community feel,” said Beverly Harzog, consumer-finance analyst at U.S. News. “It’s great for being outdoors, running, biking, nearby hiking and camping. It’s a good location that’s not far from Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New York.”

Other Pennsylvania towns in the top 10 included Reading, Scranton, Allentown, York and Pittsburgh. New York City came in at No. 6 and Youngstown, Ohio, was in the No. 9 spot. See the full rankings here

U.S. News said its new list evaluated the country’s 150 most populous metropolitan areas based on how well they met expectations for retirement, with measures including affordability, healthcare, desirability, retiree taxes, job market and overall happiness. Affordability was the most heavily weighted of the six factors.

“Over the last year, Americans have observed record-high interest rates in the housing market, steadily increasing cost of goods and extreme weather patterns,” Harzog said. “As retirees consider where to spend their golden years, they want areas that not only give them the best bang for their buck, but places where they can live a happy, healthy life.”

New York City, despite its high housing costs, jumped to the No. 6 spot, mostly due to its “world-class healthcare,” Harzog said. 

“If you have the financial resources to live in New York City, it offers great healthcare, job and volunteer opportunities, restaurants, Broadway, museums. You’d never run out of things to do there — if you can make the numbers work for you, that is,” Harzog said.

For the 2024 rankings, U.S. News adjusted its methodology for the desirability index to include weather — such as the number of days annually with moderate temperatures and minimal precipitation. It also includes an establishment-to-population ratio, which assesses the number of restaurants, bars and activities per 1,000 residents. 

The addition of weather to the methodology kicked Florida out of much of the top 10 due to the state’s extreme weather and high temperatures, Harzog said. Rising housing costs in Florida also weakened its desirability.

Florida still had six cities among the top 25.

Newcomers in the top 25 included Winston-Salem, N.C.; Trenton, N.J.; and Rochester, N.Y.

The affordability index, which previously focused solely on the cost of housing, this year factored in the general cost of goods within an area.

For the rankings, data sources include the U.S. Census Bureau, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Risk Index, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, health and wellness company Sharecare and U.S. News’ Best Hospitals rankings.

MarketWatch has its own tool to help people decide where to retirement that allows readers narrow down choices by sifting through data ranging from housing and weather to taxes, healthcare, theater, hiking and craft breweries.

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