Nov 21, 2023 - News

Why San Diego ranked among the worst U.S. cities to retire

Illustration of a door mat that says "Welcome," but the L is a cane.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

San Diego's sunny weather might be appealing to retirees looking to maintain an active lifestyle, but it's ranked among the least desirable U.S. cities to retire.

Why it matters: The city's expensive housing costs make it a challenge for people in different phases of life from Gen Z renters to first-time homebuyers and retirees.

Driving the news: U.S. News & World Report named San Diego the 115th best place to retire for 2024 of 150 major U.S. cities.

  • That's up from 124th last year.

Between the lines: Life in San Diego is not particularly affordable, with the cost of living sitting 43% higher than the national average.

  • The median home price is $915,000 as of October, about 2.2 times higher than the national average, per Redfin. That's before additional fees, like homeowners association dues.
  • "San Diegans are willing to pay these elevated prices, though, often referring to the cost-of-living differences as the 'sunshine tax,' or the price of enjoying a year-round temperate climate," according to U.S. News.

Context: The U.S. News rankings were based on six factors, including: affordability, happiness, desirability, retiree taxes, job market and health care quality. How much weight each of those categories held was determined by a September survey of people approaching or at retirement age nationwide.

  • Respondents indicated affordability, essentially the cost of housing, was the most important attribute of a retirement destination.

By the numbers: San Diego earned a 6.3 out of 10 overall in the rankings. It got:

  • 3.5 for housing affordability
  • 5.9 for health care

The big picture: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania ranks as the No. 1 place to retire. The state dominated the ranking, capturing seven spots in the top 10.

  • Three Florida cities — Daytona Beach, Tampa and Sarasota — cracked the top 20, compared to eight last year.

What they're saying: Expensive housing and the increase of extreme weather risks make Florida and the West Coast less appealing for retirees, U.S. News & World Report finance expert Beverly Harzog tells Axios.

  • "The areas that rank high on Best Places to Retire also tend to be more tax-friendly for seniors," Harzog says.
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