Best College Towns to Retire


| “For many, retirement is a time for personal growth, which becomes the path to greater freedom.” –Robert Delamontagne |

Okay, here’s the deal. You want to retire, but you’re still planning on living an active lifestyle. You want easy access to cultural events and sports, and maybe to take a few classes at the local college to continue learning. Plus, you wouldn’t mind paying fewer taxes in retirement. 

Retirees today are happy to research and move to a place that fits their lifestyle. The typical sunny retiree spots like Florida and Arizona don’t always appeal to active retirees. 

AgentStory chose these 10 best college towns for their housing affordability, but more specifically because they’re located in a state without income tax or a tax on Social Security. Why not stretch your retirement funds as far as possible if you have the chance?

1. Manhattan, Kansas

Kansas State University, with 24,000 students, isn’t the only college in the Manhattan, Kansas (pop. 54,000) area. Besides KSU, Manhattan Christian College, Manhattan Area Technical College, American Institute of Baking (AIB International), and the Kansas Building Science Institute are all located here.

Kansas also doesn’t tax Social Security and ranks 33rd in the country for its tax burden on residents by the Tax Foundation. As far as taxes go, it’s a mixed bag. However, Kansas still offers affordable housing. Manhattan is at the junction of the Kansas and Big Blue Rivers, delivering great outdoor experiences for active retirees.

2. Morgantown, West Virginia

Fishing, boating, hiking, and all kinds of great outdoor activities are available at Audra State Park and Valley Falls State Park. If planetariums and observatories are more your style, West Virginia University offers lectures and presentations as well. 

Although West Virginia may not be many retirees’ first choice, it offers a 9.8% overall tax burden, which places it 22nd in the country. Most of West Virginia also has affordable housing. And the state doesn’t tax Social Security, so you’ll keep more of your post-retirement dollars. Morgantown is a great area to explore and close to many East Coast historical sites.

3. Burlington, Vermont

With one of the highest tax burdens in the country (13.6%), Vermont is ranked 47th for its tax burden. Located next to Lake Champlain, Burlington (pop. 44,000) is home to breweries and ice cream iconic duo Ben & Jerry’s. Despite its high tax rate, Vermont benefits from not taxing Social Security.

There’s plenty to do in Vermont, and the state’s flagship school, the University of Vermont, is located in Burlington. One of the oldest American universities, UVM is a top 100 public research university and has educated future leaders just 45 miles south of the Canadian border since 1791. Don’t let the small town size scare you away. If good healthcare is a priority to you, UVM Medical Center is also in Burlington. 

4. Laramie, Wyoming

No income tax. Only nine states can make that claim, and Wyoming is one of them. The University of Wyoming brings cowboy energy to Laramie (pop. 32,000). Besides the college culture, the town is near numerous outdoor activities. Fishing, hiking, ATV riding, golfing, climbing, and horseback riding are just a few of the amenities offered in the area. Medicine Bow National Forest is just outside of town, so it doesn’t take much effort to enjoy urban or rural recreations.

Home prices are still moderately affordable in Laramie, and the area enjoys all four seasons. The city is also just a day’s drive away from Cheyenne, Wyoming and Denver, Colorado. Laramie allows you to have your small city life and enjoy your big city cake too.

5. Gainesville, Florida

There’s a little something for everyone in Gainesville, Florida (pop. 141,000). Cultural activities, shopping, outdoor activities, and excellent healthcare facilities are all centered in this vibrant community. The North Florida Hospital offers advanced healthcare options, and the Florida Museum of Natural History provides entertainment for children and adults alike. 

Florida is also a no-income-tax state, and this North Central Florida city still enjoys incredibly affordable homes. The University of Florida is the fourthlargest public university in the country and Gainesville refers to itself as “the place where nature and culture meet”. With seven Florida state parks in the area, they’re serious about nature. 

6. Lincoln, Nebraska

“We make our own fun”, says Nebraska’s tourism website. Lincoln, Nebraska (pop. 292,000) may seem like a quiet prairie town, but as a university town, it offers both cultural and sporting events. The home of the Huskers, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a dominating presence in the city and game day brings a sea of red to the city.

Nebraska doesn’t tax Social Security income, and homes are still affordable throughout the city. In addition to university attractions, you can enjoy Group Therapy Bike Tours and the University of Nebraska State Museum, founded in 1871. With a little bit of creativity, you’ll never get bored in Lincoln.

7. Greeley, Colorado

The University of Northern Colorado, Aims Community College, Academy of Natural Therapy, and Institute of Business and Medical Careers are all based in Greeley, Colorado (pop. 108,000). Close by is the North Colorado Medical Center, so healthcare and cultural events are equally represented in the town.

The Greeley Independence Stampede is the last two weeks of June every year, leading up to July 4th, and includes a demolition derby, rodeos, carnival rides, and live music. Halfway between Fort Collins and Denver, Greeley has the added benefit of affordable housing that’s still close to major metropolitan areas. Colorado also doesn’t tax Social Security benefits.

8. Johnson City, Tennessee

Also referred to as “Little Chicago” for providing alcohol to Chicago gangsters during Prohibition, Johnson City, Tennessee (pop. 71,000) is nestled between mountains near the border of three states. It’s home to not only East Tennessee State University but also a robust healthcare system and the only College of Public Health in the state. Tennessee has no income tax, and the area enjoys moderate to cool weather.

9. New Britain, Connecticut

There’s a definite bee theme all over New Britain, Connecticut—afterall, the official motto since the 1800s has been “Industry fills the hive and enjoys the honey”. The city (pop. 74,000) is home to the New Britain Bees, a minor league baseball team. The area has been settled since 1687, and the country’s oldest art museum dedicated to American art is here.

Charter Oak State College and Central Connecticut State University are in the area. Best of all, Connecticut doesn’t tax Social Security, and homes are still affordable.

10. San Marcos, Texas

A popular filming spot, various movies have been filmed in San Marcos, Texas (pop. 67,000), including Friday Night Lights, Courage Under Fire, The New Guy, Race With the Devil, and The Tree of Life. Texas State University is located here, and outdoor life is centered around the San Marcos River. The city playfully calls itself the Mermaid Capital of Texas, so keep an eye out for the mermaid statues scattered in the area.

Texas doesn’t have an income tax, and San Marcos was named one of the most exciting small cities in America by Business Insider. If you want to retire to a small town big enough for a state university with fewer taxes than 41 other states, San Marcos could be the perfect destination.

The Bottom Line

An active retirement lifestyle doesn’t have to mean moving to a 55+ community and taking up golf. For retirees that still want access to adult education or entrepreneurial opportunities, cultural and sporting events, good healthcare, and even affordable housing, small- to mid-sized college towns are a sensible choice. 

Get matched with an agent who can identify neighborhoods that stay quiet even on game day, or homes that are perfect for your new lifestyle. Finding representation is simpler with AgentStory.

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