Southern, western U.S. cities among best for retirees

NEW YORK Thu Jun 7, 2012 2:32pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A combination of balmy weather, low taxes and healthy lifestyle helped many southern and western cities in the United States dominate an annual Forbes list of the best places to retire in 2012.

Asheville in North Carolina, Florida's Cape Coral and Austin, Texas, were among the 25 cities on the list compiled by Forbes.com, along with Albuquerque in New Mexico and Phoenix, Arizona.

"There is a bias to warm weather," said Janet Novack, Forbes Washington bureau chief and executive editor. "Nevertheless, we do have some cold places because they excel, and either the economy is good or the crime rate is low. We also look at the availability of doctors."

Only about six chillier cities, including Pittsburg in Pennsylvania and Fargo in North Dakota, made it into the annual list, which was not a ranking.

Forbes considered factors such as cost of living, crime rates, taxes, opportunities to stay active and to volunteer, the availability of doctors, and home prices to select the cities.

Fargo wasn't cited for its climate but scored points for its solid economy, low cost of living, active lifestyle, low crime rate and affordable housing.

"One of the things we look at is taxes, so that rules out certain places like New York and New Jersey, and we look at affordability. We look at the job climate, so some southern places that aren't doing well might be eliminated," Novack said.

Nine states - Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, Washington and Wyoming - have no state taxes. Others offer tax breaks to retirees, Forbes.com said.

For the first time this year, Forbes factored in the local job economy in selecting the cities, to cater to retirees who may wish to work part time.

"Just as retirement is changing, what people look for if they are going to move in retirement is changing. We do think that affordability is important to people but the opportunities to stay active are also important to people," said Novack.

She said that for people approaching retirement in five to 10 years, now would be considered a good time to think about buying a retirement home.

Two important factors that were not considered when selecting the cities were scenic beauty and family proximity, Novack said.

"We know that a lot of people aren't going to move because they want to be near children and grandchildren," she said.

(See the full Forbes list of best cities to retire here link.reuters.com/zen68s )

(Reporting by Patricia Reaney. Editing by Christine Kearney and Bernadette Baum)

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