Benton Harbor Ranked Tops for Early Retirement

Thanks to multiple measures including the average cost of living, and the average quality of life, the community of Benton Harbor has been rated first in the Midwest and tied for second in the United States on the lists of the Best Places to Retire Early in America.

MagnifyMoney, an independent, online, advertising-supported comparison service for financial providers including debt reduction, loan rate reductions, balance transfers and other services, has issued a report today ranking the Best and Worst cities in which to retire early.

The agency says, “The rise of the financial independence and retiring early movement has given way to a new emphasis on retiring early.” They say that such retirees, “aim to retire in their 40s and 50s, but this lofty goal typically requires an aggressive savings plan.”

To help early retirees better plan, MagnifyMoney ranked 217 U.S. cities to find the top places to retire early, and those to avoid. Two Michigan cities ranked, including Benton Harbor which was #1 in the Midwest and #4 nationwide, while Kalamazoo was ranked 4th in the Midwest.

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The study says that cities in the South and Midwest dominated the list of best places to retire early, “mostly due to a lower average cost of living than any of the four regions studied.” Southern and Midwestern cities boasted an average cost of living score of 63, which was 13 points higher than the average score across all cities in the study.

The report concludes that the South may be the best bet for early retirees looking for the option of part-time work to supplement their income as well. That region scored the highest employability score of any other area. The employability scores are based on the unemployment rate, minimum wage, average commute time and state income tax.

Although the Northeast earned the highest score of any region for quality of life (67, well above the national average of 50), the region suffered due to its relatively high cost of living. It earned the lowest cost of living score of any region with a paltry 17.

In the report from MagnifyMoney, each city was given a composite score out of 100 possible points. The composite score was based on three key factors, a low cost of living, a great quality of life, and access to employment if needed to supplement income. The three factors were weighted differently, based on priority with cost of living getting 50-percent of the weight, quality of life 30-percent, and employability at 20-percent.

Cost of living included the cost of groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, health care, and other goods and service.

Quality of life was based on weather conditions, access to arts and entertainment, walkability, and the proportion of the 55+ age group in the overall population.

Employability was based on the fact that early retirees may choose to incorporate part-time work into their lives even after they retire to stay active and supplement their existing savings. Things considered in this measure were unemployment rate of the area, minimum wage rates, average commute time, and state income tax rates.

While Benton Harbor scored tops overall in the Midwest, followed by Evansville, Indiana and Lima, Ohio…Chicago was rated the worst place to retire early, followed by Madison, Wisconsin, and Minneapolis.

Widening to the national scale, Benton Harbor slips to a 2nd place tie with Memphis, Tennessee and Sherman, Texas. The #1 national rank goes to Knoxville, Tennessee. On the other end of the scale, Fairbanks, Alaska fares the worst followed by a tie for second with Honolulu, Hawaii, and Stockton, California.