Best Places to Retire for Under $40,000

In these cities, you can live well for less than $40,000 per year.

Best Places to Retire

In Pictures: Best Places to Retire for Under $40,000

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[See 10 Places to Buy a Retirement Home for Under $100,000.]

Knoxville, Tenn.

The typical resident age 60 or older with a mortgage in Knoxville pays a median of $1,060 per month. For those without a mortgage, the median housing cost declines to just $347 monthly. And retiree renters pay a median of $625 per month. This city has a rich arts and music community as well as plenty of outdoor attractions, including 65 miles of greenway trails, more than 80 parks—among them the Ijams Nature Center—and is about an hour's drive from Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Knoxville is home to the University of Tennessee and the headquarters of Regal Entertainment Group, where senior citizens qualify for a small discount on movie tickets and AARP members can get deals on soft drink and popcorn combos.

Little Rock, Ark.

Named for a rock formation on the Arkansas River, this state capital is home to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. "I've had some heart trouble in the past, and I like being close to where there are good hospitals and healthcare," says Royce Thomas, a priest who retired in Little Rock in 2010. "And you don't have to go far to find other attractions. There's more than enough for me to do." Most homeowners age 60 and older pay reasonable housing costs, including a median of $1,059 if they have a mortgage and $360 monthly once the mortgage is paid off. Retirees who rent pay a median of $656 monthly. Senior citizens above a certain age can get discount admission to the Little Rock Zoo, Arkansas Museum of Discovery, and the William J. Clinton Presidential Library.

Louisville, Ky.

The host city of the Kentucky Derby is also known for its green space, which includes more than 120 parks covering over 14,000 acres. The 6,218-acre Jefferson Memorial Forest is located just 15 miles from downtown. The city is in the process of building the Louisville Loop, a partially completed bike and walking trail system that is estimated to eventually span more than 100 miles, encircle the city, and link existing parks and neighborhoods. Retirees pay housing costs of $1,068 monthly if they have a mortgage and just $373 if they have paid off their mortgage. Renters age 60 and older paid a median of $573 per month in 2011. "Louisville has a very extensive menu of arts and cultural attractions that have reasonable prices," says Theresa Mattei, a retired nonprofit manager in Louisville. "Ticket prices to attend museums, the ballet, and orchestra are generally somewhere between $15 and $100 per person, so it's not an outrageous market compared to several hundred dollars per ticket in Boston or San Francisco."

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Pittsburgh has a symphony, ballet, zoo, and a variety of museums. And between the Pirates, Steelers, Penguins, and Panthers, sports spectators have plenty of options. The UPMC-University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is ranked nationally in 14 adult specialties, including 10th in the nation in geriatrics. And senior citizens age 65 or older with proper ID ride free on the bus, T, or Mon Incline, thanks to a program funded by Pennsylvania Lottery proceeds. Paul Wiegman, a retired vice president for a land trust who is now a photographer, uses his free bus rides to meet with photography clients and volunteer at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. "It's a lot easier to take the bus than it is to drive in the city," says Wiegman. These world-class amenities are coupled with surprisingly affordable housing prices. People age 60 and older paid a median of $590 per month in rent and $1,079 monthly toward their mortgages in 2011. Those without mortgages get by paying just $435 per month in housing costs.

St. Louis

Best known for the Gateway Arch, St. Louis also has a zoo, science center, a variety of art and other museums, and 111 parks covering 3,250 acres. Professional sports fans can choose between the Cardinals (baseball), Rams (football), and Blues (hockey). The teaching hospital, Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University, is ranked 14th in the nation in geriatrics and is also ranked nationally in 15 other specialties. Housing costs for retirees are reasonable, including a median of $1,186 monthly for retirees with a mortgage, $442 among seniors with a paid-off house, and $657 monthly in rent.