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Is America Prepared To Retire?

October 24th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

64% of Americans have no financial strategy at all. That’s right – no plan whatsoever to build wealth or keep it. That finding comes from the 2009 National Consumer Survey on Personal Finance conducted by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (The survey collected data from 1,700+ U.S. residents.)1

Only 17% of us have a written financial plan that is updated regularly. So congratulate yourself if you are in that group. The CFP Board found that just 17% of the 36% polled who did have a written financial plan had reviewed it in light of changing times. Notably, 48% said they had benefited from having a written plan.1,2

Just 38% of the 36% having written financial plans retain a financial advisor. The really troubling part: 37% of those with written plans are doing their financial planning on their own. Another 12% of respondents with written plans have consulted a friend or family member who isn’t a financial services professional for advice.1

Why don’t more people have a financial plan? After all, Americans of all incomes and savings levels certainly are free to set financial goals. In the survey, the reasons varied. Some cited the expense of engaging a financial advisor; some said they get along just fine without a financial plan, and others felt their finances weren’t complicated enough to warrant one. Others were hazy about financial services industry qualifications – 40% of respondents had no idea that there were professional credentials or designations for financial advisors.

Syndicated financial columnist Humberto Cruz recently noted that when he told some fellow vacationers in Orlando that he wrote about financial planning, they all asked him if he gave stock tips. He had to explain that he was simply a journalist, not a financial planner.3,4

Defined goals lead to definite plans. If you set financial objectives and plan for them, you vault ahead of most Americans – at least according to the CFP Board’s findings. A written financial plan does not imply or guarantee wealth, of course; nor does it ensure that you will reach your goals. Yet that financial plan does give you an understanding of the distance between your current financial situation (where you are) and where you want to be. Too many Americans, it seems, have little comprehension of their financial situation or their financial potential.

How much planning have you done? Retiring without a financial plan is an enormous risk; retiring with a financial plan that hasn’t been reviewed in several years is also chancy. A relationship with a financial advisor can help to bring you up to date about what you need to do, and provide you with more clarity and confidence when it comes to the financial future.

Citations.
1 cfp.net/downloads/CFP_Board_2009_National_Consumer_Survey.pdf [7/24/09]
2 reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS132983+24-Sep-2009+BW20090924 [9/24/09]
3 sltrib.com/business/ci_13467337 [10/2/09]
4 chicagotribune.com/topic/hc-cl-cruz-bio,0,84843.story [10/9/09]

The Value of a Specialized 401(K) Audit

October 24th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Business

It can reveal hidden flaws and help you improve the plan.

Why do companies request specialized audits of their 401(k)s? After all, the standard annual audit that large companies routinely attach to Form 5500s may seem adequate. Yet a specialized audit may reveal things that have gone unnoticed for years, or conditions that should be improved.

There are four types of specialized 401(k) audits: operational reviews, investment option reviews, compliance audits and governance audits.

Operational reviews. Sometimes the procedures of a plan aren’t being followed – the plan document says something should be done one way, and in real life it is being done quite another way (or not at all). Maybe your plan document says that at the end of the plan year, any participant forfeitures of your company’s discretionary 401(k) contributions are to be reallocated among other plan participants. Well, maybe that hasn’t been done since 2007.

An operational review can help an HR officer uncover and fix these things before the Department of Labor or the IRS has to get involved. These audits are designed to make sure that recordkeeping goes according to the plan document, and they may even include analyses of employee investment patterns. That brings us to the next type of specialized audit …

Investment option reviews. What kinds of account fees are plan participants being charged by the plan provider? Do they seem high? Do other plan providers present more investment choices with lower fees? Is it time to evaluate the current investment options in light of the original IPS (Investment Policy Statement)? This type of review can assess the investment scope (and financial potential) of the current plan.

Compliance audits. You don’t want your plan to commit prohibited transactions or violate ERISA rules. So are payments and loans from the plan being made on time? Are account beneficiaries being named correctly? Have new hires been properly informed about the 401(k)? Are the vesting rules being correctly applied?

These audits confirm that a 401(k) is operating according to the plan document and federal regulations. If two plans have merged or a new plan has been adopted, or if one plan administrator has left and another has come in, these reviews may prove very illuminating.

Governance audits. Is the plan sponsor fulfilling its fiduciary responsibility? How well is the business managing and delegating the responsibility of running a 401(k)? That’s what these reviews are all about. Who is the named fiduciary? What is the degree of transparency? How thoroughly do the owners and HR officer understand governance requirements? You don’t want the IRS or Department of Labor to get the idea that you’re playing things by ear.

Worth the cost? Yes. These specialized audits can bring flaws in a 401(k) to light – leading to a 401(k) that is more efficiently managed, more attractive to new hires and key personnel, and more in line with rules and regulations.

w.petermontoya.com, www.montoyaregistry.com, www.marketinglibrary.net

How Much Retirement Income Will You Really Need?

October 24th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

Many people underestimate lifestyle costs, medical expenses and inflation.

What is enough? What is not enough? If you’re considering retiring in the near future, you’ve probably heard or read that you need about 70% of your end salary to live comfortably in retirement. This estimate is frequently repeated … but that doesn’t mean it is true for everyone. It may not be true for you.

You won’t learn how much retirement income you’ll need by reading this article. You’ll want to meet with a qualified retirement planner who can help you plan to estimate your lifestyle needs and short-term and long-term expenses.

That said, there are some factors which affect retirement income needs – and too often, they go unconsidered.

Health. Most of us will face a major health problem at some point in our lives – perhaps even multiple or chronic health problems. We don’t want to think about that reality. But if you’re a new retiree, think for a moment about the costs of prescription medicines, and recurring treatment for chronic ailments. These minor and major costs can really take a bite out of retirement income, even with a great health care plan. While generics have slowed the advance of prescription drug costs to about 1-2% a year recently,1 one estimate found that a 65-year-old who retired in 2007 would need $215,000 to pay for overall retirement health care costs – up about 7.5% from 2006.2

Heredity. If you come from a family where people frequently live into their 80s and 90s, you may live as long or longer. Imagine retiring at 55 and living to 95 or 100. You would need 40-45 years of steady retirement income.

Portfolio. Many people retire with investment portfolios they haven’t reviewed in years, with asset allocations that may no longer be appropriate. New retirees sometimes carry too much risk in their portfolios, with the result being that the retirement income from their investments fluctuates wildly with the vagaries of the market. Other retirees are super-conservative investors: their portfolios are so risk-averse that they can’t earn enough to keep up with even moderate inflation, and over time, they find they have less and less purchasing power.

Spending habits. Do you only spend 70% of your salary? Probably not. If you’re like many Americans, you probably spend 90% or 95% of it. Will your spending habits change drastically once you retire? Again, probably not. Most people only change spending habits in response to economic necessity or in pursuit of new financial goals. People don’t want to “live on less” once they have had “more”.

Social Security (or lack thereof). In 2005, SSI represented 39% of a typical 65-year-old retiree’s income. But by 2030, Social Security may only replace 29% of that income, after deductions for Medicare premiums and income taxes. Since 1983, retirees earning more than $25,000 in SSI have had to pay income tax on a portion of their benefits.3 This is all presuming Social Security is still around in 2030.

So will you have enough? When it comes to retirement income, a casual assumption may prove to be woefully inaccurate. Meet with a qualified retirement planner while you are still working to discuss these factors and estimate how much you will really need.

Citations.
1 nytimes.com/2007/09/21/business/21generic.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
2 marketwatch.com/news/story/health-care-costs-retirement-rise/story.aspx?guid=%7bEF2B6CDA-E176-4747-B528-76AC814051C5%7d&print=true&dist=printTop
3 money.cnn.com/2007/05/14/pf/retirement/nasi__report/index.htm

Monthly Economic Update – October 2012

October 24th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Monthly Economic Update

Pittsburgh Haunted Houses 2012

October 24th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Fun

Pittsburgh and the surrounding counties of southwestern and western Pennsylvania know how to celebrate Halloween in style. Literally hundreds of Pittsburgh haunted houses, haunted trails, and haunted tours are available to area residents, from the popular family-friendly Halloween Happenings at Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, to the spooky haunts and thrilling rides of Kenywood Park’s Phantom Fright Nights, rated No. 3 Halloween event by Amusement Today and the Scarehouse, rated “5th Best Haunted House in America” by Hauntworld Magazine. The list includes Pittsburgh haunted houses as well as haunted houses in neighboring southwestern and western Pennsylvania counties. Pittsburgh haunted houses are listed in alphabetical order, not by how spooky they are.

Allen’s Haunted Hayrides
Fayette County
Now in its 33rd year, Allen’s Haunted Hayride bills itself as the oldest haunted hayride in America. Ghosts and ghouls await you in the dark woods and fields, and haunted barn. Campfire sites, carnival rides and concessions invite you to make an evening of it.
October 5–7, 12–14, 14-16, 19–21, 26–28 and 30–31, 2012

Castle Blood
Westmoreland County
The MacCabre Family is back for their 20th year in an all-new indoor location in Monessen in Pittsburgh’s Mon Valley. This popular haunt includes thrills, chills, awesome special effects, and a very interactive experience. Daytime “no scare” tours also available on Sunday October 21 & 28, 2012.
September 29–30; October 5–7, 12–14, 19–21 and 26–28, plus October 31, 2012

Cheeseman’s Fright Farm
Butler County
Face your greatest fears at this haunted hayride, haunted trail and haunted house at Cheeseman’s Farm in Portersville, Butler County (20 minutes north of Cranberry). Not recommended for small children or wimpy adults.
September 21–22 and 28–29; October 5–7, 12–14, 18–21, 20-23 and 25–28, 2012

Creatures of the Night
Allegheny County & Butler County
A unique Halloween treat for the entire family! Delight in this non-scary experience along the trails of Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve (Fox Chapel) or Succop Conservancy (Butler), where you will encounter some of nature’s nocturnal creatures. Snacks and drinks will be provided and Halloween costumes are welcome.
October 26–27, 2012 (BFNR) and November 3 (SC)

Demon House
Washington County
The gorgeous old 17-room McCue Mansion in Monongahela, PA, is completely revamped and transformed as a Halloween haunt. This is not your typical haunted house full of gimmicks, however. Owner Billy McCue says there won’t be a “guy with a chainsaw running after you.” Instead he calls Demon House a “haunted experience.”
September 21–23 and 28–30; October 5–7, 12–14, 19–21, 25–28 and 31, 2012

Freddy’s Haunts
Beaver County
Half-mile, all-enclosed spooky walking trail is located deep in the woods of Independence Township, Aliquippa, Beaver County. Over 40 actors bring your fears to life.
September 21–23 and 28–30; October 5–7, 12–14, 19–21 and 26–28, 2012

Gateway Clipper Halloween Cruises
Allegheny County
Gateway Clipper celebrates Halloween with Haunted Halloween Dinner cruises, fun Halloween Monster Party Cruises for the kids, plus a Halloween Whodunit? cruise.
October 12, 19, 24 and 27, 2012

Ghost Tours of Nemacolin Castle
Washington County
Tour historic Nemacolin Castle by candlelight while hearing stories of ghostly experiences that are said to have happened in the castle.
September 29–30; October 5–6, 13–14, 20–21 and 28–29, 2012

Hallowboo at Idlewild
Westmoreland County
It’s the Idlewild you know and love, with a fun, family-friendly Halloween twist. Idlewild is open for weekends in October with trick or treating, costumed characters, specially themed rides and attractions, fun Halloween games, and a walk-thru maze.
October 6–7, 13–14, 20–21 and 27–28, 2012

Halloween Happenings at Phipps
Allegheny County
Visit Phipps Conservatory in Oakland for a different Halloween experience this year. Come in costume on October 26th for a festive evening of Halloween activities, surprises and trick-or-treat, plus a visit to the Fall Flower Show.
October 26, 2012

Haunted Hills Hayride
Allegheny County
The North Versailles Haunted Hills Hayride celebrates its 13th season in 2012, with two attractions – the Haunted Hayride and the Haunted Walking Trail – Valley of Darkness. Proceeds benefit the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and the Spectrum Charter School.
September 28–30; October 5–7, 12–14, 19–21 and 26–28, 2012

Haunted History Hayride & Candlelight Walk
Westmoreland County
Take a hayride or candlelit walk through the perils of the American frontier at Bushy Run Battlefield in Jeannette, PA (Westmoreland County). Reservations required and these book up early!
October 20, 2012

Haunted Mine at Tour-Ed Mine
Allegheny County
It has been rumored the Tour-Ed Mine is not the place you want to be on a cold, dark fall night! A spooky haunted attraction for kids of all ages. Bravery encouraged!
Haunted Mine is closed for the 2012 Halloween season.

Haunted Mini-Golf
Beaver County
This Hopewell Township attraction is great for both kids and adults, although the youngest children will probably enjoy the daylight sessions better (before 6:30 p.m.). Halloween-themed holes seven days a week, plus glow-in-the-dark balls after dark! Live spooky actors every night.
September 22 – November 3, 2012

Owl-o-Ween at the National Aviary
Allegheny County
Built on the site of the former Western Penitentiary, folklore suggests that the ghosts of Civil War prisoners still roam the halls of the National Aviary. Are you daring enough to explore one of Pittsburgh´s notable haunts by the light of the moon? This ghostly but-not-too-scary evening is appropriate for kids of all ages.
October 20 & 27, 2012

Hobgoblin Hikes
Westmoreland County
Take the kids on a guided walk through haunted woods in two Westmoreland County parks – Mammoth Park and Northmoreland Park. Expect to experience mazes, cemeteries, and more than 100 ghouls, goblins and monsters. Recommended for ages 8 and older.
October 19 (Twin Lakes Park) and 26 (Cedar Creek Park), 2012

Hotel Beacon Haunted House & Maze
Butler County
Head out to Renfrew in Butler County for this popular haunted corn maze, cut for 2012 in the shape of an old moonshine still (aka Corn Mash STILL). Fridays and Saturdays in October, and the last two Thursdays and final Sunday, plus Sunday “scare free” matinees with a scavenger hunt, pony rides and a petting zoo. “The Darker the Night, the Scarier the Fright” is their motto.
October 5–6, 12–13, 18–20, and 25–28, 2012

Hundred Acres Manor Haunted House
Allegheny County
This large haunted house attraction in South Park, located at the former home of Phantoms in the Park, benefits the Homeless Children’s Education Fund and Animal Friends. This is one of Pittsburgh’s most popular haunted attractions.
September 14-16, 21-23, and 28-30; October 3–7, 10–14, and 17–30, 2012

Lonesome Valley Farms Haunted Hayride & Walk-Thru
Westmoreland County
Located beside the Westmoreland County Fairgrounds, Lonesome Valley Farms offers a “nerve-shattering and bone-chilling” haunted hayride that you won’t soon forget, followed by a spooky haunted maze. There’s also a second haunted attraction known as the Slotter Farmhouse & Barn.
September 28–30; October 5–7, 12–14, 19–21 and 26–28, 2012

Northern Nightmares
Butler County
Family-friendly Halloween events in Zelienople include The Nightmare Bus Tour of spooky places between Zelienople and Harmony, with tales of ghost sightings and hauntings, as well as free monster movies at Chiller Theater.
October 19–20 and 26-27, 2012

Phantom Fright Nights
Allegheny County
Open Friday and Saturday evenings in October, Kennywood Amusement Park welcomes you to an experience like you’ve never had before. Enjoy three haunted mazes, plus Kennyville Cemetery and Gory Park. You can even enjoy some of your favorite Kennywood rides, with a haunted twist of course. Remember, you’ve been warned!
September 28–29; October 5–6, 12–13, 19–20 and 26–27, 2012

Pittsburgh KDKA Zoo Boo
Allegheny County
Dress up your favorite ghouls and goblins while local Pittsburgh organizations provide Halloween treats for kids. Take part in the Halloween parade and costume contest, hop aboard the Halloween Train Ride, and stop by the Gymkhana Haunted Hideaway or the Docent Council’s Haunted House. While costumes are not required, they are certainly recommended! There is even a costume contest at Water’s Edge.
October 20–21 and 27–28, 2012

ScareHouse
Allegheny County
The ScareHouse, which dwells within the former Etna Elks Lodge, near the intersection of Route 8 and 28 north of Pittsburgh, offers three terrifying haunts for one price – Pittsburgh Zombies, The Forsaken, and new for 2012: Creepo’s Christmas in 3-D. Rated among America’s best haunted attractions.
September 21–22 and 28–30; October 5–7, 11–14, 18–21 and 24-31; and November 1–3, 2012

Terror Town
Allegheny County
Back for its second year in 2012, Terror Town in Pittsburgh’s historic Strip District boasts 30,000 square feet of indoor haunted screams and scares. Children under 12 not admitted and adult required to accompany children 12-15. Don’t miss the special “Black Out in Terror Town” on Wednesday, October 26.
September 22 and 29–30; October 5–7, 12–14, 18–21, 24–28, and 30, 2012

West Deer Nightmare
Allegheny County
One of Pittsburgh’s top rated Haunted Houses is back for Revenge! The West Deer Nightmare is a high scare volume, insanely intense haunted attraction set in the possessed house of Noah Hobbs.
October 12–14, 18–21, and 25–30, 2012

Many haunted houses and haunted attractions just outside the greater Pittsburgh area are well worth the time to visit. These include popular haunted houses in Bedford, Somerset and Fayette counties in Pennsylvania, as well as a few in nearby Ohio and West Virginia – all located within a 1.5 to 3 hour radius of Pittsburgh.

Bedlam @ The Asylum
Weston, West Virginia
Formerly known as the Weston State Hospital, the historic Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum invites you into forbidden areas for its Bedlam haunted attraction. This West Virginia facility served as a sanctuary for the mentally ill in the mid-1800’s and ghosts (real ones!) are reported to abound. Located about 2 hours from Pittsburgh.
September 30 and October 1-2, 5-9, 12-16, 19-23 and 26-30, 2011.

Dungeon of Horrors @ the Former WV State Penitentiary
Moundsville, West Virginia
The Former West Virginia Penitentiary is known to have one of the highest levels of paranormal activity in the United States and most people who have survived the dungeon of horrors believe that the prisoners still haunt the darkened hallways of the prison today. Experience it for yourself in the Dungeon of Horrors Haunted House.
September 30 and October 1, 7-9, 14-16, 21-23 and 27-31, 2011.

HalloWeekends at Cedar Point
Sandusky, Ohio
Each fall, this popular amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio, transforms itself on into a haunted wonderland, with attractions running from the tame to the truly terrifying. Open Friday, Saturday & Sunday evenings from mid-September through the month of October.
September 16-18, 23-25 and 30; October 1-2, 7-9, 14-16, 21-23 and 28-30, 2011

Haunted Hayloft
Somerset County
Experience the haunting story of the Nicely brothers, convicted murders and escaped convicts who, as legend has it, hid in this very hayloft. A haunted corn maze and hayride through the haunted forest are also part of the thrills and chills.
October 7-8, 14-15, 21-22 and 28-29, 2011

Haunted Hills Estate
Fayette County
Scare yourself silly on this interactive, one hour journey through the Haunted Hills Estate Trail in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. You must be in good enough shape to walk or be dragged 1 mile. Recommended for children ages 7 and up. Two indoor haunted challenges are also available for double or triple the fun! Special Trick or Treat (Oct. 31) and Lights Out Adventures (Nov. 5) for 2011.
September 23-24 and September 30; October 1, 7-9, 14-16, 20-23 and 27-31; November 5, 2011

Haunted Village at Old Bedford Village
Bedford County
Ghosts and scary creatures come alive to welcome you to this popular event, complete with a haunted corn maze adventure and other spooky goings on at Old Bedford Village. Bring a flashlight!
October 29, 2011

Huston’s Haunted Hollow
Somerset County
In a mist shrouded hollow on a farm in Western Pennsylvania, the spirit of a Revolutionary War renegade haunts all those who dare to disturb it. Will you be next? Experience a pulse-pounding journey through the dark hallways of a haunted farmhouse. Take a hayride through a sinister swamp. Try to escape the unspeakable evil that awaits you in the cornfield.
September 30 and October 1, 7-8, 14-15, 21-22 and 28-29, 2011

Rich’s Fright Farm
Fayette County
Located in Fayette County, south of Pittsburgh, this celebrated southwestern Pennsylvania scarefest offers a spooky hayride, a maze of terror and a haunted mansion, plus concessions, classic horror films and live music.
September 30 and October 1-2, 5-9, 12-16, 19-23 and 26-31, 2011

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Best Places to Retire for Under $40,000

October 24th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

Many baby boomers who haven’t saved enough to retire well are contemplating delaying retirement. But if working into your 70s isn’t possible (or appealing), moving to a place with a much lower cost of living can help stretch your retirement savings and finance a better quality of life.

A retirement income of $40,000 per year certainly won’t go very far in Honolulu or Miami, but there are plenty of other places where it can fund a comfortable retirement lifestyle. If you’re willing to relocate to a place with a low cost of living and affordable housing, this modest retirement income could give you access to interesting activities and top-notch medical care.

Producing a retirement income of $40,000 is a realistic goal for many retired couples, even those without a traditional pension. The average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker was about $1,230 at the beginning of 2012. For a married couple each receiving the average amount, that’s a retirement income of just under $30,000 per year. Add to that a modest nest egg of $250,000, and that could bring your retirement income to around $40,000 per year, depending on how the money is invested, your drawndown strategy, and the inflation rate.

To find places where retirees can live well on less than $40,000 per year, U.S. News analyzed recently released 2011 Census Bureau data. We screened for places with the lowest housing costs for people age 60 and older, including mortgage payments for people who had one, other housing costs for people who have paid off their mortgage, and the typical rent for renters, as well as the proportion of their budget retirees spend on housing costs. Then, among the places where people age 60 and older spend the least on housing, we picked cities with the best amenities seniors will need, including major medical facilities, services for seniors, colleges, and cultural and outdoor activities.

Here are 10 great places to retire on less than $40,000 per year in 2013:

Albuquerque, N.M.

The low cost of living in Albuquerque is well-known to students at the University of New Mexico and people drawn to the community by the Kirtland Air Force Base and national laboratories. Retirees also benefit from Albuquerque’s many amenities and low housing prices. The median housing cost for people age 60 and older was $1,150 monthly for those with a mortgage, $358 for homeowners without a mortgage, and $657 for renters. There are also plenty of low-cost ways to get around town, even if you can’t or no longer want to drive. People age 62 and older can ride the bus for just 35 cents, and there are also more than 400 miles of bike paths and trails.

Augusta, Ga.

The host city of the Masters Tournament is best known for its golf courses. This city on the Savannah River is also home to the Medical College of Georgia, Augusta State University, and a wide variety of art galleries and museums. Housing costs for residents age 60 and older are a median of just $626 for renters, $1,064 for homeowners with a mortgage, and $353 for seniors who have paid off their homes. Augusta public transit costs 60 cents per ride for people 65 and older.


Columbia, S.C.

South Carolina’s state capital city offers the amenities of big-city life, but with a low cost of living and plenty of arts and outdoor activities. Monthly housing costs range from a median of $1,107 per month for homeowners age 60 and older who have a mortgage to $712 monthly for renters. Retirees who have paid off their mortgages pay a median of just $350 monthly for other housing costs. Bus fares for people age 65 and older are 75 cents. And South Carolina residents age 60 and older who are not working full time can qualify for free tuition to the University of South Carolina.

Jackson, Miss.

Your retirement budget will stretch much further in Mississippi’s state capital than in many other places. Homeowners age 60 and older paid a median of $1,053 per month in housing costs, which dropped to $329 if they had paid off their mortgage. Renters age 60 and older paid a median of $624 per month in 2011. The city is known for its music, especially gospel and blues, and also has a zoo, ballet, planetarium, and opera. “Here, you can get season tickets to the theater and the Broadway shows, and you can get them for a whole lot cheaper than other places,” says Ivy Alley, a retired museum curator who lives in downtown Jackson and volunteers at the Mississippi Museum of Art. “There are lecture series and museums that are very low-cost things to do.”

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.”

Pittsburgh

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.

San Antonio

First colonized by the Spanish in the early 1700s, San Antonio now has an extensive 11,000-acre park system containing over 68 miles of trails and more than 50 golf courses. Yet housing remains affordable, costing homeowners age 60 and older a median of $1,155 monthly, or $398 if they have paid off their mortgage. Monthly rent for retirees is a median of $660. “In other places in the country, I would have gotten the same retirement money but my dollars go further here,” says Lawrence Zepeda, a former U.S. Army Sergeant Major and safety manager who retired in 2007. An added bonus: There is no state income tax in Texas.

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