When retirement comes calling, most Boston.com readers say they’ll be packing their bags and heading out of the city. Whether they’re excited to leave Boston or not, they’re aligned on one thing: This city is far too expensive for the average retiree.
Boston was recently ranked by a Clever study as one of the worst retirement cities in the nation, due to its high cost of living, tax rates, and expensive housing market. We asked readers who’ve already retired or are planning for retirement if the results of the study aligned with their experience, and heard from more than 200 readers who said it’s true, Boston is not a good place to retire.
Susie C. said she used to live in Jamaica Plain, but has since retired and lives outside of Boston. She, like many other readers, thinks retirement in Boston only works for a small percentage of the population.
“Boston is great for rich retirees, but us regular folks can’t make it in the small city!”
One of the reasons that came up again and again in the responses we received was the estate tax in Massachusetts, which is applied to estates worth more than $1 million. Ralph P., who currently lives in Medfield and plans to retire in New Hampshire, said Massachusetts has the “worst estate tax in the nation.” Among his other complaints were the state of the MBTA and crime rates.
“Save money, your freedom, and your sanity and move out,” he said.
But not everyone is planning to pack their bags and leave Boston behind for retirement. A small portion of readers polled, 19%, said they would happily retire in the city. The Clever study cited access to excellent healthcare and recreation options as reasons to retire in Boston, and readers mentioned the same.
Mary, who is retired and living in Quincy, said she’s stayed close to the city because it affords her, “access to healthcare, best medical facilities, [and] multiple participation opportunities in medical studies.”
Also on her list of reasons to stay are the “many financial institutions and access to financial advisors, loads of cultural exhibits for every interest.” Plus, she argued, retirees can still get around without a car, once their driving days are over. As for expenses, she had this to say:
“If you already own a home, it was probably acquired during a less expensive time, so your equity could be a last-ditch source of income in an emergency,” she said.
The responses to our poll came in from people who’ve left Boston for sunnier, Southern states, those who are setting their sights on cheaper alternatives here in New England, and those who plan to live out their retirements right here in Boston. Below you’ll find a sampling of responses from readers sharing what they think about retiring in the city.
Some entries may be edited for length and clarity.
Do you think Boston is a good retirement city?
‘Boston is far too expensive to live in when retired’
“As the old saying goes: Boston is a great city to visit but not to live in (unless you are rich). Just too expensive for the average Joe and family. All major sports, great museums, theatre, history, harbor area, and dining, but all [that] comes at a high price.” — Drew D., Mansfield, retired and living outside of Boston
“Besides great health care, everything else is a dumpster fire. High taxes. Poor public transportation. High cost of prescription medicine. High cost of housing. The weather. High crime. On and on and on. Not the place I grew up in.” — John Z., Hyde Park, planning for retirement in Pittsburgh, Penn.
“Boston is far too expensive to live in when retired. This, combined with climate insecurity, makes rural Maine a far better option as one can buy enough land to have well water and space to raise/grow lots of food. Controlling one’s water and food supply is key to an affordable and safe retirement.” — Michael, Brookline, planning for retirement in Maine
“Everything is more expensive in Mass., high taxes, winters. What to do as a retiree for 5 months a year, November to March? As a Republican, I’ll also add why would I want to retire in a state where I’m surrounded by liberals, never mind their tax-and-spend ideology and their constant infringement on our constitutional rights like [the second amendment]. Plenty of states have a lower cost of living, better weather, and friendlier politics to fiscal conservatives and second amendment enthusiasts. I can’t wait to move South, never mind retire.” — Jon, Westport, planning for retirement in Florida
“Well, when a house goes from costing $119,000 in 1996 to costing over $1,000,000 in 15 years, something is terribly wrong.” — Anne, Jamaica Plain, planning for retirement in Vermont
“1. It’s VERY EXPENSIVE. 2. Winters are too long and retirees don’t want to be cleaning snow. 3. As a retiree, you need neighbors, and a network to rely on. Boston ain’t got it.” — Vicente Fernandes, Reading, planning for retirement in South Carolina
“Too expensive! Plain and simple. Recession, gentrification. Things keep getting worse and worse … unless you made some good investments or retired with a good pension, you can’t afford it. My wife and I lived in and around Boston our entire lives and worked blue-collar jobs (waitress, carpenter), raised three kids by the skin of our teeth, and with lots of help from family. We retired in our late 60s because our bodies were spent. We worked so long because we had to, not because we liked to.
“Living on fixed incomes became impossible in Lynn. Knew an old friend who relocated to Arizona some 15 years ago and he sold us. We miss our kids and family, but money talks and we have a nice life out here and it’s fun to have visitors. Good luck to all the regular folks like us who decide to stay in Massachusetts and don’t have huge bank accounts or rich children.” — Richie, originally from Lynn, retired and living in Arizona
‘For those who can afford it, Boston is a wonderful place’
“In addition to being a multi-cultural city, it’s got top healthcare and first-class hospitals just minutes away. And first-class musicians at Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops, and The Handel & Haydn Society, to name a few. Plenty of things to see and do in this historical city. And great sports. What’s not to like? (Well, other than the driving and parking.) — Lucian T., retired and living in Boston
“Boston is a first-class city for arts, culture, sports, education, healthcare, and civic involvement. Unfortunately, it is very expensive, and that — plus an onerous state estate tax — is going to drive people away. However, for those who can afford it, Boston is a wonderful place to spend an active and engaged retirement. If your idea of retirement is hanging out at a pool or spending countless hours chasing after a golf ball, then there are certainly better (and cheaper) options.” — Mike, Charlestown, planning for retirement in Boston
“Good place to retire if you already own a home here. Good health care and culture.” — Bill, Watertown, retired and living outside of Boston
“It is not good if you can’t afford it! Expensive city but oh so beautiful. Some might mind the winters, but we don’t and you can always plan a warm getaway! Being so close to Logan it is easy to fly away!” — Christi G., Back Bay, retired and living in Boston
Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinions.