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Worst Places to Retire in America - Living Expenses and Employment

Updated on November 22, 2014

Hollis Garden in Lakeland, Florida

Beautiful garden in Milken Institute's worst US large city for retirement.
Beautiful garden in Milken Institute's worst US large city for retirement. | Source

Good and Bad Cities for Enjoying Life and Even Working While Retired

The Milken Institute conducted a large multi-city study in the United States in order to determine the best and worst places that folks over the age of 65 can expect to live comfortably and happily and the results are useful.

For decades, Americans have tried to save money in order to move to proverbial retirement havens like Florida and Arizona, but those states are becoming crowded and expensive. In addition, since the Great Recession that began under President George W. Bush, fewer individuals and families can save money at all. Some of them have lost their entire pension accounts, along with their homes and other properties - and their jobs.

Looking at the Milken-designated worst large city, Lakeland - Winter Haven Metro Fl, and worst small city, Danville Il, I ask, "Why?" So I look at these places here in hopes of finding the positives.

Worst Large and Small Cities for US Retirement

Lakeland - Winter Haven Area, Florida:
Lakeland, FL, USA

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Danville, Illinois:
Danville, IL, USA

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Polk Museum of Art and Other Attractions in Lakeland

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Bok Tower Gardens, Lake WalesLEGOLAND Florida, Winter HavenLake MortonFrank Lloyd Wright Architecture at Florida Southern College
Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales
Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales | Source
LEGOLAND Florida, Winter Haven
LEGOLAND Florida, Winter Haven | Source
Lake Morton
Lake Morton | Source
Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture at Florida Southern College
Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture at Florida Southern College | Source

Attractions in Lakeland

Multiple interesting attractions make Lakeland an attractive place to visit and live. Museums, gardens, and many more sites give residents plenty to do. Florida Southern University offers not only education, but also Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture to tour.

Circle B Bar Reserve stands on the grounds of a former cattle ranch and is an official Great Florida Birding Trail with viewing access to predatory and non-predatory birds. Other wildlife and native plants flourish at this site.

The Milken Institute places high emphasis on employment and lifelong education for Senior Citizens and postsecondary schools in Lakeland include:

  • Barry University - Winter Haven
  • Everest University
  • Hillsborough Community College
  • Keiser University
  • Florida Technical College
  • Florida Polytechnic University
  • Florida Southern University
  • Fortis Institute in nearby Mulberry
  • Polk State College
  • Traviss Career Center
  • Whitefield College and Theological Seminary

Job Prospects

Job openings for the Lakeland - Winter Haven Area during 4th QTR 2014 stand at over 16,000, many suitable for Senior Citizens. The leading high demand jobs are:

  1. Truck Drivers with active CDL
  2. Security Officers
  3. Store Managers
  4. Salespeople and Supervisors
  5. Physical Therapists
  6. Nurses - Nurse Practitioners, RNs, and LPNs
  7. Event Specialists, Part-Time
  8. Occupational Therapists
  9. Production Managers
  10. Project Managers
  11. Walt Disney parks jobs

Lakeland - Winter Haven Metropolitan Area

Lakeland supports a population of over 98,000 people per the US Census Bureau as of June 2014. The larger Metro Area supports over 604,000.

According to Sperling's Best Places and the US census Bureau, the cost of living in Lakeland is lower than the national average at 88%. Housing is only 58% of the national average cost.

The Combee Settlement within Lakeland is said to be haunted in many places. In addition, it has six grocery stores within a mile, along with many retail stores and dining places. Seven schools and one municipal park make the area attractive to families. Twenty bus stops exist within one mile of the settlement or housing development. It is unincorporated, has no city taxes, and contains Country Club Estates and other homes.

Lakeland - Winter Haven supports several retirement communities for those 55+. The number of homes for sale remains steady at about 1,000 condos and single family houses in a range of $7,500 to over $500,000. The median price is about $160,000. However, several homes are available for rental at $600/month with 2BR and 3BR.

Combee Settlement, Lakeland

Combee Settlemen:
Combee Settlement, FL, USA

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Is Lakeland good for Seniors?

4 stars for Lakeland, Florida as a place to live.

Is Lakeland a Good Place?

For being the worst large city in which to retire, Lakeland has enough good points and amenities to be at least satisfactory and probably much better than that.

Lakeland - Winter Haven Metro Area

Lakeland FL:
Lakeland, FL, USA

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Winter Haven FL:
Winter Haven, FL, USA

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Civil war reenactment near Danville, Illinois
Civil war reenactment near Danville, Illinois | Source

Danville Illinois is Less Expensive

Danville is a small city south of Chicago, with a population of about 33,000 or the entire population of Nunavut Territory in Northern Canada.

According to Melkin Institute, it is the worst small city in which to retire, but Sperling's Best Places lists its cost of living as only 81% of that of the nation as a whole. Housing is listed at only 40% of the average US cost and food costs are less than average. Utilities and transportation are above average, about 114% of our national average, but overall, Danville is not an expensive place to retire.

The city supports light opera, a theater, and a symphony orchestra. A dozen neighborhood associations are working to improve the city in their own blacks of homes.and businesses.

Danville is also Number 36 on Sperling's Best list of Fast-Emerging Metropolitan Areas.

Danville, Illinois:
Danville, IL, USA

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Danville Attractions

One focus of the Melkin report is that of education and jobs for Seniors, many of whom will have to continue working into their later years no matter where they reside.

Danville is home to two colleges: Danville Area Community College and Lakeview College of Nursing. Bioth have courses that any adult might enjoy and find useful.

The largest numbers of workers here are employed in government, manufacturing, and retail sales. Job growth is expected to reach over 30% by 2022.

Kickapoo State Park provides many free activities: hiking, bike trials, hunting and fishing, and wildlife viewing. It also allows scuba diving with proper credentials. Winter activities are also popular. In summer, kayaking is big and canoe trips are offered. Horse riding is also available, with classes as well.

The city holds an annual Phases of the Moon Art and Music Festival, supports national and local holidays, and encourages a group of mural painters called the Walldogs -- In 2010, muralists from all around the world gathered in Danville to pain on exterior walls. The results can been seen today in a specialized walking tour of 16 murals that include a locomotive, a streetcar famous people, and several others.

Joining the other attractions are several sites that commemorate people associate with President Abraham Lincoln and present denials of his trips through Illinois.

Jobs in Danville

As a small town, Danville has 3,200 jobs openings advertised at Thanksgiving 2014. Many of these jobs are for CDL licensed truck drivers with the following companies:

  • Swift Transportation
  • Barr-nunn Transportation
  • CRST Specialized Transportation
  • Hogan
  • McLeod Express
  • Roehl Transport
  • CRST Malone

Jobs are also listed for RNs, LPNs, and Retail Salespeople, with not many jobs that most Senior Citizens might enjoy.

Younger adults have moved from Danville for work during the 1980s - 2010s, but the Vermillion County Advantage program has been bringing new business and business expansions to the city since 2002. It is replacing lost companies with companies like Quaker Oats, Walgreens, and others. While Danville is not the best small town in America for retirement right now, it is not going to be at the bottom of the list forever.

Retirement Living

Bowman Estates: 1968 N. Bowman Avenue; Danville, IL 61832

This is an assisted living facility that serves all ages 65 and over, of all income levels. Recently, this facility was selected for a pilot program site for improving nutrition and exercise of Seniors via our United States Department of Agriculture. The facility is a small city within itself, with many activities and amenities. Floor plans include studio and 1-bedroom apartments with kitchenettes, but no stove. For safety, a microwave is substituted.

Liberty Village Retirement Apartments: 3222 Independence Drive; Danville, IL 61832.

Independent living arrangements still offer two full buffet meals daily and free WiFi. No long-term lease is required and floor plans include studio, 1 BR, and 2 BR accommodations. Kitchens include full size refrigerators and 4-burner stove/oven appliances.

Housing Market

Houses for sale at this writing include over 200 homes in a range of $6,000 to $469,000. The median home price is $80,000 for 3 and 4 BR houses and condominiums.

Famous People From Danville, Illinois

The Vermillion County Museum lists these people who are from Danville at some point in their lives:

  • Gene Hackman - Actor in Bonnie and Clyde, The French Connection, The Unforgiven, The Bird Cage.
  • Donald O'Connor - Song and Dance man
  • Bobby Short - Famous pianist.
  • Matt Stover - Author of at least three Star Wars novels.
  • Joe Tanner - NASA Astronaut.
  • Dick and Jerry Van Dyke - Comedians and actors.


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      @old albion - I appreciate your comments and like the Dickens reference. We probably have a great many more places that are good, but which remain unadvertised - almost secrets. I wonder what retirement is like on a daily basis in England and the rest of the UK.

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 

      6 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Patty. I found your hub of great interest. The places you mention seem comfortable places to reside though not the best. They are however far superior to some of the cities and towns in the uk. In truth some places are almost Dickensian in appearance and attitude. Although things are very good overall, we are far behind you in many ways.


    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Best of success to you in your searches for that best, perfect place to go. One friend I have in Canada would like to move to Arizona.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      We are now trying to find places we can go for winter that is closer to us in Canada so this got me interested. Florida has always been there for us but we look for other places as well.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      Very interesting. I can't imagine living one place all one's life then uprooting and going anywhere else with no support system, no matter where it is. The concept has always baffled me a bit.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      @mckbirdbks - Social Security keeps adding another year to my retirement date annually, so I probably will never retire; many others will need to keep working because of all they lost in the Great Recession.

      We seem to be having longer winters in Ohio with extra snowfalls in March, so climate is reverting to my childhood when it snowed from mid-October to the first week of April every year! I don't know a good place to retire right now. But, I hear that the large market, Pike's Place, at the harbor in Seattle has a retirement village within it. I'd like that.

    • mckbirdbks profile image


      6 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hi Patty, I know so few people who are in the position to retire. Even those that felt they were well off prior to 2008 and feeling it now.

      This is good information and much more research like this is going to be needed as we progress.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thanks for commenting, MsDora! There some abandoned houses, just as in my own large city, but our mayor is having them removed at a good rate, with new buildings, businesses, and affordable housing to replace them. I hope the mayors of Danville and Lakeland can do the same.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thank you for the information on these two cities. Seems like the cost of housing in both cities would be attractive to people who can afford to look. Voted Up and Useful!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Hearing about weather makes me laugh, since people in the Yukon live vibrant lives at lower temperatures in cities that have plenty to do and good jobs. Personal preference reigns, but climate changes are making it impossible for me to find a perfect place, myself. Moving underground maybe...

      It is useful to hear from people who have lived in these places and have seen them decline. Danville is beginning to increase in population again, but I bet it's retirees and people who are younger that have lower incomes. The county plans to improve the residential blocks hit by blight, so it may turn into a better place for retirees. I think they don't want to drive trucks, though, if they have to work during retirement.

      Lakeland - Winter Haven Metro is about 25 miles to the east of Tampa - probably a lot of tourists. Cost of living is less expensive that the national average, with housing being the lowest - only 58%. Everything else is a few % higher, but some residents complain about bad tastes in the water.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      6 years ago from southern USA

      Hi Patty,

      I like how you pointed out some of the good aspects of living in these areas despite they are considered the worst places to retire. I am not surprised at Lakeland, Florida, being that back when (1978-1982), my husband was stationed in Tampa, Florida, and we used to travel to the Lakeland Civic Center to see all the best of the best concerts of the day. However, the Tampa Bay area was so crowded, even back then, that I cannot imagine living there this day, and being Lakeland was the place that attracted so many great bands, I am sure is what put it on the map, as it certainly was not a large city by no means at that time.

      It was expensive to live down there back then, so I cannot imagine nowadays. Thankfully, we were able to live on the base at that time. However, we did live in an efficiency apartment for a bit prior to moving to base housing.

      I do have one regret, as we were thinking of purchasing a small home back then in Tampa and I remember we were thinking that the $300 a month (LOL) house payment would be too much for our tiny budget at the time. Now, we are kicking ourselves, as that part of Tampa, the property is worth in the millions! Oh well, live and learn.

      Up +++ tweeting and pinning

    • Froggy213 profile image

      Greg Boudonck 

      6 years ago from Returned to an Isla Del Sol - Puerto Rico Will Rise Strong

      Great information Patti. I think I will stick with Puerto Rico as my retirement haven. Great hub!

    • NMLady profile image


      6 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

      Born and raised in D'Ville. Would not move back there for a million bucks! It use to be 50K people with great jobs and industry. Not it is riddled with empty derelict houses and factories. Crime is high and there just isn't much to do there..... The weather stinks too BTW.

      It WAS a great place all the way into the 70's. Very sad place now.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      6 years ago from Texas

      Patty, thank you for writing this. Yes Danville is a beautiful town. My son Brett went to The Illinois School for the Deaf, in Jacksonville and we went through Danville many times.

      Voted up, UABI and shared.

      Blessings Dear Friend



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