May 30, 2014

Study: Best Cities for Retirement in California


When you dream of retirement, what do you see? Warm weather and sunshine? Trips to the oceans? And wine country? California makes many retirees’ dreams come true. The tough part isn’t whether to settle in the Golden State during your golden years; the tough part is deciding which part of it is the best for you. We’ve helped you take out some of the guesswork in this next phase of your life by analyzing the best California cities for retirees.

Study Methodology

We gathered information from the U.S. Census Bureau to consider the following factors:

  • Percent of population over 60 years old
  • Percent of multi-unit housing structures
  • Percent of seniors with health insurance (55 years and over)
  • Median annual income of seniors (65 years and over)
  • Number of golf courses in the metropolitan area

Looking at the 50 most populous cities in the state, we first found the percentage of each community’s population that is 60 years or older, so that you will have plenty of peers to interact with.

Next, we found the percentage of housing with multiple units, such as condos and apartments, since many retirees prefer not to deal with excessive space and yard maintenance.

We also considered the percent of seniors with health insurance, since medical bills can quickly become costly without it.

We looked at the median annual income of seniors, which includes things like retirement savings and social security, to see which cities have retirees with both time and money to spend as they wish.

Finally, because you’ll have all day to spend out on the links, we looked at the number of golf courses in each city’s metropolitan area. Together, these factors portray a well-rounded picture of ideal cities in California for retirees to call home.

10 Best California Cities for Retirees

10. Concord

  • Population over 60: 17.8%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 32.9%
  • Seniors with Health Insurance: 94.8%
  • Median Annual Income for Seniors: $42,785
  • Number of Golf Courses in the Metropolitan Area: 77

Coming in tenth place, Concord boasts high health care coverage and a relatively large senior population in the San Francisco Bay Area. Still close to the city, you’ll enjoy a more intimate community just 30 miles outside of San Francisco. You won’t want to miss the Concord Jazz Festival, and, if you’re feeling nostalgic, check out a film at the West Wind Solano Drive-in Theater.

9. San Francisco

  • Population over 60: 19.9%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 67.7%
  • Seniors with Health Insurance: 94.1%
  • Median Annual Income for Seniors: $33,475
  • Number of Golf Courses in the Metropolitan Area: 77

If you prefer the big city atmosphere of Northern California, then San Francisco might be the place for your retirement. With the most multi-unit housing structures on our list, you won’t have a problem finding the perfect condo or apartment. However, San Francisco’s annual income for seniors is one of the lowest on our list, so make sure you have your financial ducks in a row before making your move.

8. Santa Clarita

  • Population over 60: 16.3%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 27.3%
  • Seniors with Health Insurance: 93%
  • Median Annual Income for Seniors: $44,206
  • Number of Golf Courses in the Metropolitan Area: 165

Just over 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles, Santa Clarita offers many public facilities for wellness-minded retirees, including an aquatic park, community pools, tennis courts and plenty of trails for walking or biking. Dubbed “Hollywood North,” you may even glimpse some celebrities filming in the area.

7. Glendale

  • Population over 60: 24.2%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 58.3%
  • Seniors with Health Insurance: 90.9%
  • Median Annual Income for Seniors: $30,063
  • Number of Golf Courses in the Metropolitan Area: 165

Glendale holds some of the top ranks for a number of categories, including the most condos and apartments, and highest senior population, with nearly 25% of residents over the age of 60. It’s also a great city if you like to shop, with a number of malls and shopping centers. Most notably, Glendale is home to the Americana at Brand, an outdoor mall with plenty of high-end stores like Tiffany’s and Armani Exchange.

6. Orange

  • Population over 60: 16.2%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 28%
  • Seniors with Health Insurance: 92.1%
  • Median Annual Income for Seniors: $66,245
  • Number of Golf Courses in the Metropolitan Area: 165

Orange ranks high for median annual income, a welcome sign for retirees. Not only that, the city is filled with historically preserved homes from the 1920s and earlier – a rarity in Southern California. You’ll also enjoy plenty of outdoor space in the form of parks and lakes, as well as a zoo that features wildlife like black bears and mountain lions.

5. Torrance

  • Population over 60: 21%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 37.1%
  • Seniors with Health Insurance: 90.2%
  • Median Annual Income for Seniors: $45,236
  • Number of Golf Courses in the Metropolitan Area: 165

Torrance has a thriving senior scene, with over 16% of the population over the age of 60. Not only that, it’s considered one of the safest cities in the Los Angeles area. Lined with sunny beaches, Torrance is also home to Madrona Marsh, a rare urban wetland that is also a nature preserve. Feel like heading inside? Check out the Del Amo Fashion Center, one of the nation’s five largest malls.

4. Fullerton

  • Population over 60: 16.6%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 39.4%
  • Seniors with Health Insurance: 90.6%
  • Median Annual Income for Seniors: $51,187
  • Number of Golf Courses in the Metropolitan Area: 165

Not only does Fullerton have one of the higher senior incomes on our list, it also has a long history of influential music. Jackson Browne is a native, and the city was also the original home of the Fender instrument company. In addition to over 50 city parks, Fullerton Arboretum has a world-class selection of diverse plants and landscapes to explore.

3. Irvine

  • Population over 60: 14.1%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 47.1%
  • Seniors with Health Insurance: 95.3%
  • Median Annual Income for Seniors: $67,419
  • Number of Golf Courses in the Metropolitan Area: 165

Irvine ranks first on our list for seniors’ median annual income and third for health insurance. Not only that, this bustling city is a hot spot for universities and the technology sector, ensuring there is always something interesting happening around town. The city annually hosts the Irvine Global Village Festival, and it is also home to the Ayn Rand Institute, the Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial, and the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater for year-round music festivals and concerts.

2. Huntington Beach

  • Population over 60: 19.1%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 35.6%
  • Seniors with Health Insurance: 94.9%
  • Median Annual Income for Seniors: $57,880
  • Number of Golf Courses in the Metropolitan Area: 165

Also ranking high in health insurance and income, Huntington Beach has a robust senior population of over 19%. Known as “Surf City, USA,” Huntington Beach is perfect for ocean-loving retirees and even has the International Surfing Museum. Movie buffs will also appreciate the annual SoCal Independent Film Festival.

1. Pasadena

Pasadena, California
Pasadena, California

  • Population over 60: 20.7%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 52.9%
  • Seniors with Health Insurance: 93.8%
  • Median Annual Income for Seniors: $46,592
  • Number of Golf Courses in the Metropolitan Area: 165

With a large population over 60, a relatively high annual income, and plenty of condos and golf courses, Pasadena rounds out our list at number one. It’s no surprise why retirees flock to this Los Angeles suburb – from the Rose Bowl to Caltech, Pasadena is full of exciting attractions and amenities. With plenty of museums and galleries, you’ll get your art fix in a variety of genres, including classic European, South Asian sculpture, and contemporary local pieces. After hours, head to Old Town for restaurants, clubs and shopping.


California is a picture perfect destination for any retiree wishing to make a move, and our list can help you narrow down the choices. Looking for a new retirement destination outside of the Golden State? Check out our nation-wide search for the best small cities for retirees to call home.

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Follow @CreditDonkey or write to Lauren Ward at lauren@creditdonkey.com
Lauren Ward is a research analyst at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and financial education website. Our data-driven analysis has been recognized by major news outlets across the country and has helped consumers make savvy financial and lifestyle decisions. (read more)

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