The 7 Best Places to Retire in Michigan

By  Danny Newman

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Why do people choose Michigan to retire? Let’s discover the best places to retire in Michigan and learn what makes the Great Lake State stand out.

What’s the first thing you look for in a possible retirement destination? For some people, the priority is always warm weather and access to the beach. Throw in a local winery and a few golf courses, and they’re sold!

For others, the real kicker is affordability. These aspiring retirees want to settle somewhere their money stretches further, locations where having a fixed income isn’t the end of the world, and they can enjoy a strong quality of life without worrying too much about their bank balance.

If you fall into this second category, then Michigan could be perfect for you. Indeed, the Great Lake State has been ranked the third most affordable place in the country! Retire here, and you’d have a light tax burden and low cost of living – alongside a slew of other attractive perks. But where exactly should you settle?

Let’s take a look. Here are 7 of the best places to retire in Michigan.

1. Kalamazoo

In the southwest of Michigan, you’ll find the vibrant student city of Kalamazoo. It’s the county seat of Kalamazoo County, has a population of around 76,000 residents, and offers a lovely combination of small-town charm and big-city buzz.

That buzz is largely down to the abundance of students here. Indeed, Kalamazoo’s home to six colleges! Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo College, and Kalamazoo Valley Community College are among them. The result is youthful energy, a lively atmosphere, and a huge list of things to see and do – including a busy downtown shopping area, a nature center, and a host of galleries and museums.

Kalamazoo was once named the coolest city in the country as well! It also boasts a remarkably low cost of living. For example, the median value of owner-occupied units between 2016 and 2020 was $113,700. Throw in its numerous hospitals, and there’s no argument that Kalamazoo’s one of the best places to retire in Michigan!

2. Grand Rapids

Approximately one hour north of Kalamazoo, you’ll find Grand Rapids – an inviting, cultural, and prosperous city that’s as diverse as it is dynamic. With just under 200,000 residents, it’s a lot bigger than Kalamazoo, which may suit retirees who adore the hustle and bustle of major metropoles.

It also packs a punch in terms of attractions. Alongside the many restaurants and bars, you’ll enjoy the Downtown Market, nature center, Meyer May House, Frederik Meijer Gardens, and Public Museum. Grand Rapids was also the childhood home of the 38th US President, Gerald Ford – a piece of history that’s celebrated at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

The weather here is rainier, and the crime rate is higher than you might like. However, the cost of living is low, there are 5 hospitals in the city, and you’d have easy access to Lake Michigan. All told, it’s another first-rate retirement destination.

3. Petoskey

Anyone looking for a quieter retirement should check out Petoskey. This tiny resort town rests on Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay. Tim Uihlein, MBA and CFP of Vincere Wealth Management shares his advice:

” Two of the best cities in Michigan to retire are Saugatuck and Petoskey, both quaint towns that offer many outdoor activities.”

What it lacks in size and big-city attractions, Petoskey makes up for in natural beauty. Not only is the downtown area supremely picturesque, but it also has a hilltop position that offers outstanding views over the bay.

Petoskey sits just a 30-minute drive from Charlevoix Township, another excellent choice for retirement in northern Michigan. According to Blaine Thiederman, MBA and CFP from Progress Wealth Management:

“For retirees who love small towns, Charlevoix Township is a wonderful place to land. It’s a charming, quiet town in the winter and bustling during the summer. It’s also incredibly safe and has various hospitals nearby. It’s also known for its access to Lake Michigan and beautiful parks.”

Compared to other places in the Great Lake State, Petoskey isn’t cheap. However, the state’s northern shores are tough to beat for those seeking cozy small-town charm.

4. Grand Haven

Grand Haven is the seat of Ottawa County. Nestled along the shore of southwest Michigan, this beautiful city of almost 11,000 people ranks among the best places to retire anywhere – let alone in Michigan. Doug Oosterhart, CFP with LifePoint Planning and lifelong Michigan resident, shares his thoughts on this region of the state:

“Another great area is southwest Michigan (Holland, Saugatuck, Grand Haven, South Haven). Michigan is a great value for those that want awesome beaches, all four seasons, and great dining options.”

Life here revolves around pristine beaches that have won national acclaim. Grand Haven also offers endless outdoor activities, waterfront festivals, historical museums, and first-rate drinking and dining opportunities.

The city’s surprisingly low cost of living, minimal crime rate, and access to healthcare add to the list of compelling reasons to retire in Grand Haven.

5. Bay City

Bay City is the county seat of Bay County. A friendly and welcoming place, its 33,000 residents enjoy a prime location near the western edge of Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay. Its proximity to the water is part of the town’s charm and a primary source of its recreational activities.

You can go for strolls along the Riverwalk Pier, rent a sailboat, fish until your heart’s content, explore the Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum, or sunbathe on the sandy beaches at Bay City State Park. The city itself is saturated with fun things to do as well. Highlights include the planetarium, a theatre, a 400-booth antique center, and a slew of great bars and restaurants available downtown.

Although the crime rate in Bay City is above average, the cost of living is the total opposite. For instance, the median value of owner-occupied units between 2016 and 2020 was $68,000. For retirees on a budget, it could be ideal.

6. Ann Arbor

No list of the best places to retire in Michigan is complete without the college town of Ann Arbor. The county seat of Washtenaw County, it has everything you could ever want in a retirement destination! Its 124,000 residents benefit from excellent healthcare, affordable housing options, an amazing cultural scene, and more outdoor activities than you can shake a stick at.

Home to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor also has a youthful and inclusive vibe, a mass of entertainment options, and the vast health care complex, Michigan Medicine. Specific “must-dos” in Ann Arbor include getting out onto the Huron River, exploring the Farmers Market, going to one of the breweries in town, and watching a game at the University of Michigan Football Stadium (aka the “Big House”).

7. Frankenmuth

Last but by no means least, we have Frankenmuth. A small Saginaw County city of fewer than 5000 people, you’ll find it south of Bay City on the Cass River. It’s peaceful, safe, full of charm, and big on history – with a proud German heritage evidenced by its nickname, “Little Bavaria”.

Frankenmuth boasts an impressive list of things to do for a little place. If you like the sound of lively multi-day festivals (some of them Bavarian-themed), boutique stores, famous chicken dinners (washed down with cold German beer), and eclectic dining opportunities, then you’re in luck! Visit the Military & Space Museum, go kayaking on the river, play a round of golf at Fortress Golf Course, and much more.

Now, the cost of living here is higher than in other parts of Michigan, and the nearest major hospital is the Covenant Medical Center, which is 18 miles away in Saginaw. Frankenmuth’s hard to beat if you’re looking for a sky-high quality of life.

Don’t Forget the Best Places to Retire in Michigan

The Great Lake State has lots to offer anyone who chooses to retire there – especially in terms of affordability! Thanks to its low cost of living and inexpensive housing, your savings and retirement income will both stretch a long way. Furthermore, from its energetic college towns to quaint lakeside oases, it’s full of diversity that ought to help you find the right place to call home.

If that’s the process you’re embarking on now, then we hope these insights on the best places to retire in Michigan have been valuable. Take them forward into the search, and you’ll be enjoying your Michiganian retirement in no time.

Of course, making the transition from earning a paycheck to living off your savings and resources like Social Security can be a major adjustment impacting your budget and quality of life. Hiring a financial advisor can help you navigate the journey so you can enjoy decades in retirement in Michigan with less money stress.

You’ll find financial advisors featured on Wealthtender based in Michigan and others who can meet with you online no matter where you live today or tomorrow. Be sure to ask the right questions and understand the costs of hiring a financial advisor before deciding on the right financial advisor for you.

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About the Author

Danny Newman

I’m a digital nomad from England who loves traveling and has a passion for writing.

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This article originally appeared on Wealthtender. To make Wealthtender free for our readers, we earn money from advertisers, including financial professionals and firms that pay to be featured. This creates a natural conflict of interest when we favor their promotion over others. Wealthtender is not a client of these financial services providers.

Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be considered financial advice. You should consult a financial professional before making any major financial decisions.

To make Wealthtender free for readers, we earn money from advertisers, including financial professionals and firms that pay to be featured. This creates a conflict of interest when we favor their promotion over others. Learn more. Wealthtender is not a client of these financial services providers.
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