7 Cities For Retiring Digitalists

Danielle Beurteaux

Conventional recommendations for retirement locations tend to focus on things like weather, cost of living, health care, and the population of fellow retirees.

But retirement is changing. You might have heard the terms “worktirement” or “consulteering” – this next tranche of retirees expects to keep working in some capacity, driven not always by financial needs, but also because work is a primary form of self-definition. They also want to give back, try new things, and continue the psychological benefits of working, too. They’re not so into the idea of retirement as all-golf-all-the-time. (But, hey, if that’s your thing, you do you.)

Retiring doesn’t mean giving up on the digital life. We looked at several lists for places to retire and cross-referenced them with the recent Chamber of Commerce Innovation that Matters 2016 report (which we’re going to call CoC report), which ranks cities by digital economy. “The rankings are based on how well the top 25 U.S. startup hubs attract talent, increase investments, develop specializations, create density, connect the community, and build a culture of innovation,” according to the accompanying press release. We also looked at the Kaufman Foundation’s Kaufman Index, both the rankings of startup activity and entrepreneurship growth by city. The focus is on the intersection of metrics including a healthy local digital economy, startup support and growth, smart city initiatives, and connectivity, while also keeping in mind cost-of-living (one reason why places like San Francisco and New York aren’t on this list).

1. Austin, Texas

Austin has it all. It took the top spot in the Kaufman startup activity index and second on the growth entrepreneurship index. The CoC report puts it in sixth place. Venture capital investment in local companies increased last year. The city’s Office of Digital Inclusion (yes, that’s its real name) is on a mission to make sure all Austinites have digital access.

The city made Forbes’ list of cities to move for retirement, which focuses, among other things, on good elements for a working retirement. But Austin can be a tad expensive, particularly for housing costs (although, overall, NerdWallet’s cost of living calculator ranks it as the country’s 125th most expensive city). For a less expensive alternative, look to Round Rock, a mere 20 miles away.

2. Denver, Colorado

Denver is number three on the CoC rankings, and fifth and 13th on the Kaufman startup and entrepreneurship rankings, respectively. The city was an entrant in the Department of Transportation (DoT) Smart Cities competition; its proposal outlines plans for driverless vehicles and electric public transportation.

Sure, it isn’t Florida when it comes to weather, but it does have lots of outdoor activities, a good public transport system, and good healthcare options, and ranks 60th on NerdWallet’s list.

3. Columbus, Ohio

Columbus won the DoT’s Smart City challenge and now has about $140 million to spend on a new vision for the city’s transportation. It hit the Kaufman entrepreneurship listing at number four, and ranks 12 for startups (although it didn’t make the CoC list at all).

But it looks like good things are happening. It’s experiencing rapid population growth right now, and housing is a bit cheaper than the country average (NerdWallet rank 267). Also, social security is tax exempt.

4. Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville is about growth. It ranks fifth on Kaufman’s entrepreneurship report, 24th on the startup listing, and 15th on the CoC ranking. Nashville is certainly synonymous with music, but healthcare is actually its second biggest industry, and there are startup accelerators for both. It was also recently named a good city for new tech grads to get jobs – which potentially means mentorship opportunities.

It might not rank tops in every category but it certainly does for affordability, according to this analysis by WalletHub. The city has become a magnet for the 60-plus set who are looking for high quality of living.

5. Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix has long been a magnet city for retirees (see: weather). It ranked first in a recent WalletHub analysis of best retirement cities, thanks to a powerful combination of weather, taxes, affordability, and other factors.

It’s also not doing badly as a digital center. On Kaufman’s startup index, it took 14th and ranked 12th for growth. The CoC report has it 23rd. It has business accelerators, and the city is restructuring with an eye to attracting startup talent with tax incentives to build in the city, a new bike sharing program, and improved, modern public transport to ease car traffic.

6. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia is having something of a resurgence. For anyone wanting to stay urban (and only two hours from New York City), Philadelphia could be a good choice – lots of culture, things to do, quality educational institutions, and healthcare providers. (Although not the cheapest – NerdWallet ranks it as the country’s 25th most expensive city.)

It takes the eighth spot on the CoC list, 21st on Kaufman’s growth index, and 31st on the entrepreneurship index.

7. Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta is an up-and-coming digitalist destination. It ranks 15th for growth, 13th for startups, and 21st on the CoC list. Another list put it at the fifth best place in the country to launch a startup. The city also recently received a $4 million grant from the Department of Labor as part of its TechHire program. The funds will go towards job training in engineering, coding, data science, and design.

The state’s tax rate for retirees is low, and Atlanta is  a big city with a mix of history and high-tech and a major transportation hub.

Where does your industry fall on the digital transformation spectrum? See The Internet of Things and Digital Transformation: A Tale of Four Industries.

Danielle Beurteaux

About Danielle Beurteaux

Danielle Beurteaux is a New York–based writer who covers business, technology, and philanthropy. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and on Popular Mechanics, CNN, and Institutional Investor's Alpha, among other outlets.