While finances are generally the primary consideration when it comes to making retirement decisions, a crucial question for individuals as they plan for the future is where to live. Many retirees choose to stay in their own communities, hoping to remain near relatives and friends. Others find they want to reduce living costs, downsize housing, seek a change in climate, or live in a place they enjoyed on a vacation — and perhaps even returned to several times. Some want to fulfill a dream to live by the sea or in a small town, and others prefer lively cities with plenty of cultural opportunities.
That decision will face more than four million baby boomers in the U.S. who will turn 65 in 2024, a demographic landmark referred to as “Peak 65.” The numbers are similar in Canada, where baby boomers represent about 25 percent of the population. Current data indicates that the overall cost of living is slightly lower in Canada than in the U.S., and the quality of life is high. And not all retirees head south for sunshine; many enjoy seasonal changes, winter sports, and all that Canada has to offer.
U.S. citizens considering a move north for their retirement will want to research visa and permanent residency options. Some may decide to spend part of the year in Canada, and a visitor visa, which is valid for six months, may work for them. Meanwhile, those planning to stay longer may want apply for permanent residency.
U.S. citizens should be aware that Canada’s universal health care is available only to Canadian permanent residents and citizens. Since Medicare is generally not accepted outside of the U.S., a private medical insurance policy is advisable. Retirees may receive their social security payments while out of the country, and they must file U.S. tax returns annually. Professional advice is recommended as part of retirement planning, especially when considering life outside the U.S.
For this list of most affordable places to retire in Canada, we considered housing costs, health care, things to do, weather, lifestyle, and culture with the help of experts. We searched the 10 provinces where most of the country’s population lives. (Three territories north of the provinces have fewer than 131,000 residents.) While living costs vary, each province offers a variety of affordable cities and towns. Here are some low-cost options in the Great White North.
Québec City, Québec
Located in eastern Canada on the St. Lawrence River, Québec City offers historic neighborhoods, winter and summer festivals, parks, and restaurants. Summers are mild, with temperatures averaging around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, while winters are cold, with temperatures as low as 10 degrees. The city is home to a large international expat community, according to Expat Exchange.
Québec City is known for high-quality health care and excellent hospitals. In terms of cost of living, with New York City as a comparison point, Numbeo finds overall prices 29 percent lower and rents about 76 percent lower.
Fredericton, New Brunswick
Just off the Atlantic coast along the Wolastoq (St. John River), Fredericton is home to museums, historic sites, breweries, farmers markets, three universities, and a small town atmosphere. Realtor Rebecca Steeves described the city as perfect for nature lovers — New England-like, with forests and walkable trails. She added, “We are seeing a lot of cross-country migration in Fredericton. Seniors are attracted by the affordable home prices. They can sell a home in one of the other provinces, buy here for much less, and have money left to enjoy their retirement.”
Temperatures range from a high of 78 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer to as low as five degrees in the winter. Rent prices are about 75 percent lower than in New York City, and grocery prices are about 32 percent lower. According to Steeves, homes can be found in the $300,000 to $400,000 range. The province also offers high-quality services for seniors.
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
This historical city is located off Canada’s eastern coast on Prince Edward Island (PEI) in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Home to world-class restaurants, festivals, and artisan shops, Charlottetown is the capital of the province. PEI is the smallest of the provinces in Canada, and residents can get to one of its red-sand beaches within 15 minutes from anywhere on the island.
According to Numbeo, rent costs are about 73 percent lower than in New York City, and restaurant prices are about 52 percent lower. Health care is convenient, according to limited data, and quality is average.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Halifax, capital of the province of Nova Scotia, is located in eastern Canada on the Atlantic Ocean. Residents enjoy four seasons, with July temperatures in the mid-70s and January offering lows in the teens. Excellent senior and health care facilities are available along with opportunities for an active lifestyle.
Overall consumer prices are approximately 47 percent lower than in New York City, while rent prices are 64 percent lower and groceries 29 percent lower.
West Kelowna, British Columbia
Located on the shore of Okanagan Lake, West Kelowna offers beautiful scenery, outdoor activities, and a rich history. According to retiree and longtime British Columbia resident, John MacNichol, “British Columbia has the best weather of all the provinces. Winter is not as cold, but we have skiing in Whistler, farms and wineries in Okanagan (where I live), and the beautiful city of Vancouver.” He added, “I grew up in St. Andrews by-the-Sea, a lovely town in New Brunswick — also a great place to retire — but we enjoy life in British Columbia.”
The city is considered safe, with a low crime rate, and Snappy Rates also commented on the area’s mild climate, beautiful lakes, parks, and outdoor activities. According to Numbeo, rents are about 63 percent lower than in New York City, and health care is excellent.
Prince George, British Columbia
Prince George has more than 100 parks and green spaces, along with rivers and five nearby ski areas. Home to the University of Northern British Columbia, the city offers a vibrant arts scene, too.
Rent prices are about 79 percent lower than in New York City, according to Numbeo. Health care is above average, and senior living facilities with various levels of care are available. Winters are cold, with January temperatures averaging 18 degrees Fahrenheit, and in July — the hottest month in Prince George — temperatures average 60 degrees.
With the lowest cost of living and most affordable housing out of all Canadian cities, Regina is located in south Saskatchewan. Winter temperatures drop into the teens, but summers are mild and pleasant, with weather in the high 70s in July and August. The city is home to University of Regina and a lively downtown as well as parks, hiking trails, and Last Mountain Lake for fishing and boating.
Health care is highly rated according to Numbeo, and there are a variety of senior living facilities at a range of levels. Consumer prices, including rent, are 56 percent lower compared to New York City, rents are 78 percent lower, and groceries are 34 percent lower.
Located on the northeastern edge of Lake Ontario, where the St. Lawrence River and Rideau Canal meet, Kingston has restaurants, bars, breweries, and one of Ontario’s oldest public markets in its pedestrian-friendly downtown. According to data from GoBankingRates, Kingston’s quality of life is highly rated as “among the very best across all of Canada.”
Kingston Health Sciences Centre is among several health care providers in the city. The city is notable for its access to health care through hospitals, retirement communities and other facilities.
The capital and largest city in Manitoba, Winnipeg is surrounded by lakes, forests, and prairies. Home to a variety of senior housing options, indoor and outdoor activities for seniors, and a wealth of cultural destinations, Winnipeg is an excellent place to retire.
Consumer prices, including rent, are about 53 percent lower than in New York City; rents are 75 percent lower; and groceries are 32 percent lower, based on Numbeo‘s data. Numbeo also gives Winnipeg excellent ratings for health care.
Located west of Calgary at an elevation of 3,891 feet, Cochrane is a fast growing community known for outdoor activities such as golf, hiking, and mountain biking. Canadian retiree Gordon Stewart has lived in Cochrane since 2008. “A lot of the fun of retiring is finding a place to live, like we did. There are so many gems in southwest Canada, many affordable, off-the-beaten-track towns.” He added, “We enjoy Cochrane — the mountain views, scenery, and people. It’s cold in the winter, but by May, we’re playing golf.”