Study: Berrien County among best places to retire early

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON HARBOR — According to a financial website, Berrien County is among the best places in the country to retire early. ranked 217 cities and regions as part of a new study looking into the best and worst places to retire at a younger age.

Berrien County,  identified as the Niles-Benton Harbor Metropolitan Statistical Area in the study, was tied for second in the country, after factoring in three specific categories: cost of living, quality of life and employability.

The cost of living aspect was determined by housing, transportation and health care costs. Quality of life took into account the weather, walkability and access to entertainment. Employability looked into part-time work opportunities for early retirees who wish to remain active.

Each city was given a final composite score out of 100 possible points.

The composite score was based on those three factors, each weighted differently: cost of living (50 percent), quality of life (30 percent), and employability (20 percent).

“Benton Harbor’s ranking in this survey is positive news,” Greg Vaughn, Cornerstone Alliance’s COO and vice president of business development, said in a news release. “These younger retirees often embark on a second career and become entrepreneurs and open their own businesses, which plays an important role in our local economies.”

The websites cited interest in such a survey was in relation to the rise of the Financial Independence and Retiring Early movement, also known as FIRE, that has added emphasis on retiring early.

Rather than leaving the workforce at the age of 62, FIRE retirees aim to retire in their 40s or 50s.

This goal requires an aggressive savings plan, as early retirees must live off their savings until they can expect to withdraw benefits like Social Security or dip into their 401(k) without facing a penalty.

Cities in the South and Midwest dominated the list of best places to retire early, mostly due to a lower average cost of living among the four regions studied.

Southern and Midwestern cities boasted an average cost of living score of 63 – 13 points higher than the average score across all 217 cities studied.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on March, 7 2017)

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