San Jose, Calif.
In San Jose, Calif., average energy costs are $243 per month, compared to $172 in San Francisco. Food, medicine and gasoline tend to cost about the same, but a car is a necessity in San Jose.
MaryAnn Ellison is a San Jose native who retired in her hometown after a 30-year career. "My husband and I bought our home over 35 years ago, and that alone has made it possible to retire in this city," she says. "We paid our mortgage off a long time ago and never got a home loan. That's a huge mistake too many people made; then it blew up in 2008. … If we'd taken a second mortgage like our friends, I'd probably need to work into my 70s, or we'd have to sell the house and move somewhere cheaper."
At $783,250, the average home price in San Jose is a bit less than San Francisco's, but still far above national averages. "I guess if we sold, we could have a more lavish lifestyle someplace cheaper, but this is my home," MaryAnn said. "I'm not going anywhere."