Skip to main content

Birmingham, Michigan: Most Affordable of the Top Five US Retirement Cities

Ms. Inglish is a successful employment & training pro, setting Midwest regional records with tens of thousands placed in gainful employment.

Booth Park in Birmingham, Michigan.

Booth Park in Birmingham, Michigan.

Affordable Cities on Eye-Catching Top 10 Lists

Lists of "Top 10 Cities" often contain entertaining facts, travel information, and ads for rental and retirement housing. Most useful to wealthier retirees, these lists can be demoralizing to seniors who have more limited incomes.

An organization in my town emailed me their list of best U.S. retirement recommendations, and it contained a surprise.

The cities are recognized for interesting food and drink establishments and for being the most "walkable," but while the top four cities have high costs of living compared to the national average, the fifth, Birmingham, is much more affordable.

The top five cities offer urban districts that contain many goods and services within a short walkable distance of residences, often in multi-use complexes that contain dwellings. The rental prices are usually higher than average, however.

Those who watch the Food Network and foodie travel shows know that these presentations support eating and drinking places offering dishes starting at $40 per dish or higher. Most retirees are unlikely to be able to patronize these establishments, even if they are a short walk from home, but Birmingham foodies are pleased to see lower restaurant prices and high quality.

Affordable Prices in Upscale Michigan

For those who can afford the advertised range of independent living rents seen below, the unique attractions in an upscale Michigan community may be worth the price of housing.

About 26% of its residents earn over $200,000 yearly, making Birmingham one of the richer cities in the state, but affordable prices are available as well.

Did You Know?

About 30% of Birmingham residents are senior citizens aged 55 and older, often categorized as "active seniors."

Top Five Cities for Food Enjoyment in Retirement

Source: Data received in an email from local monthly paper "Retirement News", August 27, 2017.

Commnunity NameRange of Independent Living Retirement CostsWalkability

Evanstan IL, near Chicago

$1,600–$4,900 monthly


The Bronx, NYC

$1,600–$4,900 monthly

Second Tier

Oakland California Metro

$1,700–$4,900 monthly

Second Tier

Culver City, California

$1,700—$5,350 monthly

Third Tier

Biurmingham, Michigan

$1,700—$5,100 monthly

Third Tier

In the table above, we can see that the range of rental prices recommended for retirees looks too expensive for the average American senior. In fact, the average Social Security Retirement (SSR) check in the U.S. was around $1,300 in 2017, the maximum being $2,687.

For two retirees living together, the average amount of monthly SSR leaves very little money after the rent payment. This seems like overwhelming bad news, but Birmingham does offer clean, attractive monthly housing at lower rates, as indicated below.

Moderately Priced Independent Living

About 30% of all Birmingham residents are seniors aged 55 and older.

  • All Seasons of Birmingham (moderate to upscale rents): 111 Elm Street Birmingham, MI 48009.
  • Buckingham Square Apts: 3100 Glouchester Ave, Troy, MI 48084. One-bedroom $950 for 800 sq. ft. Some are furnished.
  • Kensington of Beverly Hills, 18335 W 13 Mile Rd; Southfield, MI 48076. One-bedroom $770 to $1,070 per month.

Affordable Housing in Nearby Royal Oak

I recommend Royal Oak just to the south because it is a clean, well-maintained neighborhood with many shops and dining places. Murals and other public arts abound. There is a farmers market, and the Detroit Zoo is in the southwest corner, off Woodward. The annual Dream Cruise of classic cars passes this town as it proceeds along Woodward to Birmingham.

  • Madison Manor: 27795 Dequindre, Madison Heights, MI 48071. $690 to $790. Dozens of features and amenities.
  • Royal Oak Towers: 20800 Wyoming, Ferndale, MI 48220. $599 to $742. Pets are welcomed, and utilities are free.
  • The Village of Royal Oak Senior Living: 3442 Devon Road, Royal Oak, MI 48073. $745 to $1,200. Two pets are permitted. Real Estate Sales

  • For Birmingham during August 2017, a consistent 250 homes were listed in a range of $147,700 to $495,000,000. Median price ranged from $650,000 to $750,000. Sperling's Best Places listed the median price at $429,000.

A Great Place for Thanksgiving

Birmingham is in the 10th best area for Thanksgiving celebrations, according to a survey conducted by Sperling's Best Places, and the 11th best place for senior living and healthy retirement.

Convenient Transportation

Smart Ride: Fix route buses, shuttles, connector curb-to-curb rides by reservation, ADA fixed routes and curb-to-curb service, and the Community Partnership Program discounted rides for Seniors (donation optional).

Birmingham NEXT: Daytime ride program for Senior Citizens.

Passenger Trains: Amtrak at the Troy Transit Center, seven east of Birmingham at 1201 Doyle Drive; Troy, Michigan 48084. SmartBuses travel through this center as well.

Airports: Located in Troy and Detroit.

Birmingham Cruise-In, 2007.

Birmingham Cruise-In, 2007.

Unique Attractions in Birmingham ("Bham" to locals)

  • Birmingham/Woodward Dream Cruise: A cruise-in of antique and classic cars up Woodward Avenue for miles from Downtown Detroit is divided among many Michigan cities. Altogether, this is the world's largest cruise-in event, part of it held in the Birmingham Shopping District during mid-August annually.
  • Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center and Gallery. This organization is not only a popular gallery of art in all media but also a learning facility that offers art training programs not only for children and adults but also for seniors with dementia and Alzheimer's disease. The address is 1516 S. Cranbrook, Birmingham, MI 48009. Many users have written positive opinions of the facility on its Facebook page.
  • Birmingham in Stitches. Calling all knitters and crocheters! Participate in the "Birmingham in Stitches" public art yarn bombing project.
Birmingham in Stitches is a yearly yarn bombing event in which people knit and crochet covers and accessories for trees, cars, benches, and more.

Birmingham in Stitches is a yearly yarn bombing event in which people knit and crochet covers and accessories for trees, cars, benches, and more.

  • Birmingham Shopping District: Surrounding 151 Martin Street, Birmingham, MI 48009. This area contains over 300 retailers, along with a farmers market, a Winter Market, a celebration of Small Business Saturday, dozens of American and ethnic bistros, restaurants and cafes, movie houses, theaters, and more. You will even find a Pizza Hut, but no McDonald's.
  • Bistro Joe's at 34244 Woodward Avenue. This establishment provides a restaurant on the ground floor and a food and wine market upstairs (see the video below).
  • City Parking: Find parking spaces via a smartphone APP.
  • Concerts: Separate summer evening concerts weekly for adults in Booth Park and Teens in Shain Park.
  • Historic Greenwood Cemetery Tours: Every spring and autumn.
  • Ice Show: Held annually in mid-May with a unique theme each year.
  • Restaurant Week: Held annually during the third week of August.
  • Shain Park Summer Oldies Concerts: Thursdays during summer months.
  • Village Fair and Carnival: Annually in the first week of June.

Wealthy Northern Suburb of Detroit

Even though Michigan has been thought to be economically disadvantaged, Birmingham offers the highest range of retirement rents in independent living complexes but also a range of affordable rentals for active senior citizens. Just about seven miles to the south in Royal Oak, living is even more affordable, with another set of attractions and amenities to enjoy, including a downtown area that is easy to walk.

From 2016 to 2017, Birmingham was home to 20,800 residents and over 300 retail businesses in its own downtown district, all just 20 miles from Detroit along I-75 and Woodward Avenue.

If you are considering moving to Birmingham for retirement, you might also consider Royal Oak. It is one of my favorite cities in North America.


  • After55 Independent Living. Retrieved August 30, 2017.
  • Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  • Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved August 28, 2017.
  • Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  • Sperling's at Retrieved August 27, 2017.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2017 Patty Inglish MS


Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on September 18, 2018:

Hi Bede! Thanks for that information and I will be glad to add it. Michigan is one of my favorite states and I can;t wait to get back to it!

Bede from Minnesota on September 18, 2018:

Hi Patty, thanks for the informative article. I grew up in Birmingham till they adjusted the zoning, then it became Bloomfield Township. I loved going to Cranbrook with a sketchpad, camera, or binoculars for bird watching. You might consider adding something about the BBAC (Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center). It’s an excellent place for seniors with some talent as they have a great variety art classes and exhibitions.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 07, 2018:

Thanks for the comment! I, too, would like a nice affordable beach area. Hopefully I can find one to describe.

Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on March 07, 2018:

This was really interesting and very comprehensive in terms of the information you presented. I wish at least some of the more affordable places were in nicer areas. I'd love to read about affordable beach retirement towns! Thanks for the article.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on January 08, 2018:

@Karen Hellier - You are correct about the snow! It looks like "affordable" does not mean "warm enough all year." A friend of mine means to move further north in Michigan, but I think he will find it too cold in the long term.

I am looking for the affordable places not hit by the punishing low temperatures this winter of 2018 and will add those places if I can find them.

Thanks for commenting!

Karen Hellier from Georgia on January 04, 2018:

This is a wonderful and thorough article. I was looking at the top 5 cities, they definitely didn't take into consideration the winter months. Three of those cities except for the ones in CA are cold and get snow! Thanks for the information.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on September 15, 2017:

Hi Dianna - Many parts of Michigan are very pleasant and beautiful. My favorites are Mid-Michigan near Lake Huron, the Lansing Area, Royal Oak and Mackinaw City. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Dianna Mendez on September 15, 2017:

Michigan seems like a wonderful place to retire. Great article on retirement opportunities.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on September 09, 2017:

Mike - That's probably right; some local offices try to bully applicants into waiting.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 09, 2017:

I am no expert on SS rules. I think you can begin to receive payments, on your lifelong inputed investment, at age 62.5 years old.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on September 09, 2017:

Thank you all for responding with useful comments! Royal Oak was one of the first places I visited as a child and have always remembered it. It would be so easy to move their to be close to Birmingham, but not B's higher rents.

@mckbirdbks - SS still expects me to wait until age 70 to draw SSR, but right now, I think I shall always have to work - just like the times before FDR's programs, when my grandfather had to work to his dying day, age 89 or 90.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 09, 2017:

Hello Patty - I see you are letting your imagination run wild, thinking about retirement. Americans as a rule, are not prepared for retirement. Those rental cost are so outrageous for those of us on S.S. For those that do not have their primary residence paid for they will face tough times.

It is fun to imagine a nice retirement.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 03, 2017:

Thanks for such valuable information. I've driven through Birmingham, Michigan and could try to imagine what the other cities look like. I guess that I didn't work hard enough to deserve such luxury, but I've got plenty to enjoy and be grateful for. Interesting article!

Peggy Woods on September 02, 2017:

A person must take a look at many factors when deciding whether to relocate and retire in an area of which they are unfamiliar. You illustrated this perfectly.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on September 02, 2017:

Nice article, but this area is too cold and expensive for this Southern gal. This type of survey is usually aimed at the urban corporate retiree who didn't lose his or her 401k in the recession of 2008. As far as the rest of us go, they are priced out of our range. I retired last month, and I guess we will just stay in our leaky underground house because it's paid for.

If we were going to look at retirement communities, we would look at a couple in my state, Hot Springs Village and those near the Fayetteville-Bentonville area, which are two more affordable options. The Four Corners area near Fayetteville is rapidly becoming a big attraction for Northerners with lesser pocketbooks. The climate is ideal for those who want a more moderate climate, and the Walton Family's Crystal Bridges Museum is a nice attraction for newcomers to the area.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on September 01, 2017:

This was really interesting, we will stay where we are I guess.

We are retired here in Texas.

Blessings always my friend.

Yoleen Lucas from Big Island of Hawaii on September 01, 2017:

A retirement community in Oakland, CA??? You could never leave your house - and not just because of the high rents!

Angel Guzman from Joliet, Illinois on September 01, 2017:

Birmingham looks fun! I would love to visit one day and explore the state of Michigan. Since you did mention Evanston it is one of the best communities in all of Illinois. It is the next town over north of Chicago along Lake Michigan. It has a very walkable downtown and it's rail train service is run by the Chicago Transit Authority. You can easily go to Chicago if you wish and I believe Evanston has like 5-6 stops on the purple line rail line. Beaches along lake too!