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Iowa: Is this heaven?

Peruse a list like U.S. News & World Report’s “100 Best Places to Retire in the USA” and you might be surprised that, ahead of places like Sarasota, Daytona Beach, and Dallas, you find Des Moines. The Iowa capital ranked #13 on the list far ahead of Boston, San Diego, Miami, and Phoenix.

AARP ranked Cedar Rapids as #7 on its list of “Most Livable Cities for 50+”, and Marion as #9 on the “Most Livable Places”. placed Iowa as #6 of the “10 Best States to Retire In”.

With the sunshine, education, recreation, and cultural advantages of other cities, why is Iowa such a desirable location for retirees?

#1. Don’t worry. Live happy. Iowans are generally very content, easy-going people. A Bankrate study found that Iowa residents are among the happiest people in the United States. They live more simply and enjoy life. The state is largely rural, with farmlands covering the majority of the acres. People flock to events like the Iowa State Fair and spend their vacations at the “Iowa Great Lakes” or camping at the Ledges State Park. Retiring in Iowa gives you country living in America’s heartland. Once a year, just 20 miles south of Des Moines, you can also let your spirits soar, at the National Balloon Classic, a popular summer event for 40 years.

#2. You’ll feel very safe. Iowa is made up of a combination of cities—small and large—and towns (mostly small). People know and care about their neighbors. The crime rate is above-average for safety and ranks about 20% below the national average for property crime and a staggering 31.79% lower than the national violent crime lists Iowa as the 6th safest place to live in the country.

#3. You can live affordably here. Iowa’s cost of living is about 11% below the national average. That’s a significant savings! You can purchase a nice home and handle the cost for utilities, groceries, transportation, and healthcare without putting a strain on your retirement budget.

#4. Iowa has a rich cultural heritage. Areas of Iowa were founded by immigrants. The culture remains evident here with ethnic festivals in towns like Pella (population: 10,200), where you can explore Pella Historical Village’s 20 historical buildings, including the Vermeer Windmill. In northeast Iowa, Decorah reflects its Scandinavian roots with the annual Nordic Fest and the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. The little town of Guttenberg began with German immigrants, who founded it in the years before the Civil War. Along the Iowa River Valley, the seven Amana Colonies have maintained the German heritage of the area’s ancestry, dating back to 1855.

#5. Visit the Bridges of Madison County. Robert James Waller’s best-selling novel of the same name was set in Winterset, the county seat of Iowa, in 1960. Six covered bridges, dating as far back as 1870, attract visitors, particularly for the annual Covered Bridge Festival in October. Since the book and the movie emerged over 20 years ago, the bridges have gained a romantic edge, with couples getting engaged, married, or renewing their vows here.

If you envision a retirement that gives you a simpler way of life, but rich with experiences and good friends, you might find your own fields of dreams in Iowa.