Retiring to Florida has been the dream for generations of Americans, thanks to the state’s beautiful beaches, tropical weather, cultural diversity and endless variations of unique regional cultures and vibes. But, the dream has drifted out of reach for many.
The cost of housing in Florida has soared, with a median home value of nearly $393,000 well over the already prohibitive $348,539 national median.
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Also, the state’s ongoing insurance crisis is spiraling toward catastrophe and the hurricanes that have long plagued Florida’s summers and falls are becoming more frequent and severe. All of that, plus the state’s emergence as an epicenter of America’s political and culture wars, is making some people rethink the Sunshine State as the go-to retirement destination. But which states offer a better alternative?
GOBankingRates spoke with two retirement experts — one who advises seniors on all aspects of living well in later life and another who specializes in real estate for retirees — who suggested a few states that give Florida a run for its money.
Zach Shelley, a Dallas-based real estate agent, land developer and investment advisor, founded A-List Properties to help retirees find their dream homes or investment properties. He has his eye on Florida’s far northwest border.
“Alabama is one of the most tax-friendly states for retirees,” said Shelley. “The state has no taxes on Social Security benefits, pension income or withdrawals from retirement accounts such as 401(k)s and IRAs. This makes it an attractive destination for retirees looking to stretch their retirement income. In addition to its tax-friendly policies, Alabama also boasts a low cost of living compared to other states, making it easier to manage expenses on a fixed retirement budget. The state also has a mild climate, with warm summers and mild winters, which can be appealing to those looking to escape harsher climates during their retirement years.”
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Shelley cited America’s least populous state as another budget-friendly destination that does not tax Social Security benefits or retirement account withdrawals.
“Wyoming also has no state income tax, making it an ideal location for retirees looking to minimize their tax burden,” he said. “The state also has a low overall cost of living and affordable housing options, making it a financially stable choice for retirement. In addition to its financial benefits, Wyoming offers plenty of outdoor activities and stunning natural landscapes for retirees to explore. With national parks like Yellowstone and Grand Teton within its borders, there is no shortage of opportunities for outdoor recreation and adventure.”
Back in the Southeast, Shelley touts South Carolina as an overlooked retirement destination with plenty of upside.
“The state has a low cost of living and affordable housing options, making it an attractive choice for those looking to stretch their retirement budget,” he said. “Additionally, South Carolina does not tax Social Security benefits and offers generous deductions for other forms of retirement income. Retirees in South Carolina can also enjoy a mild climate, beautiful beaches and a rich cultural and historical heritage. The state has many charming towns and cities that provide a slower pace of life, perfect for those looking to relax during their retirement years.”
Amber Dixon is the CEO of Elderly Guides, an organization dedicated to providing answers and assistance to seniors on a range of issues — including relocation in retirement. She’s noticed a recent trend of older Americans scratching the Sunshine State off their shortlists.
“While Florida is a popular choice for retirement due to its warm climate and tax benefits, there are other states that can offer retirees a more holistic and enriching experience,” she said. “New Hampshire is an excellent choice due to its high quality of life, excellent health care services and low crime rates. Despite its higher cost of living, the natural beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities make it a compelling choice.”
In terms of climate, culture and geography, the Mount Rushmore State is about as far from Florida as you can get — but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great place to retire.
“South Dakota has a low cost of living and high health care quality, making it ideal for retirees,” said Dixon. “The state also has a favorable tax structure for retirees and a strong sense of community.”
Dixon also cites Colorado as “a great choice for active retirees.” She said, “It provides a plethora of outdoor activities, from hiking to skiing. The state also ranks high in overall well-being, with excellent healthcare and a lower-than-average crime rate.”
On Colorado’s western border lies another mountain retirement haven, which offers many of the same benefits to active retirees.
“Utah offers a high quality of life with a focus on health and wellness,” said Dixon. “Its stunning natural landscapes provide plenty of opportunities for exploration and physical activity, ideal for maintaining a healthy lifestyle in retirement.”
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: I’m a Retirement Expert: These 7 States Are Better for Retirement Than Florida