Smart Money, Retirement Buying Power

Considering Cost of Living When Choosing Where to Retire

Aerial Lake View
Published on March 12, 2021

You want to find the perfect paradise to spend your golden years - but which factors should you consider before you start your hunt?

How will you choose where to retire? Maybe you imagine waking up to the soothing sound of water lapping against the shore of your lakefront cottage. Or perhaps you’d prefer a lofty spot up in the mountains, where you can enjoy a birds-eye view of the world below. Or maybe you even see yourself spending hot, hazy summer days fly-fishing in the stream and enjoying dazzling sunsets from the comfort of your veranda.

However you picture your retirement, you first have to ask one fundamental question: how will the cost of living affect your decisions?

The cost of living during retirement is sometimes overlooked. It’s easy to get carried away with finding the property of your dreams. But the cost of living should be one of—if not the most—important factors when making your decision.

According to data compiled by USA Today, the average American senior spends $987,000 living around 20 years post-retirement. But that amount of money will go much further in some states than it will in others. The state with the highest cost of living in America is Hawaii, an astounding 18.5 percent higher than the national average! New York comes next, and then California to round off the top three.

Keep in mind that when comparing two properties in two different locations - say, for example, Florida versus North Carolina - it’s not just the real estate prices you’re looking at. You have to look at the whole picture together, including taxes, healthcare, utilities, gas, food, retail items, and much more. 

South by Southeast

For example, let’s take a look at three of the favorite areas for retirees seeking low-cost living: Eastern Tennessee, Coastal South Carolina, and Central Georgia. All three offer a rich variety of active living retirement communities. But what sets these locales apart from the rest of the country? 

Although South Carolina and Georgia are the most expensive states to live in the Southeast, the cost of living here is markedly lower than the national average - 9.6% and 7.5% lower, respectively. Meanwhile, Tennessee is the Southeast’s most budget-friendly state, with a cost of living 9.6 percent below the national average. Low property taxes and zero state income tax, paired with significantly less expensive real estate, food, and utilities, makes it the ideal spot for fiscally-conscious retirees. 

Calculating Cost

It’s not always easy to figure out the cost of living for retirees. Not all comparison tools use the same metrics, and some exclude some pretty important details that you’ll need to know about. That’s why Community Finder has compiled an easy-to-follow list for high-priority retirement areas. Check out our cost of living price comparison between the three regions here to learn more. 

If you want to find out how far your money will go but aren’t sure how to check, there are many online resources to help you out. Cost of Living Calculators from Area Vibes and NerdWallet are commitment-free and straightforward ways to start your search.

Your retirement should be about relaxing and enjoying your hard-earned free time. The last thing you want to do is have to worry about living outside your means. That’s why it’s so important to assess your present and future cost of living. A little work now will be a big relief later so that you can live out your golden years in peace!