In the pursuit of economic comfort during their golden years, seniors in the US are increasingly intrigued by the most economically feasible destinations for retirement. This pursuit, largely driven by a volatile economic climate, inflation, soaring Social Security concerns, and an aging population.
Surprisingly, traditional warm-weather retirement destinations like Florida and Arizona don’t top the list. Instead, a rugged group of states — Wyoming, Utah, Montana, and Idaho — surface as the most economically viable. Five of the ten most affordable states — Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, Delaware, and Tennessee — also rank among the nation’s most tax-friendly locations for seniors.
Despite climate and lifestyle preferences, seniors are progressively prioritizing affordability metrics like housing costs, living expenses, tax benefits, and Medicare spending, all crucial to ensuring they enjoy their golden years without substantial economic hardships.
Wyoming is the cheapest state to live in for seniors. The housing costs in Wyoming are low, with one-bedroom apartments averaging $630 a month and two-bedroom apartments at around $810 a month. Home health care costs an average of $4,957 per month, adult day care facilities charge around $1,842 per month, assisted living facilities cost approximately $3,415 per month, and nursing homes range from $7,078 to $8,060 per month, depending on the type of room chosen.
However, affordability has its trade-offs, with states like Florida ranking considerably low in the study due to factors like higher Medicare expenditures, steep utility bills, and an elevated senior poverty rate. All these factors amplify the importance of financial metrics in determining the most suitable states for retirement.
Below is a list of the ten cheapest states to live in for senior Citizens.
The state of Wyoming is one of the most affordable places to live for senior citizens due to several factors such as lower cost of living, favorable tax policies, reasonable healthcare costs, and a variety of lifestyle benefits.
Lower Cost of Living: According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC)’s 2022 data, Wyoming has the lowest average cost of living among all the Rocky Mountain states. MERIC data shows that the state ranks well among the top 20 most affordable states in the nation. The average per-capita cost of living in Wyoming is $47,832 per year.
Housing and Utilities: The average annual housing and utility costs are $7,941. This includes a median monthly mortgage cost of $1,536, and median rents ranging from $662 for a studio to $1,622 for a five-bedroom home. For example, typical home values for Wyoming’s top cities like Cheyenne ($342,040), Casper ($264,589), and Laramie ($338,357) are quite affordable compared to the national median sale price of $359,000.
Health Care: According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the average annual cost of health care per person in Wyoming is $7,562, which is reasonable considering the overall costs across the country.
Taxes: Wyoming is one of nine states in the U.S. that do not levy individual income taxes. Wyoming also has the second-lowest tax burden, with an effective tax rate of just 7.5%, according to the Tax Foundation’s State and Local Tax Burdens for 2022. This makes it an attractive destination for seniors, many of whom live on fixed incomes and can significantly benefit from lower taxes.
Lifestyle Benefits: Apart from the economic aspects, Wyoming offers a variety of lifestyle benefits for seniors, such as wide-open prairies, natural beauty, and a lower population density that allows for less crowded living conditions. Seniors can also enjoy the diverse outdoor activities offered in state-owned lands, including admission to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.
Utah is a practical choice for senior citizens given its relatively lower cost of living. The state ranks 30th lowest in terms of cost of living across the United States, making it a cost-effective option for seniors.
Cost of Living: The average cost of living in Utah is approximately $42,653 per year, which translates to about $3,554 per month. This is a relatively economical choice for seniors when compared to other locations in the United States, ranking Utah the 30th lowest in cost of living across the country.
Housing Costs: Housing in Utah is moderately priced with various options to suit different budgets. The median monthly cost for housing ranges from $946 (for a studio apartment) to $1,840 (for a five-bedroom or more). These figures, when combined with a median monthly mortgage cost of $1,682, make Utah a cost-effective place to reside.
Healthcare Costs: Healthcare is another area where Utah shines for seniors. The average annual per-capita cost for health care in the state is $5,735. This figure lies on the lower end of the spectrum, making Utah a good option for seniors who require regular medical care.
Food and Utility Costs: The average annual costs for food (non-restaurant) and utilities in Utah are approximately $3,112 and $271 per month, respectively. These figures contribute to the state’s lower cost of living, making it an affordable option for seniors.
Tax Rate: Utah operates on a flat-rate state income tax system, with the rate being 4.85%. This is relatively lower than the state income tax rates in many other states.
Lowest Cost Living Cities: Certain cities in Utah, such as Cedar City, Ogden, and Provo, are very affordable to live in, showing low cost of living indexes, thus allowing seniors to stretch their retirement funds further.
Montana is considered an affordable state for senior citizens due to various factors that help reduce the cost of living.
Housing Costs: According to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the average annual housing and utilities cost in Montana is about $7,708, which is slightly lower than the national average. The median monthly rent for an apartment ranges from $614 (for a studio) to $1,681 (for a five-bedroom or more).
Healthcare Costs: The average annual healthcare spending per person in Montana is around $8,289, which can potentially be lower for seniors who are eligible for Medicare or other senior-specific healthcare plans.
Food and Grocery Costs: The costs of food and grocery items in Montana are also slightly lower than the national average, with an average annual expense of around $3,971.
Utilities and Energy Costs: Montana’s average annual expenditures on gas and energy goods are around $1,388, a relatively lower figure that could benefit seniors who own their homes.
Tax Advantages: Montana does not impose a general sales tax, which can offer significant savings for seniors, especially those living on a fixed income. Additionally, some seniors might qualify for property tax assistance programs.
Miscellaneous Personal Expenditures: Other personal expenditures in Montana, which could include leisure activities, home maintenance, and personal care, average around $26,532 per year.
Idaho can be considered an affordable state for senior citizens for several reasons. It ranks 28th among all states for overall cost of living, making it mid-range in affordability. Specific factors that contribute to Idaho’s affordability for seniors include:
Housing and Utilities: The average per-capita housing and utilities cost in Idaho is $7,109 annually, adding up to a monthly expense of about $592. Average housing costs range from $762 for a studio apartment to $1,776 for a 5+ bedroom home per month. While the specific area within Idaho can affect house prices, numerous cities in the state like Burley and Blackfoot have home prices that are significantly lower than the national average.
Health Care: The average annual cost of health care in Idaho is $6,714 per person, slightly higher than the national average. Yet, many residents qualify for Medicare, which often offsets some of those costs.
Food and Beverages: Seniors typically need to buy less groceries than families, reducing their grocery costs even more. The annual per capita food cost in Idaho is $3,296, or about $275 per month.
Transportation: Seniors who don’t commute to work regularly can save significantly on transportation costs. The annual cost for a single adult is $5,316, but this figure can decrease for seniors who don’t have daily transport needs.
Taxes: Idaho has a flat state income tax rate of 5.8%, which can have significant financial benefits for seniors with fixed or limited incomes.
Miscellaneous Costs: The annual total cost for other personal expenditures in Idaho is $21,227 per person. Seniors who enjoy outdoor leisure activities will find the costs to enter local attractions–like the Yellowstone National Park and the Snake River–very affordable.
Affordability Rankings: Idaho ranks 30th on U.S. News & World Report’s Affordability Rankings, meaning the cost of living is lower than the U.S. average. This affordability makes Idaho a more sustainable place for retired seniors to live.
City Rankings: Cities like Twin Falls and Boise offer lower costs of living while still providing ample amenities and activities for seniors.
The cost of living in Virginia is considered to be relatively reasonable compared to other states. Below are some of the key factors that make Virginia an affordable living option for seniors:
Reasonable Housing Costs: Virginia’s housing costs are considered to be on par with nationwide averages. The typical home value in Virginia was $351,581 in 2023, slightly less than the nationwide average of $359,000. This means that seniors looking to downsize their living space can find reasonably priced options. Additionally, median rents for different types of properties range from $1,221 for a one-bedroom apartment to $1,839 for a four-bedroom home, offering a range of options for different needs and budgets.
Affordable Utilities: The average monthly utility costs in Virginia for electricity, gas, cable, and water combined is approximately $393, which is within a favorable range for senior citizens living on a fixed income.
Low Grocery & Food Costs: Virginia has a diverse food culture, and the average monthly grocery bill per person is about $311, making it affordable to maintain a healthy diet. The cost may vary depending on the city; however, most areas offer competitive prices for fresh produce and basic necessities.
Accessible Health Care: The cost of healthcare in Virginia is approximately $7,178 per person annually, or about $598 per month. Given the importance of healthcare for seniors, this expense can be a significant portion of their budget.
Tax Benefits for Seniors: Virginia has a moderate state income tax rate, with the highest at 5.75%. Moreover, the state offers several tax exemptions and deductions for seniors, which can further ease financial burdens.
Cheaper Cities for Living: Cities such as Martinsville, Lynchburg, and Roanoke offer a lower overall cost of living compared to other more urban areas in the state. These cities have a combination of low housing costs and affordable utilities, groceries, and health care, making them ideal for seniors looking for budget-friendly living conditions.
Free and Affordable Entertainment Options: Virginia boasts several free and low-cost entertainment and leisure options, which can help seniors maintain an active and fulfilling lifestyle without breaking the bank. Examples include Virginia’s beautiful beaches, well-manicured green spaces like Richmond’s Maymont, and numerous museums and historic sites with affordable entry fees.
Public Transportation Costs: The cost of transportation in Virginia is estimated to be between $5,477 to $15,530 per year, depending on an individual’s circumstances. Many cities have robust public transportation systems, providing budget-friendly travel options for seniors.
The state of Colorado can be considered as a cost-effective option for senior citizens, due to several factors across various categories of expenditure.
Housing Costs: Housing is understandably one of the most vital factors considered by seniors when determining where to live. Colorado offers reasonable housing rates, with the average annual housing and utilities cost at $10,447. While costs can vary depending on location and whether a person is buying or renting, there is still a range of affordable options available. For instance, the cost of living in Pueblo, a city in Colorado, has a lower cost-of-living index compared to the national average.
Healthcare Costs: Healthcare is another highly important consideration for seniors. In Colorado, the average annual per person healthcare cost is $7,364. This is relatively lower than many other states, providing another reason why Colorado is a financially attractive place for seniors.
Food and Beverage Costs: The cost of groceries and non-restaurant food and beverages in Colorado per person per year is about $4,098. This is lower than the national average, contributing to the overall lower cost of living in the state.
Transportation Costs: Transportation costs are also a significant part of the cost of living. In Colorado, these costs can be relatively lower, depending on the location and public transportation options available.
Taxes: Retired persons often live on a fixed income, making taxes an important consideration. Colorado has a flat income tax rate of 4.40%, which can be in the lower to mid-range compared to other states.
Miscellaneous Costs: The category of all other personal expenditure, which can include entertainment, personal care, and items not otherwise classified, in Colorado comes around to $30,385 per year.
New Mexico is not only rich in culture and history but is also known for its low cost of living, which makes it an attractive place for senior citizens. Here’s why New Mexico is considered an affordable living option for seniors:
Cost of Living: According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC), New Mexico ranks lower than the national average when it comes to the overall cost of living. This means that the amount needed to maintain an average standard of living is less here than in many other states. The cost includes essentials such as housing, groceries, utilities, transportation, healthcare, and miscellaneous costs.
Housing Costs: New Mexico’s housing cost is relatively lower compared to the national average. Homes in New Mexico are priced below the country’s median value, making it an affordable option for retirees looking for houses that suit their budget. The lower housing cost also translates to a reduced property tax burden, which is a significant advantage for seniors who are homeowners.
Healthcare Costs: Healthcare is another financial aspect where New Mexico shines. The state has a lower healthcare cost compared to many U.S. states. This is crucial for seniors as healthcare expenses tend to increase with age.
Tax Friendliness: New Mexico is considered a tax-friendly state for retirees. The state does not tax Social Security income and offers a tax break on pension income for individuals meeting certain requirements. These tax incentives can contribute to significant savings for retirees and allow them to stretch their retirement income further.
Utility Costs: The cost for utilities is generally lower in New Mexico. This includes necessities such as electricity, gas, and water. Seniors who are always on a budget can save more with lower utility bills.
Public Transportation: Many cities in New Mexico offer public transportation, which can help seniors save on transportation costs. Some public transportation options offer discounts for seniors, making it an affordable way to get around.
Free or Low-Cost Attractions: New Mexico is home to many attractions such as national parks, museums, art galleries, and historic sites, many of which are free or offer senior discounts. This means seniors can enjoy their leisure time without having to spend a significant amount.
Senior Services: New Mexico provides various services geared towards the wellness and convenience of seniors. These include meal assistance programs, healthcare services, recreational programs, and more, which are often provided at a reduced cost or free of charge.
Delaware is considered a relatively affordable state for senior citizens to live in due to numerous factors, including cost of living, health care, and taxes.
Cost of Living: The cost of living in Delaware is slightly lower than the national average. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, goods and services in Delaware cost 1.2% less than the national average. This lower cost of living can be particularly beneficial for senior citizens, especially those on a fixed income.
Housing Costs: Housing costs in Delaware can appear more costly, with the typical home worth $244,700, higher than the national median home value of $204,900. However, looking more closely, the median price of a home built in 1939 or earlier is $204,100, which could offer more affordable options for seniors. The rent, too, while higher than the national median, is still approachable for a budget-conscious senior citizen.
Health Care Costs: Health care costs in Delaware are relatively high compared with the national average. However, many seniors have Medicare, which can offset the cost of healthcare. Additionally, it’s important to take into account the quality of health care services in the state.
Transportation Costs: The cost of transportation in Delaware is relatively manageable for seniors. With 89.2% of commuters driving to work and the average cost of gasoline at $2.27 a gallon, seniors who drive could manage their transportation costs effectively. This is particularly beneficial for seniors who are still active and mobile.
Food Costs: According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the cost of food in Delaware is slightly higher than the national average. However, seniors may spend less than the average adult on food, due to reduced dietary needs.
Tax-Friendly for Seniors: Delaware doesn’t have a state or local sales tax, which can lessen the burden for senior citizens especially. Also, Social Security benefits are not taxed at the state level and other retirement income – such as pensions and retirement savings accounts – are eligible for exclusions. The average adult in Delaware pays $6,988 annually in taxes, only slightly above the national average of $6,542.
Child Care Costs: While child care costs are not typically a factor for seniors, it’s worth noting that these expenses are relatively in line with the national average. This could be of relevance for grandparents who are caregivers.
Regional Variations: Within Delaware, there are regional variations in the cost of living. For senior citizens, selecting the appropriate county for living can also significantly impact costs. For example, Kent County is the least expensive place in Delaware, with an annual cost of living for a family of four at $82,659.
West Virginia offers a less expensive cost of living for senior citizens compared to the national U.S. average. Several areas play a role in making it a cost-effective place for seniors to reside:
Lower Overall Cost of Living: Based on the data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the overall cost of goods and service in West Virginia is about 12.2% less than the national average, making it the fifth lowest in overall cost of living among all states.
Affordable Housing Costs: The typical home value in West Virginia is $115,000, substantially lower than the national median home value of $204,900. Renters also tend to spend less, with the typical renter spending $711 a month on housing, compared to the national median monthly rent of $1,023.
Cheaper Health Care Costs: While higher than the national average, health care costs in West Virginia are manageable, especially when compared to other states.
Low Food Costs: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, West Virginians spend less on annual food expenditure than the nationwide average. A single adult spends an annual average of $2,962 on food in the state while a family of four spends around $8,555.
Relatively Lower Tax Burden: While taxes do vary significantly from state to state, the average annual tax for a working adult in West Virginia stands at $6,007, below the national average of $6,542. Annual state tax collections per capita stand at $3,000 per year, marginally below the average across all states which is $3,151.
Affordable Child Care Costs: For senior citizens who might be taking care of grandchildren, the average annual cost of childcare in this state for a 4-year-old is $6,899, which is lower than the national average of $8,903.
Lower Gasoline Expenditure for Commuters: The average motorist in West Virginia can expect to spend $981 on gas alone in one year, considering the average fuel economy and average cost of gas in mid-2020.
Tennessee is considered a relatively cheap state for senior citizens to live in due to several economic and lifestyle factors. Here are some of the key contributing factors that make Tennessee affordable for seniors:
State Tax Policies: Tennessee does not have a state income tax, which benefits seniors living on a fixed income. Pensions, Social Security benefits, and retirement accounts are not taxed, saving seniors a considerable amount of money.
Affordable Housing Costs: Housing and utility costs are particularly affordable with the median monthly mortgage cost being $1,337 and median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment costs around $894. Thus, allowing seniors to comfortably manage their housing expenses.
Lower Cost of Living: The overall cost of living in major Tennessee cities, such as Knoxville, Jackson, and Memphis, is well below the national average according to the Council for Community and Economic Research’s Cost of Living Index. This means that everyday expenses, including groceries, transportation, and utilities, are generally less expensive.
Affordable Healthcare: The annual per-person cost of healthcare in Tennessee is $6,946 on average, according to the 2021 Bureau of Economic Analysis report, but this can change based on location, medical needs, and coverage.
Utility Costs: The average monthly utility bill for electricity, gas, cable & Internet, and water stands at around $389, which is manageable for most seniors.
Budget-Friendly Groceries & Food: Food costs are also a significant part of a senior’s budget. However, in Tennessee, the average monthly food cost per resident is around $251, which is affordable compared to many other states.
Transportation Costs: Transportation can be a significant expense, especially for those who own their vehicle. Nevertheless, the average cost in Tennessee is lower than in many other parts of the US.
Senior-Friendly Amenities and Recreation: Tennessee is known for its rich culture and history, including music, food, museums, and beautiful landscapes. Many of these amenities are affordable, allowing seniors to enjoy leisure activities within their budget.
What Factors Make a State Affordable for Senior Citizens?
Several factors contribute to making a state affordable for senior citizens. When evaluating the suitability and affordability of a region for seniors, one must take into account factors like the cost of housing, the availability of tax advantages for the elderly, the cost of living index, healthcare costs, and the accessibility to various facilities and transport services.
Housing is often the most significant expense for seniors, especially for those living on a retirement income. States with lower average housing costs, whether for buying or for renting, can be more beneficial for seniors. This cost reduction includes utilities, property taxes, house insurance, and maintenance. Most states offer programs like Section 8 for affordable senior housing, which helps low-income seniors to secure safe and suitable living spaces. Through these programs, seniors can receive vouchers to subsidize their housing, making it more manageable financially.
Tax Advantages for Seniors
Some states offer tax incentives to seniors which could potentially ease their financial burden. This includes exemptions, deductions, or credits on state income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, or even the taxation of retirement income. In some states, seniors may be entirely exempt from paying taxes on social security income or other forms of pensions.
Cost of Living Index
The cost of living index reflects how much it costs to live in each state relative to the national average. This index takes into account the average costs for groceries, healthcare, utilities, transportation, and miscellaneous expenses. States with a lower cost of living index are generally more affordable for senior citizens.
The cost of healthcare is a significant factor for seniors, especially those with chronic health conditions. States with lower healthcare costs (including the costs of health insurance, medical procedures, prescription medications, and long-term care) tend to be more affordable for seniors. Also, states with good state health programs and insurance policies for seniors are more attractive.
Accessibility and Transportation
Affordability and accessibility of transportation services are important, especially for seniors who no longer drive. Free or discounted public transportation services for seniors can make a state more affordable. It is also crucial to consider how accessible essential services – like grocery stores, healthcare facilities, parks, and community centers – are in each state.
Why is Cost of Living Important for Senior Citizens?
Cost of Living is an economic concept that estimates the amount of money required to maintain a certain standard of living. It considers expenses like housing, groceries, taxes, healthcare, transportation, and more. The cost of living is significant for everyone, but it particularly holds more importance for senior citizens due to several reasons.
Economic Stability: Post-retirement, senior citizens may have fixed incomes through various means such as social security, pensions, savings, or investments. Compared to working adults, they usually do not have significant opportunities to increase their income, making them more vulnerable to the impact of a high cost of living. Therefore, understanding the cost of living can help seniors plan their finances better, ensuring economic stability.
Healthcare Expenses: As people age, healthcare expenses usually increase. In areas where the cost of living is high, these costs can dramatically impact a senior citizen’s budget. Notably, the cost of living reflects the cost of healthcare in the region. Therefore, considering healthcare expenses, cost of living becomes a vital consideration for those in their golden years.
Housing Expenses: Accommodation is another major factor in the cost of living that can impact seniors significantly. The choice between renting, owning a home, moving to a retirement community or assisted living can be influenced heavily by the location’s cost of living. The ability to afford suitable housing and associated costs (like utilities, property taxes, maintenance) in their chosen area can significantly impact seniors’ quality of life.
Quality of Life: The cost of living directly affects a senior citizen’s overall quality of life. This includes not just the ability to afford essentials like food, housing, and healthcare, but also discretionary spending on recreation, travel, and other leisure activities that contribute to a satisfying retirement. A lower cost of living could mean a better lifestyle with more opportunities for enjoyment.
Longevity: With advancements in healthcare, people are living longer. This increased longevity necessitates more financial planning for senior citizens. Understanding the cost of living can affect their financial strategy, investment decisions, and long-term budgeting plans.
Inflation: The cost of living is closely tied to inflation. For senior citizens who remember times of significant inflation, comprehending the current cost of living and how it’s likely to change can be key to making informed decisions to protect their purchasing power.