The decision about when, where—and even how—to retire is one of life’s pivotal moments, signaling the momentous closing of one chapter and opening of another that in many cases will have been decades in the making. It’s a passage of great excitement as well as uncertainty. Circumstances vary greatly and will be informed by factors including each individual’s or couple’s employment situation, financial security, health considerations and various family scenarios. All of which is to say, there is no perfect formula for deciding your ideal route toward retirement.
So you’ve decided when you plan to retire, the next big conundrum is where to retire? As with any real-estate purchase, buying land and property for retirement will require planning, timing and a full understanding of local and regional factors that range from climate to state-level tax rates on things like retirement income and Social Security benefits.
Many individuals look to buy land years ahead of retirement as a way to build up equity as well as develop the property as the ideal future retirement location. This, of course, calls for plenty of advanced research and a commitment to a long-term plan. Knowing local market conditions and characteristics is crucial, especially if retirement plans involve moving out of state, say, or some distance from family and friends.
Along with geographic considerations, finances will obviously play a critical factor in deciding the best location for retirement. Not everyone will have the flexibility of moving great distances to find a destination where the cost of living is suitable for retirees on relatively fixed incomes. The price of land and real estate can vary wildly from state to state, as well as between local municipalities across a small geographic area. State income and sales taxes will take a bite out of that monthly retirement budget, as will local property taxes.
Cheap land for sale may seem an attractive proposition at a basic price-per-acre level but does this factor in the cost of transportation access, municipal services like water and electricity or access to basic local amenities like groceries and healthcare? Will you be happy living in a quiet, rural area with limited activities and amenities, or would you rather be closer to cultural centers and opportunities that exist around a smaller college town, for example? These are all considerations that will need to be weighed as you hone in on that perfect retirement destination.
The good news is there are reams of information and resources available online to help answer the question, “Where should I retire?” Kiplinger offers a useful interactive guide that allows you to rank states side-by-side, including their valuation as to the state’s relative “tax-friendliness” toward retirees. According to Kiplinger’s 2016 data, Alaska, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee, South Dakota and Wyoming are the ten most tax-friendly states for retirees (a ranking that blends factors like estates taxes, sales tax and income-tax rates for retirees).
As for the subjective answer, the only ones who can make that final decision are you and your loved ones. Bankrate.com publishes its annual ranking of the best and worst states for retirement, combining a variety of statistical factors including cost of living, crime rate, tax rate and health-care quality to arrive at a blended score for each state. While in 2016 less-populated, westerly states like Wyoming, South Dakota and Colorado ranked at the top, this year’s list pegs New Hampshire and Maine alongside Colorado. Based on the 2017 Bankrate.com results, below are some additional details based on current market conditions for land and property for sale in some of the top-ranked states for retirees.
Best States to Buy Land for Retirement: Wyoming
The country’s least populated state, Wyoming jumps to the top of rankings for the best places to retire for its mix of favorable tax policies, low crime rates and high quality of living—a picture that’s bolstered by wide-open, epic landscapes that include Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks. Based on Lands of America data, Wyoming’s average price per acre for property and land for sale make it one of the country’s ten cheapest states in which to buy land. Prices, however, will vary significantly by county, with real estate in counties like Park and Lincoln counties being well above the statewide average on account of their proximity to the amenities and natural attractions of towns including Jackson and Cody, Wyoming.
Best States to Buy Land for Retirement: Colorado
Colorado’s real estate and land prices can veer wildly based on proximity to hot markets in four-season resort towns like Aspen, Crested Butte and Telluride, as well as in the metro and suburban areas surrounding Denver and Boulder (home of the University of Colorado). However, it’s no surprise that Colorado ranks highly as a retirement destination, with generally excellent weather and a healthy, outdoorsy lifestyle that’s ideally suited toward active retirees. Taxes in Colorado are also relatively low, with a flat 4.63% state income-tax rate and no estate or inheritance taxes.
Best States to Buy Land for Retirement: South Dakota
Like Wyoming, South Dakota ranks highly as a retirement destination for its low tax rates (there is no state income tax) and high quality of living. The state is mostly rural, although towns like Rapid City, Vermillion and Spearfish pack their share of cultural, arts and outdoor action (Spearfish made Outside magazine’s 2015 list of best outdoor towns for its mix of fishing, bike trails and brews). The long winters in South Dakota may give some retirees pause, but the state can boast four-season allure for those interested in year-round adventure and atmosphere.
Best States to Buy Land for Retirement: New Hampshire
Top of Bankrate.com's 2017 list of retiree-friendly states, New Hampshire scores for the quality of its health care, safety and overall quality of life for seniors. Yes, winters here will be long and brisk, but wide-open spaces, coastal scenes and a live-and-let-live spirit make the Granite State a draw for the silver-hair set. Kiplinger paints a slightly less rosy picture, with no general income or sales taxes in the state, but higher taxes on property.
Best States to Buy Land for Retirement: Maine
Like the other New England arrival on Bankrate.com's 2017 list of top 3 best states for retirement, Maine drops points in the Kiplinger matrix for a number of income and state taxes that drive up the overall cost of living for retirees. However, with an excellent health care system, low crime rates and good quality of life, not to mention accessibility to Atlantic Coast cultural and business centers like Boston and New York, Maine is a stellar pick for the place in which to stake out your retirement years.