For retirees who want to find a place with lots of natural beauty, affordable taxes, and a slow pace of life, Wyoming might be the place to look.
According to Wyoming real estate, retirement, and tax experts, there's a lot to love about the state, from well-funded health services to zero income taxes.
While it's not for everyone, Wyoming might be an ideal place to retire for anyone wanting to save on taxes and live an outdoor lifestyle.
Retirees looking to move for retirement are generally looking for a few things: low taxes, pleasant weather, and an environment that allows plenty of social opportunities.
Many think of Florida first. With no income tax and a large senior population, it's become a haven for retirees. But, one state has been climbing the rankings for popularity post-working life: Wyoming.
When personal finance site Kiplinger created a list of the most tax-friendly states for retirees in 2019, Wyoming topped the list. For casual readers, it might have seemed out of left field — usually, you'd expect to see Florida (perhaps Arizona) take the crown. But, Wyoming's tax structure isn't the only thing that makes it great; there's a strong real estate market and many ways to stay active.
Kiplinger was right: Wyoming might just be an ideal retirement haven for those in search of a lower cost of living and an escape from the hustle-and-bustle.
Wyoming has low income and property taxes
Wyoming won't require that, and it has to do with the state's history with mining taxes. "Wyoming historically has paid its bills with revenue from mineral production and severance taxes, including oil, gas, and coal," said Connie Brezik, an accountant and financial planner based in Casper, Wyoming. "We don't have a state income tax, which is, in my mind, the biggest benefit." Neighboring states Idaho and Montana both tax income at 6.9%.
"Property taxes are also very low because again, the state gets it so much of its revenue from other sources," added Brezik. Wyoming's average effective state property tax is .61%, lower than Montana's .84% rate and Idaho's .91% tax rate.
Real estate agent Rita Lovell has been working in the Cody area for over 25 years, and has found that the past year was great for Wyoming's real estate market. "We've just had one of the best years we've had a long time," said Lovell. "Some of that I'm going to attribute to the overall economy."
But, an increasing number of retirees is also helping, she said, adding that seniors have always been a big part of her clientele. "People retire to Wyoming because of our low tax structure, and, of course, the beauty," she said, mentioning Cody's proximity to Yellowstone National Park. According to US Census data, about 24% of Wyoming's population is over age 60.
Lovell says one of the great things about the real estate market in Wyoming is that there's so much land available. "There are so many different markets," she said, mentioning that properties can range from homes in town to several-thousand-acre ranches.
And property is affordable there, too. The median home value in Cheyenne is $282,931, $209,117 in Casper, and $308,093 in Cody, according to Zillow data.
Spending less on taxes makes it easier to live on less, and for many retirees, that's a main objective of moving.
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There are plenty of senior-friendly places to live
Tom Lacock, the Associate State Director for Communications and State Advocacy at AARP Wyoming, says his state does a lot to make senior life enjoyable and easy.
"We do have a very strong network of senior centers around the state. For somebody in some of our more rural areas, they are really a nice lifeline," he said. Wyoming also has three cities — Jackson, Casper, and Laramie — that have been designated "age-friendly communities" by AARP, which are cities chosen for their livability and senior-friendly leadership.
Healthcare access is another big factor for retirees, but Lacock says it's not a worry in Wyoming. "Healthcare is pretty respectable here, and you can generally get into a doctor fairly quickly," he said. According to a study by the University of Washington, Wyoming had 64 primary care physicians per 100,000 people, compared to the national ratio of 74 physicians per 100,000 people.
"The state does believe in long-term care services, specifically home and community-based services," Lacock said. "It's also invested very strongly in home-based medical care, and things to get help you age in the home as you get older," he added. Since 2003, the state has invested $5.46 million per year on senior welfare, growing senior centers and enhancing aging-in-place programs.
"We fund those senior services pretty well compared to other states," he said.
Wyoming is also home to seven national parks, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton, plus surprisingly mild weather.
"The weather here is funny, because you think about Wyoming and you think about the mountains," Lacock said. "You'd think you're just going to get dumped on for snow. But, it's actually much more temperate than people give it credit for." July tends to have an average high of 83 degrees farenheight, while December has an average high of 38 degrees, according to The Weather Channel.
Lovell says that in Cody, Yellowstone provides lots of opportunities for outdoorsy folks. "There's hunting, fishing, hiking trails, all of that," she said.
Brezik, who has lived near Casper since 1979, said that for a certain type of person, Wyoming is the right place. "If you're an outdoors person, there are lots of wide open spaces and lots of property. I think that's a real opportunity."
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