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Pros of Retiring to Arizona
Arizona is the 6th largest state land-wise and the 14th most populous, with a population that is growing rapidly. And with good reason. Boasting long sunny days, a dry climate, and stunning scenery, it’s no wonder this state has become a top choice for retirees when thinking about where they want to settle next.
1. Attractive Tax Breaks
Arizona gives its citizens a major break …on taxes that is. Not only is there no tax on your social security income, but there is also no inheritance tax, estate tax, or gift tax. For older Americans who stand to receive money from a family member, want to give money to a family member, or wish to sell their home, having no tax ramifications on any of these transactions is a huge perk.
Arizona also is proud to have below-average income tax and property tax. Even the gas tax is low in this southwest state. In 2021, Arizona’s legislature passed a huge tax reform package that resulted in numerous tax cuts. This is a state where your retirement dollars will stretch farther and stay in your pocket longer.
2. Lots of Sunshine
Tired of wet winter days or weeks of spring showers? If living in a place that has almost 300 days of sunshine sounds appealing to you, then Arizona might be the spot for you!
Because it sits close to the equator and has a higher elevation, this sunny state doesn’t see many cloudy days. In fact, according to the World Meteorological Association, Yuma, Arizona is the sunniest place on the planet, clocking in at around 11 hours of sunlight in the winter and a whopping 13 hours of sun in the summer. If seasonal depression is something you want to ward off, this state will help you do that!
3. Endless Outdoor Activities
Perhaps, in part, because of all that sun, Arizona is a haven for those who like to be outdoors. And who could blame them? From world-class golf courses to over 30 state parks, this state almost begs its citizens to live outside. Are you into biking, hiking, pickleball playing, or sunset watching? This state has something for everyone.
And let’s not forget …no one can talk about the beautiful outdoors of Arizona without mentioning her crown jewel: the Grand Canyon. If ever there was a reason to spend (at least) one day outside, the Grand Canyon is it.
Not only does the endless sunshine make an outdoor lifestyle more attractive, but the lack of humidity does, too. Most of Arizona is covered in desert and the climate tends to stay dry and arid, perfect for plenty of activities that are best performed when the sun is out.
4. Excellent Health Care
A must for most retirees is going to be a spot where healthcare is widely available, highly valued, and of good quality. Arizona checks all three of these boxes. Not only do most of the larger cities have good hospital systems but the state is home to five different medical schools, including the prestigious Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine in Phoenix. Though rural health care can still be spotty and problematic at times, having a large number of medical students and residents means many of these soon-to-be doctors will spend time doing their rotations and practicums in some of these more remote, underserved areas.
The beautiful weather, outdoor lifestyle, and dry air also contribute to better health in this state. Those with asthma or allergies will find great relief in the Arizona climate and are oftentimes even told by their physicians that life in a place like Arizona would be best for their health.
5. Lots of Diversity
Perhaps because of its proximity to Mexico, and its large Native American reservations, Arizona is ranked as the 11th most diverse state in the nation.
Arizona has more reservations than any other state in our country and is home to almost 10% of the Native American population. And – since a large percentage of the population is German, and an even bigger part of it is Hispanic – this is a state that can claim lots of diversity as one of its perks.
All this diversity allows for new connections, cross-cultural relationships, and the chance to explore different ways of living. If you are curious about the world and like being exposed to new things, Arizona's rich history and substantial diversity will be a place you will thrive.
Cons of Retiring to Arizona
Arizona has so much to offer those who are considering retiring to this state …but it’s still not for everyone. Following are some cons about Arizona that may make it hard for you to call it your next home.
1. Hot Summers
As I mentioned before, Arizona's climate is definitely one of its selling points. That said …you better really like a nice, hot summer! And a dry one as well.
According to Arizonians, their state isn’t just ‘sweaty hot’ in the summer …it’s ‘melty hot’. Fry-an-egg-on-the-pavement hot. Don’t-go-anywhere-that-isn’t-air-conditioned hot. Still not convinced? According to many weather experts, it is not uncommon for a July day to climb to anywhere between 90°F and 120°F in this desert state. Yeah…that’s hot!
Because of the dry, arid air, lack of rain, and closeness to the equator, this state struggles to cool off. Granted, the heat is a “dry” heat, as many like to point out. But, heat is heat and you may find yourself longing for a big maple tree or a good rainstorm in the middle of summer if you decide to live out your days year-round in Arizona.
2. Tons of Tourists
We’ve discussed all the things that make Arizona so popular. Wonderful weather, lots of outdoor activities, the Grand Canyon, great golf …I could go on and on. But all these joys also bring crowds and lots of them. If being around large groups of people is not really your thing, then think twice about living in Arizona year-round for your retirement years.
Many retirees decide to be snowbirds for this very reason. They will migrate somewhere else during the warmer months in order to avoid the crowds during the times that people can and like to travel, typically in the summer. But, even during the fall, winter and spring, Arizona is becoming an increasingly popular place to live – something to consider when deciding if it’s the right place for you.
3. Lack of Transportation
Even in the larger cities, Arizona doesn’t have a great public transportation system. Sure, there are some good airports that can get you to places domestically and even internationally, but if you want to be able to get around town without a car, it’s going to be pretty difficult. There are no subways in any of the larger cities, and even trains and buses are not that prevalent.
Remember, Arizona is a big, wide-open state. Those beautiful vistas also mean you’re going to have to work a bit harder to get yourself from point A to point B.
4. Creepy Crawlies and Lots of ‘Em!
Arizona is full of things that slither and crawl. Lizards, scorpions, tarantulas, and black widows – remember, this is the desert. In a climate where water, shelter, and even food have historically been scarce, these creatures have learned to survive and continue to thrive, even though humans have made their mark. They aren’t going away, even though we sometimes would like them to.
Yes, you can learn to deal with them. And even exist in the same space. But, if you really don’t like the idea of finding the occasional scorpion in your garage or a lizard in your living room, Arizona may not be the place you are going to feel your most relaxed. And isn’t relaxation what retirement is all about?
5. The Hated Haboobs
All potential retirement spots have their weather downsides, right? Texas has its tornadoes, Florida has its hurricanes, and Arizona has its haboobs.
A haboob is a dust storm that is formed when downward winds are pushed outward, usually as a result of an intense thunderstorm. These storms will come about unexpectedly and can be many miles long and thousands of feet high. They are usually brief but can be terrifying for those who aren’t used to them, especially if you get caught in one while you’re driving. Most people learn to see them more as an inconvenience than a threat, but they can still be unpleasant to deal with if you aren’t prepared.
I Want My Retirement to Look Different …But How?
You’ve done what you set out to do. Raised your family, succeeded at your job, built a home, a life, a career. And now you’re ready for something …different. And what “different” looks like, you’re still not sure.
The good news is, eventually you will. By researching the pros and cons of different potential retirement spots, you are well on your way to figuring out what kind of retirement you want to have.
Here are a few more things to ask yourself as you dive deeper into deciding what this next stage of life looks like for you.
This is a big question and one of the first ones that starts to come up as we get closer to retirement age. Though 65 has traditionally been thought of as the typical age to retire, the average age in America is actually 64.
That said, there are plenty of Americans who also work well into their seventies now. Depending on what you do, where you do it and how much you like it, work may not feel like a burden and more like a passion for you. Some people retire then go back to work, claiming they feel better and more productive when they are working. Others can’t wait to leave the workforce and pursue other interests that not working 9 to 5 afford them. Figuring out when to retire is more than just looking at your bank account.
Though I gave you a good list of pros and cons for retiring in Arizona, I’m sure you have plenty of other places on your list as well. Look at your possibilities and ask yourself: what is it about these places that make them attractive retirement options for me? What rises to the top over and over again? Is it the weather? The cost of living? Excellent healthcare or an active lifestyle?
Your priorities later in life will be different than someone else’s but it’s important you know what they are and where you’ll be able to access them.
Sometimes, where you want to retire may have less to do with the place and more to do with the people. Are you wanting to be near grandkids? Do you have an aging relative that needs your help? Though the beach may be calling your body, if there’s a bunch of grandbabies living in Colorado, then that may be where your soul wants to go.
This is obviously a big one. For the many Americans who are moving into retirement with a spouse or significant other, finding the perfect retirement spot is also going to have to consider their desires as well. Hopefully, if you’re reading this article, you and your partner already have some idea of the places you’d both like to be and the spots that are definitely off the list.
Take Arizona, for example. If you suffer from horrible allergies and want a more active outdoor lifestyle, then this state is going to be high on your list as a possible place to land. On the other hand, if your other half longs for a lush, green lawn and can’t stand creepy critters, then they may not ultimately be happiest here. Being part of a partnership can be a wonderful way to roll into retirement but it also means maybe making some compromises on where you end up together.