Benefits of Retiring In Alabama (Pros & Cons)
April 29, 2022General Retirement
Congratulations! You've made it to retirement! If you want to live out the rest of your days in a beautiful and happy place, retiring in Alabama can be great!
Known as the Heart of Dixie or the Yellowhammer State, Alabama is located in the southern region of the United States. Culturally and geographically rich, Alabama's residents hold a deep loyalty towards their state, food, and football. With a rich past and an active present, the state will surely make strides in the future.
Alabama has low tax rates, low living costs, excellent food, a scenic gulf coast, affordable housing, and an overall warm climate. On the flip side, the Heart of Dixie has a low quality of living, constrained healthcare system, severe weather, dangerous animals, and restricted alcohol sales.
The Yellowhammer State is worth considering when planning your retirement. Its exciting features, coupled with its role in the country's history since the Louisiana Purchase, make it an incredibly attractive state to move to. What's more interesting is that Alabama is located on a border between different regions, cultures, and ethnic groups, classifying the state as a true melting pot.
With that said, every state has its own sets of pros and cons. As alluring as Alabama's offerings may seem, its pitfalls can be a deal-breaker for many retirees. As a retirement consultant with over two decades of experience, I've put together this article as a means to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of retiring in Alabama.
Table of contents
Pros of Retiring in Alabama
As the Heart of Dixie, Alabama has a lot to offer, from beautiful and picturesque scenes to low costs of living and affordable housing. If you're looking to move here, let me take you through the wonderful benefits this state has to offer.
Here are the pros of retiring in Alabama.
Low Tax Rates
A major consideration of any retiree choosing a place to move to is none other than the local tax rates. As a retiree living off 401ks, pensions, and social security benefits, it’s crucial to spend your money wisely. Otherwise, unless you have family money, hefty savings, or a well-established business, you’ll end up working throughout what were supposed to be your golden years. Fortunately, Alabama offers some of the lowest tax rates in the country, allowing you to save a huge chunk of your income.
Alabama doesn’t tax pension incomes if they come from a defined benefit retirement plan. Social security payments, military retirement pay, and a list of other government pensions are also exempt from taxes. So, as a retiree, you can expect to save quite a bit of money in this regard.
Compared to other taxes in the state, Alabama’s property tax rates are exceptionally reasonable. In fact, the property tax in Alabama is one of the country’s lowest, with an average Alabama household paying only $530 in property taxes, which is about a quarter the national average. However, the county rate can range from 0.33 percent to 0.95 percent.
Considering these low rates, the Yellowhammer State is extremely welcoming to those looking to buy, rent, or build a new family home. Also, what could be better than the opportunity to enjoy the stunning coastal towns in the south that are super budget-friendly? After all, as a retiree, you probably want peace and serenity during your golden years.
Low Cost of Living
After taxes, a low cost of living is another crucial factor for retirees to consider. Besides the excellent opportunity to invest in a great residential property beside the coast or further north, Alabama is one of the cheapest states in the country. The Yellowhammer State’s living costs will feel even cheaper when you move from expensive states, such as New York or California.
Alabama’s residents currently pay almost 12% less for goods and services than the neighboring states. According to statistics, the cost of living in Alabama is about 6 to 7% lower than the national average.
However, you have to bear in mind that the salaries in Alabama are also quite low. So, if you work here before seeking retirement, you won’t realize how low the cost of living is. The ideal way to truly enjoy this benefit is to choose Alabama as your retirement state only. That way, you will surely experience a drop in living costs.
Several Unique Climates
When living in the south, you have to get used to the heat! Alabama, in particular, has a near-tropical climate, specifically between May and October. While most seniors appreciate the warmth of the sun, others may find it humid, clammy, and sweltering. A huge benefit of the hot weather is that you won’t have to deal with shoveling snow or burying yourself under layers. You can roam around in your relaxed clothing and sandals and maybe head to the beach for some fun.
Alabama has been established as one of the hottest places, but little do people know that there are various climates throughout the state. While the south of the state is flat like a floodplain and experiences humid and sunny weather followed by heavy rains and thunderstorms, the north is home to towering mountains with refreshing weather.
Northern Alabama isn’t quite popular but is surely a beautiful place to experience. This mountainous region has fairly temperate and crisp weather, with the temperatures dropping below freezing, resulting in snowfall and snow capped mountains. So, if you ever get tired of the heat, just drive a few miles up north.
The Scenic Gulf Coast
With access to about 60 miles of the Gulf Coast, Alabama offers its residents and visitors some picturesque views. The Gulf Coast is a stretch of the Gulf of Mexico, which isn’t as well known to the residents of other states. Maybe that’s one of the reasons the beaches here are often open, incredibly clean, and offer stunning views of the Gulf waters.
Many tourists visit the beaches here during the peak vacation season between May and October. So, if you want to visit here, you should plan something during the other months. However, you can still enjoy morning walks or runs on the beach, especially if you live near the coast. The best sites to check out in Alabama are West Beach, Orange Beach, and the park at Dauphin Island.
Besides the low property taxes, another factor that can attract you to retire in Alabama is its extremely affordable housing. You can find new, quality-constructed homes for sale for under $110,000 and rent accommodations for under $800 all around the state. Although the housing rates have started increasing recently, they’re still more affordable than the national average.
When choosing housing, you must keep one thing in mind. The housing prices can differ depending on the location. So, don’t settle for something cheaper in the rural areas. Instead, invest a little more to find a nice place in the cities or suburbs because of their good infrastructure and convenient transportation.
Laid-Back People and State
Many people suggest that time passes a little slower in Alabama than in other states. If you’re wondering why that is, it’s because of the people! States often get labeled according to how their residents live – Texas, Hawaii, and California, to name a few. The same theory applies to Alabama.
The state’s residents take their time, speak slowly, and enjoy their food and conversation. While not everyone in the state behaves the same way, it is pretty common to come across people with slow-paced lives and the ‘love-thy-neighbor’ attitude. Although this may be quite refreshing for most people, especially seniors, Alabama isn’t the place for those looking for a fast-paced lifestyle.
Additionally, you will often find your neighbors chatting with one another, and if you move here, you’ll become a part of the conversation too. So, if you love to relax with your neighbors and friends, you’ll easily blend in.
Cons of Retiring in Alabama
Now that we've explored the beautiful coastal areas, low living costs, and other amazing benefits of Alabama, it's time to consider the cons of living here. As with other states, Alabama comes with its fair share of pitfalls that can steer retirees clear of it.
Here are the cons of retiring in Alabama.
While Alabama offers great property tax rates and feasible taxes on retirement incomes, its sales tax is towering. Alabama's average sales tax rate is around 4%, while the highest average local sales tax is around 5.22%, creating a combined sales tax rate of 9%. In cities such as Birmingham, the minimum combined tax rate recorded in 2022 was 10%. These high sales taxes make shopping extremely pricey for everyone, not only retirees.
Low Quality of Living
Perhaps, one of the biggest drawbacks of moving to Alabama is its low quality of living. Alabama almost always ranks incredibly low in every national economic survey. According to a new list by 24/7 Wall St., Alabama has the second-worst quality of life in the country.
With widespread crime and violence across the state, the residents don't feel the state. Combining this with the limited healthcare and housing facilities, the overall quality of living is pretty low. The Yellowhammer State also has extremely poor environmental engagement policies or even access to broadband internet. Overall, it's a pretty sad state of affairs in Alabama.
Low Healthcare Access
When deciding on a state to retire to, you must consider two factors: whether you can pay for healthcare and if you have the ability to access it. Unfortunately, in this case, Alabama doesn't deliver very well. Alabama ranks 38th out of the 50 states in terms of healthcare access and affordability.
Affordability is determined by a state's insurance rates, healthcare plans, and out-of-pocket expenditures that a patient must pay to receive treatment. Sadly, healthcare costs can quickly take up a significant portion of your income, especially when you're a senior. Moreover, with such high out-of-pocket expenses, your cost of living will also rise.
Another concern with Alabama's healthcare system is having to travel long distances to access healthcare centers and a general shortage of adequate medical facilities and professionals around the state.
While the warm weather might seem like a blessing most days, Alabama's weather conditions can actually get pretty extreme. Generally, many southern states experience long and severe weather seasons, especially from late spring to late summer. In Alabama, you will get to experience violent thunderstorms and rainstorms during this season.
The reason behind these extreme weather conditions is Alabama's location near the Gulf and Hurricane Alley. However, the plus side of this is that Tornadoes and extremely cold temperatures are a rare occurrence in the state.
Pests and Dangerous Animals
Alabama's humid and semi-tropical climate contributes to the presence of various insects and animals throughout the state. While Florida is known for its alligators, Alabama is rived with bugs and animals and is just as wild as its neighbors to the east.
Cockroach infestations are not uncommon in homes, especially during summers. Not only that but lots of other creepy-crawlies also pull up when the temperatures rise. If you still plan on retiring here, the best investment you can make is in bug spray and regular professional fumigation.
Restricted Alcohol Sales
Is your dinner incomplete without a glass of wine? Or is a glass of scotch your favorite bedtime drink? Either way, if you're alcohol enthuse, you may want to reconsider relocating to Alabama, at least in a few counties.
26 of Alabama's 67 counties do not allow the sale of alcohol, while other counties only sell alcohol at certain times of the week. Every county comes with its own set of restrictions, so there's no guarantee that you won't have to drive to another one simply for a glass of beer or wine.
High Poverty Rates
About 15.5% of Alabama's population lives below the poverty line. The poverty rates are only worsening as the local agricultural industry takes a nosedive. It has also become pretty difficult to get a job in the state. If you're completely retired, you have nothing to worry about, but if you're semi-retired and are looking to relocate, you will struggle a bit in Alabama.
About THE AUTHOR
With multiple family members currently in senior living facilities, David is in the trenches every week, learning the ins and outs of nursing homes, assisted living, memory care, and general senior living.Read more about David Bolton
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We love planning for retirement. It's somewhat of a hobby, and we want to share what we've learned with you. Over the years we've found the best ways to live, how to travel, take on new hobbies and give back. Happiness in retirement is the main goal, and having the right information allows us (and you) to achieve that.