Benefits of Retiring In Arkansas (Pros & Cons)
April 27, 2022General Retirement
If you wish to spend the best days of your life somewhere in the United States, retiring in Arkansas can be a great idea. After all, it is the Wonder State.
As you near retirement age, you may start looking for several possible retirement destinations but choosing the right one for you can be tricky. After all, there are several pros and cons of living in each state. If you consider retiring in Arkansas, you will need to consider some of the benefits and potential drawbacks of settling in this state.
Seniors retiring in Arkansas can enjoy a low cost of living, an amazing outdoor experience with pleasant weather, and plenty of retirement communities. However, Arkansas also has a relatively high crime rate, uninspiring health care system, and limited job opportunities.
Arkansas ranks 29th among the 50 American states in total area and is home to three million people, making it the 33rd most populous U.S. state. Arkansas is one of the southern states home to several beautiful lakes, rivers, and hot springs, which is why the state is also known as the Natural State. Moreover, agriculture makes the largest state industry, so Arkansas is also a major exporter of rice, cotton, and soybean. It is also the only state in the U.S. that produces diamonds.
As interesting as the idea of retiring in the Natural State may seem, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of this state to ensure that you make the best-suited decision for your retired life. Having served as a retirement consultant for decades serving retirees in multiple states, I have compiled information to give you a clear idea of the pros and cons of retiring in Arkansas.
Table of contents
Pros of Retiring in Arkansas
Arkansas often ranks high on the list of retirement destinations, and it’s not too difficult to figure out why. There are numerous benefits of retiring in Arkansas. Some of the most prominent advantages that retirees can enjoy here include a low cost of living, affordable property prices, great weather and natural attractions, plenty of retirement communities, and a lot more.
Naturally, you will have to delve in deep to learn more about the benefits of retiring in Arkansas in great detail to determine how important they are for you. After all, if you are looking forward to living in a place with a low cost of living but you don’t enjoy a lot of time outdoors, Arkansas may not be the perfect retirement destination for you.
Let’s take a closer look at the pros of retiring in Arkansas.
Low Cost of Living
Arkansas often makes it to the top 10 lists for states with a low cost of living which is why retirees prefer to settle here as it is a little easier on their bank accounts. When you retire in Arkansas, you can expect to pay less for property, transportation, utilities, groceries, as well as healthcare.
Due to the state's low cost of living, individuals living in Arkansas do not need to spend as much money as those living in New York, Hawaii, or California. As a result, if you move to Arkansas following your retirement, the chances are good that your money goes a bit further, as you will likely be spending 10% to 15% lower than most of the other states.
Affordable Property Prices
Property prices have sky-rocketed in the last few decades throughout the U.S. however, Arkansas offers one of the most affordable housing in the country. If you get an average home in Arkansas, it will cost you between $120,000 and $150,000, which is much lower than other states in the U.S, such as California or New York. Moreover, you can expect to pay less if you choose a property in a more rural part of Arkansas.
Low Property Tax
To sweeten the deal with affordable housing, you will also benefit from the lower property tax rate in the state. The property taxes in Arkansas are only 0.63% making it the fifth-lowest property tax in the country. The tax rate in Arkansas is much lower compared to other states such as New Jersey, where the property tax rate is 2.2%. In most cases, the property tax you are expected to pay annually is below $800; however, the exact cost depends on your location and the area of land you own.
The lower property tax rates in Arkansas make it just another reason for you to choose the state for your retirement.
No State Income Tax on Military Retirement Pay
And while the state offers a low cost of living and affordable housing, if you are a veteran receiving military retirement pay, the state won't charge you any income tax. As a result, you end up with more of the well-deserved money that you can put to use as you live in Arkansas.
Weather plays an integral role in the retirement decision for most people. And many retirees prefer to retire in warm, sunny locations. After all, the last thing that you would want to do during winters is shovel snow while struggling with arthritis pain.
Arkansas tends to enjoy mild-moderate weather throughout the year, so if you don't want to experience extreme winters, this is the state for you. The weather in Arkansas is not as drastically different from other warm, sunny locations such as California or Florida, but the cost of living makes a deciding factor why Arkansas makes a favorable option.
Arkansas enjoys a relatively mild and temperate climate throughout the year with occasional rainfall during spring, followed by hot and humid summer where temperature can soar up to 43.3oC in the South.
You will experience milder temperatures during the fall and watch the leaves changing colors, followed by mild winters. As the winter season approaches, you won’t be slaving over an icy driveway, but you can experience colder weather the further up north you go. Northern Arkansas may experience snowfall, and the temperature can drop, but the state's southern areas tend to be warmer with a lesser chance of snowfall. But regardless, even when Arkansas sees snowfall, it is nothing compared to other Northern states.
Plenty of Natural Attractions
Arkansas is also known as the Wonder State, and there are good reasons for it. The state got its nickname due to the abundance of natural resources and beautiful, jaw-dropping natural scenery. And while Arkansas doesn’t always come to mind when you imagine beautiful natural wonders, the state is home to plenty of natural attractions ranging from parks to hot springs, lakes, caves, and a lot more.
Arkansas has plenty of natural elements that make it a top vacation spot, including its over 9,700 miles of waterways to scout and 600,000 acres of lakes to sail on. Moreover, the geographical terrain is also amazing, including mountains and bluffs and lakes and rivers. The highlands provide you with unlimited opportunities for outdoor adventures such as hiking, camping, and biking. And given the vast water bodies in the state, you can try out several water activities ranging from boating to tubing and canoeing. But if you want to sit back and relax by the water, fishing makes a great activity for you throughout the Buffalo River.
Moreover, you can also explore the caves and dimly lit caverns or dig for diamonds at the Crater of Diamond State Park.
In all, for everyone who loves outdoor adventures, there is something for you in Arkansas.
State’s Central Location
Arkansas has an interesting location on the U.S. map. While the state is located on top of Louisiana, which makes it a Southern state, it is also next to Oklahoma, making it more of a central part of the United States. Given its location, Arkansas is heavily influenced by all of the surrounding states, making it an interesting melting pot of cultures.
Moreover, given its central location, Arkansas makes a perfect spot if you are a natural explorer. You can easily get to another state within a few hours, so if you plan to retire in Arkansas, you will get options to go south and explore Mississippi or head southwest and enjoy some amazing Texas BBQ. You can also head northwest and explore the plains of Oklahoma.
Typically, Arkansas is more of a rural place to live, but if you are someone who looks forward to city-life and its amenities, the central location of the state can work out to your advantage as it gives you easy access to various large cities where you can enjoy some nightlife and a lot more action.
Extensive Transportation Network
If you currently live in Massachusetts or Florida, you would know how it feels to get stuck in traffic for hours. And that makes another reason why you should retire in Arkansas, as the state offers you an extensive transportation network.
Arkansas has an extensive road network with four interstate highways running through the state and around 3,000 miles of train tracks. Moreover, there are eight airports in Arkansas with scheduled flights allowing easier access to and from the state. Given the extensive transportation network in Arkansas and its central location, it makes it a lot easier to commute to wherever you need to go on any given day.
Higher Education Opportunities
Another interesting benefit of retiring in Arkansas is the ample higher educational opportunities in the state. Arkansas is home to over 40 higher education institutions, including universities and colleges. What makes it more attractive for the retirees is that the University of Arkansas, the largest state university, offers free tuition for-credit courses to all Arkansas residents aged 60 and above. Surprisingly, the University of Arkansas offers around 100 undergraduate and 100 master’s degree programs along with 30 doctoral degree programs, so if you wish to go back to school and complete or update your degree following your retirement, Arkansas is the place for you.
Moreover, you can find several other universities in Arkansas with well-designed campuses, but if you rather prefer to stay at home and learn, you can find schools and universities offering online programs.
Numerous Retirement Communities
One of the most interesting benefits of retiring in Arkansas is the plenty of retirement communities the state offers. Arkansas has numerous retirement communities designed to offer unique experiences to retirees. Whether you are someone who prefers a laid-back, rural style of living or enjoys the energetic flow of urban life, you can find a retirement community in Arkansas that's exactly as per your needs.
Some of the cities in Arkansas that make a popular town for retirees include Fayetteville, which is home to the University of Arkansas. Other popular cities for retirees include Holiday Island, Stonebrook Cove, and Bentonville.
As mentioned earlier, Arkansas makes a central state and isn't quite in the South, but the state still maintains the charm you would expect in the South. What this means is that manners are a way of life here. You will often hear people politely using “ma’am” and “sir” as they engage with each other.
While it seems that the locals may be a bit reserved, they are quite welcoming to strangers. And perhaps the easiest way to get in the good books of the locals as you retire in Arkansas is to pronounce the state's name properly. Unlike what it might seem, the state pronounces "Are Can Saw" and not "Our Kansas," so make sure you avoid this common mistake and enjoy the Southern hospitality for years to come.
Rural, Small Town Atmosphere
When considering the pros and cons of retiring in Arkansas, the state's rural nature may turn out to be one or the other depending upon your preference. If you enjoy the serenity and quietness of rural areas, the whole state offers you this atmosphere and makes it one of the best states for you to retire in.
Even if you choose to live in the big cities of Arkansas, such as Little Rock, you won’t find the usual hustle-bustle of the urban life that you would experience in some of the other states. It’s likely because the population of Arkansas is low, and most of the people living in this state are associated with agriculture which helps keep the feeling rural and small. But you will also find the small-town feeling extending to other businesses such as mom-and-pop type stores and places throughout Arkansas.
The rural atmosphere of Arkansas can be ideal for retirees who do not like crowds and overpopulated areas and for those who prefer to live in a cozy and close-knit community.
A Vibrant Art Scene
While Arkansas gives you more rural vibes and seems rather folksy, it also has a cultured side that you must know about as you plan to retire in Arkansas. The art scene in the state is rather impressive, and most of the larger cities in Arkansas host theater tours and have regular art exhibitions. Some cities with the most vibrant art scene include Fayetteville, Conway, Texarkana, and the state capital Little Rock.
Moreover, you can also find art centers, museums, and art galleries, including the Arkansas Arts Center, located in Little Rock, Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, and the art galleries in Hot Springs and Eureka Springs.
Variety of Delicacies
Arkansas may have a reputation of having a small-town atmosphere, but given its central location, it is home to a variety of delicacies. From chicken fried steak to some fantastic BBQ and amazing pizzas, you will find everything you want to enjoy as you retire in Arkansas. Moreover, given the rural atmosphere of the state, you can also enjoy some farm-fresh foods at the many local farm-to-table restaurants.
And given the proximity to other large cities such as Dallas and Memphis, you can give yourself a break from the local food and enjoy some margaritas and BBQ from the megacities.
Arkansas may not be the home to any of the professional teams from the Big 5 sports, but that doesn't mean you cannot enjoy a game as you retire in Arkansas. A few minor league teams play throughout the state and allow you to enjoy some good sports and an affordable night out with the family. Razorbacks football is one of the popular football events in the state. Moreover, many people retiring in Arkansas also obtain a hunting license allowing them to make memorable outing experiences.
And if you want to watch something really exciting like an NBA game, you are just a couple of hours away, thanks to the state's central location.
Loads of Recreational Opportunities
If you love outdoor adventures, there are loads of recreational opportunities for you in Arkansas. In fact, the to-do list seems never-ending. Whether you want to have some extensive fun by the river or go hiking and camping, there is something for everyone. And if you are looking where to soak, Arkansas offers you hot springs where you can relax and unwind after years of hard work.
And when you combine this benefit with the several part-time employment opportunities in agriculture, technology, and teaching, you can find several ways for yourself to create a good life and call Arkansas home.
Cons of Retiring in Arkansas
Regardless of where you retire, there will always be a few things about the not-so-desirable place, and Arkansas is no different. As we discuss the pros of retiring in Arkansas, let's not forget to discuss the less-than-desirable aspects of retiring in Arkansas. In addition to the low cost of living in the state and plenty of outdoor opportunities, the state is known to have a higher poverty and crime rate, along with a few other cons that you should consider before you retire in Arkansas.
High Crime Rate
The crime rate in Arkansas is much higher than the average rate in the U.S. Currently, there are about six incidents in every 1,000 people which means that your risk of getting affected by the high crime rate is around 0.6% which may seem minimal, but it is much higher than many other states in the country.
Moreover, while violent crimes are not prevalent in the state, property crimes are much more common, including trespassing and vandalization. Part of the high crime rate can be attributed to the higher poverty rates in the state and lack of employment opportunities, but regardless of the cause, retiring in Arkansas will require you to spend extra on safety and security along with the security of your property. While the overall cost of living in Arkansas is low, this can be an additional expense that you may have to bear. A modern security system is one of the necessities as you retire in Arkansas.
Arkansas has always been a state that heavily focuses on its rural roots and culture. And while there are a few large cities such as Little Rock, Fayetteville, and Bentonville offering modern amenities, most parts of the state still continue to be wilderness. And while it can be an advantage for many retirees looking forward to the solitude of rural culture, the place cannot be an attraction for everyone.
So if you are someone who enjoys nightlife and living in large cities, retiring in Arkansas may not be the best choice for you.
Higher Level of Poverty
In 2018, the federal poverty income threshold for a family of four (with two children) was $25,465, whereas, for a single parent with one child, the threshold was $17,308. If a family’s income is lower than the threshold, then that family (or individual) is considered in poverty.
Considering the federal threshold, the poverty rate in Arkansas is quite high. While the average household income in Arkansas is $66,557 and the per capita income is $26,577, every two in 11 residents do not meet the federal income standard and are considered in poverty. The state has a poverty rate of 17.2%, which is the seventh highest in the country. While there is a decreasing trend in the rate of poverty in Arkansas, it is still considered much higher than in many other states.
Threat from Insects and Animals
As you retire in Arkansas and enjoy the pleasant weather, amazing outdoor opportunities, and rural living, let's not forget that this type of living also threatens the wildlife in the South. From alligators to poisonous snakes, you should be prepared to use some common sense while wandering somewhere unfamiliar, as you can encounter these reptiles along the way.
Moreover, you will also find some of the largest mosquitoes you have ever seen in the state. The mosquitoes in Arkansas are so large that you may also find some locals joking about the state's consideration for making mosquitoes the official state bird. And while most locals joke about it, you should remember that the mosquitoes in Arkansas can carry several viruses, including the West Nile virus and Zika viruses that can lead to many common illnesses such as Chikungunya and other deadly diseases.
The only proven method of protecting yourself from deadly infections of the giant mosquitoes in Arkansas is not to get bitten in the first place. Hence, it means you should always drain any standing water around you and must always have mosquito repellent available with you at all times.
Below Average Educational System for Families with School-Going Children
If you are retiring in Arkansas with your family with school-going children, you may have to experience the below-average educational system that Arkansas has to offer. The existing school system in Arkansas has a poor track record for success as the state doesn't adequately fund its education system. Hence, the teachers get lower salaries which affect their motivation to teach. The problem further intensifies as there is a lot of political interference in the classroom, which creates a unique set of challenges for families.
Hence, if you retire in Arkansas and have a family with school-going children, you may have to plan for private schooling.
However, once your child completes the schooling, Arkansas is home to some of the best higher education institutions in the country.
Lack of Public Transportation
If you retire in Arkansas, you may hope to see a well-established transportation system with developed roads, highways, and train tracks. However, the state lacks public transportation. The problem is not only specific to the rural areas but also to large cities such as Little Rock, where you will find very limited public transportation options.
You might get access to private transportation services such as taxis and Uber, but most people walk around the streets due to lack of public transportation. So if you are retiring in Arkansas, make sure you own a vehicle as it will help you run errands and allow you to explore nearby cities and states.
High Sales Tax
The cost of living in Arkansas may be lower, and if you are receiving military retirement pay, your income may be tax-exempt. However, the state will get you with its higher sales tax. The state sales tax is 6.5% but, each locality can add to this rate and increase it accordingly, so you will find the sales tax as high as almost 10% in some parts of Arkansas.
Moreover, apart from the general sales tax, you may have to pay an additional tax for certain goods such as alcohol.However, you can enjoy lower sales tax on food items which is as low as 1.5%.
Lack of Healthcare Facilities
Another benefit that you should consider before retiring in any state is the availability of healthcare facilities, and that's what you should also consider before you settle in Arkansas. Unfortunately, the health care in the state is not up to the mark, which can be a major concern, especially for retirees with higher healthcare needs.
When compared to other states, the medical services of Arkansas rank in 48th place. And while there are over 100 hospitals in Arkansas, the facilities may be in poor condition and require upgrades which is one of the reasons contributing to the lower ranking of the state's healthcare system. So if you are someone with higher medical needs, you may find the basic treatments, but you may not get the state-of-the-art treatment and facilities at the healthcare centers in Arkansas.
Risk of Natural Disasters
Arkansas enjoys a central location in the country; however, it is also in a location that is at risk for various natural disasters. Arkansas and some of the other states surrounding Arkansas experience the highest number of natural disasters every year. Floods, high winds, and tornadoes make a common occurrence, and the state is also prone to droughts.
While the state does a decent job in helping its citizens recover after any natural disaster, the frequency of natural disasters is always worth considering before retiring in Arkansas.
Limited Job Opportunities
You may want to retire in peace and enjoy some free time on your own, but many retirees find themselves with a lot of free time that they want to use to accomplish their goals or get a part-time job. If you fall in the latter category and are looking for a part-time job that you can do following your retirement, you may have trouble finding a relevant job in Arkansas. The state's job market isn't designed to cater to the needs of older employees, and younger individuals in Arkansas hold positions that might typically go to retirees in many other states.
Low Happiness Levels of the Residents
Surprisingly, Arkansas is one of the country's unhappiest communities. While there are unlimited opportunities for outdoor adventures and the state offers a low cost of housing and living and many other incentives, people in Arkansas are generally not happy. Many factors can contribute to this unhappiness, including the rural outlook of the state, high poverty rate, and lack of state-of-the-art healthcare facilities. Regardless of the reason, it is an unfortunate reality.
And not being among the happiest people can turn out to be a problem for retirees hoping to enjoy their golden years in Arkansas.
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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