Benefits of Retiring In Pennsylvania (Pros & Cons)

If you wish to live your golden days somewhere in the United States, retiring in Pennsylvania is a great idea. After all, 2 million retirees call this place home.

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If you wish to live your golden days somewhere in the United States, retiring in Pennsylvania is a great idea. After all, 2 million retirees call this place home.

Pennsylvania is popular for its historical significance and is, in fact, known to be the nation’s birthplace. Although this is an enticing factor that attracts many seniors from around the United States to visit or settle here, many other interesting qualities make it a place you can call home.  

Seniors retiring in Pennsylvania can enjoy a low cost of living, low taxes, great healthcare, scenic locations, low crime rates, top-rated cities and towns, historical sites, and winter sports. However, they will need to beware of the freezing winters, inheritance tax, lack of diversity, high traffic, poor roads, air pollution, and nuclear power plants.

Since its birth, Pennsylvania has been a rather attractive location, witnessing herds of people from around the US flocking over there to visit and mostly settle. After all, picturesque views, great historical sites, and rich culture and history aren’t all that the Keystone state offers. Pennsylvania is home to some of the top-rated cities, including Ohio and Pittsburgh. Therefore, offering the chance to explore urban settings, enjoy modern amenities, access great healthcare, and enjoy the low cost of living, crime rates, and taxes. So, it makes sense to want to retire here!

As interesting as the idea of retiring in Pennsylvania seems, it’s important to consider the cons of this state – to ensure that you make the best-suited decision to live out your retirement years. Having served as a retirement consultant for decades, I’ve put this article together to give you a clear idea of the pros and cons of retiring in Pennsylvania.

Table of Contents

Pros of Retiring in Pennsylvania

The Keystone State houses almost 2 million retirees, with 249 retirement communities stretched out through the state. Moreover, according to U.S. News and World Report rankings, Seven Pennsylvania metropolitan areas were ranked among the 2021 best places to celebrate retirement. Therefore, there definitely must be certain factors that attract so many people to this lovely state.

Without further ado, let’s explore the pros of retiring in Pennsylvania that have driven many retirees to seek a home here.

Low Cost of Living and Housing

One of the most critical and defining factors that pushes a place up on the list of potential retirement destinations is the cost of living. Since you’re retired, you would obviously want to know approximately how much money you would need to sustain your lifestyle in a specific place.

Moving to an expensive place would mean that you may have to work for longer before enjoying your retirement. However, luckily, Pennsylvania has a rather low cost of living, making it a lucrative place for retirees to live out their golden days.

The overall cost of living in Pennsylvania is almost 8% less than the national average. This significant difference between the living costs is driven by the fact that the housing cost in Pennsylvania is almost 25% below the national average. Other costs, such as grocery, healthcare, transportation, utilities, and miscellaneous expenses in Pennsylvania, aren’t much different than those in other states.  

However, it is important to note that housing prices can vary based on whether you settle in the mountainous rural or busy urban areas.

Tax Breaks for Retirees

Besides the cost of living, the second most important factor to consider when retiring in a particular state is their tax level. Fortunately, the words ‘no’ and ‘taxes’ come together in the breathtaking state of Pennsylvania, making it irresistible for retirees.

While Pennsylvania has the fourth-highest tax burden in the US, right ahead of New York, most of that falls on the working population. So, thankfully, when you retire in Pennsylvania, you can enjoy paying zero taxes on your pension income. However, this doesn’t mean that you collect rent from many of the properties you own and declare it as your pension.

Tax exemptions are only allowed on the four categories of pension income, including social security, pension, Individual Retirement Account (IRA), and 401k. Moreover, although Pennsylvania has the 10th highest property tax rates in the country, depending on your retirement income level, you can get some of it back via filing a tax rebate.

Sales Tax Exemptions

Pennsylvania’s low cost of living can further be enjoyed by the absence of sales tax on many transactions.  Although the Keystone State’s sales tax is as much as the United States average, many purchases and activities have no sales tax. Some of these transactions and activities include amusement parks, food, clothes, and recreational industries.

The no-sales tax policy in amusement parks and recreational industries might not be that alluring to retirees besides when they’re taking their grandkids for a day trip. However, the no-sales tax policy on food and clothes is highly beneficial since both are inevitable and more frequent purchases.

Satisfactory Healthcare System

Since a majority of people retire as senior citizens, healthcare is a defining factor in the decision to retire in a specific state. Let’s face it: aged people require more care, which is why they don’t want to or need to risk retiring in a state where the healthcare system doesn’t meet their requirements.

Overall, Pennsylvania ranks number 12 for the best healthcare in the country and ranks number 9 for hospital safety. Pennsylvania has two of the best hospitals in the US: Philadelphia and UPMC Shadyside, which provide efficient and effective treatments. Additionally, there’s also a high chance of new treatments entering the market, which can very well help the senior population. To access these cutting-edge medical treatments, one must reside in a state that houses medical universities conducting advanced research. In this case, Pennsylvania has two excellent universities: Bucknell and Dickinson.

However, if you’re retiring in Pennsylvania solely for the healthcare system, you must know that the state’s best hospitals are located in its urban southern half, including Pittsburg, Philadelphia, and Lancaster, with the rural areas having very limited options.

Low Crime Rates in the Rural Areas

Certain Pennsylvanian areas are suitable retirement choices for those looking for a crime-free life. While the urban areas of the state witness much crime, even above the national average, there are many safe places tucked across Pennsylvania with near-zero violent and property crime each year. If you want to avoid crime completely, staying out of the big cities is your best bet.

Beautiful Views and Access to Outdoor Activities

If you want to immerse yourself in nature and enjoy the best of what the earth has to offer, Pennsylvania should top your list of potential retirement destinations. The Keystone State has almost 17 million acres of forested land that covers about 58% of the state’s area. Almost 2 million acres are open to the public to enjoy out of this land.

Given the mostly mountainous terrain and presence of over 10,000 miles of trails, hiking is one of the most popular activities in the state. Many of these trails also support snowmobiling, skiing, biking, cross-country skiing, and horseback riding. If you’re looking for something more, then there are also tons of camping and hunting opportunities in the forests.

Furthermore, besides the forest areas, Pennsylvania also has many rivers and thousands of lakes, presenting numerous opportunities for fishing to fishing enthusiasts. Additionally, if you ever get bored of fishing, there are endless opportunities for canoeing and kayaking. Even more, you can swim in 35 of the state parks and scuba dive in about 20.

Top-Rated Towns

Pennsylvania has many amazing places that receive many visitors each year. One of the most interesting and top-rated towns in Pennsylvania is Chesterbrook, a suburb of Philadelphia. Chesterbrook welcomes many people from around the globe and has received some seriously impressive rankings, including:

  • #1 Best Places to Live in America
  • #1 Best Suburbs to Live in America
  • #1 Best Places to Raise a Family in America
  • #1 Best Suburbs to Raise a Family in America
  • Top 15% Best Places to Retire in America

Additionally, Penn Wynne, a town located about 20 miles southeast of Chesterbrook, also follows closely behind by ranking #3 in the above categories.

Winter Sports

Pennsylvania witnesses very cold weather and lots of snow during winters. So, if you’re going to live in such extreme weather, you might as well embrace winter sports. The Keystone State is home to over 22 ski resorts, and as the snow covers the hiking trails, people bring out their skis, sleds, and snowmobiles to make the best of it.

Historical Sites

Once you retire, you’ll have lots of time on your hands to go tour around the state. Luckily, Pennsylvania has a lot to offer in that regard. Not only does it have many historical sites located throughout, but it is also home to 19 national parks with a rich history.

Some of the best historic locations in Pennsylvania include:

  • Philadelphia - America’s first capital, home of the Liberty Bell, and the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence.
  • Farmington - Home to Fort Necessity, where a young George Washington battled the French during the French & Indian War.
  • Gettysburg – The place where a critical battle in the Civil War took place.

Cons of Retiring in Pennsylvania

Now that we know all the benefits of moving to the Keystone State, let’s have a look at some of the reasons Pennsylvania might not be the best choice for some retirees.

Extreme Winters

Pennsylvania has severely cold weather during winters, with low temperatures often dropping into negative single digitals. With mountains all around, snow is also pretty common in the state. In fact, Pennsylvania witnesses an average of 38 inches of snow a year, more than the US average of 28 inches. Although this chilly weather might seem like an attractive factor for many, it may not be too enjoyable for retirees.

While children and teenagers love a good old snowball fight and building a snowman, those near their retirement age aren’t exactly fond of such extreme temperatures. The fact is that as one grows older, their tolerance to cold climates tends to decrease. Add the responsibility of shoveling the house roof, driveway, and even the effort of stepping out the house, and you’ve got yourself a huge concern on your hands.

A plus side to this is that not all of Pennsylvania experiences the same temperature. So, if you really want to move here, conduct your research on the temperature of different cities to find one that suits your requirement.

Inheritance Tax

One of the most satisfying and rewarding parts about retiring from one’s career is having enough savings to leave behind for your loved ones. Although Pennsylvania is known for its retiree tax benefits, none of those benefits are passed along to heirs. The state taxes wealth passed to heirs at the rate of 15% or more, which is why retirees in Pennsylvania must be very careful when planning to pass on their estate to their heirs.

However, it is worth noting that the tax percentage varies depending on your relationship with the individual inheriting your assets. For instance, spouses and direct heirs under or at the age of 21 don’t have to pay an estate tax. On the other hand, children or grandchildren above the age of 21 have to pay 4.5% as inheritance tax.

Lack of Diversity

A major concerning factor for some retirees moving to Pennsylvania is the lack of diversity. The population of this state is 77% white, 11% Black, 7% Hispanic, 3% Asian, and 2% others. Also, most of this diversity is majorly found in Philadelphia and its surrounding areas. The white demographic constitutes almost 90% of the popular in the remaining areas. Although this lack of diversity may not be as concerning to white seniors, it may considerably impact the decision of those belonging to other ethnic groups.

Terrible Traffic

As the 6th worst state for drivers in the United States, Pennsylvania isn’t the place for impatient people to retire. Although as a retiree, you’ll be happy not to have to make the daily commute to work, but you will have to face challenges and terrible traffic all around. The traffic problem in Pennsylvania isn’t only limited to the big urban cities, such as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, but also smaller towns.

Bad Roads

One of the main reasons for the terrible traffic across the state is due to the terrible roads. Pennsylvania ranks as the 5th worst state in terms of roads throughout the United States. At least 30% of the roads in the state are in poor conditions, while many of its bridges are also structurally deficient.

Air Pollution

According to a report, Pennsylvania is the 11th worst state in terms of air pollution. Philadelphia, Lancaster, and Pittsburgh rank in the list of cities with the worst air quality. Although many people blame the air pollution on vehicular traffic, the truth is that most of air quality issues are due to the various coal-burning power plants present around the state.

Nuclear Power Plants

In 1979, the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, the largest nuclear accident in America’s history, took place in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Everything was cleaned up after the accident, and the plant is still up and running today. In fact, two more nuclear plants just outside of Philadelphia are also currently operational.

Although the chances of another nuclear accident happening are severely slim, retirees must be aware of the potential risks. Moreover, if you plan to move somewhere in Southeastern Pennsylvania, you will need to get used to the regular nuclear siren tests and emergency drills.

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