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Pros of Retiring in West Virginia
West Virginia isn’t usually a place most of us think about when considering where our ideal retirement home may be. But – when it comes to certain factors that may be more important in your golden years than they were previously – West Virginia checks a lot of boxes.
1. Low Cost of Living
According to Movoto, living in West Virginia is going to cost you about ten percent less than the average state in the U.S. Housing, which typically comprises at least a third of most people’s budgets, is much less here, even in the larger cities and regardless if you rent or buy. Property taxes are some of the lowest in the country.
Other expenses, such as utilities, food, entertainment, and health care are also less. For a retiree, who is often living on a fixed income, this can be a very attractive reason to live here. Your dollar will definitely stretch farther.
2. Plenty of Outdoor Activities
West Virginia is comprised of more mountains per square mile than any other state, earning it the Mountain State title. With all of this rugged terrain, the outdoor retired enthusiast is never going to tire of things to do. Whether you enjoy a simple nature hike, a long bike ride, or a more rugged backcountry camping trip, this state offers something for everyone.
The West Virginia State Park system is one of the best in the country. With over 35 state parks, you will find something for everyone and probably discover some new interests, too! Getting away from it all is not hard in this outdoor-living style state.
3. Low Population
Humans are, by nature, drawn to each other. That said, for many of us, retirement is a time to look a bit more inward, get away from the rat race, and spend more time with ourselves. According to Wikipedia, West Virginia’s population is the 12th lowest in the United States, making it easy to retire with space to spare.
For those who want some dirt in their later years, West Virginia offers many opportunities to have land and live a more rural lifestyle. For those who prefer being closer to a city, there are lots of cute, small towns throughout the state to choose from. See if you can discover your dream city here.
4. 4 Full Seasons
This may align with those who are looking for lots of outdoorsy activities, or just the person who likes to celebrate the changing of the weather, but if you are someone who wants crisp falls, wintery winters, and sun filled spring and summers, West Virginia is going to fulfill your seasonal needs.
January is the coldest month in this mountainous state, with the average temperature hitting around 33 °F. July clocks in as the warmest, with a daily average of about 73 °F. Thanks to the high elevation of this state, humidity stays low and keeps the days crisp all year long. As John Denver aptly reminded us, mother nature has truly created a place that’s “almost heaven” when it comes to weather in West Virginia!
Cons of Retiring in West Virginia
There may be a reason why retirees haven’t ranked West Virginia high on their list of places they want to live in their later years. Though there are many positives about this state, some of the not-so-great factors may hinder you from wanting to consider living here full-time.
1. High Crime Rate
Though West Virginians still get to enjoy having a lower crime rate than many places in the United States, this is, unfortunately, changing. Many believe that the poor economy, increased drug use, and a lack of government resources are contributing to the rise in violent and property crimes.
As of 2019, West Virginia has a lower crime rate than 36 other states, but it’s definitely something to think about when you are weighing reasons to choose a place to live. Oftentimes, older Americans are easy targets of crime, and this could really impact your quality of life if you end up in a place where crime is problematic.
2. Low Employment Opportunities
As mentioned above, West Virginia has experienced some tough economic times in the last few decades. In March 2022, the state’s unemployment rate was 3.7%, which is just a tad higher than the national average of 3.6%.
For someone looking to retire, this may not at first seem to be an issue. But in retirement, many of us are still planning on doing some sort of work, whether to earn a bit of extra income, try a skill we haven’t had a chance to, or stay employed for social reasons. Having to compete with younger, more skilled individuals may make this idea more challenging.
High unemployment also can contribute to a state’s crime rate, as seen above. Settling down in a spot that is struggling economically may pose some challenges not at first realized.
3. Travel Challenges
So often “more travel!” is one of the first things people list when asked what they are looking forward to in retirement. Seeing grandkids, exploring new parts of our country and world, and taking advantage of having the time to appreciate the road less traveled – these are all exciting parts of traveling in our third stage of life.
Though the capital city of Charleston boasts an airport that services most large, commercial airlines, the other six airports in the state are much smaller and flights in and out are not plentiful. Though bus and rail travel is available, there are limited stations for both throughout the state. Even driving to another major city outside West Virginia will take you more than half a day. If frequent and effortless travel is a high priority in your retirement years, West Virginia may not be the place to hang your hat when you’re not on the road.
4. Lack of Cultural Activities
Another big plus to having more time on your hands is having the chance to engage in all those cultural activities that raising kids and going to jobs may have made challenging. Whether it’s taking in a show, attending an art gallery opening, or learning a new language or skill, it can be hard to find a wide variety of cultural outlets in West Virginia.
As the population is small, many musical groups and touring companies don’t think of the Mountain State as a place to include in their lineup. With the economy struggling, new restaurants, coffee shops, or art galleries may think twice before opening here. And, with more than 90% of the population being white, there’s not a lot of interest in art and culture that appeals to a more diverse population.
Though anyone with enough desire will find interesting things to do, know that in West Virginia it may take a bit more of your energy than in some areas.
What Should I Look For When I’m Ready to Retire?
People are all unique. What may appeal to me when deciding where I want to live, may be vastly different than what appeals to you. Also, throughout our lives, our needs change. An empty-nester may not prioritize a strong school district, while someone with health concerns will want to make sure their new community offers tons of health care options and quality care.
There are a vast number of things to think about when you are getting ready to find your next nest.
Is It Just About You?
Are you making your retirement move solo or with a partner? What your relationship status is can have a big effect on where you live and why. If your partner needs more social activities, but you tend to be a homebody, this should be considered. Maybe one of you just can’t sit still and wants to make sure you have opportunities for continued work or lots of outdoor fun. It’s easier to prioritize what your needs are if you are the only one making the pro and con list. Remember: you won’t be as happy if your significant other is not.
What Matters Now?
As I discussed earlier, retirement brings with it not just different wants, but different needs as well. Whereas your health care concerns may have played a small role in your pre-retirement years, for many this need becomes much more significant as we age. Being close to an airport may not have been a big deal when you were raising kids and spent a lot of time at kid’s sporting events and neighborhood get-togethers. Now, getting together with family and friends may require more than a quick ride across town or a walk across the neighborhood. Factor in the time it may take to go visit a loved one or have them be able to get to you, especially if it was urgent.
Location, Location, Location
City apartment with a rooftop view of the sunset? Country home with acres of rolling fields? These may be extremes, but most of us have a certain vision for where we want to settle in our sixties and beyond. Knowing that you’re probably going to spend more time at home once you quit or minimize working, what “home” looks like to you is important. Being able to walk to a local coffee shop or brewery may sound perfect to one person, while having a piece of land with no neighbor in sight might be another person’s ideal retirement spot.
Crunching the Numbers
Finally, though we can all dream big, knowing what your future financial situation looks like will have a lot to do with what you can afford and ultimately, where you can live. Sit down and really think about what your budget is going to be, and how some of those priorities we discussed earlier have changed. Maybe you don’t want to have to spend a lot of money getting around town because you know you’re going to have to spend more on long-distance travel. Knowing your health care expenses will probably increase may result in you wanting access to less-expensive, local entertainment. Make sure you have really thought about your budget when you think about where to settle next. The place you choose should allow you to still be able to do the other things you desire in this next stage of your life.