The best places to retire in South Carolina have plenty to offer from pristine lakes and mountains to historic sites that date back to the Revolutionary War. So it’s no wonder so many nature lovers, outdoors enthusiasts and history buffs come to spend their golden years here. And it also has some of the lowest property taxes in the nation. Despite these advantages, retirement planning can still be a challenge and the cost of living in South Carolina can vary sharply depending on where you settle. So if you’d like some professional guidance, consider working with a financial advisor.
How We Determined the Best Places to Retire
We dove into the hard data behind what matters most to retirees. Affordability, access to healthcare and tax burden were among the factors we examined. We also explored the recreational activities and attractions available to make sure you have fun in retirement. The result was a list of the top 10 best places to retire in South Carolina. Note that the data referenced in this article is from 2018.
If you want to spend your golden years in a small town surrounded by lakes and mountains, Seneca may be right for you. And you’ll be in good company with your peers: seniors make up a healthy 24.4% of the population. And if you retire there, you’d have plenty of opportunities to stay healthy and active. Common recreational activities include kayaking and hiking. You can also take a break and go boating at the Lake Keowee Marina. Other attractions include the World of Energy museum at the Oconee Nuclear Station and the African-American-themed Bertha Lee Strickland Cultural Museum. And to keep your mind active, you can check out the Escape Zones, where you and a group of people are given cryptic clues in order to escape a locked room.
Considering the rising cost of healthcare, you might want to save for future medical expenses as early and as aggressively as possible. You can do so through a health savings account (HSA). These allow you to save for qualified medical expenses while enjoying unique tax breaks.
If you’re looking to retire in a quiet maritime community, Murrells Inlet may appeal to you. Resting just a few miles from Myrtle Beach, this small town with a population of about 8,000 has plenty of golf courses and opportunities for recreational activities. You can also bask in the sun at one of its many beaches. Some even consider Murrells Inlet the seafood capital of the world. Seniors make up about 16.5% of the population. However, its tax burden is rather high; its sales tax (8%), for example, is higher than 91% of other South Carolina localities. To protect your retirement savings from taxes, you may want to open a Roth IRA or roll over your savings into one. You can take qualified withdrawals from these accounts tax free.
Recognized as a top retiree destination in the United States, Myrtle Beach offers plenty of attractions and activities. These include more than 100 golf courses, a variety of shopping and restaurant destinations, and a theater that frequently hosts big names. Of course, you also get to enjoy the Grand Strand, one of the longest sections of beach on the planet. You’d also have access to plenty of retiree communities and several medical facilities. But keep in mind Myrtle Beach also attracts plenty of tourists, so it may not be the best place for people looking for a quiet retirement. And Spring Break can get pretty wild — not a problem if you want to keep the party going well into your golden years.
Hilton Head Island
For the past few years, people have been flocking to retire at Hilton Head Island in larger numbers. In fact, seniors make up more than 40% of the adult population as of 2022. That makes it the area with the biggest concentration of fellow retirees on our list. And it’s no surprise why. The relaxing, maritime atmosphere of Hilton Head Island surrounds attractions like the historic Harbour Town Lighthouse, the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Harbour Town Golf Links.
If you want to retire in a small town with a lively downtown area, Greenville may be right for you. In fact, it has won the Great American Main Street awards from the National Trust for Historic Preservation multiple times. And if you plan to continue your education well into your retirement, you’re in luck. Greenville is home to several colleges, including Furman University. The town also serves as a beacon for the arts, where events and festivals are frequent. It’s also one of the places on our list with the easiest access to medical facilities.
History buffs may want to consider Camden, South Carolina. Founded by the Quakers in 1751, this historic place still stands as America’s oldest inland town. Camden and surrounding areas later served as the sites of several Revolutionary and Civil War battles. In fact, you can visit the historic Camden Revolutionary War museum. You’d also have access to several parks and recreational centers.
If you plan to continue your education, you should definitely consider West Columbia. You can find a University of South Carolina main campus nearby. And the school offers free tuition to students who are at least 60 years old and get accepted to the college. But West Columbia offers even more reasons to call it home during your retirement. You may want to open a 529 college savings plan on your name to begin saving for your education here. In fact, West Columbia has been making several lists of best places to retire in South Carolina for the past few years. It has been recognized for its vibrant city life blended with a hit of good-old Southern Hospitality. Columbia also surrounds the most recreational centers out of all entries that made our list of best places to retire in South Carolina.
Anderson offers the most medical facilities among our list of best places to retire in South Carolina. And seniors make up about 25% of its adult population. If you retire there, you have plenty of retiree resources to access, including the Anderson County Senior Citizens Program. You also have plenty of activities to engage in throughout the small town of Anderson. Common attractions include the historic Denver Downs Farm, the Anderson County Museum dedicated to South Carolina’s heritage and Sadlers Creek State Park. Your grandchildren may also enjoy the Carolina Wren Park with its colorful fountains and nightly light shows.
History buffs may be happy to retire in Georgetown, North America’s first settlement. And according to our research, it offers several recreational centers and retiree communities. You can visit popular sites like the Rice Museum dedicated to the area’s history of rice cultivation, and the South Carolina Maritime Museum. Festivities include the annual Wooden Boat Show and performances by the Swamp Fox players at the Strand Cinema.
Last but not least, we bring you Spartanburg. This quiet, small town offers plenty to do and a whole lot of history to explore. You can enjoy several parks including one your grandchildren would love: the Hollywild Animal Park. And the Chapman Cultural Center brings you art, theater and history all in one. It also provides easy access to healthcare.
The Bottom Line
The Palmetto State has lots to offer retirees, whether they are middle class or wealthy, whether they want to be near oceans, lakes or rivers or whether they prefer land-locked environments. It’s rich in history, too, with Fort Sumter where the Civil War’s first shots were fired and expansive plantations that remain well maintained. In other words, there’s a lot to choose from. Add to that some of the nation’s lowest property taxes, the fact that it doesn’t tax Social Security retirement benefits, provides a $15,000 taxable income deduction for seniors receiving any other type of retirement income and you’ll find compelling reasons to consider retiring in South Carolina.
- Retirement planning is a major piece to anyone’s financial puzzle, but you don’t have to go in it alone. A financial advisor can be immensely helpful in your search. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- Not to familiar with South Carolina, but intrigued by its attractions? We have you covered with our report on the 15 things to know before moving to South Carolina.
- Even though there is no South Carolina estate tax, there is a chance you might get hit with the federal estate tax.
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