Retirees focus on two key things when deciding where to retire: healthcare and income taxes. More than favorable weather, seniors need low (or no) income taxes, manageable property taxes and affordable, quality medical insurance to ensure they can live their retirement years free from financial stress.
When thinking about places in the United States to retire, many people think of Florida. Florida’s lack of a state income tax and its broad healthcare choices are strong draws. People also think of Arizona or South Carolina. Both have mild climates and low state income tax rates.
However, Georgia is an equally attractive retirement option. Georgia’s warmer weather, growing senior population, favorable income tax rates, broad Medicare choices and better quality medical care make it ideal for comfortable retirement living.
Income and Property Taxes
Kiplinger finds Georgia to be one of the friendliest states for seniors when it comes to taxes.
Georgia residents ages 62 to 64 may exclude up to $35,000 of their retirement income from state income taxes. For residents 65 or older, the exclusion is $65,000. Retirement income includes pensions and annuities, interest, dividends, net income from rental property, capital gains, royalties, pensions, annuities, and the first $4,000 of earned income (i.e. wages, etc.). The exclusions are applied per person, so married couples filing a joint return may each exclude up to the applicable maximum (subject to certain requirements).
Also, Georgia homeowners ages 62 and older may qualify for an exemption from state and county property taxes depending upon total income and age.
Overall, it’s tough to beat Florida’s tax structure for seniors. However, compared to South Carolina and Arizona— Georgia retirees tend to keep more of their income.
Data source: Kiplinger
Healthcare and Benefits
Most seniors 65 and older receive health insurance coverage through Medicare. Medicare Parts A and B (also called “Original Medicare”) cover hospitalization and doctor visits. The Social Security Administration funds Part A premiums. Seniors pay the premiums for Part B coverage (the coverage for doctor visits and other outpatient costs). These premiums average about $121 per month. Original Medical is basically the same from state to state because it is federally administered and funded.
Some seniors choose Medicare Part C (also called “Medicare Advantage”) instead of Parts A and B. Many seniors add Medicare Part D coverage to their Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage plans. Part D covers certain prescription medicines and equipment. The premiums for Part C and Part D coverage vary greatly from state to state and from plan to plan, because Part C and Part D coverage is available only through private insurance companies.
As of 2016, retirees living in Georgia had a choice of twenty different plans and providers for Medicare Parts C and D coverage. The number of choices varies by county; counties with larger populations tend to have more provider and policy choices). On average, Georgia retirees pay monthly premiums of about $44 and spend about $4,900 annually on total healthcare costs.
Data source: Medicare Plan Finder
Georgia’s plan choices, premium costs and total average annual healthcare as well as drug costs are very competitive with Florida’s. Georgia’s healthcare options are also a much better bargain than Arizona and South Carolina’s options. While Arizona providers generally score better in patient satisfaction surveys than Georgia providers, South Carolina ranked near the bottom among the 50 states in the CommonWealth Fund’s study of state health care quality.