When it comes to tax friendliness for retirees, Utah is not winning any contests. However, if you’re interested in sunshine and access to the bountiful beauty of nature, it might just be the state to retire in…if you can afford it.
While not one of the most tax friendly states in the country, Utah ranked quite near the top of the list when it comes to natural beauty. It’s one of the only states with five national parks, and you can experience a wide variety of natural environments without leaving the state, from deserts to mountains to forests to salt flats.
What’s more, when it comes to affordable healthcare, there may literally be no place better to be than Utah (unless you’re retiring in a country with free healthcare). In 2013, The Wall Street Journal reported on healthcare costs by state and Utah was at the top of the list (or bottom…whichever means they had the lowest costs).
St. George is a small, desert city (population 92,875) in the southwestern corner of Utah, right on the border of Arizona.
Cost of living
Overall, it’s going to cost you a bit more to live in St. George than it would in the average US city.
Housing costs, in particular, are about 45% higher than the national average — the median home price in St. George comes in around $485,000. Healthcare is also around 11% more costly.
These expenses are somewhat balanced out, however, by the fact that groceries, utilities, and transportation costs are all a bit cheaper here than the average in the state and nationally.
What to do in St. George
One of the best selling features of St. George is its abundant and easy access to beautiful outdoor recreation opportunities. Zion National Park is a mere 30 minutes North by car, and Snow Canyon State Park is even closer.
If you’re looking to balance city amenities with natural beauty and outdoor recreation, Salt Lake City is an excellent option.
Located on the banks of the eponymous Great Salt Lake, SLC is the largest city in Utah. While Mormons founded the city and it’s an epicenter of activity for the group to this day, you don’t have to belong to the Church of Latter-day Saints to enjoy life in the Beehive State’s capital.
Cost of living
Unfortunately, living next to the largest body of water West of the Mississippi is going to cost you a pretty penny (or several). Overall, the cost of living in SLC is about 8% higher than the national average.
Similar to St. George, housing is the major kicker-in-the-butt when it comes to why Salt Lake City is so dang expensive: houses there are 22% more expensive than the national average, with a median home price of $551,918.
While your utility bill is actually likely to be about 7% cheaper on average, both groceries and transportation are going to be more expensive as well.
What to do in Salt Lake City
What do you get for all that money? Quite a lot, actually.
Not only is Salt Lake City proximate to mind-blowing natural beauty in the form of the lake and surrounding mountains (which make for excellent skiing), SLC is a city offering much in the way of arts and culture.
For sports fans, SLC is home to the NBA’s Utah Jazz as well as two major league soccer teams, Real Salt Lake and the Utah Royals (plus several additional minor league teams).
Just because you’re retiring, doesn’t mean you have to stop throwing yourself down the sides of snowy mountains on skis or rolling down the summer slopes on mountain bikes.
If you equate outdoor recreation with quality of life and want to live in Utah post-retirement, Park City is probably the best place for you to do it.
Cost of living
Hold your horses for just a second though: if you thought Salt Lake City was expensive, you’d better sit down. The cost of living in Park City is a whopping 64% higher than the national average. The bright side is that this is primarily due to the fact that homes there are 251% more costly than average (the median house price in Park City is about $1.5 million).
If you manage to find a house you can afford, everything else is relatively affordable.
What to do in Park City
Park City is a veritable mecca when it comes to outdoor recreation. While it’s known for its abundant ski resorts, there are plenty of other things to do outside as well, including dog sledding, hot air ballooning, water rafting, and mountain biking.
Park City is a mere 35 minutes from Salt Lake City, so without much effort you have access to all of the amenities Salt Lakers have but with the bonus of being able to retire to an adorable mountain town with fewer than 9,000 residents.
If you want to stay local or you just need something a little calmer to do, Park City has quite a lot going on for a town so small. There are tons of restaurants and shops to peruse along Main Street, as well as art galleries, theaters, and several annual art festivals to enjoy.
Cost of living
If you’ve been getting sick hearing about how expensive all these cities in Utah are, Logan is about to be a breath of fresh air for you. Compared to the national average, it’s actually about 5% cheaper to live in Logan.
The median home cost is only $358,500, which is 6% above average (remember Park City was 251% higher). That means the savings you get on utilities, transportation, and groceries are enough to bring the total cost of living down below the national average.
What to do in Logan
OK, so Logan is cheap, but what can you actually do there?
Well, Logan is home to the Caine College of the Arts, which means not only does Logan enjoy all the traditional benefits of being a college town (the bars, restaurants and shops all nicely arranged on a cute main street), but it’s home to an abundance of art galleries, theater shows, and more.
Basically, if you’re looking for a life enriched by arts and culture after you retire, Logan is as good a place to find it as any.