Christian Simmons, writer and researcher for RetireGuide
  • Written by
    Christian Simmons

    Christian Simmons

    Financial Writer

    Christian Simmons is a writer for RetireGuide and a member of the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE®). He covers Medicare and important retirement topics. Christian is a former winner of a Florida Society of News Editors journalism contest and has written professionally since 2016.

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  • Edited By
    Lamia Chowdhury
    Lamia Chowdhury, editor for RetireGuide.com

    Lamia Chowdhury

    Financial Editor

    Lamia Chowdhury is a financial content editor for RetireGuide and has over three years of marketing experience in the finance industry. She has written copy for both digital and print pieces ranging from blogs, radio scripts and search ads to billboards, brochures, mailers and more.

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  • Published: June 23, 2022
  • Updated: November 1, 2022
  • 8 min read time
  • This page features 7 Cited Research Articles
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How to Cite RetireGuide.com's Article

APA Simmons, C. (2022, November 1). North Carolina Retirement. RetireGuide.com. Retrieved December 7, 2022, from https://www.retireguide.com/retirement-life-leisure/best-and-worst-states-to-retire/north-carolina/

MLA Simmons, Christian. "North Carolina Retirement." RetireGuide.com, 1 Nov 2022, https://www.retireguide.com/retirement-life-leisure/best-and-worst-states-to-retire/north-carolina/.

Chicago Simmons, Christian. "North Carolina Retirement." RetireGuide.com. Last modified November 1, 2022. https://www.retireguide.com/retirement-life-leisure/best-and-worst-states-to-retire/north-carolina/.

Best Places To Retire in North Carolina

North Carolina has become one of the best retirement states in recent years. While the state has always had plenty to offer, one of its biggest advantages for retirees is that it can essentially serve as a middle ground between more extreme retirement destinations.

Florida and Arizona may be the most popular spots, but they are paired with extreme heat, virtually nonexistent seasons and are as far away as can be from the Northeast or Midwest — where many retirees come from.

North Carolina offers mild weather and beautiful seasons while also keeping older adults closer to the communities they came from, offering a more pleasing retirement life. The state is also far from just mountain ranges and includes some vibrant, fast-growing metropolises.

Best Overall Cities

North Carolina may traditionally be thought of by some as a rugged state filled with mountainous communities. While those certainly exist, there are also major cities that could make for a fun and active retirement lifestyle.

According to the U.S. News and World Report, Charlotte is viewed as an excellent retirement destination.

It’s a major area and feels like it as it’s the most populous city in the state. If you’re hoping to stay in touch with civilization in retirement, this city offers everything from a great culture to major sports teams and events while still giving you the chance to experience seasonal weather with mountain ranges and nature activities nearby.

Best North Carolina Cities and Towns for Retirement

  • Charlotte
  • Asheville
  • Raleigh
  • Hickory
  • Hendersonville

If you’re more interested in a small-town retirement, the U.S. News & World Report also pointed to Hickory as an option, which is opposite from Charlotte. It has an old town feel and is very affordable, giving older adults the chance to retire in a charming town with great scenery.

Raleigh, the state capital, could also be a suitable retirement destination that includes many big city offerings without quite as much activity as Charlotte.

Best Retirement Communities

North Carolina has a growing variety of retirement communities, with some as small as a couple hundred homes grouped together and others large enough to qualify as sprawling self-sufficient towns.

One of the largest is Brunswick Forest, which is located outside of Wilmington. According to the community’s website, it is 10 minutes from a city in Wilmington, 30 minutes from the beach and includes many nature attractions and activities.

As with other retirement communities, it also offers a variety of differently styled homes and ways to live in retirement.

Best Mountain Cities

It’s important to remember that regardless of where you choose to settle in North Carolina, you’re never far from the mountains. But one mountain city that stands out is Asheville.

Asheville is a unique mixture of a lively city with an active and modern culture that is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains and plenty of nature. It truly offers the best of both worlds to prospective retirees.

According to WRAL, there are also several small mountain towns scattered throughout the state that can also appeal to retirees.

One option that stands out is Hendersonville. It offers a small-town vibe nestled within the North Carolina mountains. Here, retirees can enjoy a more peaceful and relaxed pace of life.

Best Beach Towns

North Carolina may be most known for its scenic mountain ranges, but it also has plenty of beach options with 322 miles of coastline.

According to the U.S. News and World Report, some of the best beaches and beach town options in North Carolina include Emerald Isle, Bald Head Island and Cape Hatteras.

Most Affordable Places

North Carolina is generally an affordable state. Especially if you are moving from up north, you’ll find that even the largest cities compare favorably to the cost of living that you’re used to.

As far as the major cities, Asheville may offer the most affordable lifestyle. Your money will go far there, helping you to have a full retirement. Many of the mountainous small towns typically come with very low costs of living.

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Cost of Living in North Carolina

Considering the state’s population and big cities, North Carolina has an affordable cost of living for many retirees. According to a report from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, North Carolina ranks 22nd nationally in cost of living.

That’s a similar level of cost of living for states like Wyoming or Wisconsin, and significantly lower than most of the states that make up the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast.

According to an article from Tax Foundation, the spending power of $100 in North Carolina is equal to $109.53. This means that your money will go significantly farther in North Carolina than it would in an average U.S. state.

This is very ideal for retirees. Much of determining where to retire may come down to researching where your money will spend the best. Identifying a state with a low cost of living and still offers a vibrant post-retirement lifestyle can be difficult, but North Carolina checks both boxes.

Is North Carolina Tax-Friendly for Retirees?

North Carolina does have a state income tax, which can be unappealing to some retirees and sets it back from a financial perspective from popular retirement states like Florida, which doesn’t have tax income at all.

But the rate in North Carolina is modest, coming in at 5.25%. That’s lower than every bordering state except Tennessee.

The sales tax rate is 6.98%, which falls into about the middle tier nationally.

Type of Income Does North Carolina Tax It?
Social Security No
401(k) Distributions Yes
PensionsYes

One big perk for retirees is that North Carolina will not tax your Social Security, which can give you thousands of extra dollars each year. However, the state will tax other types of retirement income, including 401(k) and pension distributions.

This can take out a big chunk of your retirement savings. It can balance out somewhat, however, since the cost of living and affordability of North Carolina is significantly lower than some similar states that also tax retirement income.

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North Carolina’s Health Care for Retirees

As far as overall health in the state, the United Health Foundation ranks North Carolina 33rd nationally in 2021. The report noted that North Carolina had several health pros including good flu vaccine coverage and a low prevalence of falls.

Both of those are key areas for seniors and certainly good news. But North Carolina also displayed a high prevalence of food insecurity and people commonly avoiding seeking health care due to the cost.

According to a chart from the U.S. News & World Report, North Carolina also has a poor ranking for Medicare quality, coming in at 38th.

It’s important to remember that Original Medicare is essentially the same in every state since it is a federal program. North Carolina’s Medicare quality ranking reflects the availability and effectiveness of Medicare Advantage plans in the state, which are sold privately and are available regionally.

Overall, North Carolina’s health care is not bad by any means, but it’s also not close to the states in the top tier.

Pros and Cons of Retiring in North Carolina

There are many advantages to retiring in North Carolina. It’s more of a low-impact retirement destination than Florida or Arizona, keeping many “snowbirds” closer to home and maintaining the seasonal changes that many Americans enjoy without as much severe weather.

The scenery is also beautiful, and it’s one of the few states that is diverse enough to offer everything from small mountain towns to major cities and beaches. There’s essentially something for everyone.

Pros of retiring in North Carolina
  • Beautiful scenery
  • Diversity in locations
  • Low cost of living

And the state has the added benefit of generally affordable housing and a low cost of living, even within the cities.

But there are still notable drawbacks to retiring in North Carolina. The taxes are not overtly high, but still will cost you more than many other parts of the country. Social Security is not taxed, but 401(k) and pension distributions are.

And while seasonal weather is a benefit to some, other retirees may simply want to move far enough south to never even have to think about snow again.

Retiring in North Carolina FAQs

Is South Carolina or North Carolina better for retirement?
The answer really depends on what you’re looking for in retirement since each state offers different benefits. Generally speaking, North Carolina offers more diversity in locations and scenery, from major cities and beaches to full-blown mountain ranges. South Carolina has a significantly higher crime rate, which can be a concern for prospective retirees.
How much do you need to retire in North Carolina?
North Carolina is a generally affordable state where your money will go far, especially if you are used to a Northeast standard of living. The Median income in North Carolina is about $56,000.
Why do retirees move to North Carolina?
North Carolina has become a popular retirement destination as the state has grown, providing an alternative to extreme-heat states like Florida and Arizona. North Carolina maintains seasons but doesn’t suffer from the same regularly severe weather as northern states. It also has a lot to offer retirees, from big cities to tightknit mountain communities.
Last Modified: November 1, 2022

7 Cited Research Articles

  1. Leah, H. (2021, September 16). New Study Reveals Best Places to Retire in North Carolina – They’re All Small Towns. Retrieved from https://www.wral.com/new-study-reveals-best-places-to-retire-in-north-carolina-they-re-all-small-towns/19879509/
  2. Brandon, E. (2021, February 22). The Best Places to Retire in North Carolina. Retrieved from https://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/baby-boomers/articles/best-places-to-retire-in-north-carolina
  3. United Health Foundation. (2021). America’s Health Rankings. Retrieved from https://assets.americashealthrankings.org/app/uploads/2021-senior-report-%E2%80%93-state-summaries.pdf
  4. Loughead, K. (2020, February 3). State Individual Income Tax Rates and Brackets for 2020. Retrieved from https://taxfoundation.org/state-individual-income-tax-rates-and-brackets-for-2020/
  5. Missouri Economic Research and Information Center. (n.d.). Cost of Living Data Series. Retrieved from https://meric.mo.gov/data/cost-living-data-series
  6. U.S. News & World Report. (n.d.). Aging in America Rankings. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/rankings/aging
  7. U.S. News & World Report. (n.d.). Best North Carolina Beaches. Retrieved from https://travel.usnews.com/rankings/best-beaches-in-north-carolina/