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The Good Life: Retirement in South Carolina

Lynn & Cele Seldon Lynn & Cele Seldon
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.
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When it comes to retirement hotspots, many of South Carolina's most popular vacation destinations also make for great places to retire. That's why South Carolina has become "Destination: Retirement" for so many visitors.

Once happy vacationers, these new South Carolina residents are nearing semi-retirement or retirement or they've already retired to the good life in the Palmetto State. What they enjoyed about the state when they were younger brings them back for good. Quite simply, South Carolina is a playground for the young and the young at heart.


Big Draws

For many, retiring to the good life in a sunny destination used to mean golf and more golf. But there's so much more than world-class weather and fine fairways driving people to retire in South Carolina. Whether it's other recreational activities, such as tennis, hiking, biking, boating and water activities, or the culture and history awaiting discovery, there are as many reasons to retire to South Carolina as there are to visit the state.

According to Dr. Simon Hudson, Director of the Center of Economic Excellence in Tourism and Economic Development at the University of South Carolina and co-author of the study "Attracting Retirees to South Carolina," the Palmetto State consistently ranks high with retirees. Accolades include a Top 10 Tax-friendly State ranking in Kiplinger (the state doesn't tax Social Security benefits and provides a generous retirement income deduction when calculating state income tax) and a No. 7 retiree ranking with WalletHub, which used 31 metrics for quality of life, health care and affordability to find top states for retirement.

"South Carolina itself is more and more attractive to retirees," said Dr. Hudson, who surveyed 225 retirees in South Carolina as well as hundreds of potential retirees and visitors ages 45 to 65 for his study. There are now more than 150 retirement communities from the coast to the Upstate, as well as thousands of retirees who are relocating to South Carolina communities not specifically geared to retirees.


Top Cities

Starting with South Carolina's sparkling coastline, prime retirement hotspots include the Myrtle Beach area, Charleston, Mount Pleasant and Hilton Head Island. Other popular retirement destinations on or near the coast include Pawleys Island, Georgetown, Isle of Palms, Edisto Island, Beaufort and Bluffton, as well as retiree-focused communities that are popping up all along the coast.

Those who enjoy big-city amenities are drawn to the capital city of Columbia for good reason, including college-town amenities and lifelong learning offerings. In addition, the region's lakes and wide-open natural spaces draw many retirees who like to live in the countryside but enjoy remaining close to the city and all that it offers. Aiken is another popular possibility in the region, as is Fort Mill, just south of Charlotte.

In the Upstate, Greenville is on many potential retiree's lists with new condominiums and revitalized neighborhoods attracting those who choose to live in or near the city's vibrant and revitalized downtown.

Farther afield in all directions, lots of lakes, mountain vistas and friendly small towns mean the rest of the Upcountry is also seeing an uptick in tourists and retirees. Among the most popuular are Spartanburg, Clemson and several communities along the meandering Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway. 


In the News

Cost of living, favorable tax laws for seniors, moderate climate and opportunities for an active lifestyle put South Carolina on many "top" lists. 

Forbes' 25 Best Places to Retire list includes Clemson and Summerville.

Making Southern Living's list of Best Places to Retire in the South are Bluffton and Charleston. Its list of Best Small Towns in the South for Retirement include Pawleys Island and Summerville.

U.S. News & World Report included South Carolina in its list of Top 10 Retirement Spots for its year-round nice weather.

Kiplinger ranked it No. 6 in its list of Best States for Retirement.

Lynn & Cele Seldon
Lynn & Cele Seldon
More from "Lynn & Cele Seldon"
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.