The Good Life: Retirement in South Carolina

By:Lynn & Cele Seldon

Date:3/26/2018

When it comes to retirement hotspots, many of South Carolina’s best vacation destinations also make for great places to retire. That’s why South Carolina has become “Destination: Retirement” for so many former visitors.

Many people who visit the state once—or many times—return as retirees or pre-retirees. According to Patrick Mason, co-founder of The Center for Carolina Living and CarolinaLiving.com, about 110,000 people made South Carolina their new home in 2017—and approximately two-thirds of them were over the age of 50.

These new South Carolina residents who were once happy visitors are nearing semi-retirement or retirement—or they’ve already retired to the good life in the Palmetto State. Mason has dubbed visitors who are potential retirees as Turbo-Tourists, in that they are planning relocation, second homes and new businesses while visiting more often than typical tourists. It’s obvious that what these new residents 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

Retiring to the good life in a sunny destination used to mean golf and more golf for many, but there’s so much more than world-class weather and golf driving people to retire in South Carolina. Whether it’s other recreational activities such as tennis, hiking, biking, boating and water activities—or plenty of culture and history awaiting discovery and exploration—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 highly in studies of retirees. Accolades include a top-10 tax-friendly state in Kiplinger studies (the state doesn’t tax Social Security benefits and provides a generous retirement-income deduction when calculating state income tax) and a number seven retiree ranking with WalletHub, which used 31 metrics for quality of life, health care and affordability to find top states for retirement.

Of his study, which surveyed 225 retirees in South Carolina as well as hundreds of potential retirees and visitors ages 45 to 65, Dr. Hudson says, “South Carolina itself is more and more attractive to retirees.” Hudson adds that 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 vacation hotspots have also become new homes for many retirees and those close to retirement or semi-retirement. The possibilities for those in the primes of their lives include the Myrtle Beach area, Charleston, Mt. 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.

Throughout the Midlands, retirees who enjoy big-city amenities are drawn to the capital city of Columbia for good reason. Simon says “college-town aspects” across the state, as well as lifelong learning offerings, are important draws for retirees. 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 remains on the bucket lists of many potential and repeat visitors. But the Greenville area is obviously on many potential retiree's lists as well with new condominiums and revitalized neighborhoods attracting many retirees choosing to live in or near the city’s vibrant and revitalized downtown.

Farther afield in all directions, lots of lakes, foothills, mountain vistas and friendly small towns mean the rest of the Upcountry is also seeing an uptick in tourists and retirees including Spartanburg, Clemson and several communities along the meandering Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway. Just like the rest of the state, there’s something for anyone looking to become one of those many visitors who becomes a South Carolina resident as part of Destination: Retirement.


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 Its 25 Best Places to Retire list includes Clemson and Summerville.

Southern Living Making its list of Best Places to Retire in the South are Bluffton and Charleston, and making its list of Best Small Towns in the South for Retirement are Pawleys Island and Summerville.

U.S. News & World Report South Carolina made its list of Top 10 Retirement Spots with Year-Round Nice Weather.

WalletHub Its list of Best States to Retire ranks South Carolina at number 7.

Kiplinger Its list of Best States for Retirement ranks South Carolina at number 6.

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