The majestic Blue Ridge Mountains and Atlantic Ocean beaches draw many retirees to North Carolina. You could spend your retirement years taking classes at a major research university, immersing yourself in the performing arts or rooting for your favorite professional sports team. The affordable cost of living and low housing prices mean relocating to North Carolina could help improve your retirement finances. Many of North Carolina’s most beautiful attractions, including Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, cost nothing at all.
Consider these retirement communities in North Carolina:
3. Raleigh and Durham.
Median monthly mortgage cost: $1,286
Median monthly rent: $874
Asheville is a scenic mountain town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The city is an ideal base to explore Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Asheville is noteworthy for its innovative food and beverage scene that uses locally sourced ingredients in creative ways.
The area often attracts artists, writers and musicians looking to be inspired by the natural beauty and interact with other creative people. “Asheville is a thriving small city with a dynamic cultural life,” says Nortin Hadler, an emeritus professor of medicine and microbiology/immunology at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill and author of “Rethinking Aging.” “For retirees seeking life in breathtakingly beautiful mountains, Asheville is no longer a secret.”
Median monthly mortgage cost: $1,369
Median monthly rent: $986
North Carolina’s largest city is among the fastest-growing parts of the United States, and added 13,194 people between 2018 and 2019. “Growth is occurring because of the availability of jobs and the quality of life that you find here,” says Bill McCoy, retired director of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute. Charlotte is a center for the banking industry and is home to Bank of America’s corporate headquarters. “Retirees come here often to be with family,” McCoy says. “Their kids move here, grandkids come along and then the parents come. The parents move to where their kids are.”
The cost of living is affordable, and the median home price is just $185,000. Retirees interested in volunteer work can contribute at the city’s many museums and performing arts venues. Professional sports fans will find a lot to love about Charlotte, including the Hornets, Panthers and Checkers.
3. Raleigh and Durham
Median monthly mortgage cost: $1,532
Median monthly rent: $1,066
The research triangle is named for the three research universities in the Raleigh and Durham area: Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. The universities have created an educated workforce and frequently partner with industry to foster innovations. “The result is a concentration of highly educated and productive individuals for whom a world-class cultural mecca has come into being,” Hadler says. “The retirement communities take advantage of educational opportunities in retirement and have access to a respected center for the performing arts.”
North Carolina residents age 65 and older are eligible to audit courses tuition-free at NC State University. Duke University even has a continuing care retirement community near campus. The universities also provide health care services to the community at Duke University Hospital and the University of North Carolina Hospitals.
Median monthly mortgage cost: $1,156
Median monthly rent: $752
The Yadkin Valley’s rich soil and mild climate make this an ideal place to grow grapes for wine. Retirees can stroll through the scenic vineyards or swirl and sip the latest vintage with friends. “Our weather is wonderful because we do have seasonal change with beautiful foliage in the fall, a moderate winter with just enough snow that we get excited and enjoy our snow days, early spring and a very long Indian summer,” says Kim Myers, owner of Laurel Gray Vineyards and Yadkin Valley Wine Company in Hamptonville. “The lifestyle in the Yadkin Valley is still rural and slow-paced but studded with small towns and beautiful vineyards.”
Once a center for the tobacco industry, the Winston-Salem economy is now more diversified and includes the headquarters for BB&T Corporation, Hanes Brands and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Yet it’s still affordable to live in this wine-producing region. The median home price is only $153,200.
Median monthly mortgage cost: $1,187
Median monthly rent: $809
Greensboro is a considerably more affordable part of North Carolina than Charlotte, Raleigh and Durham, but also provides convenient access to these larger metro areas. The median home price is only $147,000.
“Retirees are drawn to Greensboro because of its centralized location and because it’s a midsize city with a small-town feel. It has many of the great amenities and diversity of a larger city but without the congestion and costs,” says Matt Johnson, a certified financial planner at Defining Legacy Financial Advisors in Greensboro. “The cost of living in North Carolina in general is lower than the national average, and even compared to the other major metro areas in the state, Greensboro is an affordable place.”
Thinking about retiring in North Carolina? Find a local financial advisor now.
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Update 02/22/21: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.