Lancaster has the mix of small-town charm and amenities that appeals to many retirees. Lancaster ranks as the No. 1 Best Place to Retire in the U.S. in 2022-2023, up from No. 5 a year ago. Lancaster takes the top spot due to its health care for seniors, low taxes for retirees and the overall happiness of current residents.
The U.S. News Best Places to Retire analysis includes data about housing affordability, happiness, desirability, retiree taxes, the job market and access to quality health care. The ranking compares the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. as potential places to retire.
Lancaster is a city with a long history that can make you feel a connection to the town and the land. A former capital of Pennsylvania, the area was first settled in 1709, and you can visit Wheatland, the estate of James Buchanan, the 15th president of the U.S.
You’ll find plenty of local produce and specialty items at the bustling Lancaster Central Market, which has been operating since 1730 and hosts several multigenerational stands that have been family-run for decades. The city has a diverse food scene with a wide collection of cuisines. “It has a small-town feel but a lot of big-city attractions such as great restaurants and a vibrant arts scene,” says Christopher Hershey, a certified financial planner at Rodgers & Associates in Lancaster. “You are also never more than 10 minutes away from beautiful rural landscapes and pristine Amish country.”
The city has a commitment to education and the arts, including multiple art museums, galleries and artist studios. Institutions of higher learning include Franklin & Marshall College and The Pennsylvania College of Art & Design. “More experienced students may have really interesting perspectives or techniques to share with younger students,” says Natalie A. Lascek, director of the Center for Creative Exploration at the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design, which provides creative experiences for people of all ages. “It is also an opportunity for retired or senior participants to do things they have never done before while having the option to not have to do it alone.”
Athletic retirees might enjoy participating in the Lancaster Senior Games, in which hundreds of county residents age 55 and older compete in athletic events ranging from badminton to pickleball. The county also runs nine free senior centers, one of which is fully virtual for seniors who can’t or don’t want to leave home. “Our virtual center sees an average of 35 participants a day enjoying painting, yoga, technology classes, Tai Chi, ukulele lessons and many other classes,” says Lisa Paulson, the senior center program director at the Lancaster County Office of Aging.
The reasonable cost of living in Lancaster can help a limited retirement budget stretch further. A home with a mortgage costs a median of $1,556 per month in Lancaster. You can rent an apartment in Lancaster for a median of $1,050 monthly. Lancaster isn’t the lowest-cost place to retire in Pennsylvania, but there is a high quality of life for the price.
Lancaster also provides convenient access to several major cities. Within a two or three hour drive, Lancaster retirees can visit New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore or Washington, D.C. Lancaster residents can easily take advantage of the cultural opportunities and cutting-edge health care of a large city, without paying big-city housing costs. “Lancaster offers an urban small-town setting with a relaxed pace of life, but is also located within close proximity to major metro areas,” says Jonathan E. Kiehl, a certified financial planner and founder of Evenkiehl in Lancaster.
Health Care Availability
The top-rated hospital in Lancaster is Lancaster General Hospital, according to the U.S. News Best Hospital rankings. If you need a specialized treatment or procedure, Lancaster residents are also within driving distance to some of the top hospitals in the country in New York, Baltimore and Philadelphia.
Low Taxes for Retirees
The state of Pennsylvania offers several tax benefits for retirees. Social Security benefits are not included in taxable income. IRA withdrawals and 401(k) distributions taken after age 59 1/2 are also generally exempt from state income tax. “Retirement income, which includes Social Security, pensions and distributions from retirement plans, are not taxed in Pennsylvania, so the vast majority of retirees pay nearly nothing in Pennsylvania taxes,” Hershey says. “However, for those that do have income that is not excluded, such as rental income or income from non-retirement investments, there is a flat tax of 3.07% – still pretty favorable when compared to other high-tax states in the Northeast.”
A 4-Season Retirement Lifestyle
Retirees can explore the surrounding countryside, which brings new experiences throughout the year. Seasonal delights range from picturesque fall foliage to shining snowdrifts that melt away into spring blooms. “Lancaster’s rich soil makes it ideal for farming, and summer produce is accessible from roadside farm stands and markets at much lower costs than other areas of the country,” Kiehl says. “Lancaster offers a mix of agricultural and wooded recreation for outdoor lovers. While winter may be a drawback for some, Lancaster provides the beauty of all four seasons.”
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What Makes Lancaster the Best Place to Retire? originally appeared on usnews.com