Although it's the fifth-smallest state in the nation, New Jersey is the most densely populated with approximately 1,210 persons per square mile. There are also a large number of active adult communities; at last count, we showed 268 of them.
So why do so many retirees choose to live in the Garden State? Like anywhere else, it has its good and bad points that must be carefully weighed. If you're thinking of retiring here, read on to see whether or not the scales tip in your favor.
Retiring in New Jersey Pros and Cons
Easily accessible. Two of the biggest plusses of living in New Jersey are the location and public transportation. You can get to New York City, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore in under three hours from most parts of the state, and all of these cities have airports, trains, and other ways to travel to and from NJ.
Picturesque beaches and natural spaces. The Jersey beaches line most of its east coast, from southernmost Cape May up to Sandy Hook. There are also beautiful parks, forests, and open spaces to enjoy, like Brendan T. Byrne Forest, Tyler State Park, and Liberty State Park.
Vibrant local life. Other attractions include the Camden Aquarium and charming small towns like Morristown and Princeton. Jersey is also known for its behemoth shopping malls, busy highways sprinkled with strip malls, endless restaurants and diners, and its loyal sports fans who love Philly teams (South Jersey) and New York teams (North Jersey).
The high cost of living. One downside of living in New Jersey is that its cost of living can be higher when compared to nationwide averages. In general, the closer you get to Philly or New York the higher it is, and this is reflected in housing costs, food, clothing, and other purchases.
New Jersey taxes. NJ taxes are another hurdle. CBS News reports that in 2018, property taxes in this country rose around four percent on average, and New Jersey homeowners pay the highest in the United States.
Lots of traffic. The traffic here is another con, especially for commuters. However, the state does have extensive bus and train systems that help active adults get to where they need to be.
New Jersey Climate
Retirees who like to experience all four seasons appreciate New Jersey weather. Winters can be cold with a few snowstorms and daytime temperatures hovering around 45 degrees. Spring usually starts off chilly and windy, and then blooms with warmer air and flowers everywhere. Summertime can get pretty hot and humid with temperatures reaching the 80s and 90s, and the fall is colorful as the cooler weather approaches. As you head farther north, the temperatures are generally a bit cooler overall.
New Jersey Taxes
New Jersey taxes depend on the amount of income earned:
- $40,001 to $75,000: 5.525%
- $75,001 to $500,000: 6.3%
- $500,001 and up: 8.97%
The state sales tax rate is 6.625%, but New Jersey cities and/or municipalities don't have a city sales tax. Many items are exempt from sales tax, including clothing, groceries, and prescription drugs. Another silver lining: The state’s gas taxes are among the lowest in the nation.
New Jersey Property Taxes
Yes, they’re high, but New Jersey property tax rates vary widely by county. USA Today reported that the average NJ home value for 2018 was $323,179 and that homeowners pay anywhere between $1,500 and $24,000 per year in property taxes.
According to NJ.com, the average resident paid $8,690 in property taxes in 2017. Their data showed that the highest property taxes were paid in Essex, Bergen, and Union counties respectively; the lowest were Cumberland, Cape May, and Salem counties.
New Jersey Tax Exemptions for Seniors
First, seniors who live in New Jersey get some tax breaks, including an annual property tax deduction of $250. Second, the Senior Freeze program reimburses some seniors for property tax increases on their residences. There's also a Homestead Benefit program and additional deductions and exemptions for qualifying veterans and disabled veterans. These programs all depend on eligibility, and information can be found from the NJ Division of Taxation.
New Jersey Health Care
Jersey is known for its outstanding healthcare, and as of 2019, there were 113 hospitals in the state. US News ranked the top providers, placing the top four in North and Central Jersey:
- Morristown Medical Center, Morristown
- Hackensack University Medical Center, Hackensack
- Saint Barnabas, Livingston
- Robert Wood Johnson, New Brunswick
There are also plenty of excellent medical organizations further south, including MD Anderson Cancer Center in Camden County, Jefferson Health System in Camden and Gloucester County, Lourdes/Virtua Health System in Burlington County, and Hackensack Meridian Health in Monmouth and Ocean County.
Where to Live in New Jersey
The state’s largest metropolitan area is comprised of the northern counties of Bergen, Passaic, Sussex, Essex, Hudson, Warren, and Morris, which are part of the New York metro area. This area is densely populated since it's closest to the Big Apple, and it has major highways like the NJ Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway to keep everyone moving (unless traffic is bad). These counties generally have a higher cost of living and a faster pace of life.
Some of the most-visited outdoor attractions include Morristown National Historical Park and Liberty State Park. The Newark Museum is a great place to take the grandkids, and the biggest shopping mall in the state, Westfield Garden State Plaza, is in Paramus.
There are 34 active adult neighborhoods in this part of the state. Some are very exclusive, including the Four Seasons at Great Notch Spa and Club in Woodland Park and Fox Hills in Rockaway. Bald Eagle Commons in West Milford is farther out from NYC with homes at lower price points.
Middlesex, Somerset, Hunterdon, Mercer, Union, and Monmouth County are all considered part of Central NJ, which is hugely popular with retirees. There are 103 active adult neighborhoods here, with 36 in Monmouth County alone. Those who live here benefit from being close to seashore towns like Spring Lake as well as major cities like New York City and Philly. As you head west towards Trenton, there are wonderful areas like Washington’s Crossing to explore.
The cost of living is less than North Jersey, and many of the more established communities have very affordable homes. Out of the six Central NJ counties, Hunterdon is the most spread out. Central Jersey has 55+ communities of all sizes, from 17 homes up to 2,303. Some of the most popular include Covered Bridge in Manalapan and Greenbriar in Monroe.
The southern counties of Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester, Ocean, and Salem are all part of the Philadelphia metro area. While Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester have a faster pace of life (and miles of busy roads full of intriguing shopping centers), Cumberland and Salem are much more rural. Atlantic and Ocean fall somewhere in between, and they sit beside the Atlantic coastline.
Popular beach towns like Cape May, Point Pleasant, and Atlantic City get busy in the summertime, but they also have year-round attractions, and many folks drive over to Philly for work and play. Top golf courses include Bey Lea and Town and Country Golf Links.
South Jersey can certainly compete with Central Jersey when it comes to the number of retirement communities; there are a total of 131. Holiday City at Berkeley in Toms River is the largest in NJ, with 10,636 homes. Other excellent (and smaller) choices include The Village Grande at Camelot in Glassboro and Greenbriar Oceanaire in Waretown.