As retirement approaches, active adults naturally think about becoming snowbirds or retiring for good in warm locales. Oftentimes, it makes the most sense to find a second home and live there part-time until they’re ready for full-time retirement. And while Florida, California, and Arizona are three of the states that top most snowbird’s lists, there’s another state that offers warm temperatures, is tax-friendly for retirees, and has a lower cost of living than you might expect.
Yes, we’re talking about Georgia. The Peach Tree State always holds a top spot in lists of best-to-retire states, for the very reasons we just described. The overall cost of living here is 7 percent below the U.S. average, and in many regions, it’s quite lower than that.
Why Is Georgia Tax-Friendly for Retirees?
The State of Georgia provides a $65,000 deduction—per person—on all kinds of retirement for residents ages 65 and up. These include:
- The first $4,000 of earned income (wages)
- Capital gains
- Pensions and annuities
- Interest and dividends
- Net income from rental properties
If you’re from age 62 to 64, the maximum exemption is $35,000. Social security benefits are also exempt from taxes for 65 and up.
Georgia’s state sales tax is 4 percent (Florida’s is 6 percent), but this can be higher in certain jurisdictions. On average, combined state and local taxes average about 7.33 percent. You can check the area of the state that you are interested in, and see what the local area additional charges are. According to SmartAsset.com, Georgia’s property taxes are considered to be “relatively moderate,” and there’s no inheritance or estate tax.
More Things to Like About Georgia
Georgia winters are mild, and the summers get pretty hot. It is the biggest state east of the Mississippi, so you can expect that the northernmost regions stay cooler than down south as you approach the Florida border. The Appalachian Mountains are in the northeast, and the coastal plains are in the southeast, where you will find the cities of Augusta, Columbia, Macon, and Savannah.
Some of Georgia’s best-known landmarks and attractions include the historic University of Georgia, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the eclectic Athens, and the beautiful Savannah. There are also 48 state parks, the Georgia Aquarium, beaches, wineries, shopping, and countless other year-round activities to keep you as busy as you care to be.
Atlanta is the state capital, has a large population, and is home to an international airport. You’ll also find top-ranking medical organizations and educational institutions here, like Emory University Hospital, Piedmont Atlanta, and Georgia State University. This exciting city also has world-class shopping and restaurants at spots like The Battery Atlanta, well-reviewed golf courses including the Atlanta Golf Club, and great places to take the kids like the Georgia Aquarium.
Nicknamed the “Heart of Georgia,” Macon is about 90 miles south of Atlanta, in the middle part of the state. Macon’s cost of living is 25.3 percent below the national average, its annual low temperature hovers above 65 degrees, and it has no annual snowfall. One of Macon’s most notable features is The Ocmulgee River, which runs through the city.
Macon has some wonderful museums to explore, like the Hay House, Tubman Museum, and the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. It’s also known for its lovely parks and gardens, the Bowden Golf Course, and plenty of shops and restaurants.
The city of Albany, GA is about 100 miles south of Macon, putting it that much closer to the Florida border (it’s about 160 miles from Florida’s Gulf Coast). Albany’s cost of living is 23.5 percent lower than the national average, and it has no annual snowfall. It’s a much smaller city than Macon, with a population of around 75,000. Its culture is tied to fishing, hunting, the Old South’s antebellum age, and early American Indian culture.
Top Albany attractions include the 1,400-acre Lake Chehaw, the Flint RiverQuarium, Georgia Veterans Memorial Golf Course, and the annual Snickers Marathon and Half Marathon. Albany is served by the Phoebe Medical Organization, and there’s a regional airport in town.
Thomasville’s cost of living is 19 percent below the U.S. average, and this friendly city is 34 miles north of Tallahassee, Florida. Named “The City of Roses” after its annual Rose Festival, Thomasville has a population of around 18,500. It also has historic plantations and homes, and a lively downtown area. Other points of interest include the Jack Hadley Black History Museum and the Birdsong Nature Center.
Brunswick is on Georgia’s southeast coast, about an hour north of Jacksonville, Florida. It’s a mainland port city similar to Savannah and has four barrier islands: St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island, and Jekyll Island. The beautiful landscape is punctuated with sparkling rivers; this region is referred to as the “Golden Isles.” It never snows in Brunswick, and the cost of living is 18.3 percent lower than the national average.
Fishing and watersports are big in Brunswick, and there are endless beaches for seashell gathering, swimming, paddleboarding, and spending time with friends. Top golf clubs include Heritage Oaks, Sea Island, and the King and Prince. Other relaxing pursuits include visiting the outdoor shopping markets, antique shops, and checking out the many unique art galleries.
Where to Snowbird in Georgia
55places.com lists 125 communities (3 are rentals) in Georgia, and six of these are on the Georgia coast. Read on to learn about them.
Mid $100s – High $200s
The gated active adult community of Peppertree Crossing has just 117 new and resale attached and single-family homes, just perfect for 55+ home seekers looking to downsize. It’s geared for leisurely lifestyles, with an upscale clubhouse that offers indoor and outdoor spas, an outdoor pool, a catering kitchen and gathering area, and an exercise room. You’ll also find tennis, shuffleboard, a putting green, a garden, and natural space on the grounds.
The six attached models range from 1,459 to 2,457 square feet with two or three bedrooms and attached one- or two-car garages. Peppertree’s five single-family models range from 1,464 to 2,379 square feet with two or three bedrooms, two to three-and-a-half baths, and attached one- or two-car garages. The community homeowners’ association (HOA) provides for community services and amenities.
High $200s – Mid $300s
Westbrook Villas at Savannah Quarters is also on the small and cozy side, with 92 new and resale attached and single-family homes. This golf course community is not age-restricted, but caters to active adult living, with resort-style amenities and an HOA that provides for exterior home maintenance and lawn care.
Westbrook’s Greg Norman golf course is a big draw for homeowners as is the 29,000-square-foot clubhouse with its dining rooms, fitness center, wine room, lap pools, children’s playground, and more. Homebuyers can choose attached villas or single-family homes that are sized at 1,955 or 1,964 square feet with two to five bedrooms, two to three bathrooms, and attached two-car garages.
Mid $200s – Low $2Ms
With 4,422 resale attached and single-family homes, this master-planned community is just 12 miles outside of downtown Savannah and has everything you need for a carefree lifestyle. The Landings on Skidaway Island is a 4,596-acre gated property split up into several distinct neighborhoods. Each one has amenities, like golf courses, dog parks, restaurants, tennis, swimming pools, and clubhouses, and there’s a long list of clubs and activities for every interest imaginable.
The attached homes are priced from the low $200s to the high $300s and were built with one or two stories. They range from 1,700 to 2,000 square feet with two to four bedrooms and either one-car garages or carports. The single-families range from about 1,500 to over 5,000 square feet with two to five bedrooms, two to six baths, and two-car garages. The Landings Association is the community’s HOA and collects fees for community services.
Mid $200s – Mid $300s
Our third Savannah neighborhood is Cottages at Autumn Lake, a gated community slated for 80 attached homes. This property is next to a nine-acre freshwater lake, where residents can go fishing and use the pavilion and walking trails. The Cottages also has a lovely clubhouse, with an outdoor pool and patio, an exercise room, and a catering kitchen and multipurpose room.
The two floor plans are sized at 1,950 and 2,600 square feet, with three to five bedrooms, two or three baths, and attached two-car garages. The larger model has an optional second floor, and both offer an array of customizations to make these houses comfortable, stylish, and modern. The Cottages at Autumn Lake is not age-restricted, and its HOA charges reasonable fees to provide for community services.
High $200s – High $300s
Marietta is about half an hour outside of Atlanta and is home to Grove Park, a gated 55+ community with 120 resale attached homes. Residents spend quality time at its private clubhouse, which has an outdoor pool, a gathering room, and an exercise area.
The four home models range from 1,750 to 2,430 square feet, with two to four bedrooms, two- to three-and-a-half baths, and attached two-car garages. They feature upscale options like hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances, and granite countertops. The reasonable HOA fees cover lawn care and exterior maintenance.