retirement

Olympia, Wash.: A Smart Place to Retire

Enjoy the tax-friendly city's wine trails and college courses.

Population: 52,555

Cost of living: 106

Median home price: $345,000

College perk: Evergreen College offers free classes for retirees 60 and older.

Olympia, the state capital, is only about an hour away from Seattle but significantly more affordable. The median single-family home price is roughly $330,000, compared with more than $700,000 for Seattle, says Jim Greene, the designated broker and owner of Greene Realty Group. If renting is more your speed, you can get a three-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom house for about $1,750 a month.

At Evergreen State College, older adults can register as “special students,” which allows them to take courses without going through admission. Residents 60 and older can have tuition waived for up to eight credits per quarter.

Active retirees will find plenty to do. The Olympia Film Society showcases independent and classic films at the historic Capitol Theater, a city landmark. Art collectors won’t want to miss the semiannual Arts Walk, featuring paintings, sculptures, photography and more.

The South Sound Wine Trail and the South Sound Coffee Trail run through Olympia. It’s also home to the South Sound Craft Crawl, which highlights locally made beer and cider. If you’re looking for an actual trail, the 14.5-mile Yelm-Tenino bike trail lies 40 minutes southeast of Olympia. Kennydell Park, seven miles from downtown, is home to 40 acres and 1,000 feet of freshwater beach.

Washington has no state income tax, so income from pensions, Social Security and withdrawals from retirement accounts is tax-free.

For population figures, we used the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data. Cost-of-living data comes from the Council for Community and Economic Research (100 represents the national median). Median home prices were provided by Redfin, Zillow and local associations of Realtors.

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