Columbia, S.C.: A Great Place to Retire for Your Health

South Carolina’s capital attracts people who love art, culture and college sports, and the state is a tax-friendly place for retirees.

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While it’s known for its old-fashioned southern hospitality, Columbia is in the midst of an economic and cultural renaissance. Couple that with a below-average cost of living, affordable housing and low state taxes, and it’s no surprise that a growing number of retirees from the Northeast and Midwest are skipping the move farther south and choosing to live here. Columbia is one of 10 small or midsize cities we found that offer first-class health care.

Columbia stats

Population: 133,100

What $300,000 will buy: 3-bedroom, 3-bath, single-family home

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Best place to exercise: Riverfront Park

5-star hospital*: Lexington Medical Center

Home to the state capital and the University of South Carolina, Columbia offers a little bit of everything, including a ballet, a symphony orchestra and the Columbia Museum of Art. Sports fans can cheer USC’s Gamecocks football team at Williams-Brice Stadium, or watch the minor-league Fireflies play at the Spirit Communications ballpark. Columbia has three top-rated hospital systems, in addition to a Veterans Affairs hospital and a university medical research center.

Housing options range from homes near Lake Murray in West Columbia, where a four-bedroom, 2,400-square-foot house goes for about $235,000, to midrise condos at the trendy Vista quarter downtown, where a two-bedroom unit in a luxury building costs about $270,000. For retirees who would rather rent, two-bedroom townhouses and condos are available for about $1,000 to $1,500 a month.

Starting in 2019, residents age 55 and up can move in to the Merrill Gardens at BullStreet, a 196-unit apartment community located next to Spirit Communications ballpark. The 181-acre development will include a 20-acre park and the TownPark complex, with luxury townhomes priced at $467,000 and up.

South Carolina is tax-friendly for retirees. Social Security benefits aren’t taxed, and the state provides a generous deduction for other types of retirement income.

* Rating developed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (opens in new tab).

Marc A. Wojno
Contributing Writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Wojno was formerly research director for data-intensive projects such as Kiplinger's college and mutual fund rankings. He has worked as a newswire reporter and newsletter editor for Dow Jones, covering convertible bonds, REITs and mutual funds. He also served as market research manager for Keane Federal Systems, an IT consultancy. He received a BA in communications and computer science as well as a MBA from George Washington University.