Retirement tax burden by state


Some years ago, my husband and I sat out on our patio dreaming of where to retire. Encouraged by Chris Hogan, we had “the Dreamnight talk”.

Which sort of reminds me of an odd talent I have:
I can name all 50 States alphabetically in a song…
“Alabama, Alaska, Arizona…”

That was how we did our first pass.
I sang the song to my husband (probably to his amazement and horror) and wrote down any “possibles” on a notepad.

The funny thing is, we skipped right over AZ, figuring that we liked Southern living and that perhaps our ranch in Texas or one in Asheville, NC would be our retirement home.

Little did we know that in 2015, we would fall in love with Sedona, AZ and that our friends and family would be all a twitter about coming to visit. Texas is beautiful but damn hot and our ranch is hard for visitors to get to. Asheville is also hard to get to and expensive for visitors. Sedona has seasons and summers are relatively cool because of the altitude.

We wanted to consider total tax burden for the States that made the short list. Florida is most favorable for retirees because food and medicine and soc security is not taxed, nor are pensions. Several states have no income tax, but high property tax (like Texas in some counties). Some cities have high taxes on the things we love most (Little Rock, AK is stunning with the hills, architecture and trees but you will pay 16% tax on restaurant meals if you are tapas foodies like us).

The worst states to retire are CA and NY. They tax the hell out of everyone. Soon, there may be a breathing tax…

I digress.

Here’s how I started the conversation:

Me:”Where do you picture yourself in retirement?”
Mr W: “At the ranch with beautiful pastures and gorgeous scenery. It looks like Northern France.”

Me: “What do you see yourself doing?”
Mr W: “Chores around the place. Cutting massive pastures, to keep it looking tidy. Then enjoying wine as the sun sets.”

Me: “What’s the temperature like?”
Mr W:”Hot as hell and muggy in the daytime in summer.”

Me: “What do you see me doing?”
His gears started to turn…

Me: “Am I in a pink tractor with AC shredding? I see myself inside a lot cooking meals, creating recipes, watching HGTV, tending to the Greenhouse and playing in the pool. Shopping will be limited. My outfits might be dependent on College Station. Fewer heels and cute shoes…”

Mr. W’s face went pale.

Me: “Who do you think will REALLY come visit us? We’re hard to get to-more than an hour from the airport.”

More gears and paleness…Big lovely empty house

That year, one of our dear church brothers passed away quickly from chemo. His widow is now burdened with a huge cattle ranch, feeding cows early in the AM and dealing with wild boars. They are Texas sized too. “Small” ones are 90 lbs.

Later that year, we saw Sedona and fell in love and put an offer on a vacation/retirement place.

Mr. W: “I thought of you, many decades from now trying to handle the ranch and being in a giant house all alone and it scared the Bjezzsus out of me. And look at Sedona-criminey. I had no idea how BEAUTIFUL it is!”

And I had forgotten, growing up around Canyonlands when I was a kid.

In re-creating my spreadsheet, I stumbled upon some pretty horrifying numbers:

According to, a typical couple will retire poor-really poor, relying mostly on Social Security and a paid-for house.
In their working years, they did NOT save for their older selves and spent money on trips to Disneyland, cruises, and cars.

Even a paid-for house may still incur property tax. Every. Single. Year.

This is HALF of all Americans. Half.

First, I made a spreadsheet of retirement.

Your costs are different, but there still are some:

Let’s assume you realised that the time to take care of your older self was NOW and started socking away the max you could for retirement in an IRA or a 401k.

Bankrate has a fabulous story of Mary and Harry Typical:

So, what about the States?
Here’s a handy, clickable map by Klipinger:

You can compare 5 States side by side. Here’s an example:


So, have a Dream night.
Talk about your retirement dreams.

You may be surprised that your dreams are not the same.

Alignment is key in personal finance, because, it’s PERSONAL.


One thought on “Retirement tax burden by state

  1. I’m getting socked at 9.6 % State Income Tax here in Oregon but there is no sales tax.

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