People love to make fun of the West Coast, claiming that California is overpopulated with thrill seekers, aging hippies, airheads, and self-absorbed exercise buffs. Critics say the state is cluttered with malls and a glut of big box stores, the air is polluted, the weather unpredictable and the traffic unbearable.
Actually, the Golden State offers retirees a lot of space and more access to nature than other parts of the country, with plenty of protected coastlines and national parks within a day’s drive. The focal point for photographers, hikers, and tourists is California’s crown jewel, Yosemite. Eight hundred and forty miles of scenic coastline stretch from Mexico to the Oregon border and there are still towns off the beaten path, quiet and picturesque.
In addition to those qualities, Kiplinger views California as tax-friendly for retirees, thanks in part to lower tax rates for low- and middle-income earners. California does not tax Social Security income and the average property tax rate is not high.
subscribe to Kiplinger Personal Finance
Be a smarter, better-informed investor.
Save up to 74%
Sign up for Kiplinger’s free e-newsletters
Benefit and prosper with the best expert advice on investing, taxes, retirement, personal finance and more, delivered directly to your email.
Benefit and prosper with the best expert advice, directly to your email.
There is much for retirees to find throughout the state. Read on to see what’s out there, and if you’re inspired to head west, I don’t blame you.
1. Attractions of the smallest cities in the state
Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco are well known for their diversity and energy, but California’s smaller cities are easier to get around and less expensive. Housing costs are lowest in Stockton, Bakersfield, Fresno, and adjacent Clovis in the San Joaquin Valley.
Fewer traffic jams in moderate-sized metropolitan areas means that in minutes, rather than hours, you can be at the beach, lost in the woods, or climbing mountains. Fresno is the best example, conveniently located at the crossroads of three national parks: Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon.
Of the nine Bay Area counties, the California Association of Realtors says Solano is the least expensive. The most affordable housing market is in far north counties like Lassen, Siskiyou, Tehama and Plumas, and inland (the Central Valley), according to CAR. Median home prices are lower than last year, but limited inventory means the market is cooling off and competitive.
2. Theaters and music festivals
recently retired East Coasters don’t need to retreat that far from the Great White Way, because many Broadway shows take place at regional venues like the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego’s Old Globe, LA’s Geffen Playhouse, Center Theater Group, and Deaf West. . Theatre, South Coast Repertory at Costa Mesa, and the Ojai Playwrights Conference. The Pasadena Playhouse received the 2023 Regional Theater Tony Award, to be presented in June.
Young and old rave about high-profile artists at Coachella, one of California’s most celebrated music festivals. Annual outdoor events include Napa’s BottleRock, Reggae on the River (every August near Garberville), San Francisco’s free Stern Grove Festival (held in a eucalyptus-lined amphitheater and in its 86th year ), the Newport Beach and Monterey Jazz Festivals, and Splash House in Palm Springs.
3. Literary history and higher education
It’s exciting how many authors were born in California or chose to live there. The late legendary poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti co-founded San Francisco’s City Lights in 1953, when it was the country’s first paperback bookstore, famous for publishing Allen Ginsberg’s controversial “Howl.”
The writers’ backstories are revealed in visits to the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, MFK Fisher’s Last House in Glen Ellen, Jack London’s Wolf House (next to his wife Charmian London’s House of Happy Walls) also in Glen Ellen, Eugene O’Neill’s Tao House in Danville, Robinson Jeffers’ Tor House in Carmel-by-the-Sea, John Muir National Historic Site near Martinez, and the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur, to name a few.
Another big plus: There’s also a great history of education in the state, and seniors have access to it. State residents age 60 and older are tuition-free in the California State University system, and California’s 116 community colleges have many tuition-free, non-credit courses and the option for seniors to request a fee waiver if enroll in credit-bearing courses.
4. The outdoors
Between the 2,650-mile Pacific Coast Trail and a coastline that boasts more than 200 public beaches, California is a shelter for hikers, swimmers and surfers. It is not uncommon to sunbathe by the sea, by the lake or on the river bank, while simultaneously admiring the snow-capped mountains.
Spring brought magnificent bright flowers, and this summer promises greener lawns and hills; Governor Gavin Newsom eased drought restrictions in March after a wet winter. The Mediterranean climate (especially in counties like Sonoma and Napa), low humidity, mild winters, and long growing season make it idyllic for gardening, foraging, camping, glamping, and RV road trips. .
5. Delicious food at your fingertips
The California Department of Food and Agriculture reports that more than one-third of the country’s vegetables and three-fourths of the fruits and nuts are grown in the state; The main agricultural crops are grapes, almonds, strawberries, pistachios, lettuce, tomatoes and walnuts.
California stands out as the only commercial producer, according to the CDFA, of artichokes, celery, garlic, kiwi, honeydew, nectarines, olives, clingstone peaches, and plums. It’s no surprise that produce at grocery stores and farmers’ markets can be moderately priced, freshly picked, and irresistible.
When chef Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in 1971, farm-to-table cooking became the buzz phrase for delicious, environmentally friendly cooking. Her Berkeley restaurant hers introduced the concept that if you featured farmers on the menu and bought the freshest local produce, diners would relish those efforts.
She was right. Waters has inspired countless chefs to use organic, seasonal ingredients, and today California is dotted with healthy restaurants that echo her mantra.
6 and 7. Of course… golf courses and wineries
Golfers dream of teeing off at century-old Pebble Beach on the spectacular, windswept Monterey Peninsula, and at San Diego’s Torrey Pines, named after the shoreline’s wild tree.
The National Golf Foundation says Florida is the only state with more golf courses than California’s 950. Riverside County has 139 facilities (some with more than one course), while there are 102 golf facilities in Los Angeles County, according to the NGF. .
Meanwhile, retired oenophiles and teetotalers have fun living among more than 4,000 wineries. In addition to tasting and buying wine (and olive oil), the wineries are picturesque places to picnic, stroll, and relax. New appellations or AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) keep popping up, so there’s always another bottle to appreciate.
According to the California Wine Growers Association, grapes are grown in 49 of the state’s 58 counties, and approximately 90% of American wine is produced in California.
Julia Child was born in Pasadena, so bon appetit and health.