Financial Planning

Retirement Tax Burden : Research Total Cost of Living

Location, as they say, is everything. In retirement, that's especially true. You might be looking for a place with favorable weather, a bevy of amenities and low cost-of-living that allows you to stretch your fixed-income dollars until they squeak.

But how much you pay for a house or a loaf of bread in Boston, Massachusetts, vs. Boone, North Carolina, is only one factor in the total cost-of-living equation. Another is taxes, which vary wildly from one place to the next. Alaska's typical tax burden is 6.3 percent, according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, and almost twice as much in New Jersey (12.2 percent). Types of taxes vary from state to state, but here are a few of the big ones to consider:

  • Personal income tax. Nine states don't have a state income tax: Alaska, Washington, Nevada, Wyoming, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, Florida and New Hampshire. But New Hampshire and Tennessee tax dividends and interest, an important source of income for many retirees. On the other hand, 12 states, even though they may have a personal income tax, leave Social Security and pensions untaxed.
  • Property tax. For retired homeowners, property taxes are probably their biggest tax burdens and these have no relation to income or ability to pay. Louisiana's mean property tax ran $243 in fiscal year 2009. But in New Jersey the mean was $6,579. New Hampshire has no income or state sales tax, but property taxes can run high. The good news is that some locales have tax abatement, deferment or tax-freeze programs for seniors.
  • Sales tax. Oregon, New Hampshire, Alaska, Montana and Delaware don't have a retail sales tax. However, cities and counties within these states sometimes make up for this through sales taxes of their own. Other times, a town in a state that already has a sales tax may have one too, giving you a double tax whammy. In Tuba City, Arizona, for example, the sales tax is 13.725 percent, combining state, county and tribal sales tax.
  • Gasoline excise tax. Again, there's a wide range of how much states tack on to the already climbing price of gas, from 8 cents per gallon in Alaska to 46.5 cents in California.
  • Bottom line. If your goal is to trim expenses in retirement, then moving to (or staying in) a state with a combination of low cost-of-living and low taxes is one way to do it. Not every type of tax is applicable to every retiree. The concerns for someone who lives mainly on Social Security and rents an apartment are different from a person who gets dividends and owns several homes. And for some, proximity to friends and family far outweighs these financial considerations.

If you are thinking of making a move for your retirement years, you'll also want to weigh your options for selling your existing home and buying or renting a new one. Your SunTrust advisor, along with home mortgage experts, can help you with a comprehensive plan for retirement and relocation. To meet with the retirement specialist in your neighborhood, just call or stop by the branch to make an appointment. Call 800.511.2276 to learn more.

This content does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.

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