Oklahoma has a lot to offer people looking for a pleasant, reasonably-priced retirement destination. There is a wide variety of living environments and landscapes to choose from, including deserts, wild grass prairies, and pine-tree forests in the mountains. In fact, the Sooner State is one of only four states that contain more than 10 distinct geographical regions (it has 11).
There are lakefront areas near one of the state’s 200 man-made lakes, dry plains, and the scenic Ouachita and Wichita Mountains. There are cities and many small and mid-size towns.
The climate is humid-sub tropical, meaning the winters are mild, particularly in the south. Summers are hot and humid with frequent thunderstorms and occasional tornados. The western panhandle region is semi-arid, while the eastern part, with many lakes, is wetter.
The mild winters and 234 average days of sunshine annually, well above the U.S. average, lend themselves to outdoor sports. The booming business sector, especially in energy, contributes to a low 6 percent unemployment rate, good news for those looking to work part-time in retirement.
A major draw for many retirees is the low cost of living. The overall cost of living index in Oklahoma is 84.2, well below the U.S. average of 100. The median home price in 2015 was $112,900, also well below the U.S. median price.
The overall tax burden in Oklahoma is the 13th lowest in the U.S. at 8.7% of income. Forbes rated Oklahoma among the best states to retire in from a tax perspective in 2014. The highest income tax bracket is 5.25%, which applies to income above $8,700. Social Security benefits are exempt, and military retirees can exempt 75% of their retirement income.
The state sales tax is 4.5%, which is below average, but local districts impose their own sales taxes. Property taxes are also among the lowest in the U.S. and there is a homestead exemption on the first $1000 of the property’s value.
As a point of interest, Oklahoma has a rich Native American culture and it hosts 50 American Indian tribes, more than any other state. It also has over 50 colleges and universities, so educational and cultural events, and cafes and restaurants are abundant around the state.
Here are several retirement destinations in Oklahoma that are worth a look.
A small town (population 24,000) in southwestern Oklahoma, Duncan, known as the “Crepe Myrtle Capital of Oklahoma”, scores high for amenities, cost of living, and quality of life. There are many restaurants, cafes, and shops in town.
Its cost of living index is 75, compared to 84 for the state as a whole. It also has a very low crime rate. As the name implies, Duncan is rich in crepe myrtle trees. The area is mostly grass prairies and farmland. There are four lakes in the area.
Duncan receives 34 inches of rain per year, but only averages five inches of snow. There are an average of 241 sunny days per year. The historic Chisholm Trail once ran by the town, and the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center and the Stephens County Historical Museum display exhibits and artifacts from the history of the area.
Cattle and livestock still have an important role in the town. The city holds top-rated livestock events annually. Other annual events include the Chisholm Trail Stampede, a multi-day event featuring bull riding, team roping, bareback riding, steer wrestling, and chuck wagon food vendors. There are also the Trail Dance Film Festival, Cruizin’ the Chisholm Trail Car and Motorcycle Show, The Dehydrator bicycle race/ride, Summerfest with the World’s Largest Garage Sale and the Western Spirit Celebration.
Also located in southwest Oklahoma, Altus is a town of 20,000 with one of the lowest cost of living indices (75) in the state and one of the lowest unemployment rates (4.9%). It’s the home of Altus Air Force Base which sponsors an annual air show. Other points of interest in town include Altus City Park which contains an 18-hole disc golf course, the Museum of the Western Prairie, Altus Speedway, and Sooner International Raceway.
Lake Altus-Lugert located 17 miles north of town is a 6,500-acre reservoir used for swimming and boating. The Quartz Mountain Nature Park is located at the west edge of the reservoir. Public recreation facilities of all types are available, including an 18-hole golf course, and facilities for camping, boating, hiking, and swimming.
The second-largest city in Oklahoma is also considered the artistic and cultural center of the state and has been cited for exceptional livability by Forbes and other publications. The city of 400,000 is located in the northeast side on the Arkansas River, on the foothills of the Ozark Mountains.
The climate is humid subtropical with generally mild winters, humid summers, and 6 inches of rain mostly during the spring. The spring is also the time when thunderstorms and tornadoes tend to occur.
The city maintains 135 parks comprising 6,000 acres. Woodward Park doubles as a 45-acre botanical garden. Tulsa River Parks is a set of urban parks that run along the Arkansas River through downtown. The River Parks Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area in south Tulsa is a 300-acre space that contains over 45 miles of dirt trails suitable for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.
Tulsa houses two world-renowned art museums, full-time professional opera and ballet companies, and one of the nation’s largest concentrations of art deco architecture. Philbrook Museum is considered one of the top 50 fine art museums in the country. Gilcrease Museum holds the world’s largest, most comprehensive collection of art and artifacts of the American West.
Other museums include the Tulsa Historical Society, the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, the Tulsa Geosciences Center, the Tulsa Zoo, the Oklahoma Aquarium, and the Woody Guthrie Center, opened in 2013.
The Tulsa State Fair attracts over one million visitors in the fall, and the city’s Oktoberfest celebration was named one of the top 10 in the world by USA Today and one of the top German food festivals in the nation by Bon Appetit magazine. There are many other annual festivals throughout the year, celebrating Tulsa’s diverse ethnic heritage.
A part of the Oklahoma City metro area, Midwest City is one of the least expensive towns in Oklahoma, with a cost of living index of 79. The city hosts a four-star, 18-hole municipal golf course, a 9-hole municipal golf course, a swimming pool, splash park, several urban parks that include softball fields, playgrounds, and walking trails.
Nearby Tinker Air Force Base hosts an annual Star-Spangled Salute each summer. Rose State College in town hosts Global Oklahoma each fall, which features food and crafts from around the world and a wide variety of live performances and music and attracts 4,000 visitors. Healthcare is provided by Midwest Regional Medical Center, which is also one of the largest employers in town.
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