For those looking for a comfortable place to retire, Louisiana regularly comes out high on the list. It has been ranked in the top ten states to retire in by MarketWatch. Kiplinger’s and SmartMoney favor its low cost of living, while Forbes names it one of the most tax-friendly states for retirees.
Certainly, Louisiana’s living cost is low, which is attractive to retirees on a budget. Its median home price is just $135,000 and its cost of living index is 11% lower than the national average. Even the more well-known cities like Lafayette, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans have living costs that are significantly below average.
Louisiana also has a favorable tax structure. The state income tax ranges from 2% to 6%. Social Security benefits and military, federal, state, and local government pensions are exempt, and the first $6,000 of private pensions, annuity income, and IRA distributions are also exempt. The state sales tax is 4%, but local parishes often impose their own sales taxes, which can raise the total to over 10%.
Property taxes, on the other hand, are the third-lowest in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation. For example, a home priced at the median of $135,000 would bring a property tax bill of $243 per year. Residents who are 65 or over with adjusted gross income less than $70,484 can have their assessed home value frozen for as long as they remain in the home.
However, the state is famously hurricane-prone, and parts of it are still recovering from Katrina. It also has a high crime rate, leading the nation in murder rate per capita for 25 years. In some towns your chance of becoming a crime victim are one in seven. Additionally, 15 percent of seniors in Louisiana live below the poverty line. These factors, along with low quality of healthcare, contributed to Bankrate.com rating it among the 10 worst states to retire in.
But living in Louisiana does come with perks. There are dozens of annual festivals like Mardi Gras, and the Natchitoches Meat Pie Festival, named for the city’s famous spicy meat pies. The state’s Cajun and Creole background give rise to unique cuisine like seafood gumbo and crawfish etoufee, and music like jazz and zydeco.
The Sportsman’s Paradise also features 51,843 square miles of natural scenery and plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation such as hunting, fishing, hiking, and biking. Louisiana’s military-friendly environment makes it attractive to military retirees, who enjoy free admission to Louisiana state parks and close proximity to the state’s four military bases with commissary, post exchange, and family services privileges.
Here are three cities that embody what is good about living in Louisiana for seniors:
Lafayette is where the state really shows off its Cajun and Creole influences. Its ethnic restaurants helped make it be named the “Best City for Food” by Rand McNally in 2011. Lafayette also hosts regular cultural events including the Festivals Acadiens et Creoles, which celebrates Cajun and Creole life, and local Cajun dance parties. Its median home price is $159,000 and the cost of living is 6.5% below average.
With so many regular events, there are plenty of opportunities for residents, including retirees, to get involved in the community, by participating or volunteering in these events to immerse oneself in a different culture. There are also continuing education classes at the nearby university. Those who like outdoor recreation will find plenty of things to do. Gardening is very popular and there are many classes offered. Bird watchers will also like that the town is home to tens of thousands of birds, including spoonbills and herons, which nest each spring.
The town does have a high crime rate, ranking 8 out of 10 in crime (average for the U.S. is four). However locals say the crime is limited to certain neighborhoods and the town is overall safe for retirees.
Natchitoches is the oldest settlement in the state, founded in 1714. It is a picturesque, Old South town with stately mansions set along a winding river. It was the setting for the 1989 film “Steel Magnolias”. The 33-block historic district, which received a Great American Main Street Award in 2006, is where residents and visitors can truly see the city’s centuries-old history. The town works hard to preserve its heritage, and was selected among the “Dozen Distinctive Destinations” for historic preservation in 2005. Despite the town’s southern charm, the cost of living in Natchitoches is 14.6% below national average. The median home price is around $105,000.
With just 18,000 people, Natchitoches is a close-knit, small town community, where people socialize in the local restaurants and pubs, or on each other’s front porches. But it’s also welcoming to newcomers, who find many opportunities to help with local historic preservation projects. Like many small towns, however, there are few amenities. For example, the nearest airport is in Alexandria, 45 minutes away.
Many people may not think of the Big Easy as a retirement town, but its many events and cultural activities are what make it appealing to retirees. The city is known for its cuisine and features over 1,000 eating establishments, ranging from shops serving local muffalattas (meat and olive sandwiches) and oyster po-boys, to five-star, white tablecloth restaurants serving snapping turtle soup and deviled quail eggs.
The city seems to host a celebration almost weekly, including the nation’s largest Mardi Gras festival and Jazz & Heritage Festival, to boisterous street parades. The birthplace of jazz, New Orleans is also known for its brass bands.
The low-lying city is prone to the weather and afternoon rains often lead to flooding. Years after Katrina, there are still areas of the city that are recovering. But many parts have come back stronger. Mark Romig, the president and CEO of New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, says there are more restaurants than before the storm. The city’s resilience is largely due to the fierce local pride of the residents. Neighbors work together for the good of the city. There are dozens of neighborhood associations, and the city’s museums and events provide volunteer opportunities.
You also can’t deny the unique scenery, including the French-Creole architecture of the famous French Quarter and the mansions in the Garden District. The median home price is around $180,000, and the living cost is 3.1% below average.
For more information about retirement in Louisiana: