States – Delaware


Delaware has many attractions to retirees especially those who are living on the east coast and want to remain close to major cities, relatives, and friends there. Called the First State because it was the initial signer of the U.S. Constitution, Delaware offers beachfront communities, low taxes and cost of living, and affordable real estate. Delaware is increasingly popular for retirees from the mid-Atlantic and northeast regions. The state’s relaxed lifestyle allows seniors to live near the beach and escape the congestion of the big city, yet still be close to family and friends.

The state is affordable in comparison to other states nearby. Although its living cost is 13% higher than the national average, it’s much less expensive than Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Connecticut, whose living costs are more than 30% higher than the U.S. average. There is real estate available to fit a range of price points, from inland homes at $200,000 to beachfront property priced at $2 million and above.

The state taxes are among the lowest in the nation. There’s no sales tax, inheritance tax, or tax on Social Security benefits. Additionally, up to $12,500 of retirement income is tax exempt for those who are 60 or over.

Sussex County in Delaware is tied for second among all counties in the nation for the lowest ratio of median property tax to home value. A 2,000 square foot home in Delaware will have property taxes around $125 per month, less than 10% of the tax on a similar home in New Jersey right across the Delaware River. Property taxes are reduced for seniors.

Located mostly along the Atlantic Coastal Plain, Delaware’s climate is moderate. Temperatures range from 84 degrees in the summer to 48 degrees in winter. Over half of the days in the year are sunny. The state has over 160 miles of coastline, including 26 miles of Atlantic Ocean beaches. The coastlines are protected with development guidelines that preserve the landscape and environment. Delaware’s waterways are ranked second-best in the nation for water quality.

Delaware’s central location offers convenient access to the big-city amenities of Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and New York. But residents can enjoy artistic and cultural activities, fine restaurants, and many events throughout the year, right in their home state.

The temperate climate and natural beauty offer many opportunities for outdoor recreation, with hiking, biking, fishing, boating, sailing, and athletic events year-round. Many events and facilities are free or offered at a much lower cost than in a major metropolitan area. There are also museums, shopping at one the area’s largest outlets, and golfing, fishing, and birdwatching.

Residents have access to high quality healthcare, including the Beebe Medical Center complex, ranked in the top 5% nationally for overall clinical excellence by HealthGrades. However the state has a chronic shortage of primary care physicians, according to Richard Cooper, a retired high school teacher who moved from New Jersey. There is a long waiting list for most doctors, forcing many residents to go to other states for primary care appointments.


Lewes is a small town of 3,000 people located on the Delaware Bay in the northeast corner of the state. As a popular vacation destination, it has many shops, restaurants, and historical sites. Fisherman’s Wharf along the canal has multiple restaurants and boat docks.

The community works hard to preserve its centuries-old history (it was the first European settlement in Delaware). The Lewes Historical Society sponsors museum exhibits, educational programs, and historical research. The city won national awards for beauty among cities with population under 5,000 in 2003, 2005, and 2010.

Residents have quality healthcare facilities in town. The Beebe Healthcare Medical Center is headquartered in Lewes and supports a growing healthcare industry in the city and nearby. There are numerous golf courses nearby, over 150 outlet shops, and hiking/biking trails to Rehoboth Beach, six miles away.

The University of Delaware offers classes in art and other topics, and the local theater gives live performances. Housing opportunities in town range from $200,000 to $3 million. Residents can also avail themselves of the 2.5 miles of Delaware Bay beach, Cape Henlopen State Park, which offers 4,000 acres of hiking and biking and miles of Atlantic Ocean beach, and the Cape May ferry to New Jersey.


Those looking for a somewhat larger city might take a look at Newark (population 31,000), 12 miles southwest of Wilmington and the main campus of the University of Delaware.

The university contributes to a college town atmosphere and supports many continuing education opportunities and cultural and sporting events, and entertainment programs. The downtown area has multiple local restaurants and specialty shops and won the Great American Main Street Award in 2011.

There are also 33 parks comprising 650 acres of green space, and 15 miles of walking and biking trails. There is emphasis on making the town pedestrian and bicycle friendly so that residents can walk and bike to get around.

Located on I-95, the east coast’s main interstate highway, Newark provides ready access to New York and Washington, D.C. and is less than an hour’s drive from Baltimore and Philadelphia. The city has eight senior communities and two major hospitals. The Christiana Hospital, four miles away, is one of the largest medical facilities in the mid-Atlantic region, and the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center is a nationally recognized clinical oncology center.

Bethany Beach

Bethany Beach is known as a “quiet resort” because it’s less well-known than other beach communities, such as Lewes and Rehoboth Beach. With a cost of living 46% above the national average, it’s not exactly inexpensive, but it’s still much cheaper than other beach towns.

Bethany Beach is a resort community, with a quaint, carefree environment. Located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware bays, Bethany Beach does have miles of walking trails, bicycle-friendly roads, and boating to enjoy the spectacular scenery and wildlife. Housing ranges from exclusive gated communities to beachfront cottages. The central downtown has excellent restaurants, shops, and community events. One disadvantage is that some of the local businesses close in the off-season (winter).

For more information about retirement in Delaware:

State overview in facts and figures

State taxes

State services for senior residents

Profiles of major cities

Retirement communities

Best regions for retirement