States – Illinois


Illinois can be a great place to retire for active adults and those who like cultural amenities. Residents can choose the art and musical attractions of big cities like Chicago, Peoria, and Champaign, the charm of a small town like Galena with lots of activities and community spirit, or even a rural area surrounded by open countryside.

Illinois has over 26 million acres of farmland and more than 100 wineries and 450 vineyards. The state contains over 120 parks and recreational areas, including the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail.

There are also other historic areas like the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ulysses S. Grant Homes in Galena, and the Chanute Air Museum in Rantoul. Chicago, of course, is one of the largest cities in America and home to world-class art and history museums, zoos, and orchestras, and some of the best healthcare facilities in the world.

The living cost in Illinois is about average for the nation. The median home price is $157,000 in 2015, which is below the nationwide median. Home prices are highest in the Chicago area, and lower in smaller towns and rural areas.

The total tax burden in Illinois is 30th in the nation, so the taxes are lower than average. Illinois has a flat income tax rate of 5%. Most retirement income including Social Security benefits is exempt from state taxes.

However, the state sales taxes and property taxes are higher than average. The state sales tax rate is 6.25%, and many local districts also impose their own taxes. The property tax rate is the highest in the nation, with the average property tax at $3,939. Additionally, there is an estate tax on transfers above $4 million. The gasoline tax is above average for the nation.

Although living costs are reasonable in Illinois and attractions are many, the Prairie State is still often considered one of the worst states to retire in. This is because of the state’s precarious financial situation, which is expected to lead to higher taxes in the near future. The state has a chronic budget deficit, the lowest credit rating, and worst-funded pension system among the 50 states. An increase in income taxes or sales tax is considered likely.

If you thinking of settling in Illinois for retirement, here are several places to look at.


Northbrook was named the 14th best small city for retirement in the U.S. in 2015 by Nerdwallet. This town of 33,000 located on Chicago’s north shore provides a combination of pleasant living and affordability. 22% of the town’s population is age 65 or older.

The River Trail Nature Center has nature displays and a walking trail through the woods. The Northbrook Historical Society and History Museum has historical exhibits and recreates a house from the late 1800s. The Northbrook Park District operates various recreational facilities in town. This includes 17.25 square miles of parkland as well as a senior center in town.

The senior center sponsors a wide variety of daily activities such as classes, day trips, special events, a choir, card games, holiday parties, adventure travel, and multi-day trips. The center also provides counseling and health and driving services.


A small town of 14,000 in northeastern Illinois, Morris was ranked #5 on’s list of 10 best cities to retire to in 2015. There are many small parks, ball fields, and tennis courts in town. There are also two golf courses and a swimming pool, as well as the Gebhard Woods State Park and the William G. Stratton State Park for boating on the Illinois River, and a skatepark. Morris is also home to the Grundy County Speedway, and the city also hosts the annual Grundy County Fair and Grundy County Corn Fest.

As the Grundy County seat Morris has a large hospital and modern schools. Morris is also a football town: the local high school football team has won three state championships.


Champaign is the fourth-largest city in Illinois outside of the Chicago metro area and, together with its neighboring city of Urbana, home to the University of Illinois.

The university, along with Parkland College which has 18,000 students, has a huge role in the town. Campustown is a major retail and entertainment district mainly for students that contains stores and entertainment venues, an 18-story high-rise, and a 24-story apartment building. The university hosts 21 varsity sports teams. The men’s and women’s basketball teams play at State Farm Center, which also hosts popular Broadway musical performances. 

The Art Theater Co-op shows critically acclaimed independent and foreign films, and the Historic Virginia Theatre schedules special screenings and live performances several times each month. The Krannert Art Museum, owned by the university, has 48,000 square feet of exhibit space devoted to all periods of art, from ancient Egyptian to modern. The Champaign County Historical Museum has exhibits on the history of central Illinois and the Midwest.

In the area there are 60 parks, 11 walking and bike trails, and 14 recreation facilities, totaling over 654 acres.


Rich in mineral deposits, Galena was the site of the first major mineral rush in the U.S. Today this town of 3,500 is a popular vacation destination, attracting over a million tourists each year. Many Chicagoans also have second homes in the area.

Visitors come for the history and architecture. About 85% of the buildings in town are within the Galena Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The town is the proud former home of Ulysses S. Grant and eight other Civil War generals. Residents work hard to maintain the unique architectural style and historic atmosphere of the town.

Downtown Galena has a large number of specialty shops and restaurants and a winery. Visitors also come for the many resorts and golf courses in the area, and for kayaking and canoeing in the Galena River and hiking in two nearby state parks. Healthcare is available through the hospital in town.

For more information about retirement in Illinois:

State overview in facts and figures

State taxes

State services for senior residents

Profiles of major cities

Retirement communities

Best regions for retirement