If you’re considering retiring in New Jersey, you may have heard about the downsides – the high taxes, expensive cost of living, crime, and cold weather. But there are many attractive features that draw people to plan their dream retirement in the Garden State.
For a relatively small state, New Jersey offers a variety of settings to choose from. There are cultural and educational attractions in Princeton, home of Princeton University, Presidents Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson, and author Toni Morrison, among many others. There are the nightlife and entertainment venues in Atlantic City.
Those looking for a quiet, scenic environment can look outside Newark and Trenton and the Manhattan suburbs to the enticing small villages in the Delaware Valley, Jersey Shore and Northern Highlands. Western New Jersey has many beautiful, rural settings with quaint small towns and villages, cafes, bookstores, and art galleries. For a historical setting, consider the tree-lined streets of Flemington, a commercial hub of western New Jersey, where many of the buildings are on the New Jersey register of historic places.
As a coastal state, New Jersey has over 90 miles of beaches. Some have giant ferris wheels and boardwalk souvenir stores, and others have quiet, small shops and cafes.
Yet no matter where you live, the amenities of the big cities of New York and Philadephia are never more than a couple of hours away.
The New Jersey climate is humid-continental. It has four distinct seasons and the climate is influenced by both the Gulf of Mexico and the Northeast Atlantic. Summers are hot and winters are cold with occasional snowstorms.
New Jersey is undeniably an expensive place to live. The cost of living is 27% higher than the national average. It is the third wealthiest state in the U.S. and the costs reflect that. The median home price of $282,500 in 2015 was 50% above the U.S. median. In some places, such as New York suburbs, the median home price is twice the national median, whereas in southern New Jersey the prices are somewhat lower.
The total tax burden in New Jersey is the highest in the nation at 11.8%. The top marginal income tax rate is 8.97% which applies at income above $500,000. Most retirement income is taxable, except for Social Security benefits and some military retired pay. The state sales tax is 7.0%.
Additionally, New Jersey has the highest median property taxes in the country. There are provisions to lower property taxes for seniors, such as a reimbursement program for seniors with annual incomes below $80,000. The homestead exemption applies on primary residences for those whose incomes are less than $150,000 and over 65 and/or disabled. Finally, New Jersey is one of a few states with both an inheritance tax and an estate tax.
If you’re thinking of retiring in New Jersey, despite the costs, here are a few places worth looking into.
A town of 26,000 in northeast New Jersey, Ridgewood is a suburban community about 20 miles from Manhattan. Money magazine listed the town on its 2011 list of the best places to live in America. Over a dozen homes are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, some dating to the Seventeenth Century.
There are free music programs with local, national, and even international performances at the West Side Presbyterian Church and other churches. There are many annual festivals and events sponsored by the close-knit community. The crime rate is also fairly low.
Another small town (population 11,000) in northeast New Jersey, Westwood has many amenities for a town its size. The downtown area has many shops, and there is a sidewalk sale each summer where people can shop indoors or out. The sale event also includes games and entertainment.
The Westwood Plaza is an outdoor shopping mall that has a other stores and restaurants. The Fritz Deitl Ice Rink offers open skating sessions, figure skating lessons, and open hockey. Residents can also see movies at the Westwood Cinema or stroll the central park.
Each December Westwood holds a holiday parade called “Home for the Holidays”, which features marching bands, a tree and candle lighting, and hot foods and beverages. Healthcare is available at the Hackensack University Medical Center at Pascack Valley.
Princeton is famous for the university, but this town of 30,000 has a lot more to offer. The climate is relatively mild, with a winter average low temperature of 21 degrees and summer highs in the mid-80s. There are many restaurants and shops in the walkable downtown.
The town has six local parks, including the D&R Canal State Park and Herronton Woods Arboretum. There is also Princeton Battlefield State Park, the site of a notable victory by George Washington’s forces during the Revolutionary War. The park’s hiking trails lead to the picturesque, 588-acre property of the Institute for Advanced Study.
Other historic sites and museums include the Princeton University Art Museum, Albert Einstein’s home, several historic residence districts, and the New Jersey governor’s residence. The town is equidistant from New York and Philadelphia, and both cities can be reached by highway or train.
Cape May is an oceanfront town located at the southern tip of the state, where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. It is a historic vacation town with a permanent resident population of around 4,000.
Cape May offers historical sights, bird-watching, classic Victorian mansions, and some of the nation’s best beaches. The entire city is designated a National Historic Landmark because of its collection of Victorian buildings, and the Travel Channel has cited Cape May as one of America’s top ten beaches.
In the fall, bird-watchers from all over come to Cape May to witness the annual bird migration. Over 400 species of birds have been observed in the area, making Cape May possibly the top bird-watching location in the Northeastern United States.
Cape May is also famous for its cultural offerings. The town hosts Cape May Stage and East Lynne Theater Company, which is a professional group specializing in American classics and world premieres. Annual events in town include the Cape May Jazz Festival, the Cape May Music Festival and the Cape May, New Jersey Film Festival.
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