States – Pennsylvania


Many retirees who seek to enjoy their golden years while making the most of their dollars are looking toward Pennsylvania. The Keystone State offers a variety of natural environments and communities. Pennsylvania has two large cities, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia; mid-sized cities like Harrisburg and Lancaster; and many small towns and rural areas.

The north central portions of Pennsylvania tend to be sparsely populated and have excellent outdoor recreational opportunities such as hiking, mountain biking, hunting, fishing, canoeing, and skiing. There are 50 miles of coastline in the northwestern part of the state along Lake Erie.

The large urban areas have many amenities and cultural offerings. As one of the original 13 colonies and a site of major Civil War battles, Pennsylvania is a haven for American history fans. Besides the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, there’s the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, and the Gettyburg National Military Park.

The Pennsylvania climate is called humid-continental. There are 4 seasons. Summers are hot and winters are cold with frequent snow. The northwest coastline facing Lake Erie can have lake-effect winds and snowstorms.

Median home prices are usually much less expensive than in rest of the U.S. The median home price in 2015 was $150,800. Wealthy neighborhoods around Philadelphia can fetch much higher prices, while rural areas in the north go for significantly less.

Kiplinger rated Pennsylvania the fourth best state for retirement in 2015, citing its below average poverty rate among seniors, low crime rate, and lower-than-average housing costs. Although the cost of living is about 1% higher than average for the nation, it is much less than other states on the east coast just as Massachusetts or New York.

Although Pennsylvania is known for a high tax structure overall, for retirees it has one of the lowest tax burdens in the country. Kiplinger ranked it the third most tax friendly state for retirees in 2011. For one thing, it is one of just two states, along with Mississippi, that exempts all retirement income. Social Security benefits, IRA distributions, and most private and public pensions are all exempt from state income tax.

Pennsylvania also has one of the lowest income tax rates on salaries and investment income, a flat 3.07% rate. Some localities add their own income tax to this, ranging from 1% to 4%. The state sales tax rate is 6%, but food, clothing, and medicine are exempt.

There is an inheritance tax, however. The rate ranges from 0% on transfers to a spouse or minor child, to 15% on transfers to relatives who are not descendants or siblings. The tax applies to all tangible property and real estate located in the state, whether owned by a resident or non-resident, and all intangible assets owned by residents. Property taxes and gasoline taxes are also among the highest in the nation.

Here are several places with nice amenities that are also affordable.


Pittsburgh offers big-city amenities without the big-city pricetag. Kiplinger rated it one of the “Cheapest Places Where You’ll Want to Retire” – the area’s cost of living for retirees is 3.7% below the U.S. average.

Residents have access to cultural attractions such as the Andy Warhol Museum, the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, the Pittsburgh Opera, and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and the educational offerings of local universities including Duquesne, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Pittsburgh.

There is also an active musical community. In addition to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh has a long heritage in jazz, blues, and bluegrass music. Sports fans can follow professional teams in all major sports. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History is the fourth ranked natural history museum in the country, while the Carnegie Science Center has interactive technology and science exhibits.

Healthcare is available through the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Allegheny Health Network, both of which annually rate as among the best in the U.S. Those who wish to travel have access to Pittsburgh International Airport.


A town of 15,000 located in the southwest part of the state, Greensburg has a mild climate and good air quality. The average summer temperature is 71 degrees.

Greensburg has cultural amenities that attract many visitors from western Pennsylvania. The Westmoreland Museum of Art specializes in American Art from the past two centuries. The Palace Theatre holds performances throughout the year, and hosts the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra. Greensburg Civic Theatre has been presenting both adult and children’s theater productions for over 60 years.

The two universities in the area, Seton Hill University and the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, contribute to the cultural environment in town. The Performance Arts Center of Seton Hill University opened in 2009 in the city’s Cultural District and is adding to the growth of the downtown area. Additionally, the town is just 30 miles from Pittsburgh.


Dating back to the Eighteenth Century, Lebanon is in southeastern Pennsylvania and is the origin site of Lebanon bologna, developed by the Pennsylvania Dutch. Several buildings in the area are on the National Register of Historic Places including the Cornwall & Lebanon Railroad Station, the Reading Railroad Station, and the St. Lukes Episcopal Church.

A popular farmers market is held at the 30,000 square foot Market House location on South 8th street. This popular indoor market includes various food vendors and a restaurant. The Lebanon Community Theatre presents live shows, and the Lebanon County Historical Society has displays about the history of the area.

Each New Year’s Eve, Lebanon drops a Lebanon bologna using a fire department ladder truck to mark the countdown. A local meat shop donates a 150-pound Lebanon bologna which is donated to a local rescue mission afterward.


Located in eastern Pennsylvania, Pottsville is a small town (population 14,000) that scores well on climate, cost of living, and safety. Temperatures range from 24 degrees in January to 86 degrees in July. The area offers a variety of scenery. The town is located on seven hills, and the Schuylkill River flows along the southern end of town.

There are many parks and recreation areas, some with playgrounds and ball courts. The main park is the John F. Kennedy Memorial Recreation Complex, which has basketball and tennis courts, a pool, and jogging/walking path. The Barefield Outdoor Recreation Complex is a three-acre complex featuring a basketball court, horseshoe pits, putting green, and sand volleyball court.

Local attractions include the Henry Clay statue and park, the Jewish Museum of Eastern Pennsylvania, and Sovereign Majestic Theater of performing arts.

For more information about retirement in Pennsylvania:

State overview in facts and figures

State taxes

State services for senior residents

Profiles of major cities

Retirement communities

Best regions for retirement