States – Rhode Island

rhode island

Rhode Island is the smallest state in the U.S., but it’s loaded with natural attractions, a thriving cultural scene, and recreational options. On the one side, it has over 400 miles of coastline, and 100 beaches. On the other, you’ll find the educational and cultural attractions of Providence and the historical mansions in Newport, former home of the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts. There are also a dozen historical trails that let you explore the rich history of the area, and hundreds of miles of hiking and bike paths crossing the state.

Being small creates a sense of community. If you own a business in the state you personally know the governor and elected representatives.

A big downside, though, is the cost. The overall cost of living is 25% higher than the national average (though lower than Massachusetts and Connecticut). The income tax rate tops out at 5.99% and the state sales tax is 7%. Social Security benefits and pensions are taxed. Rhode Island also has the second-highest estate tax and the fifth highest median property taxes in the country (the high cost of real estate may contribute to that – the median cost of a home was over $212,000 in 2013). These costs led USAToday  to rank the Ocean State in 2014 as one of the ten worst states to retire in. The state also faces revenue shortfalls because of deficit spending and state pension obligations.

If you’re willing to pay these costs, here are three retirement places worth a look.


The state capital boasts a strong artistic, educational, and culinary scene for a relatively small city (population 200,000). Brown University offers its Ivy League classes and lectures to the public, and Rhode Island School of Design offers continuing education classes and access to its world-class art museum, which has the 20th-largest collection in the U.S.

Food lovers can avail themselves of the offerings at the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University and a top-notch collection of restaurants in town. In fact, Providence is reputed to have the highest number of restaurants per capita in the country, many founded or run by graduates of the College of Culinary Arts. Italian and Latin American dining are especially well known.

The city has two theater repertory companies, the Tony Award-winning Trinity Repertory Company and the Providence Black Repertory Company. Ther eis also the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra, the American Band, and the Providence Festival Ballet. The city has several major performing arts centers.

For those favoring outdoor recreation, there’s a 1,200 acre park system, some located along the water including Waterplace Park and Riverwalk, Bank of America Skating Center, and WaterFire, a summertime art display based around 100 bonfires that also includes various musical performances. Providence residents also have access to healthcare with eight local hospitals.

All this, and the living is relatively inexpensive – the median housing price in 2013 was $156,000.


Located on the southwestern shoreline of the state, Westerly is a small beach community that scores high on quality of life and amenities. For one thing, Westerly has many top-tier restaurants. The town also holds several events each spring and summer including the Pawcatuck River Duck Race in April, the May Virtu Art Festival, Shakespeare in the Park and The Summer Pops, hosted by the highly-regarded Chorus of Westerly, in June, and Riverglow in July.

Additionally, the chamber of commerce sponsors Big Screen Movies on the Beach through July and August. Westerly’s Columbus Day Parade in October, and beachfront events attract many visitors. During the summer, the population of 22,000 doubles in size from tourism.

Residents have a strong sense of community. Although the town is divided into smaller villages, residents generally identify themselves with the town instead of the village where they live. There are many opportunities to get involved and contribute to the community. Westerly also has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, which helps those looking for parttime employment. 

The town is also conveniently located on a major highway and several rail lines, so it’s a short trip to New York City, Boston, and Newport.


Cranston, formerly known as Pawtuxet, is part of the Providence metropolitan area and the third largest city in the state. It was ranked among the “100 Best Places to Live” by Money magazine in 2006, included on the list of America’s 50 Best Cities to Live by 24/7 Wall St website, and rated among the 25 safest cities in the country by CQ Press. The town includes a portion of the Providence metro area that is north of the Pawtuxet River.

Residents enjoy the best weather in the state and a range of culinary choices from tea spots like the Elephant Room to restaurants like the Big Cheese & Pub and Napolitano’s Brooklyn Pizza. There are also good shopping and more dining at Garden City Center, with new stores being added like Sephora and Lululemon, and restaurants like Bistro 22 and The Corner Bakery. Pawtuxet Village is a beachfront community with many small shops and eateries, as well as a June road race and parade. Plus, the amenities of the big city are just minutes away.

For more information about retirement in Rhode Island:

State overview in facts and figures

State taxes

State services for senior residents

Profiles of major cities

Retirement communities

Best regions for retirement