West Virginia is located right on the border between the Eastern and Midwestern U.S., and between the North and South. Its location puts it within 500 miles of two-thirds of the U.S. population.
It is known for the Appalachian Mountains that occupy the eastern part of the state, and for outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities in its mountains and many lakes and rivers. The Mountain State ranks 29th in population density and consists mainly of small towns and countryside, with a few small cities.
Kiplinger rated the state #3 on its 2015 list of Best States for Retirement. Part of the reason for that is the low cost of living. West Virginia’s cost of living is 20% below the national average. The median home price in 2015 was $89,100 which is 38% below the national median. Even in a larger city like Charleston the median home selling price is $155,000 which is well below the U.S. median.
Other attractive features of retiring in West Virginia are an overall low crime rate, good availability of healthcare, and friendly people. However, there are some rural areas in the state with high levels of poverty and little access to quality healthcare.
The total tax burden in West Virginia is 9.3%, which puts it 29th in the country. The highest income tax bracket is 6.5%. Social Security benefits are taxable, but there is an exemption on the first $8000 of all retirement income for residents over age 65. The first $22,000 of military retirement benefits are also exempt from personal income tax. The per capita property tax is among the lowest in the U.S. and there is a $20,000 homestead exemption. The state sales tax is 6%. There are no inheritance or estate taxes.
The West Virginia climate is humid continental. There are four seasons. Summers are hot and winters are cold with frequent snowstorms in the higher elevations and northern part of the state. Weather differs greatly in different parts of the state. The southern highland areas have a mountain temperate climate where winter temperatures and summer temperatures are somewhat more moderate.
To encourage retirees to move and settle in West Virginia, the Office of the Governor has designated a number of areas as Designated Retirement Communities. These are areas that have been found to provide the resources and amenities required to be considered a viable retirement destination.
Here are several areas to consider as retirement destinations.
Home of West Virginia University, Morgantown is a town of 31,000 that has an wide selection of restaurants and pubs, art galleries, and boutique shops. The university sponsors many concerts, theater performances and sporting events. There are seven 18-hole golf courses, many city parks, and an active senior center offering a variety of classes and activities. Retirees can also partake of the class offerings by the Oscher Lifelong Learning Institute.
The West Virginia Botanic Garden, Forks of Cheat Winery, and Earl L. Core Arboretum are scenic and relaxing places to enjoy the natural environment and mountain vistas. The Museum of Geology and Natural History has mineral and dinosaur exhibits, while Cheat Lake Trail is a good place for hiking and biking and is one of hundreds of miles of walking and hiking trails in the area. The town offers an excellent health care system and low hospital costs.
With a population of 51,000 Charleston is the largest city in West Virginia as well as the state capital. As such, it ranks high for amenities and quality of life.
Charleston has over a dozen parks and state forests, including Coonskin Park, which includes a swimming pool, boathouse, clubhouse with dining facilities, tennis courts, 18-hole golf course, putt putt golf course, driving range, and fishing lake. Kanawha State Forest encompasses 9,300 acres and 46 camping areas.
For those who love to shop, there are five major shopping centers, plus the three-story Town Center Mall which has 130 stores and restaurants.
Charleston hosts many annual events. Symphony Sunday, held in June, is a full day of music, food, and live performances by various musical and dance groups, culminating in a free concert by the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra and a fireworks display. Twice a year, the West Virginia Film Festival features many domestic and international films that include full-length feature films, documentaries, animations, and student films.
FestivALL is a summer event with dance, theater, and music. There is an art fair downtown and local bands playing live music at stages set up around the city, as well as a wine and jazz festival on the campus of the University of Charleston. Vandalia Day attracts thousands of visitors each year to enjoy music, art, dance, stories, crafts, and food that celebrate the “uniqueness of West Virginia’s mountain culture.”
Healthcare is readily available in town through Charleston Area Medical Center, a system of hospitals located around the area.
Charleston is or has been the home of a number of famous people including Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers, former NFL player Randy Moss, movie actor Nick Nolte, and television actresses Jennifer Garner and Conchata Ferrell.
Located on the western side of the state, Huntington has a population of 49,000 and is part of the largest metro area in West Virginia. The metro area is in three states and has a total population of 364,000.
The city maintains eleven public parks. The most popular are Harris Riverfront Park downtown and Ritter Park in the South Side. Harris Riverfront Park is on the Ohio River and hosts concerts, live performance events, and open-air movie screenings. Ritter Park was listed by the American Planning Association as one of the 2012 Great Places of America. It features a playground and an award-winning rose garden. Camden Park, West Virginia’s only amusement park, is adjacent to the city. The Paul Ambrose Trail for Health is a bicycle and pedestrian trail system that is designed to create interconnected loops around each of the city parks to create recreational opportunities and an alternate means of transportation around the city. Just south of the city is Beech Fork State Park, a popular recreation area that includes the 720-acre Beech Fork Lake.
Huntington sponsors many annual events. These include Guyandotte Civil War Days which feature arts and crafts, food, and entertainment, Hilltop Festival featuring entertainment, children’s activities, a petting zoo, book fair, arts and crafts, and concessions, and Lions Tri-State Arts & Crafts Festival which has 200 exhibitors with variety of arts and crafts and homemade foods.
The two largest hospitals in Huntington are St. Mary’s Medical Center and Cabell Huntington Hospital.
For more information about retirement in West Virginia: