Should You Retire in Williamsburg, VA?
Updated: Feb 4
If you’re looking to retire in Williamsburg, VA, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better location in 2020 and beyond.
Most people in the United States know that Virginia is for Lovers. But, according to new research by the University of Virginia, it seems Virginia is also a great place for retirees, too. Specifically, Williamsurg is one of the best cities in the state for retirees.
Williamsburg and James City County, among others, have seen a large increase in the number of residents age 60 and over. The research shows a 113% increase in Virginia’s “retirement counties!” These are locations where the number of residents over the age of 60 have grown by 15 percent or more between 2000 and 2010 censuses.
One of the great things about retirement is that it opens up a world of new choices—where to travel, how to spend your time, and especially where to live. You’re not tied to an employer’s location, so you’re free to follow your dreams.
Virginia’s got a lot to offer active seniors, so if you’re looking at possible retirement destinations, there are many great reasons why you should retire in Williamsburg, VA.
What to look for in a place to retire
A generation or so ago, climate was the major driver behind the decision to move in retirement. Most people had guaranteed income for life from their employer pension; that, plus Social Security, meant seniors could retire comfortably anywhere even if they didn’t have a lot of retirement savings.
That’s no longer the case for a generation self-funding their own retirement. Now, financial considerations such as tax rates and cost of living are primary considerations. Health care, too, assumes more importance; today’s seniors live longer and are more health-conscious than ever before.
Quality of life is definitely important. Low crime, great recreational opportunities, convenient travel options, and outstanding retirement communities are all things to look for in the place you retire. Most experts recommend cities with at least 10,000 people because they tend to offer more of the services seniors desire.
So, should you retire in Williamsburg, VA? Keep reading to find out.
Getting to know Williamsburg, VA
Williamsburg was the original capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia. If you’re a history buff, Williamsburg, along with nearby Jamestown and Yorktown, form the Historic Triangle; it’s one of the oldest cities in the country. The College of William and Mary is the second-oldest institute of higher learning in the country and boasts three U.S. presidents as alumni.
The city itself has a population of around 15,000, while the greater Historic Triangle region is home to about 500,000 people.
Cost of living in Williamsburg
The overall cost of living in Williamsburg is about average for the country as a whole, however, utilities and transportation expenses are significantly below the national average. Home prices are about a third higher than the U.S. average, but rental prices are at or just slightly above average.
You can buy a large three-bedroom townhouse with garage and landscaped patio within walking distance of Colonial Williamsburg. A two-bedroom apartment in a luxury community starts at about $1,500 a month.
Williamsburg has a diversified economy and an educated workforce. The median income is about $52,000, and a large percentage of residents derive the bulk of their income from investments as opposed to employment.
Quality of life in Williamsburg
Williamsburg is perfect for active seniors who love vibrant towns. There are plenty of museums, galleries, antique shops, restaurants, coffee shops, farmers’ markets and organized community events. You can take in an exhibit at the Muscarelle Museum of Art or catch a live performance by the college’s theatre or dance department.
Seniors can audit classes at William and Mary for free—a great way to meet new friends and pursue new passions. Williamsburg is a college town, so there’s no shortage of cultural events. The student population gives the city a youthful vibe.
According to Area Vibes, Williamsburg has a livability score of 75, which puts it in the top 20% of all U.S. cities. The crime rate is 49% below the national average and Williamsburg is safer than 70% of American cities.
Health care in Williamsburg
Maintaining great health may be at the top of your retirement goals. If so, you won’t be disappointed to learn that Williamsburg offers all the necessary medical facilities you need.
The Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center has a five-star rating from Medicare. It is also ranked among the top 150 hospitals in the world, cited for excellence in cardiology, neurology, neurosurgery, and spine and orthopedic surgery, among other disciplines. It is a Certified Primary Stroke Center and has state-of-the-art facilities.
Williamsburg is also well known for its retirement communities, which are well integrated into the local community and offer multiple levels of care within a single campus.
Health care costs are in line with the national average for comparable services.
Taxes in Williamsburg
The average property tax rate in Virginia is less than 1%. But the real estate tax for the City of Williamsburg is only $0.60 per $100 or 0.60% for 2020.
All prescription drugs and most over-the-counter drugs are also tax-exempt in Virginia, although there is a 2.5% tax on groceries. The maximum sales tax is 6%.
Travel and recreation in Williamsburg
Williamsburg is about 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., and about an hour drive from Richmond and Virginia Beach. There are three regional airports within 45 minutes, including the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport just 15 minutes from downtown.
Do you enjoy boating, fishing, and waterside views? If so, you'll love visiting Virginia's Northern Neck. Just an hour's drive north of Williamsburg, the Northern Neck is home to Irvington, Va, The Tides Inn Resort, and miles of beautiful coastline where you can enjoy crabbing, fishing, and relaxing with a good book.
There are amenity-filled golf communities and golf courses near Williamsburg—Kingsmill Resort and Ford’s Colony to name just two—and the beautiful Colonial Parkway connects the city with Yorktown and Jamestown. Walkers and cyclists get their daily exercise on the Capital Trail, which connects Richmond and Jamestown.
Williamsburg is a year-round tourist destination, which means you’ll have no trouble convincing friends, family, and even the grandkids to come for a visit—Busch Gardens, Water Country USA and Freedom Park adventure center are all close by.
As you can see, if you want to retire in Williamsburg, VA there are many nearby destinations for easy road trips and site seeing.
Is Williamsburg, VA right for you in retirement?
Williamsburg gets plenty of accolades as a top place to retire; Kiplinger’s recently ranked it among the 10 best small to medium-sized cities for seniors. CNN Money ranked it 25th overall for best places to retire.
National ratings are great, but they can’t tell you if you’ll actually love it and be comfortable in Williamsburg. The only way to know is to plan a trial run. Find a short-term rental or Airbnb and spend four to six weeks actually living in the city.
Attend a few churches to see if there’s a good fit, check out the local restaurants and shops, compare grocery prices, and get to know the pace of the city. Explore different neighborhoods and communities to get firsthand information about the local real estate market.
Visit a couple times during different seasons so you can see if the climate appeals to you. Williamsburg is sunnier than the average U.S. city and it gets very little snow. This is the Tidewater area, so summers can be humid.
Ultimately, if you want to retire in Williamsburg, VA, you'll find that it's a great place to live and enjoy life.
Retire in Williamsburg, VA with a Personalized Plan
Most people enter retirement with a good idea of how much income their retirement savings will generate each year. Because it’s a fairly constant amount, except for slight increases for inflation, it’s important to choose a place to retire that helps your money go farther.
Tax-free Social Security, low property taxes, and $12,000 of tax-exempt earned income in retirement extends the life of your nest egg. A low cost of living lets you do more with less money - and Williamsburg, VA definitely provides that.
If you’d like to know more about how retiring in Williamsburg fits with your retirement goals, get in touch today.
At Covenant Wealth Advisors, we understand all the nuances you need to think about to help you achieve the lifestyle you want in retirement. As one of the only fully independent, fee-only financial advisory firms in the area, we offer expert insight and unbiased recommendations to help you make the most of your retirement.
Mark Fonville, CFP®
Mark is the President of Covenant Wealth Advisors, a wealth management and fee-only financial planning firm in Williamsburg and Richmond, VA.
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