A Comprehensive Guide to Retiring in Charleston, SC

Offering a distinct southern charm and a relaxed coastal vibe, Charleston is the oldest city in all of South Carolina. There are many reasons to retire in Charleston, such as warm weather, generous tax exemptions, and an unbeatable atmosphere.

Charleston has had a large senior population for many years now, and its economy is built to accommodate the demographic. The city offers healthcare providers, financial resources, accommodations, and numerous recreational activities for people of retirement age. More importantly, there are endless opportunities to make new friends and socialize due to the large senior population.

Want to know more about retiring in Charleston? Our comprehensive retirement guide offers everything you need to know. To skip to a specific section, just click the links below!

Tax Benefits

A major reason people choose to retire in Charleston is for the tax friendliness. In fact, South Carolina is one of the most tax friendly states for seniors in the entire country! Here’s a breakdown of the tax benefits you can expect if you live in Charleston:

Zero Social Security Tax

That’s right. If you live anywhere in South Carolina, you will take home one hundred percent of your social security check. In fact, there are only thirteen states in the US that still tax social security benefits. Thankfully, South Carolina is not one of them.

Deduct Up to $15,000 from Income Taxes

For those ages 65 and over, South Carolina offers up to a $15,000 income tax deduction. This benefit can be applied to all types of retirement income, including income from pension plans, IRAs and 401(k) plans.

Low Property Taxes

The average effective property tax rate in South Carolina is just 0.57%, which is among the lowest in the country. South Carolina also offers a “homestead exemption,” which exempts those over 65 from property taxes on the first $50,000 of their home’s fair market value. For this exemption to apply, the home must serve as the person’s primary residence for over one year.

Weather

One of the reasons retirees love Charleston is for its subtropical climate. The summers tend to be warm but not overbearing, and the winters tend to be quite mild. On average, temperatures range from 37.5 to 59°F in January (the coldest month) and from 73 to 91.1°F in July (the hottest month). Snowfall is very rare—on average it occurs less than once per year. Annual rainfall is slightly higher than the national average, but so is the average number of sunny days per year.

People considering a move to Charleston generally want to know about hurricanes and what to expect. Residents can expect their fair share of storms throughout the year, but they’re generally not as scary or intense as many imagine. Hurricane season runs from June through November, with the majority of storms occurring in August and September. Local city officials and news outlets notify residents well in advance if there’s a chance of major storm, and they provide detailed instructions on action that needs to be taken, such as evacuation.

Health and Wellness

Healthcare is a top consideration for many retirees because it can affect every other part of life. It’s important to live somewhere that will meet all your needs, including both preventative care and ongoing treatment. In the following sections, we’ve laid out how you can take care of your health and wellness needs in Charleston.

Primary Care Physicians

To find primary care and specialty physicians in Charleston, we recommend using this tool from Medicare.gov. It allows you to search for specific types of providers and filter for those who accept Medicare payments.

Hospitals

No matter where you live in Charleston, there is a hospital nearby. The following map displays the location of all major hospitals in Charleston:

  • MUSC Health-University Medical Center
  • Roper St. Francis Hospital
  • Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital
  • East Cooper Medical Center
  • Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Charleston
  • MUSC Health-Children’s Hospital
  • Palmetto Lowcountry Behavioral Health-Charleston
  • Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center
  • Roper St. Francis Mount Pleasant Hospital
  • Trident Medical Center
  • Vibra Hospital of Charleston

Fitness Centers

Keeping active is one of the best ways to maintain health and wellness. While it’s easy to find a nearby gym through a quick Google search, there’s no guarantee that the first one you find will meet your needs. To aid in your search, we recommend using this tool to find age-friendly fitness locations in Charleston.

Senior Living Communities

Senior living communities are prevalent throughout Charleston, and they provide a variety of living options that cater to specific needs. For those who want a maintenance-free lifestyle but don’t require any additional care, independent living communities are an attractive choice. For those seeking day-to-day care or assistance in a residential environment, assisted living communities present a great option. The best way to determine what’s right for you is to tour multiple communities and gather a full understanding of the costs and amenities associated with each one.

Food and Drink

Charleston has much to offer from a food and drink perspective. Whether you’re looking for Southern-style barbecue, cuisine from around the world or a good old fashioned oyster roast, you’re sure to find it here. And if you’re looking for a drink, you’ll find a diverse selection of everything from breweries to dive bars to swanky rooftop lounges.

Charleston Restaurants on Yelp
Charleston Bars on Yelp

Shopping

For those who enjoy shopping, Charleston is a wonderful place to live. Whether you prefer strolling through big shopping malls or browsing local boutiques, you’re sure to find somewhere to meet your retail needs. Here’s a breakdown of the top places to shop in Charleston:

Beaches

What happens when you combine a subtropical climate and a seemingly endless stretch of sandy coast? One of the best beach towns in the entire United States! Charleston is a place where you can spend the whole day at one beach and then choose an entirely different beach the next day.

If you’re looking to catch some waves, Folly Beach is an excellent surfing destination. Folly Beach’s conditions make it a great spot for beginners and advanced surfers alike, and there are plenty of classes available for those looking to learn. If you’d prefer more laid back tides, Sullivan’s Island Beach is a great location. Sullivan’s Island offers a variety of leisure activities as well as a thriving restaurant and shopping scene. We also recommend Isle of Palms Beach, which has all of the above plus a fantastic fishing scene.

Arts and Entertainment

Museums

While there are several museums to check out in Charleston, our number one recommendation is a no brainer—The Charleston Museum! The Charleston Museum is one of America’s oldest museums, and it features a variety of historic arts, crafts and natural wonders. If you’re interested in fine art, theGibbes Museum of Art has both a large permanent collection and an extraordinary rotation of temporary collections. Another famous destination we recommend is Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum—a breathtaking military history museum set on the decommissioned USS Yorktown.

Since there are so many places worth visiting, we encourage you to check out the full list of Charleston museums on TripAdvisor. Read the reviews and find something that sparks your interest!

Theaters

Charleston has a thriving performing arts scene that includes a number of fantastic venues. Be sure to check out Charleston Stage, a group that performs at the Historic Dock Street Theatre, known as America’s First Theatre. Another great venue is 34 West Theater Company in the heart of downtown. 34 West plays host to a variety of musicals and live comedy shows, including a number of original performances. If you’re interested in a fully unique comedy experience, pay a visit to The Black Fedora Comedy Mystery Theatre. Their Sherlock Holmes style show makes use of the entire space and is built around audience participation.

Music

Charleston offers an array of music venues that play host to both up-and-coming artists and worldwide superstars. Larger shows usually take place at the North Charleston Coliseum, an indoor arena that also plays host to live sporting events. Other popular venues include Music Farm, Charleston Music Hall and The Pour House. Check out Bandsintown for a list of upcoming concerts in Charleston.

Transportation

Highways

The major highways going through Charleston are I-26, I-526 and US Route 17. I-26 runs from Kingsport, TN in the north all the way down to Charleston, SC in the south. It intersects Asheville, NC; Spartanburg, SC; and Columbia SC along the way. I-526 is a convenient offshoot of I-26 that wraps around an outer section of Charleston.

US-17 is a coastal highway that stretches from Winchester, VA in the north to Punta, Gorda, FL in the south. If you head north from Charleston on US-17, you’ll hit major cities such as Myrtle Beach, SC; Wilmington, NC; and Norfolk, VA. If you head south you’ll pass through Savannah, GA; Jacksonville, FL; and Orlando, FL.

Public Transport

The Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority, or CARTA, is the public transit system in the greater Charleston area. With an annual ridership of over 4 million, CARTA is the largest public transportation provider in all of South Carolina. You can visit their website for a route schedule and map of their bus network.

Airport

The Charleston International Airport is the largest and busiest airport in South Carolina. All the major US airlines have a presence in Charleston, so you can find a direct flight to almost any major hub. You can even take a direct flight from Charleston to London through British Airways!

The airport’s convenient location off I-26 makes it easy if you’re picking up friends and family coming to visit, or if you want to get out of town for a vacation!

Best Charleston Neighborhoods to Retire In

By this point, we hope you’re convinced that Charleston is an excellent place to retire. If you’ve decided that it’s the right city for you, the next logical step is to think about which neighborhood in Charleston you’d want to live in.

Here is our breakdown of the best places to retire in Charleston:

1. Daniel Island

Daniel Island is a quaint island town located just across the river from downtown Charleston. The island offers long stretches of walking paths, a plethora of rivers and streams, a marina for boating excursions, and a vibrant town center filled with shops and restaurants. Fun activities can be found at the Daniel Island Club, which includes a golf course, tennis courts, clubhouse, and social venue. Daniel Island is also home to Wellmore of Daniel Island, the area’s most luxurious assisted living community.

2. Mount Pleasant

Mount Pleasant is a suburb of Charleston that lies just to the east of Daniel Island. Due to its large stretches of coast along the Charleston Harbor, it is another popular spot to begin a boating expedition. Retirees love Mount Pleasant because of its numerous attractions, growing economy and tight knit community.

3. Downtown

Downtown Charleston is where the action happens, so of course it cracks our top three retirement neighborhoods in Charleston. Retirees who live downtown enjoy access to endless restaurants, museums and attractions all within walking distance from their home or apartment. The central location makes access to the rest of Charleston a breeze.

4. James Island

James Island is another island town with an expansive natural habitat. Paths along the numerous creeks and rivers are great for taking a stroll on a sunny day. The island also boasts some of the best fishing and shrimping spots in all of Charleston. Even if you’re not into fishing yourself, you can enjoy the fresh seafood it produces at local restaurants.

5. Sullivan’s Island

Sullivan’s Island is famous for its long stretches of sandy beach. So if you’re a fan of the beach, this could be the retirement destination for you. The island is beloved for its coastal town vibes and quaint boutique shops. It’s also home to Fort Moultrie, where Edgar Allen Poe was stationed and wrote many of his great works.

Conclusion

So… Is Charleston a Good Place to Retire?

Charleston is a fantastic place to retire! From weather to attractions to tax benefits, it’s got everything you could want in a retirement destination. No matter what your interests are, the city’s eclectic community, bustling economy and endless recreational opportunities will have something to offer you.

We hope you’ll visit soon!