For the more than 36 million Americans who will turn 65 in the coming decade, the best cities and towns to retire in now have a much higher bar to clear: They can't just be great places -- they have to be affordable. Each week, SmartMoney.com tours a different state to find less-expensive alternatives to the most well-known golden year destinations.
Spend a day or two in the Palmetto State, and you may quickly understand the state slogan -- "smiling faces and beautiful places." But residents say there's more to South Carolina than Southern charm and beautiful landscape, including its world renowned Lowcountry region that extends 150 miles along the state's coast. The state also boasts low property taxes and zero state estate tax. And while a growing number of retirees have been flocking to the state for its mild winters and slower pace, the state remains a bit of an "undiscovered gem."
And while many of the state's smaller cities and towns are filled with historical sites and a good mix of cultural offerings, residents say it isn't the place to come strictly for shopping or nightlife.
On top of that, many of the state's more popular destinations have gotten pricey. Take Hilton Head Island, a Lowcountry resort town about 20 miles north of Savannah, Ga. All the extra attention, however, has lifted prices: The cost of living is more than 60% higher than the national average and the median home price is more than $500,000, according to Sperling's Best Places.
Still, for those looking for a warm and friendly retirement retreat Lowcountry-style, there are cheaper alternatives. And Bluffton, SC: is perfect for the retiree priced out of Hilton Head
If you've been dreaming of Hilton Head but can't afford it, retirement pros say Bluffton is an excellent alternative. Dubbed the "Gateway to Hilton Head," Bluffton offers easy access to Hilton Head's beaches and two dozen world-class golf courses. Plus, residents say Bluffton itself has a plenty to offer, including all types of residential property ranging from retirement community developments to homes along the picturesque Colleton River. Bluffton took on the Hilton Head development model so there are lots of self-contained communities that have their own clubs and golf courses at every price level. There's also the quaint historic district called "Old Town Bluffton," which is lined with antebellum architecture, art galleries, antique shops and restaurants.