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Your Golden Years in The Diamond State: Is Retiring in Delaware Right for You?

Retirement Delaware

by Anthony Stockton Posted on December 19, 2023
From the sunny West Coast to historic New England, you have a wide variety of destinations to choose from when planning for retirement. But with its pleasant weather, beautiful beaches, and robust tax benefits, Delaware may end up at the top of your list. Considered to be a jewel among the states by Thomas Jefferson, there are plenty of reasons to move to The Diamond State, especially for retirees. Whether you’re looking for urban amenities or small-town charm, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about retiring in Delaware — including the top towns for retirees.
 
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Retiring in Delaware — FAQs

Q: Is Delaware a good state for retirees?
A:
With seaside views and great tax benefits to boot, Delaware is a great state for retirees to consider. Whether you want quiet weekends on the beach or days spent exploring Rodney Square in Downtown Wilmington, there’s plenty to experience in your golden years.

Q: What are the pros and cons of living in Delaware for retirees?
A:
Delaware falls above the national average when it comes to things like healthcare, groceries, and overall cost of living, but the affordable housing and retiree-friendly tax laws are enough to balance things out. You’ll also have easy access to the Atlantic, and you won’t be far from major hubs like Manhattan and Jersey City — both of which come with much higher price tags.

Q: How much money do you need to retire in Delaware?
A: The
exact answer to this question depends on your situation, but the average cost of a comfortable retirement falls at about $69,000 a year. Overall, the typical retiree will spend approximately $1.3 million over a 20-year period during their retirement. Remember to take your individual needs into account when planning things, though.

Q: Is it better to retire in Delaware or Pennsylvania?
A:
That depends on your specific situation, but Delaware definitely has some retiree benefits that other mid-Atlantic states simply do not. Favorable tax policies, a more affordable housing market, and property discounts for seniors are just a few of the reasons Delaware outshines The Keystone State in terms of retirement-friendliness.

Sunrise over the ocean in Delaware. A rocky breakwater covered in green algae juts out into the ocean, hosting a tower at its end.

Retiring in Delaware — Pros and Cons

Delaware is a popular spot for retirees. In fact, almost 21 percent of its population consisted of people 65 and older during the last census. But while there might be plenty of great things to move to Delaware for (You’re reading this article for a reason, right?), no place is perfect. Here are a few of the benefits of retiring in Delaware, as well as some of the cons to consider when deciding if the state is right for you.

Pro: Retiree Benefits

Not only does Delaware have a beautiful coastline along the Atlantic Ocean, but it also happens to have a ton of tax benefits for retirees. It’s one of only a few states that has no state or local sales tax — so shopping on a fixed income might feel a lot easier. Not to mention Delaware has the 11th lowest property tax rates in the country. Both your Social Security and Railroad Retirement benefits also aren’t taxed, and you’ll be able to enjoy a $12,500 tax exclusion for retirement income, like pension plans.

Bankrate has also ranked Delaware as the 2nd best state to retire in. Factors that played into the ranking were Delaware’s high ratings in categories like affordability, the well-being of citizens, and its weather.

Con: Higher Than Average Healthcare Costs

According to U.S. News & World Report, Delaware ranks 21st for healthcare affordability, coming in at just over 12 percent higher than the national average for health costs. This could have a negative impact on retirees’ overall outlook on retiring in the state, but we think it’s worth considering the fact that Delaware has also been ranked 17th for healthcare access.

A field of sunflowers near Lewes, Delaware.

Pro: Natural Beauty

Did you know The Diamond State has 381 miles of coastline? As if that wasn’t enough natural beauty on its own, Delaware also has 26,000 acres of state parks, beautiful weather, and a small-town charm that has been industrialized away in other areas like Philadelphia and New York City. Delaware’s beautiful natural landscape and comfortable climate are a few of the reasons it’s such a popular retirement destination.

Con: Not the Safest State in New England

While Delaware isn’t the most dangerous state to live in, its New England neighbors have been ranked more highly in terms of safety. New Jersey, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont make up the five safest states in the country, while Delaware comes in at 17. The national median for crimes per square mile is 26.8, according to NeighborhoodScout, but Delaware is more than double at 60. But it’s important to remember that, if you take regular safety measures and remember to stay aware, it’s possible to stay safe.

Pro: Rich History

Delaware's nickname of “The First State” ties back to its earliest history as one of the 13 colonies. It was the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, technically making it the first state in the union. The state is full of historic homes, lighthouses, and museums that will give you an up-close look at our nation’s founding not too far from home. 

Con: More Expensive Than States in the Middle/South of the Country

Delaware is a relatively affordable state — particularly by mid-Atlantic and New England standards! If you’re looking for a retirement spot in the northeast, Delaware is one of the best. However, more affordable states to retire in exist elsewhere in the southern and middle regions of the country.

Pro: Close Proximity to Major Cities

Delaware is located in the mid-Atlantic region, making the major points of interest along the East Coast like Philadelphia, New York City, and Washington, D.C., easily accessible if domestic travel is a part of your retirement plans. And when you choose to retire in Delaware, you can enjoy beautiful scenery and small-town charm rather than dealing with the noise and hustle and bustle that comes along with living in one of those larger cities.

Home prices in Delaware are much more affordable than they are in nearby New Jersey and Maryland. And Delaware has the ninth lowest property tax rate in the U.S., with none of its neighbors breaking the top 10. All of that means, when you live in Delaware, you don’t have to pay big-city prices for big-city access.

Best Places to Retire in Delaware

From quaint small towns to historic centers to bustling cities, there are plenty of destinations to choose from if you want to retire in Delaware. Here are seven of our favorites!

Buildings in downtown Dover, Delaware, just before dusk. Most of the buildings are made of red brick, but the two in the foreground feature a white siding exterior.

Dover, Delaware

1. Dover, DE

Dover, the state’s capital city, is home to beautiful views of Killens Pond State Park. Quite a bit larger than other popular retirement destinations, like Lewes, it has a population of over 38,500 people, which doesn’t make it a “big city” by any means, but it does make it the 2nd largest city in the entire state

If you are hoping to enjoy the amenities of a major cultural hub during your retirement, moving to Dover might be the perfect option for you. Plus, Dover has plenty of retirement communities, if you are hoping to find a place where all the snow shoveling and yard work is done for you!

2. Milton, DE

Milton is another popular city in Delaware for retirees, in large part due to its quaint and charming small-town vibes and its affordable cost of living. It has a variety of different home styles that reflect some of the most notable architecture in the whole state. Milton also happens to feature plenty of great outdoor opportunities. 

Nearby is the Edward H. McCabe Nature Preserve and the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. And that’s in addition to the other several small parks, hiking trails, and fishing areas that Milton features.

Aerial view of residential streets in Wilmington, Delaware. There’s a park in the foreground and the large, mature trees are changing colors with the coming of fall.

Wilmington, Delaware

3. Wilmington, DE

Wilmington is the only city in the state of Delaware that is larger than Dover. It’s actually a little over twice the size of Dover, with close to 72,000 residents

However, Wilmington is very green for a city of its size. There are two prominent state parks nearby: Brandywine Creek State Park and Bellevue State Park. In fact, partly due to its natural beauty, Wilmington was ranked as a top 10 city to retire in by WalletHub in 2022 and was featured as the 13th best in 2023.

4. New Castle, DE

New Castle was ranked the 7th most affordable place to live and retire in the U.S. in 2019. So if you’re looking to retire in Delaware and enjoy some small-town charm on a budget, New Castle is a great option. 

In fact, the city only has a population of about 5,500, according to census data from 2020. And although it's right on the border with Pennsylvania, the housing costs are much lower than the state average. New Castle is also only about 20 minutes south of Wilmington, so you still have the option of big-city amenities when you want them!

A residential property in a historic part of Lewes, Delaware. The two-story home features a wood shingle exterior and a fenced-in lawn.

Lewes, Delaware

5. Lewes, DE

Lewes is a small town with a population of just over 3,250, but don’t let its size fool you! It’s been ranked third on Niche’s list for “Best Places to Retire in Delaware.” It offers the third lowest real estate taxes in the United States at under $1,000 a year. And there’s no sales tax, no personal property tax, no estate tax, low income taxes, and reduced property taxes for seniors. And that’s on top of the fact that it has fantastic medical centers. Its close proximity to Cape Henlopen State Park is also an attractive feature. 

6. Millsboro, DE

If you are looking for an affordable small town to retire in Delaware, then Millsboro is a great option for you. It’s a little larger than New Castle, with around 7,400 people, but it still has a quaint, close-knit community vibe. 

Millsboro is located in Southern Delaware, about an hour away from Dover. It’s only a few miles from the beach and is also home to the riverside Cupola Park. You can easily explore nearby state parks, as well, like Trap Pond State Park and Cape Henlopen State Park

7. Hockessin, DE

Hockessin, Delaware, is about twice the size of Millsboro, with almost 13,800 people. The housing prices are higher than New Castle or Millsboro, but that’s because of the town’s close proximity to Wilmington and the fact that it's right on the Pennsylvania border in the northern end of Delaware. 

You’ll have to pay more for the house, but you’ll also be a comfortable 10 miles northwest of Wilmington, meaning you’ll be able to enjoy all the bi- city amenities whenever you want to. And when you want to enjoy the great outdoors? There are nearby state parks, natural areas, and amazing golf courses, as well.

A recently retired couple inspects the empty PODS portable moving container in their driveway. The door of the container is open and the container is ready to be loaded.

Retiring in Delaware: Making the Move With PODS 

Moving to Delaware with a portable container from PODS makes getting to your retirement destination a snap. PODS will deliver your container to your doorstep, so you can pack and load it on your own schedule. They will then transport your container to your new home in beautiful Delaware when it’s time to make the move. Flexibility is built into the process, which is exactly what you need when settling into a new place. And one month of storage is included in the price of every move.

Editor’s note: For ease of reading, monthly rental prices were rounded to the nearest $25 and home values were rounded to the nearest $100.

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