11 Pros And Cons Of Retiring In Washington State

This article was originally published by Joe Craft at Crafted Finance.

Thinking about retiring in Washington State? You’re not alone. With its gorgeous mountains, gentle coasts, rivers, lakes, and coffee-loving cities, Washington has a lot to offer. But before you pack your bags and head for the Evergreen State, let’s talk about what it’s (actually) like to live here as a retiree.

Like anywhere else, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows (though there’s plenty of rain!). Living in Washington State has its share of challenges, especially for retirees. Below, we’ll dive into the pros and cons of retiring in Washington to find out whether or not it may be the right home for you and your golden years.

What Are The Pros Of Retiring In Washington State?

Washington is more than just a pretty face on the map; it’s a place where retirees find a unique blend of financial perks and lifestyle benefits. So, what exactly makes Washington such a standout choice for those looking to enjoy their retirement years? Let’s take a closer look.

1) Zero State Income Tax

Retiring in Washington State comes with a significant financial advantage: no state income taxes. This means your retirement income, including pensions, 401(k)s, and IRAs, remains untouched by state taxes. That means more of your hard-earned money in your pocket!

This benefit can offer substantial financial relief and far more flexibility in managing the direction of this exciting new chapter of your life. It’s an advantage that extends to your day-to-day life as well as your long-term financial planning. With no state income tax, you have more resources to enjoy Washington’s diverse lifestyle, from exploring its natural landscapes to indulging in its cultural offerings (more on that below).

Furthermore, for those considering their financial legacy, the absence of state income taxes can allow for more efficient estate planning. Depending on your specific situation, it’s possible Washington’s lack of state income taxes may enable you to leave more behind to future generations of your family.

The few other states with no state income tax include:

  • Texas
  • Wyoming
  • Florida
  • Alaska
  • Nevada
  • Tennessee
  • New Hampshire
  • South Dakota

2) Property Taxes Are Lower

Washington State presents a compelling advantage for retirees in terms of property taxes. Compared to many other states, Washington’s property taxes are relatively moderate, making it an attractive option for those looking to stretch their retirement dollars a bit further.1 This financial benefit can be particularly appealing for retirees who are considering purchasing a home or have existing property investments.

3) It’s Absolutely Stunning

Washington stands out as a gem for retirees seeking beauty and tranquility in their golden years. The state’s stunning sights aren’t rivaled by many, with its stunning landscapes ranging from the lush, evergreen forests of the Olympic Peninsula to the rugged, awe-inspiring peaks of the Cascade Mountain Range. For those who dream of being surrounded by nature’s best, Washington offers an idyllic backdrop.

The state’s scenic diversity extends to its coastline, dotted with picturesque islands and tranquil beaches, and its eastern regions, which boast rolling hills and serene farmlands. Whether it’s the tranquil mornings in wine country or the spectacular sunsets over the San Juan Islands, Washington’s natural beauty provides a wide array of peaceful and rejuvenating environments for your retirement.

4) Tons Of Outdoor Recreational Activities

As mentioned earlier Washington has plenty of gorgeous locations. However, it also offers an outdoor playground that’s hard to beat. Whether you’re seeking relaxation or adventure, Washington can serve up a picturesque spot for the full range of your retirement’s outdoor recreational activities. These include, but are not limited to:

Hiking and Nature Walks: Explore the renowned trails of Olympic or Mount Rainier  National Park.

Boating and Fishing: Enjoy the serene waters of Puget Sound or the many freshwater lakes in Eastern Washington.

Golfing: Take advantage of numerous scenic golf courses across the state.

Skiing and Snowboarding: Hit the slopes at destinations like Stevens Pass and Crystal Mountain.

Wildlife Viewing: Spot orcas in the San Juan Islands or elk in the Hoh Rainforest.

Cycling and Mountain Biking: Traverse the extensive network of biking trails and cyclist-friendly cities.

Camping: Immerse yourself in nature at well-maintained campgrounds or remote sites.

Kayaking and Canoeing: Paddle through the calm waters of the many rivers and lakes.

Gardening and Bird Watching: Engage in more leisurely activities in local parks and your backyard.

5) Leading Healthcare Systems

Washington stands out as an appealing retirement destination partly due to its top-tier healthcare systems. The state is home to some of the nation’s leading medical facilities and healthcare providers, offering retirees access to high-quality medical care. This aspect is crucial for those entering their golden years, as access to excellent healthcare can become increasingly important.

Cities like Seattle and Spokane are renowned for their medical centers and specialized healthcare services.2 3 Facilities such as the University of Washington Medical Center and Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center are also noted for their advanced treatments and specialized care in various medical fields.3 These institutions not only provide routine healthcare but are also at the forefront of medical research and innovation.

In addition to these large medical centers, Washington State offers a network of community clinics and regional hospitals. This widespread availability ensures that retirees living in both urban and rural areas have access to quality healthcare. The state’s commitment to public health and preventive care is evident. 4

With the combination of highly-respected medical facilities and widespread healthcare access, Washington State can be an attractive choice for retirees prioritizing health and well-being. The assurance of receiving solid medical care adds to the peace of mind of those considering Washington as their retirement haven.

6) Strong Economy

Washington State offers a solid and reliable economy that’s especially appealing to retirees.5 It’s not just about tech giants like Microsoft and Amazon; the state’s economic scene is varied, featuring everything from aerospace to agriculture and maritime industries. This diversity means a stable backdrop for retirement, where the ripple effects of a good economy are felt in everyday life.

For retirees, this translates to better roads, national parks, and public services like libraries. It’s about having the peace of mind that comes from living in a place where things work well and there’s always something to do.

Parks and community centers are well-maintained, and there are plenty of activities and resources to keep one engaged. Living in Washington during retirement means enjoying a comfortable, active lifestyle supported by a robust economy that takes care of its community at every age.

7) Diverse Culture and Plenty of Entertainment

Washington State’s diverse culture and abundant entertainment options make it an ideal retirement haven for those seeking an engaging and enriching lifestyle. From vibrant art scenes to diverse culinary experiences, the state offers a rich tapestry of cultural and entertainment activities:

Diverse Cultural Festivals: Celebrate global cultures through events like the Seattle International Film Festival and the Spokane Lilac Festival.

Museums and Art Galleries: Explore art, history, and science at institutions like the Seattle Art Museum and the Museum of Glass in Tacoma.

Live Music and Theatre: Enjoy a variety of live performances, from classical concerts by the Seattle Symphony to contemporary shows at local theaters.

Culinary Scene: Savor the flavors of the world with a diverse range of dining options, including fresh seafood, Asian fusion, and farm-to-table eateries.

Outdoor Concerts and Events: Experience the beauty of Washington’s natural settings while attending outdoor concerts, farmers’ markets, and community gatherings.

Historical Sites: Delve into the state’s rich history by visiting landmarks like the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site and the San Juan Islands National Historical Park.

What Are The Cons of Retiring In Washington State?

Navigating retirement is about finding the right balance, and while Washington has its perks, it also has its share of challenges. Understanding these potential drawbacks will give you a more complete picture of what retirement in Washington really looks like. So, let’s take a deeper dive into the cons of living in the Evergreen State and how they might impact your retirement.

1) Mother Nature

While Washington State can offer a picturesque retirement in the Pacific Northwest with its jaw-dropping landscapes and abundant outdoor activities, it’s essential to consider the challenges posed by Mother Nature. The state’s diverse climate and geography can present some less-than-ideal weather patterns for retirees, including:

Heavy Rainfall: Rainy weather is a common feature in the western regions, often leading to damp conditions that require weather-appropriate clothing and gear.

Cloudy Weather: Overcast skies dominate much of the year in the populated west side, which can affect mood and limit outdoor activities.

Winter Conditions: In the mountainous areas and in the East, winters can be harsh, bringing significant snowfall and challenging driving conditions.

Limited Sunlight in Winter: Shorter days during winter months can impact outdoor activities and general well-being.

Smoke: Increased smoke in the air during wildfire season has become worse the past few years; perhaps the most noticeable indicator of global climate change in the region.

High Winds: Coastal regions often experience strong winds, leading to occasional power outages and making some outdoor activities difficult.

2) Higher Cost of Living

Washington’s upsides can come with a key drawback for retirees: a high cost of living. Without a doubt, this is the biggest aspect you need to consider when deciding whether or not to place your retirement roots in the state.

Firstly, housing costs in Washington, especially in popular areas like Seattle and Bellevue, are considerably higher than in many other parts of the United States. For retirees looking to settle in areas like these, high housing costs could significantly eat into their retirement savings. The high demand for housing in these urban centers only adds to the price pressure.

Additionally, everyday living expenses in Washington can be a strain on a fixed retirement budget. Groceries, healthcare, utilities, and transportation costs are all above the national average. These recurring expenses, while seeming small individually, can accumulate to form a substantial portion of a retiree’s monthly spending allotment.

Lastly, even leisure and recreational activities, a significant draw for retirees in Washington, can contribute to the higher cost of living. Membership fees for clubs, entrance fees for state parks, and costs associated with hobbies like boating or golfing can really add up.

3) Higher Sales Tax

Washington imposes one of the highest sales taxes in the United States, a detail that retirees must carefully consider.6 This elevated sales tax can significantly pile on to the overall cost of living.

Everyday purchases, from essential items like clothing and home appliances to leisure activities such as dining out or entertainment, are subject to this higher tax rate. This means that day-to-day expenses can be more than what retirees might expect based on national averages. The cumulative effect over time can strain retirement savings, making budget management even more challenging for seniors.

Moreover, for those planning to make major purchases or invest in lifestyle upgrades in their retirement, the high sales tax rate adds an additional financial burden. Larger investments, such as buying a car or renovating a home, come with a considerably higher cost due to this tax structure. As a result, retirees may need to adjust their spending habits or reconsider their retirement plans in Washington State.

4) Traffic and Population Density

While Washington boasts natural beauty and a wealth of cultural offerings, its traffic congestion and population density in the cities can present significant downsides, especially for retirees. Major urban centers like Seattle and Tacoma are known for their bustling streets and busy highways, often leading to crowded public spaces, from parks to shopping centers, which can make it challenging for retirees to enjoy leisurely outings without the hassle of a large crowd.

Retiring In Washington State FAQs

Is Washington State A Good Place To Retire?

It certainly can be. However, it will depend on you and your retirement must-haves. Carefully consider each of the pros and cons above to help you decide whether or not Washington is the right place for your next chapter. You can also schedule a discovery call with our team, which has operated out of the state for well over a decade and will help you weigh all your retirement options thoroughly.

How Much Money Do You Need To Retire Comfortably In Washington State?

The amount of money needed to retire comfortably in Washington State varies greatly depending on individual circumstances. Key factors will include your desired retirement age, the expected length of retirement (considering life expectancy), and the lifestyle you wish to maintain during retirement. It’s also important to account for Washington’s higher cost of living compared to other regions, which can significantly influence your financial needs.

For a more personalized estimate that takes into account your unique situation and goals, we invite you to use the button above or at the bottom of this post to schedule a discovery call. During this call, we can discuss your specific needs and provide you with a detailed roadmap to securing a comfortable retirement in Washington State (or somewhere else!).

What Are Some Good Places To Retire In Washington State?

Whether you’re dreaming of vibrant city life, peaceful seaside towns, or quaint suburban comfort, Washington’s diverse locales cater to a variety of preferences and lifestyles. Let’s take a tour of some top spots that stand out as solid choices for retirees seeking to make the most of their golden years in the Evergreen State:

Seattle Metro Area: A bustling metropolis known for its rich culture, arts scene, dining options and beauty. Ideal for those who love an urban vibe mixed with easy access to nature.

Gig Harbor: A picturesque maritime town offering serene waterfront living and a tight-knit community feel. Perfect for retirees who enjoy a slower pace and scenic beauty.

Sequim: Famed for its mild climate and the “Blue Hole” that brings more sunny days, Sequim is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, nature and art lovers.

Wenatchee: Nestled on the leeward side of the Cascade mountains, this town is known for beautiful orchards, golf, and proximity to fun in the mountains, lakes, and rivers.

Bellingham: A smaller city right on the ocean with Mount Baker looking down, Bellingham is a college town equidistant between Seattle, Vancouver BC, and the San Juan Islands.

Spokane: Washington’s city to the East, Spokane boasts impressive city-wide community events (like Bloomsday, the Lilac Festival, and Hoopfest) and access to outdoor activities. It also has a lower cost of living than Seattle Metro.

Let Us Help You Weigh The Pros And Cons Of Retiring In Washington State (Or Somewhere Else!)

At Crafted Finance, we pride ourselves on over a decade of experience in guiding individuals toward successful retirements in Washington. We understand that making the leap into retirement is a significant life decision, and our expertise lies in helping individuals make that leap with all the financial confidence they need.

Moving to Washington State offers notable advantages to retirees, such as no state income tax, reasonable property taxes, a strong economy, and a leading healthcare system. Additionally, the natural beauty and adventurous lifestyle activities in Washington are exceptional, providing a picturesque setting for whatever your next chapter holds in store.

However, it’s important to acknowledge the potential downsides as well. Washington’s higher cost of living and above-average sales tax are factors that require careful financial planning. Moreover, factors like severe weather conditions and densely populated cities need to be considered before settling down.

Our approach blends professional expertise with a down-to-earth partnership. We believe in creating retirement plans that are not only financially sound but also resonate with your personal goals and lifestyle choices. Whether you are attracted to the vibrant urban life of Seattle or the serene landscapes of the San Juan Islands, our team is equipped to provide tailored advice that considers all aspects of your ideal retirement.

If you’re feeling unsure about retirement, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Let Crafted Finance assist you in building a retirement plan that not only works but thrives – one that truly reflects the retirement you envision, whether it’s in Washington or somewhere else. Click the button below to book a call and take a step closer to realizing your golden years.



  1. https://www.rocketmortgage.com/learn/property-taxes-by-state
  2. https://healthcareinsider.com/americas-top-20-metros-ranked-for-healthcare-345440
  3. https://health.usnews.com/best-hospitals/area/wa
  4. https://assets.americashealthrankings.org/app/uploads/ahr_2023seniorreport_statesummaries_final-web-full.pdf
  5. https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/rankings/economy
  6. https://taxfoundation.org/data/all/state/2023-sales-tax-rates-midyear/


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