Best Boomer Towns Selects Aiken, South Carolina
One of their 21 best places to retire
By Nancy Padberg
Located in the outlying western midsection of South Carolina, and
within three driving hours from Atlanta, Charleston, and Columbia,
Aiken rose from farming roots. It has a nice atmosphere with lots going
on, like music and art events. Aiken is only 17 miles from the famous
links of Georgia’s Augusta National Golf Club. Over 30 stables and 13
golf courses are in and around Aiken. A temperate year-round climate
combined with a strong sense of historic conservation has made this
small town a top choice for retirement.
The University of South
Carolina (USC) campus is here, along with pleasant restaurants, a great
staff in the hospital, and easy shopping. There are plays at the
USC-Aiken Etheridge Center and at the Washington Center for the
Performing Arts downtown. Woodside Plantation has three challenging
golf course and an affordable country club membership.
equestrian events are held in the fall, and rides can be taken in
Hitchcock Woods, considered the largest urban forest in the United
States. A county historical museum sits on the north end of the park,
while Hopelands Gardens, a former plantation with a horse museum and
outdoor concert pavilion, sits at the south end. Aiken has a historical
downtown, where several excellent restaurants, upscale boutiques,
outdoor cafes, and gift shops have been established amidst the local
hardware stores and banks. Several residential golf communities,
including Cedar Creek, are located just outside Aiken and surrounded by
Among Aiken’s amenities are an 18-hole golf course,
lighted tennis courts, a unique Olympic-sized swimming pool, and
bicycle paths. A scenic 3.5-mile walking trail wends through part of
the 1,000+ acres that have been set aside as a bird and wildlife
sanctuary. Mount Vintage Plantation, about 16 miles west of Aiken,
opened in 2000 and is situated on 4,000 acres. The focal point of its
championship golf course is a restored 1840s Piedmont plantation home
that now serves as the clubhouse. Several assisted living facilities
are scattered around town, as well as new condos.
- Population: 25,337 in the town of Aiken, 145,000 in the county
- Cost of living: Below average
- Rain: 47 inches
- Snow: 1 inch
- January temperatures: High, 58; low, 36
- July temperatures: High, 90; low, 75
- Sales tax: Five percent state tax, plus a 1% Aiken County tax on all goods, including food
- Income tax: Graduated in six tiers, ranging from 2.5% on taxable income of $2,530 to 7% on taxable income of $12,650 (minus $367)
- Income exemptions: Social Security benefits are exempts from state income taxes, and that portion of benefits taxed at the federal level is deductible from South Carolina taxable income. There is an exemption of up to $3,000 for any pensions if under age 65 and up to $10,000 for pensions if 65 or older. Each person age 65 and older receives an age deduction of $15,000 off an income, although that’s reduced by the amount of retirement exemption taken.
- Estate tax: None
- Property tax: Owner-occupied homes are assessed at 4% of market value. In Aiken, there is a county rate of .2141 and a city rate of .071 for a total rate of $285.10 per $1,000. Taxes on a $162,000 home would be about $950 with homestead exemption and $1,520 without exemption. Both figures reflect a deduction of about $327 for the school tax exemption, set at a rate of .0818 on up to $100,000 of home value.
- Homestead exemption: The first $50,000 of the fair market value of a home is exempt from property taxes for citizens over 65.
Religion: More than 40 major denominations are represented in several dozen Aiken churches.
Education: USC-Aiken has approximately 3,200 undergraduate students, with degrees offered in 30 major areas of study as well as master’s degree programs. (Note: The university offers free tuition for seniors over the age of 60. Continuing education is important for people of all ages, but the opportunity for free classes should never be passed up!) Aiken Technical College is also located in Aiken.
Health: Aiken Regional Medical Centers has 230 beds and a staff of about 1,000, including 120 doctors representing 39 specialties. The facility is equipped for a broad range of medical needs. Emergency care, open heart surgery, and coronary care are specialties, along with two other centers devoted to detection and treatment of cancer and diabetes. ARMC’s Women’s LifeCare Center concentrates on breast cancer detection, and a free senior wellness program is dedicated to a variety of services for those over 50.
Housing: While the average home sold in Aiken costs $162,000, a wide range of choices is available, from small starter homes to elegant large estates. Single-family homes range from the $300,000s to the millions. While smaller houses in Aiken proper may approach the average cost, homes in the historic district often start at $500,000.
Further details: For more information, contact the Aiken Chamber of Commerce, 121 Richland Ave. East, PO Box 892, Aiken, SC 29802 (803-641-1111), and watch the following video:
Published November 19, 2009