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Home | South Carolina | Above Average Costs | September 29, 2018

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Finding the Best Places to Retire Since 2006!

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Reader Requested Short Review of Charleston, South Carolina

Say the words "Charleston, South Carolina" (population 135,000) and images of the Old South come to mind. A time when manners mattered, gentlemen tipped their hats and ladies sipped iced tea on the veranda. Founded by 148 men and women from Bermuda in 1670, the city has been plundered by pirates and damaged by hurricanes. It has survived the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Civil War.

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Today, Charleston is a beautiful, romantic city steeped in culture. It sits on very flat land along South Carolina's mid-coast and is the place where two rivers converge "to form the Atlantic Ocean." The historic district, often called "Little London," is a gem with cobblestone streets and block after block of lovingly preserved, centuries-old buildings. Steeples dot the cityscape, a testament to the city's long history of religious tolerance. With an eclectic mix of traditional southern American, English, French and West African elements, few cities match Charleston's unique ambiance.

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Thirty-three percent of residents are age 45 or better. The city is racially diverse, and politics are split down the middle. Nearly half of locals hold at least a four year college degree. The crime rate meets the national average, and the cost of living is 15% above the national average. The city has grown by 65% within the last couple of decades.

The median home price is $310,000, and neighborhoods boast a variety of architectural styles, including Queen Anne, Greek Revival, Italianate, Federal, Georgian and Charleston single houses (homes built one room wide with double covered piazzas). Many properties have a gated courtyard with overflowing bouganvilla.

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Residents enjoy art galleries, film festivals, harbor tours, museums, historic home tours, candlelight tours, theater companies, music companies and festivals, including the renowned Spoleto Festival, a 17-day event that celebrates music, art and theater. King Street is full of upscale shopping. Charming bed and breakfasts are plentiful. Foodies have a good selection of restaurants. Nightlife is lively. The Battery is a park at the end of the peninsula upon which Charleston sits and provides long views of Fort Sumter. The beaches are clean and inviting.

CARTA, the local bus system, is fairly extensive but does not quite cover the entire city. The fare is $2.00, but people age 55 or better ride for $.75. There is also a free trolley. Tell-a-Ride is a curb to curb service within defined boundaries, and it requires an application. Since Charleston is a port city, cruise ships embark weekly for Key West and the Bahamas.

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Three hospitals provide medical care. Bon Secours Saint Francis Hospital has won awards for its pulmonary care and overall patient experience. MUSC Medical Center has won awards for excellence in neurosurgery, vascular care and stroke care. Roper Hospital is award-winning for excellence in general surgery, patient safety, stroke care and more. All are accredited by the Joint Commission and accept Medicare patients. For military retirees, Charleston has a VA hospital.

The city's recreation department has numerous programs, including water fitness classes, gardening classes and luncheons, for the 55+ set. The Lowcountry Senior Center (for people age 50+) receives great reviews and is in a pretty facility. Its programs include wine clubs, trips, a veterans' social club, an annual oyster roast, yoga classes and much more. Charleston Area Senior Citizens is a non-profit organization that has a home repairs program, wellness programs, companion services and more for people age 55 or better.

The area has a subtropical climate. Summers are hot and humid with temperatures in the 80s and 90s, and winters are mild with temperatures in the 40s, 50s, 60s. On average, the city receives 46 inches of rain per year.

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Charleston, for all of its romance and elegance, has some drawbacks. The city is prone to flooding and has been hit by several hurricanes, including Hugo in 1989, Matthew in 2016 and Irma in 2017, which flooded some neighborhoods and part of downtown. Hurricane Florence in September, 2018 caused minor damage. Long-time Charlestonians complain about too many new people and traffic congestion (and new Charlestonians complain about summer heat and bugs). Some people say that the city hides a lot of dirty laundry behind its polite exterior. Others complain about "good ole boy" politics and infrastructure not keeping up with growth. Some racial tension seems to exist. The families who have lived here for generations tend to be cliquish.

Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Yes, but... |   Is South Carolina Tax-Friendly for Retirement? Yes

With its unique architecture, rich history and lovely waterfront setting, Charleston is a seductive place. However, the possibility of future hurricanes, some lingering racial tension and growing traffic problems should be weighed if considering this town for retirement.

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South Carolina:

South Carolina is nicknamed the Palmetto State and its motto is "Dum spiro spero," which is Latin for "While I Breath, I Hope." It is 40th in size in the United States and was the eighth state to be admitted to the Union on May 23, 1788. The largest city and state capital is Columbia.

Formerly known as the Province of South Carolina, the area was also one of the 13 Colonies that declared its independence during the American Revolution. The state was the first to secede from the Union and was the first and founding state of the Confederate States of America.

South Carolina is in what is considered the Deep South and is bordered by the states of Georgia on the south and North Carolina on the north.

The state does not host any major professional sport franchises. However, the Carolina Panthers and the Carolina Hurricanes actually represent both North Carolina and South Carolina.

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Stats:

Population - 4,961,018

Persons 65 years old and over - 16%

High school graduates, persons age 25+ - 85%

Bachelor's degree or higher, age 25+ - 25%

Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin - 5%

White persons, not Hispanic - 64%

Median household income - $45,483

Social Security taxed? No

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

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