Retiring in California

2 mins readLast updated April 16, 2024by Kate Morgan

This article will take you through the main things you need to consider if you are retiring in California.

California, located on the West Coast of the United States, is a popular retirement destination for many Americans seeking a diverse and dynamic environment with access to outdoor activities, cultural events, and a moderate climate. With its stunning coastline, mountains, and bustling cities, California offers a unique retirement experience that attracts many retirees every year. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau in 2020, California had a population of approximately 39.5 million people, with over 13% of the population being over the age of 65, making it one of the top states with a large retirement population.

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What age can you retire in California?

Like many states, California has no specific retirement age that is mandated by law. This means that individuals are free to retire whenever they choose, as long as they are able to financially support themselves. However, there are some age-related benefits and considerations for retirees in California:  

  • Social Security benefits: The earliest age at which you can begin receiving Social Security benefits is 62, but if you delay taking benefits, your monthly payments will increase. Full retirement age (FRA) is between 66 and 67, depending on your birth year. Delaying benefits until after FRA can result in even higher monthly payments. 

  • Medicare eligibility: Medicare eligibility begins at age 65, regardless of retirement status. However, if you choose to retire before age 65, you will need to find alternative healthcare coverage until you become eligible for Medicare. 

  • Age discrimination: It is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees or job applicants based on age. 

  • Retirement savings: Regardless of retirement age, it is important for individuals to start saving for retirement as early as possible. Many financial experts recommend saving at least 15% of your income for retirement. 

However, like any location, there are both pros and cons to retiring in the state. 

Why do people retire to California?

  • Diverse environment: California is known for its diversity, from its bustling cities to its scenic natural areas. Retirees can enjoy living in a diverse environment that offers plenty of opportunities for exploration and cultural experiences. 

  • Moderate climate: California's climate varies greatly depending on the region, but many areas have a moderate climate with mild winters and warm summers. This makes it an attractive destination for retirees who want to avoid harsh weather conditions. 

  • Outdoor activities: California is home to numerous national parks, forests, and beaches, providing ample opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, fishing, and surfing. 

  • Cultural scene: California has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, galleries, and performing arts venues. The state hosts several festivals and events throughout the year, including the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, the San Francisco International Film Festival, and the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. 

If you plan on retiring to California, it's worth speaking to a qualified financial advisor to find the best city for your budget. Match with an advisor below.

What puts people off retiring to California?

  • Cost of living: California's cost of living is generally higher than the national average, which could be a concern for retirees on a fixed income. Housing and healthcare costs, in particular, are higher than in many other states. 

  • Traffic: California is known for its heavy traffic, particularly in and around the major cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego. 

  • Natural disasters: California is prone to natural disasters such as wildfires, earthquakes, and droughts, which could be a concern for retirees living in certain areas. 

Best places to retire in California

If California is your chosen retirement state, here are some of the best places to retire in: 

  1. Palm Springs: Located in the Sonoran Desert, Palm Springs is a popular retirement destination for those who enjoy a warm climate and outdoor activities such as golfing, hiking, and swimming. It also has a range of senior-friendly amenities and services, such as health care facilities and senior centers. 

  2. San Diego: San Diego is a coastal city with a mild climate and a range of outdoor recreational activities, including hiking, surfing, and boating. For retirees, San Diego offers a variety of senior-friendly communities and services, including assisted living facilities and transportation services. 

  3. Santa Barbara: This coastal city is known for its Spanish Colonial architecture, beaches, and wineries. Santa Barbara offers a variety of senior-friendly amenities, including health care facilities and senior centers. The city is also home to many parks and green spaces, which offer opportunities for outdoor recreation. 

  4. Napa Valley: Known for its world-renowned vineyards and wineries, Napa Valley offers a serene and relaxing retirement destination. The region is also home to a range of senior-friendly amenities and services, including health care facilities and senior centers. The city of Napa has a charming downtown area with shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions. 

  5. Monterey: This coastal city is located on the central coast of California and offers a range of recreational activities, such as whale watching, kayaking, and golfing. Monterey is also known for its seafood restaurants and historic sites, such as Cannery Row and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. 

  6. Sacramento: California's capital city, Sacramento, offers a mix of urban amenities and natural beauty. Retirees can enjoy exploring the city's many historical and cultural attractions, such as the California State Capitol Museum and the Crocker Art Museum. The city also has many parks and green spaces, including the American River Parkway, which offers hiking, biking, and fishing opportunities. 

In conclusion, California offers a range of retirement options, from coastal cities to desert towns. Retirees can enjoy a mild climate and a variety of recreational activities but should be prepared for a higher cost of living. It's important to seek expert financial advice to weigh up all of the costs associated with retiring in California, including property taxes, insurance, and living expenses, in order to make an informed decision about whether the state is the right choice for your retirement. 

Content writer

Kate Morgan

Kate has written for leading publications and blue chip companies over the last 20 years.

Want to retire in California?

A financial advisor can help you plan and realize your dream retirement.