Is Utah a Good Place to Retire? 15 Pros And Cons

As you approach retirement age, deciding where to settle down for this next phase of your life is a big decision. Most people want to find a fun, relaxed place to enjoy themselves now that their life is not consumed by work. Doing thorough research before making your decision is crucial, and will determine whether or not you are happy with your move. 

If you have been considering Utah as a retirement destination, you are in luck. As a Utah expert, born and raised, I will take you through all of the best and worst parts of the state and help you determine whether it is right for you. Here are the 15 pros and cons of retiring in Utah.

Pros of Retiring in Utah

A photo of Arches National Park in Utah, showig a famous arch shaped rock structure. The photo shows a vast mountain range in the distance and a rocky landscape.

There are thousands of reasons why Utah is an incredible place to live, but it may not be for everybody. Here are 15 of the many reasons why you may want to consider Utah as your retirement destination. 

Pro #1 – Good Economy

Utah is an incredible place to retire in because of its excellent economy. With low unemployment, a steadily increasing number of tech jobs, and a constantly growing labor force, Utah is thriving even after the 2020 Pandemic. 

Settling in an area with a stable economy takes certain stresses out of everyday living and purchases and provides you with opportunities to start businesses or relocate working family members to the state as well.

Pro #2 – Good Job Market

There is a new trend in retirement that is sweeping across the country. People are facing Social Security cutbacks and are continuing to stay in the workforce and earn money long after they have retired. 

If you are one of the millions of retirees wanting to continue working for extra income, then moving to Utah is a great option for you. Utah has a booming economy and is ideal for seniors who are wishing to continue working. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, Utah has the lowest unemployment rate and the highest number of people working post-pandemic. It ranked top on the list of 53 large metropolitan areas in the Wall Street Journal’s annual U.S. labor market examination. Even if you are interested in a part-time job to keep you busy, Utah is the place to go.

Pro #3 – Many Opportunities to be Active

Whether it’s skiing on the world-class slopes, hiking through the Moab desert, or white water rafting, there are many different active opportunities. If you are not an adventure seeker, visit one of Utah’s many parks or take a neighborhood stroll. As long as it isn’t in the dead of winter, walking through Utah is usually safe and easy. 

Pro #4 – Friendly People

The people in Utah are some of the nicest and most friendly individuals that you will ever meet. The majority of Utahns are raised in the Mormon church, which teaches the importance of practicing kindness and love for your neighbors. 

Whether or not you are religious, you are going to be blown away by the friendliness and inclusivity of those around you. Additionally, Utah is one of the most giving states in the country, with its rates of service, volunteering, and donation higher than most others. 

Pro #5 – City And Country Living Opportunities

A photo of Salt Lake City in Utah. The photo is taken from the outskirts of the city and shows a sweeping green hilllside leading into the city

In Utah, you have the option to live in a bustling city like Salt Lake City or Park City or tucked away in a secluded home mile from any neighbors or towns. You can live in the desert, in the mountains, and anywhere in between. Utah can offer a living situation to accommodate almost anybody.

Pro #6 – Good Health Care

Utahns have good access to affordable healthcare. Since this is very important once you reach retirement age, considering this is vital. Utah’s healthcare costs are below the national average, which is a relief considering that for many people, healthcare can take up almost 40% of their total income. 

Pro #7 – Reasonable Cost of Living

The average cost of living is higher than 27 other states; it is still a reasonable place to live. There are pockets of the state where living is competitive, and areas like Green RIver do not charge much for real estate like they do in Salt Lake City. There are so many rural and countryside areas that you can buy large amounts of property for relatively cheap.

If city living is more your style, the low costs of real estate, groceries, utilities, and gas make it affordable compared to their high wages. Although it isn’t the cheapest state, there are ways to live in Utah without spending much. 

Pro #8 –  Endless Places to Explore

As I have mentioned above, Utah is known as one of the top adventure destinations in the world! There are so many opportunities to explore new landscapes and visit breathtaking locations. Get your car packed and your camera ready because a few hours of driving in any direction is sure to shock you with beauty and exploration.

Pro #9 – Property Taxes are Low

Although they are not the lowest in the country, the property taxes in Utah are not through the roof. This makes it a moderately affordable place to live. 

Pro #10 – Leisurely Activities

A photo of Sundial Peak in Utah. It is a 7,590-foot elevation white Navajo Sandstone summit which is a popular location for hiking and skiiing

There are several leisurely, senior-friendly activities to do in the state of Utah. Scenic driving, riveting museums, theaters, comedy clubs, warm water scuba diving, swimming, and so much more. 

Utah is home to 5 of the country’s most pristine national parks. Additionally, Utah is home to the world-class Sundance Film Festival, which is fun for any age. There are several outdoor concert series, relaxed places to eat, and much more. 

Pro #11 – Great Life Expectancy Rate in Utah

Utahns are a healthy population and are known to live long, strong lives. Many Utahns do not smoke or drink, which may be a reason they live healthier lives. Utah’s life expectancy is around 80.2 years old on average, which is higher than the 78.9 national average. Utah comes in number 5 on America’s Health Rankings

Pro #12 – Low Crime Rate

Utah has one of the lowest crime rates in the country, with the most crime happening in Salt Lake City. Most crime incidents are property-related, and violent crime is about 40% less than the rest of the country. 

In the rural areas of Utah, crime rates are even lower, dipping below 80% of the nation’s average. This makes it one of the safest places to live in the entire US. Safety is a huge priority, especially for retired seniors, so this alone can be a great reason to retire in Utah. 

Pro #13 – Access to All Four Seasons

Utah allows you the opportunity to experience all four seasons throughout the majority of the state. You can even access summer and winter all on the same day! With strong winters in the northern mountains and hot desert summers in the south, you have everything in Utah (except an ocean, of course).

Winter in Utah is incredible. With gorgeous powdery snow days in the mountains and cool, crisp days in the valleys, you get the full winter spectrum. You can experience a red rock desert dusted with snow and participate in some of the world’s best skiing and snowboarding terrain. 

During the spring and fall, you can watch the landscapes change and enjoy the blooming wildflowers and the changing leaves. Summers get hot and offer some relief from the cold winter days. No matter what your favorite season is, you can experience it in Utah. 

Pro #14 – Good Transportation Networks

Transportation throughout the metropolitan areas of Utah is quite good. There is a link between light-rail systems and bus routes to help support public transportation, which is very convenient if you do not drive or do not wish to drive in winter conditions. 

Extensive highway renovations over the last decade have left Utah with an extensive border-to-border highway system that allows you to travel fast. Two major highways are connecting the state from both directions, and you can get from the top of the state to the bottom in a matter of hours. 

Pro #15 – Generous Population

Utah is known to be some of the most generous and giving people in America. Utahns are friendly and are more than willing to lend their neighbors a cup of sugar should you ask. One thing for sure is that if you do move to Utah, you will be able to make friends. 

Cons of Retiring in Utah

A photo of a calculator, pen, and tax forms including a 1040 individual tax return form

If the list of pros has you totally convinced that you want to live in Utah, you may want to read the cons before you pack up and move. There are some downsides to Utah, and they are listed below. 

Con #1 – High Taxes

Utah is not considered a tax-friendly state. Utah residents pay more taxes than many other states. There is income tax, gas, property tax, alcohol taxes, cigarette taxes, and more. Utah has a 6.10% base sales tax, with the total average rate of taxes in Utah is 7.10%. This is higher than the national average and you will find that taxes add up quickly when living in Utah. 

Con #2 – Developing Quickly

Utah development is on the rise. In the last few years, the entire state has started to boom. Especially after covid-19, people have been flocking to Utah from all over the country, including California, New York, and more. With Utah gaining popularity among the tech industry, they are becoming the “Silicon Slopes.”

Con #3 – Housing Prices Rising Quickly

With the influx of people and development on the rise, housing prices are on the up as well. Although housing is affordable, the GDP, growing population, and increasing job market are sending the housing prices up. They will continue to rise in the coming years, and if you do not act quickly, this could become a problem for retirees. 

Con #4 – Prominent Mormon Community

Roughly 60% of Utah’s population is part of the Mormon religion. Although this makes the state very friendly and arguably nicer than less religious populations, it can be difficult to fit in if you are not part of the faith. 

As you head south, the percentage increases, with some areas being 80% or more Mormon. This can be threatening or off-putting for people that do not know much about the religion or have differing faiths. It is almost a guarantee that you will be approached by Mormons and told about their religion in hopes of converting you at some point while you live there. 

Con #5 – Extremely Republican Government

Going hand in hand with the Mormon religion, the government is very conservative. Although Salt Lake City itself is a predominantly Democratic city, the government as a whole is not. If you are a strong democrat or have very liberal ideals, then living in a red state might be an issue for you. 

Con #6 – Can Get Very Cold With Lots of Snow

Winters across the state deliver cold temperatures and lots of snow. Temps are usually in the 20s in the winter, with them dipping even lower in the mountainous areas. If cold is not something you enjoy, consider taking Utah off of your list. 

Con #7 – Can Also Get Extremely Hot

Summers in Utah, especially in southern Utah, can be extremely hot. With temps up to 115 degrees in the summer, it is not the place for people that hate the heat. 

Con #8 – Air Quality

Air quality in Utah is a huge problem, especially in recent years. Salt Lake City is a valley shaped like a bowl, which traps a layer of air over the city and keeps all pollution in the city. In the winter. The inversion layer can sit over the city for weeks, with air quality getting worse each day. 

If you have any sort of breathing issues, allergies, asthma, or more, then your breathing may be compromised during these times. There are even periods in the summer months where the inversion will creep in too. 

Con #9 – Communities Are Spread Out

Although this may be considered a pro for some people, there is a lot of nothing in between different communities in Utah. If you drive from Green River to Salina, you will understand how there is a whole bunch of nothing for over a hundred miles. 

Con #10 – Driving Can be Difficult

In the winter months, driving in the snow can be scary. Additionally, many local Utahns will tell you that the drivers in the state are not known for their great skills. After living in both Utah and Southern California for the majority of my life, I can say that Utah’s drivers are incredible compared to California, but many locals say that it is up for debate. 

Con #11 – Summers Get Very Dry

Droughts are common in Utah, and dry winters yield extremely dry summers. According to the Utah Division of Water Resources, 76% of Utah is in a drought, and 40% is in extreme drought or worse. This is not uncommon for the state. This is something to consider when deciding if you want to relocate to Utah.

Con #12 – Strange Liquor Laws

Utah has several absurd alcohol laws that set it apart from the rest of the country. If you go into a restaurant in Utah, you might notice that there are no bars and no alcohol in sight. That is because of a law called the “Zion Curtain ” which means you cannot see the alcohol in an establishment. 

Additionally, getting liquor at grocery stores is not an option. Gas stations and grocery stores can sell low-point beer, but all other alcohol needs to be purchased at a liquor store. If you want to drink on a Sunday, you are out of luck. Liquor stores are closed, and very few people will sell alcohol on Sundays. 

They also limit the amount of alcohol in mixed drinks. If you order a cocktail, it will have half of the amount of alcohol in any of the other states. If drinking is a big plan in your retirement, then moving to Utah might not be the best move for you. 

Con #13 – Lack of Diversity 

Even after living in Utah for most of my life, I was shocked to hear that 90.6% of the population is caucasian. I knew that Utah lacked diversity, but I did not realize it was this extreme. If you are not white, feeling out of place in Utah may deter you from wanting to retire here.

Con #14 – Landlocked

Arguably one of the worst things about Utah is that there is no ocean. If you are hoping to retire in a coastal area with the ocean close by, Utah is not for you. 

Con #15 – Might be Far From Family

This last con is subjective and depends on your current situation, but chances are that if you are relocating to a different state to retire, you will not be around your friends and family. Sometimes, retiring in the same place that you call home is the most comfortable and rewarding choice for you, especially if you have children or grandchildren close by.

FAQ

If you are still on the fence about whether or not you want to retire in Utah, here are a few answers to commonly asked questions to help you with your decision. 

Is Utah tax-friendly for retirees?

Utah is rated as moderately friendly for retirees, so don’t cross it off your potential retirement states quite yet!

How does Utah rank for retirees? 

Several different polls report that Utah is in the top 10 best states for retirees. Consistency is key in getting a good sense of a state’s favorability. 

Is It Expensive to Retire in Utah?

Whether or not it is expensive to retire in Utah depends on where you go in the state, what your living situation is, and so much more. It can be expensive in some areas, and it can be extremely cheap in others. 

What is The Cheapest City to Live in Utah? 

The cheapest city to live in Utah is American Fork. It isn’t the largest town with only around 25,000 residents, but that means it can be quiet. The area is also very affordable, where the median home price is around 349,000.

Is it cheaper to live in Utah or Arizona?

It all depends on where you live, but Pheonix is 12.8% cheaper than living in Salt Lake City. Research is key in this regard, so make sure you compare areas that you are interested in living, so it is a better comparison.

Conclusion

There you have it, everything you need to know about retiring in Utah. If you are drawn to the outdoors, love adventure, and are looking for a fun and beautiful place, then Utah is for you. Although it is growing rapidly and does have some cultural drawbacks, overall, it is an incredible state with a lot to offer. 

If you are a retiree living in Utah and know of something that we missed, let us know in the comments below! 

Related: What’s a Better Place to Live, Florida or California?