Kansas and Oklahoma are both good states for people to consider retiring to. However, if you’ve narrowed your list down to these states, there are things to consider when making a final decision, including the cost of living and tax rates.
Between Oklahoma and Kansas, Kansas is the better state for retirement due to its generally favorable tax rates and the relatively low cost of living. Additionally, it has better healthcare access and a larger variety of things for seniors to do compared to Oklahoma.
In this article, I’ll look at Oklahoma and Kansas and compare what each state has to offer to retirees. I’ll take a look at taxes, cost of living, and activities, and will also take into account the downsides of each state.
Oklahoma vs. Kansas
As neighboring states, Oklahoma and Kansas are relatively similar. However, there are some key differences that can influence your decision on where to retire.
Both states are a good option for people looking for a low-key environment post-retirement. However, Oklahoma ranks lower on quality of life and healthcare, though it has better tax rates.
Oklahoma offers a complete exemption on your Social Security retirement benefits. Additionally, you can also benefit from a $10,000 deduction on other types of retirement income you may have, including a pension and a 401(k) plan.
Kansas exempts all Social Security income for seniors as long as they have an adjusted gross income (AGI) equal to or lower than $75,000. Your public pension is also exempt. However, the state does not offer exemptions on types of retirement income like a 401(k) plan.
However, these aren’t the only tax rates you will have to think about.
Oklahoma has a low-income tax, with a top rate of 5%. However, this rate is higher than neighboring states like Texas (no income tax) and Kansas (4.6%).
Additionally, Oklahoma has a relatively high sales tax, especially in comparison to neighboring states. The combined state and local sales tax in the state averages out to 8.86%, which is slightly higher than Kansas (8.62%).
On the other hand, property taxes are slightly higher in Kansas – 1.30% in comparison to 0.85% in Oklahoma.
Both Oklahoma and Kansas have no estate and inheritance taxes. However, residents of the state still must pay the federal estate tax. Additionally, keep in mind that while estate taxes are based on the state where the decedent lived, inheritance taxes are paid according to where the heirs of a person live.
In general, given the better benefits on retirement income, Oklahoma definitely wins out when you’re thinking of taxes.
|Average Summer Temperatures
|63 to 88°F
(17.22 to 31.11°C)
|64 to 89°F
(17.78 to 31.67°C)
|Average Winter Temperatures
|29 to 62°F
(-1.67 to 16.67°C)
(-6.67 to 12.78°C)
|Though Oklahoma and Kansas have relatively similar summers, Oklahoma has a milder winter. However, the difference isn’t stark enough that you won’t be able to adjust to the weather in Kansas.
Generally, both states are a good option for people who prefer relatively mild weather and aren’t huge fans of the winter.
On average, Oklahoma gets 6” (15.24 cm) of snow annually, and Kansas receives 15” (38.1 cm) of snow annually. This is in comparison to a national average of 28” (71.12 cm) of snow.
According to Best Places, the most comfortable and least comfortable months in each state are:
- Oklahoma: May, October, and September are the most comfortable, and July and August are the least comfortable.
- Kansas: May, June, and September are the most comfortable, and January and December are the least comfortable.
Things To Do
Both states have numerous options in terms of activities and attractions. Let’s look at the major attractions in each state.
- Oklahoma City Museum of Art: This museum features numerous temporary and permanent art exhibits. It’s best known for its collection of Chihuly glass, which is among the most impressive in the world. The centerpiece of this collection is the Eleanor Blake Kirkpatrick Memorial Tower, a 55’ (1676.4 cm) installation located in the atrium.
- Philbrook Museum of Art: Located in Tulsa, this museum opened its doors in 1939 and showcases nine art collections. It also boasts about 25 acres (10.12 hectares) of stunning gardens. Notable artists featured in the museum include Piero di Cosimo, Auguste Rodin, and Vittore Carpaccio. The main museum, known as Villa Philbrook, was initially the home of oil baron Waite Phillips.
- Tallgrass Prairie Preserve: This is the largest tract of tallgrass prairie remaining in the world and is managed by The Nature Conservancy. It covers an area of about 45,000 acres (18,210.85 hectares) and is home to over 300 bird species and around 2500 bison. Additionally, there are two hiking trails that visitors can access.
The state is also home to six national parks, the Trail of Tears historic trail, the Santa Fe Trail, and several national recreation areas, including the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.
It’s home to one major league sports team – the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, who play out of Oklahoma City.
- Botanica, The Wichita Gardens: Featuring nearly 18 acres (7.28 hectares) of botanical gardens, Botanica, The Wichita Gardens is a must-visit for nature lovers. There are 30 themed gardens for visitors to explore, all of which are open year-round. Themes include an aquatic garden, a Shakespearean garden, a Xeriscape demonstration garden, and butterfly gardens.
- Mid-America All-Indian Museum: The only museum dedicated to Native American culture in Kansas, this museum is located in Wichita. It’s close to the Keeper of the Plains statue, a 44’ (1341.12 cm) installation situated at Keeper Plaza, which was built on land sacred to Native Americans. The museum boasts a stunning “Ring of Fire” display that takes place each night and lasts about 15 minutes.
- Spencer Museum of Art: Located on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, this museum is home to over 36,000 artworks and artifacts from around the world. Significant artists represented include John Singer Sargent, Dante Gabriel Rosetti, and Édouard Manet.
The city is also home to several national parks and historic sites, including:
- Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
- Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka
- Oregon National Historic Trail
Though it’s not home to any sports team from the four major sports leagues, Kansas City is home to Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer. Additionally, the city is also the location of the Kansas Speedway, which hosts two NASCAR race weekends annually.
In general, both states are a good option for people looking to enjoy history and nature. However, Kansas features more diverse options, helping it come out on top.
Cost of Living
When you’re living on a limited budget after retirement, the cost of living becomes a critical consideration.
Luckily, both Kansas and Oklahoma have a relatively low cost of living compared to the rest of the country. But when compared to each other, Kansas has a marginally lower cost of living.
Let’s look at this in detail with the table below. This table allows you to visualize how much you would spend in both Oklahoma and Kansas. It compares the cost of living in each state to the equivalent of $100 spent in the United States on average.
|Cost of Living
As you can see, both states are relatively affordable for retirees, especially when it comes to housing. Buying your own home is more affordable as well. The median home cost in the United States is $291,700. In comparison, you can expect the median home cost to be:
- $146,600 in Oklahoma
- $177,400 in Kansas
Though costs are more or less similar, where Kansas really differentiates itself from its neighboring state is in the price of healthcare. Though both are higher than the national average, Kansas is only 3.4% higher.
Oklahoma, on the other hand, is 15.8% than the U.S. average, which is a significant difference, especially after retirement, when you may expect to have to visit the doctor more often.
Based on these numbers, Kansas is slightly more affordable than Oklahoma. I’ll look at how health care differs in each state beyond simply prices next.
As discussed above, healthcare is significantly more expensive in Oklahoma than in Kansas. However, these numbers mean nothing without discussing access to healthcare. After all, if finding a doctor in a state is difficult, it doesn’t matter how much they’ll charge.
So, which state is better for healthcare access – Oklahoma or Kansas?
Oklahoma ranks low in terms of healthcare access, and according to The Commonwealth Fund, it’s 50th out of 51 nationwide (50 states and District of Columbia). Kansas ranks much higher at 34th overall. Though the health system in Kansas is slightly worse than the national average, the difference isn’t much, while Oklahoma performs much lower.
Here’s a more detailed comparison of how the states rank. This table shows their position across The Commonwealth Fund’s nationwide rankings.
|Access and Affordability
|Prevention and Treatment
|Avoidable Hospital Use and Cost
Additionally, Oklahoma has only 206.7 physicians per 100,000 residents. Kansas, on the other hand, has 227.6 physicians per 100,000 residents. In terms of active primary care physicians, Oklahoma has only 73.9 per 100,000 residents to Kansas’s 88.0 per 100,000 residents.
Given that health is often a concern for older people and retirees, the healthcare system in a state is a major consideration to keep in mind when deciding where to retire. Given these numbers, it’s clear that Kansas is the better option in terms of healthcare access.
Kansas ranks slightly lower in terms of both violent and property crimes. In 2019, the state saw 4.11 violent crimes and 23.14 property crimes per 1000 citizens. Oklahoma, on the other hand, saw 4.32 violent crimes and 28.45 property crimes per 1000 citizens.
Though the rate of violent crimes is relatively similar between the states, the rates of property crimes may be enough to make you stop and consider your option.
However, again, these numbers are similar enough that it’s difficult to definitively claim that one state comes out on top over the other.
Factors To Keep in Mind When Deciding Where To Retire
While comparing your top options can help when making a decision about your retirement, this isn’t the only thing you should do before you take your final call. Remember, while Oklahoma and Kansas have a lot to offer retirees, they’re not the only options available to you.
Let’s take a closer look at some other considerations to keep in mind.
Retirees often find that healthcare is a more significant concern in their post-job lives than it ever has been before. This is because there are certain medical conditions that are simply a part of aging, while others may be exacerbated as you age.
Whatever the case, it’s essential to keep your health in mind. If you’re relatively healthy, you’ll likely have a larger number of retirement options open to you.
However, if you have specific health concerns, it’s best to make sure there’s a specialist available near your retirement location to treat you. This may necessitate striking certain states and cities from your list of options.
Your health should always be your priority.
Aside from healthcare access in the state you’re shifting to, you should also look at accessibility in localities. For example, while a state may rank high in terms of access, you may find that rural areas have fewer doctors available and no experts who can help with your health concerns.
So, remember to research both the state as a whole and your area in general. If you’re joining a retirement community, you can also ask management if they have any special healthcare arrangements for residents.
Family and Friends
While moving to a new state may sound attractive, many retirees also take their new lives as an opportunity to spend more time with family and friends.
If spending time with your loved ones is the most important consideration for you, you’ll naturally have a limited set of options for where you can move to, depending on where they live.
At the same time, it’s essential to keep in mind that this should only be a decision you take if you truly want to spend as much time as possible with family. Many older people decide to move closer to loved ones more due to fear of loneliness rather than an honest desire to live in a particular area.
If this is how you’re feeling, don’t worry, as retirement communities allow you to meet people with similar interests, and the internet has made it easier than ever to meet new people. Additionally, the internet also allows you to stay close to your loved ones, regardless of your physical location.
Another way family and friends impact where you move post-retirement is in terms of activities in the area.
Some people may prefer to move to larger cities or regions with many attractions, as it gives them things to do with visiting family and friends. If this is a concern, research the area thoroughly so you can be confident you’re making the right decision not just for your loved ones but for yourself as well.
After all, a city like New York has a ton of things to do, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll enjoy living there after your loved ones have returned home.
Familiarity and Other Personal Preferences
Many people want to spend time in a familiar environment post-retirement. This doesn’t necessarily need to be their current place of residence. For example, it can also be a frequent holiday destination that they’ve grown comfortable spending time in over the years.
Additionally, there are numerous personal preferences that go into deciding where to live post-retirement. Some of these preferences are quantifiable. For example, a lower crime rate makes more sense, while others might not, such as whether you feel comfortable in the culture of a given city or state.
As an idea, if you’re not religious, you may not feel comfortable living in a religious community post-retirement, regardless of other benefits.
When deciding where to live, it’s essential to keep your preferences and hobbies in mind, along with the expectations of your place of retirement. Making a decision purely based on logic means that you may end up choosing a location that you’ll never be happy in, which is a waste of both your time and your money.
Deciding where to retire is an extremely important decision, especially if you hope that you won’t have to move again in the future. Kansas and Oklahoma are two states that are often at the top of people’s lists thanks to their favorable tax rates and low cost of living.
However, on balance, Kansas is the better of the two options.
This is because, while Oklahoma has better tax rates for retirees, Kansas has better healthcare access and a lower cost of living. Additionally, it has slightly lower crime rates and a larger variety of attractions for you to enjoy.
- WalletHub: Best States to Retire
- SmartAsset: Oklahoma Retirement Taxes
- SmartAsset: Kansas Retirement Tax Friendliness
- Ballotpedia: Tax policy in Oklahoma
- Ballotpedia: Tax policy in Kansas
- U.S. Climate Data: Oklahoma
- U.S. Climate Data: Kansas
- Best Places: Climate: Kansas
- Best Places: Climate: Oklahoma
- Wikipedia: Waite Phillips
- Wikipedia: Tallgrass Prairie Preserve
- Wikipedia: Oklahoma
- Vacation Idea: 25 Best Things to Do in Oklahoma
- Wikipedia: Botanica, The Wichita Gardens
- Wikipedia: Spencer Museum of Art
- Wikipedia: Kansas Speedway
- Wikipedia: Kansas
- Best Places: Cost of Living: Kansas
- Best Places: Cost of Living: Oklahoma
- The Commonwealth Fund: 2020 Scorecard on State Health System Performance
- The Commonwealth Fund: 2020 Scorecard on State Health System Performance Kansas
- The Commonwealth Fund: 2020 Scorecard on State Health System Performance Oklahoma
- AAMC: Oklahoma Physician Workforce Profile
- AAMC: Kansas Physician Workforce Profile
- Disaster Center: Oklahoma Crime Rates 1960-2019
- Disaster Center: Kansas Crime Rates 1960-2019