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Financial website ranks Bel Air 'best place to retire' in Maryland

Bel Air is ranked the "best place to retire" in Maryland by the financial and retirement planning website SmartAsset.com.
Bel Air is ranked the "best place to retire" in Maryland by the financial and retirement planning website SmartAsset.com. (Aegis file/BSMG)

Maryland typically doesn’t make lists of top retirement states because of competition from other states with much lower taxes and more hospitable climates, but the state’s “best place to retire” in 2018 is the Town of Bel Air, according to the financial and retirement planning website SmartAsset.com.

The competition wasn’ all that close either, as Bel Air posted a retirement index score of 48.03 compared to 40.49 percent for runner-up Chevy Chase in Montgomery County. Others on the Maryland top 10 in order are Chestertown, Ocean City, Westminster, Easton, Rockville, Annapolis, Pikesville and Silver Spring. See the full state rankings here.

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SmartAsset bases its indexed ratings on three factors: state and local taxes – income and sales; the number of doctors offices per 1,000 people, recreation centers per 1,000 people and senior centers per 1,000 people; and the number of seniors in each area as a percentage of population.

“A happy, healthy retirement depends a lot on location. To find the best places to retire, SmartAsset gathered data on three separate regional factors that affect the quality of life for retirees,” the website states, in explaining its methodology.

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“First, we looked at state and local tax rates, considering two types of taxes: income and sales. We calculated effective rates based on a typical retiree, earning $35,000 annually (from retirement savings, social security or part-time employment), and spending their disposable income on taxable goods.

“Next, we determined the number of doctors’ offices, recreation centers and retirement centers per thousand residents in each area. Finally, we found the number of seniors in each area as a percentage of the total population.”

Each factor was rated equally, according to the website, to calculate an average ranking for each area. Data sources cited included U.S. Census Bureau surveys, the tax compliance and prep company Avalara and “government websites.”

Bel Air scored 18.9 percent on taxes, not the lowest in the Maryland top 10 – Ocean City, ranked fourth overall in the state, was the lowest at 17.9 percent.

The town has 11.3 doctors offices per 1,000 people, according to the SmartAsset.com survey, which was second to 11.5 in Chevy Chase, but well above the rest of the Maryland cities and towns in the top 10.

Bel Air has 2.4 recreation centers per 1,000 people and 0.8 senior centers per 1,000 people, the latter ranking first among the Maryland top 10. The recreation center percentage was second behind Ocean City with 5.4 per 1,000 people.

The percentage of seniors in Bel Air’s population is 39.1 percent, according to smartasset.com, second behind Chevy Chase at 40.4 percent.

“We know there are a lot of seniors in town, and this is really a honor,” Mayor Susan Burdette said during the most recent town meeting Feb. 20.

Burdette also said the rankings give credence to the town’s efforts to retain seniors who already live in town and to attract others to the area. It also indicates, she said, that when people age and decided move out of their Bel Air homes for smaller quarters or assisted living facilities, they aren’t necessarily going to move elsewhere.

“Our Sustainability Plan fits in with this,” she added.

As part of that plan, the town’s website has a section devoted to links and information about senior services, including recreation facilities, assisted living facilities, caregiver information and links to transportation services.

According to the latest SmartAsset.com rankings, Bel Air placed 42 nationally, while Maryland runner-up Chevy Chase was 144 and fourth place Ocean City 434.

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Naples, Fla., ranked first with a 100.0 index score, based on 14.6 percent tax burden; 28.4 doctor’s offices per 1,000 people, 9.7 recreation centers per 1,000 and 1.0 retirement centers per 1,000; and 51.0 percent of the local population seniors.

Closer to Bel Air, Media, Pa., about 65 miles north on Route 1, ranked fifth nationally, with a total score of 68.37. Other places in the top five nationally were Cumming, Ga., second (92.26); Beverly Hills, Calif., third (82.42); and Gig Harbor, Wash., fourth (74.66).

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