How is Wisconsin for retirement?

Planning to retire in Wisconsin? Learn how Wisconsin is for retirement, including taxes on retirement income, property taxes, and gorgeous towns for retirement.

3 min read

In Wisconsin, rolling farmland, idyllic rural living, and landscapes of rolling forest await you. With a strong Germanic heritage, the Badger State has plenty of tasty treats. Big cities offer some rich heritage, while solid medical care and a low to moderate cost of living make it appealing for retirement.

Wisconsin is a mixed bag for retirement living, generally seen as a moderately friendly state to retirees. Some forms of retirement income, notably government pensions and Social Security, are exempt from state income taxes. Other retirement incomes, including IRA, 401(k), and any capital gains you make while retired will be taxed as regular income, at 3.54%-7.65%. There are very few deductions on offer other than for low-income earners.

Is Wisconsin tax-friendly for retirement?

Wisconsin is considered moderately tax-friendly for retirement but may be a good place to retire for single-source retirement income and lower-income earners. The state exempts Social Security and government incomes from state income taxes. However, other sources of retirement income, including IRA and 401(k) are taxed as regular income. Wisconsin income tax rates vary from 3.54% to 7.65%.

Compare this with nearby Michigan and Iowa, which only partially tax non-Social Security retirement income and have lower income tax rates. It is, however, a more favorable state than Minnesota, where Social Security is partially taxed and other sources fully taxed.

There is a retirement income exclusion, which allows a deduction of up to $5,000 on qualified retirement plans. You must be 65 years or older, and have a federal AGI under $15,000, or $30,000 for joint filers.

How much are sales taxes in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin collects a statewide sales tax of 5%, while the county levy is maxed at 0.43%. Additionally, groceries and prescription medication are tax-exempt, which offers relief to retirees. The gasoline tax is among the highest in the US, at $0.32 per gallon at the pumps. On the plus side, there are no inheritance or estate taxes.

How much are property taxes in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin has the seventh highest property tax rate in the US, at 1.51%. The average Wisconsin homeowner pays $3,500 or more in property tax each year. Homeowners who meet specific income requirements (under $24,680) may be eligible for a homestead property tax credit. This amount varies by total property tax paid, but the ceiling credit is $1,168.

Pros of retiring in Wisconsin

Natural beauty

Wisconsin has a beautiful, lake-filled environment to enjoy in retirement. Rolling hills, plenty of forests, and winding rivers await you, with plenty of State parks to help you enjoy it.

Great healthcare

Wisconsin has stayed in the upper quarter on all healthcare benchmarks for many years now. If you’re looking for quality care, this state can deliver.

Low cost of living

With a gentle sales tax, the cost of living in Wisconsin can be pretty low, making it a great choice to stretch limited retirement funds further. Property costs are moderate, too, although property tax is pretty high.

Craft brew

Wisconsin is known for its craft beers, making it a great destination for those looking for a bit of culture and a lot to drink. It also has great cheese and Germanic cuisine to enjoy, alongside German festivals like Oktoberfest for variety and culture.

Four season climate

Wisconsin has a four-season climate, with summers on the cool and humid side. This is the ideal pairing for the many outdoor activities in the area, letting you enjoy them without sweltering.

Thriving food scene

Wisconsin has a thriving food scene that is rooted in its cultural diversity and agricultural heritage. You can find restaurants offering traditional dishes, including German and Scandinavian cuisines. You can sample farm-to-table restaurants, farmer’s markets, and food festivals all year round.

Cons of retiring in Wisconsin

Harsh winters

As part of the four-season climate comes long and often harsh winters. Expect strong winds and heavy snowfall, with temperatures falling below freezing. Winter power outages are not unheard of.

Atmospheric irritants

Wisconsin’s summers are beautiful, but you will find ticks and mosquitos aplenty when the weather warms up. Pair that with a significant pollen count in spring if you are sensitive.

Tricky weather

As the state is reasonably flat, and large snow melts are common, Wisconsin is more prone to extreme weather like flooding at certain times of the year. Forest fires are also common. For older people without an in-state support network, this could be a drawback.


Although Wisconsin is a generally friendly state, expect to encounter a lot of people who were born and bred here and never lived away. If you’re in the mood for a lot of variety or are used to areas with higher diversity, you may find it a little dull.

America’s dairy land

Wisconsin is known for its dairy farms. Some may find this a charming extra. Others may be bothered by the downsides that come with living alongside a lot of farming, like manure pits and heavy natural fertilizer use.

Best places to retire in Wisconsin

Eau Claire

The cost of living in Eau Claire sits about 10% lower than the national average, offering an affordable place to retire with reasonably low home costs. Keep active and agile and audit college classes, enjoy great medical care from two local hospitals, and enjoy the scenic footbridges and waterfalls that make it such a pretty place to live.

Lake Geneva

Golfers, take note! This city hosts 22 golf courses, with middle-road property prices and one of the clearest and most beautiful lakes in the nation. This is the perfect new home for active retirees


Wausau is known for some of the best medical care in Wisconsin, and the nearby presence of Rib Mountain State Park. Property prices here are among the lowest in the state.

Green Bay

Home to the Green Bay Packers, this is a fantastic destination for those who love sports culture- and it has great golfing too. The cost of living sits about 30% lower than the national average, with appealing property prices as well. Overall, it has a great vibe for retirees.