Montana, the Big Sky State, is the perfect retirement destination for those who love outdoor adventure. Montana’s natural beauty is hard to beat and offers every outdoor activity imaginable, from mountain climbing to white water rafting and everything in between. Plus, there’s no shortage of excellent places to retire in Montana.
But it isn’t just big open skies that Montana has to offer; the state also has lower crime rates, low population density, and low property taxes. Plus, Montana doesn’t have any sales tax for retirees to worry about either.
However, depending on your retirement income, Montana may not be the most tax-friendly state for retirees. The Big Sky State is one of the few states in the country to tax Social Security. Whether or not your social security is taxed is based upon your household income. For those whose income is below a certain threshold, taxes may not apply—additionally, all other retirement income such as private and public pensions, IRAs, and 401ks are subject to Montana’s income tax.
Also, Montana offers a tax credit for seniors 62+ years old, called the elderly homeowner tax credit. The credit applies to seniors who own their homes as well as those who rent. The tax credit is available for seniors who fall within a specific income bracket.
Beyond taxes and its majestic beauty, Montana also has a lot of art and cultural opportunities. Most of Montana’s larger cities and some of the smaller ones are full of exceptional entertainment venues.
One of the more significant arts and culture organizations is the Montana Association of Symphony Orchestras, MASO. The MASO is based in four Montana cities Billings, Bozeman, Butte, and Kalispell. And thanks to the University of Montana’s School of Music, Montana has a few different opera houses, including the University of Montana Opera Theater.
History buffs, especially those interested in the Wild West’s stories, will find an abundance of historical sites to explore, such as the Little Bighorn Battlefield, World Museum of Mining, and the Virginia City National Historic Landmark. However, Montana’s history stretches back to when Lewis and Clark started exploring the west in the early 1800s. For retirees interested in their route, there are various trails and sites to check out.
And retirees don’t have to worry about finding a good doctor since many major cities in Montana are home to multiple full-size hospitals. Plus, many of the smaller communities host various medical centers.
Where to Retire in Montana
- Percent of Senior Population: 16.6%
- Overall Population: 109,577
The Magic City, founded in 1882, got its name from its growth, expanding from a small railroad town into the city it has become today. Billings is located in the southern central region of Montana, surrounded by six mountain ranges.
Retirees looking to live near the mountains without giving up urban conveniences will love Billings. Though Montana may not be considered a cultural mecca, many would be surprised to find out that Billings has a vibrant art and culture community.
Art and theater lovers will like having access to the Alberta Bair and Babcock theaters that feature live theatrical performances. Plus, there is no need to head to New York for those who enjoy the opera since the Rim Rock Opera house is just west of the Yellowstone River in the downtown area. And Billings is home to the Moss Mansion Museum, Yellowstone Art Museum, and Western Heritage Center.
In addition to the art scene, most retirees find their way to Billings for the many outdoor opportunities. Billings has several miles of trails within city limits for pedestrians and cyclists alike. And with the Yellowstone River, anglers, kayakers, and boaters will be able to enjoy time on the water during the warmer seasons.
Billings has several medical facilities, including multiple full-service hospitals, so residents never have to worry about finding health care. And though Billings is the largest city in the state, it has a lower than average crime rate.
- Percent of Senior Population: 12.8%
- Overall Population: 75,516
Not only is Missoula second on our list, but it is also the second-largest city in the state. The city sits on the far west side of the state, near the Idaho border. Missoula is situated in the Bitterroot Valley with the Clark Fork River running through the center of town, giving its residents some of the country’s most breathtaking scenery. Many retirees find Missoula the perfect balance of city life and outdoor adventure.
What makes Missoula unique are the residents. The city includes an eclectic population of college students, ranchers, old-school hippies, smoke jumpers, and urban transplants. This non-traditional population blend is often as attractive to new residents as is the scenery.
Missoula’s city entertainment is on the more casual side. However, there is still much to do and see, such as The Montana Museum of Art & Culture, the Missoula Art Museum, and the Missoula Symphony Orchestra and Chorale. Plus, Missoula is home to several art galleries.
No college town is complete without a lively music scene. Missoula has multiple local live music venues where you can listen to almost any music style, from country to rock and roll.
Active retirees will also love taking advantage of the multi-purpose Riverfront Trail or hiking the Mount Sentinel “M” Trail. The M trailhead is located on the University of Montana’s campus and is just shy of two miles in length.
Besides hiking, the Clark Fork River offers residents excellent paddleboarding, fishing, and canoeing options during the warmer months.
Plus, when you are ready to kick back after a day out Missoula has you covered. The town has several mico-breweries, a family-owned and operated distillery, and even a winery complete with its own organic grapes. And retirees will love taking advantage of Missoula’s natural hot springs.
Although it is not a huge metropolis, Missoula has more than enough medical facilities to meet any senior’s needs, plus two hospitals.
- Percent of Senior Population: 9.2%
- Overall Population: 49,831
Bozeman, another college city, is located toward the southwest corner of Montana, along I90. Like many of the other cities in Montana, Bozeman has multiple waterways running through it and offers beautiful scenery of the neighboring forests.
Though a significant percentage of the population is thanks to the university, the rest of the population is a mix of ranchers, hippies, families, and retirees. Bozeman prides itself on being a welcoming community and offers several community programs that help newcomers feel welcome, like the Gallatin Valley Newcomers Club.
Bozeman also boasts a vibrant art and culture scene with live theater, concerts, opera, symphony, and ballet. Plus, the city hosts art walks in the downtown area throughout the year.
Retirees looking to spend their golden years on the golf course should consider one of the newly developed golf communities or check out one of the many local public courses. In addition to golfing, outdoor enthusiasts will find Bozeman appealing for its exceptional outdoor living with some of the country’s best fly fishing spots. Or if you prefer hiking, camping, and biking, there are an endless number of trails just waiting to be explored.
If you are looking for a safe city to settle down in, you will find Bozeman’s low crime rate much quite appealing. Plus, since it is a college town, Bozeman does not lack healthcare options.
- Percent of Senior Population: 16.7%
- Overall Population: 8,295
If you want to retire to a quiet town in the mountains, then you might find yourself drawn to Whitefish. Whitefish is the ideal place for active retirees who love the outdoors and small-town life.
Though it is peaceful most of the year, with a population of less than 10,000, it does attract its fair share of tourists. Whitefish is home to multiple ski resorts, which add significantly to the local economy.
Whitefish is also near Glacier National Park, which brings visitors during the warmer months for hiking and camping. Hikers and bikers will love the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which offers impressive views of cascading falls, wildlife, Heavens Peak, and Birdwoman Falls. The road is located in Glacier National Park and starts at Avalanche Creek.
In addition to Going-to-the-Sun Road, the Whitefish Trail stretches 43 miles with 12 trailheads/connectors. Hikers can easily pick up a trailhead just outside of the downtown area. It is a natural trail that is perfect for exploring on foot, bike, or horseback.
And retirees can take advantage of the two nearby lakes, Flathead Lake and Whitefish Lake. Both lakes are excellent for fishing, boating, swimming, and canoeing.
When you are looking for indoor activities, Whitefish offers yoga centers, fitness studios, and an aquatic center. For the times you want to relax head over to the downtown area to check out their specialty stores, galleries, and various restaurants. Plus, the many breweries and winery are great places to catch up with friends.
Whitefish has multiple local medical centers, a surgical center, and a hospital, North Valley Hospital, all within easy reach.
- Percent of Senior Population: 20.2%
- Overall Population: 7,801
Livingston is located along the Yellowstone River at the north side of Yellowstone National Park. Unlike many Montana cities, the residents of Livingston are more likely to be an artist or author instead of a rancher or student.
Livingston is known for its popular bookstores and many writers, making the town the unofficial “literary epicenter.” Many of the town’s bookstores host authors for readings and signings. Though the town receives many visiting writers, several famous authors call Livingston home too. Some of the authors you may bump into in town include Peter Bowen, Steve Chapple, and Walter Kirn to name just a few.
In addition to its literary fame, Livingston has a large fly fishing community. The rivers in and around town offer some of the best fly fishing found in the country. Plus, the nearby mountains offer hiking, biking, camping, and of course, skiing in the winter. Though Livingston does not have any ski resorts in town, plenty of ski resorts are nearby, plus loads of cross-country skiing opportunities.
The downtown area of Livingston is full of bookstores, galleries, and boutiques. Additionally, residents have several eateries to choose from, such as steak houses, cafes, and global cuisine.
And though it is a smaller community, Livingston hosts a full-service hospital, the Livingston Health Care center.