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Department of the Air Force
Military & Family Readiness Center
104 E. Simpson Street
Joint Base Charleston, SC 29404
Resources are available to help you understand and manage your finances, including one-on-one financial counseling to assist you and your family with financial readiness. Services are designed to focus on money management issues throughout your active-duty lifecycle and into retirement. Financial readiness educational opportunities range from basic planning to long-term investing. Check out the information below to see what’s available at your installation.
Joint Base Charleston has a highly skilled team of accredited financial counselors ready to assist you through one-on-one financial counseling appointments and workshops. We can cover topics ranging from budgeting, debt management, value-based savings, credit, investing, major purchases (car and home buying), retirement planning (Thrift Savings Plan and Blended Retirement System), student loans and more! Our financial counselors are here to make sure you are meeting your financial goals and remove financial stress from your life. We have staff located at both the Air Base and the Weapons Station, who can provide virtual counseling and in-person services. For a schedule of workshops, visit the Military & Family Readiness website for a full list of options and scheduling.
Our cost-of-living indices are based on a United States average of 100. A number below 100 means a city's cost of living is cheaper than the U.S. average, whereas a cost-of-living index above 100 means it is more expensive. Overall, Charleston's cost-of-living index is 111.5.
Visit the “Best Places to Live” website and in three simple steps it will provide a cost-of-living comparison. Just input your current city and where you'd like to move. It will display the two cities side-by-side in all the categories you need such as taxes, housing, food and other costs. Additionally, you can enter your salary and the built-in salary calculator will determine how much more (or less) you need to maintain your same standard of living. To review and compare housing costs local communities surrounding the base, the Charleston Regional Development Alliance provides the specific cost of living in regard to housing comparisons.
Utility companies (telephone, water and gas) require deposits, but these can be waived with a letter of credit from your current utility company. Credit unions have programs for their members and utility deposits. Ask about military waivers and policies when shopping for service. Prices vary, depending on your needs.
Monthly cable service can run anywhere from $25 to well over $100, depending on the number of channels and services desired. Cable and Dish Network companies often run specials; therefore, it's not uncommon to get installation for free or at a nominal cost. Be careful: Costs may rise substantially after the first year.
Sales tax rates vary by county:
Charleston is 9%, Berkeley is 8% and Dorchester is 7%. State income tax is 3%-7%, depending on income.
Military retirement (SCDVA, 5/16/2022):
COLUMBIA, SC – With Governor Henry McMaster signing H. 3247 into law on Friday, May 13, South Carolina is now one of more than three dozen states that exempt military retiree pay from taxation.
The law is effective beginning tax years after 2021 making military retiree pay 100-percent exempt from state income tax with no earned-income cap. Prior to the passage of the bill, a portion of a military retiree’s income was taxed with only partial exemptions in place.
Income and salaries:
The median household income is $52,971.
The average income of a Charleston resident is $33,117.
Charleston has an unemployment rate of 4.0%
Charleston has seen the job market increase by 0.7% over the last year.
Apartments and rentals:
Renters make up 41.6% of the Charleston population; 2.1% of houses and apartments in Charleston, are available to rent. The average monthly rental cost for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom, unfurnished apartment, excluding all utilities except water, is estimated at $800-$1,000, depending on location.
The estimated purchase price for a newly built home, with 2,400 square feet of living area in the Charleston area is $251,000. This home price is typical in neighborhoods containing primarily professional and/or executive households. Home prices can vary widely depending on the neighborhood and proximity to downtown Charleston and the Atlantic Ocean.
The average one-way commute in Charleston takes 22.1 minutes; 76.6% of commuters drive their own cars alone, 6.0% carpool with others, 1.2% take mass transit and 6.4% work from home.
Vehicle registration and licensing:
Check with the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles' website for up-to-date information on vehicle registration, licensing and other related vehicle operation laws and information. The SCDMV site lets you complete many transactions online such as:
South Carolina requires all vehicles to be covered by liability insurance. Current insurance requirements are a minimum coverage of 25/50/25. Simply put, that means you must have at least:
When you apply for your South Carolina driver's license, you must present proof of insurance before your license can be issued. If you or your household do not own a car, check the appropriate box on your application.
If you are caught driving without insurance, you will be issued a ticket immediately and you may even be arrested and jailed. You have 15 days from getting a ticket or from being involved in an accident to provide proof of insurance. If you fail to do so, your license can be suspended indefinitely. If your insurance is canceled for lack of payment or any other reason, the insurance company must contact the DMV. You will receive notice to update your insurance information with the state or to surrender your vehicle registration and license plate to the DMV. If you ignore or refuse to do so, your license and your registration will be suspended. The reinstatement fee can be as high as $400. For more information, visit the South Carolina Department of Insurance.
Note for military spouses:
President Barack Obama signed into law the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act (PL 111-97), which will ensure that the spouses of military personnel who move because their spouse is posted for military duty will be treated as not having changed residency for tax purposes. Under the act, the fact that a military spouse is present in or absent from a jurisdiction in the United
States will not affect that spouse's residence or domicile for tax purposes, as long as that presence in (or absence from) the jurisdiction is due to the service member's compliance with military orders. In addition, any income the military spouse earns in a jurisdiction will not be treated as income from services performed or sources within that jurisdiction if that spouse is not treated as a resident of the jurisdiction under the act.
The act conforms the treatment of military spouses to the treatment accorded military personnel under the Service members Civil Relief Act. Congress was concerned that in certain cases, military personnel were losing the benefits of the SCRA where they held property in joint title with their spouses. For example, where the family car was not titled in the service member's name only, some states were collecting personal property tax on that car. In addition, military families were subject to return filing complications when the service member retained residency in the home state, but the spouse was treated as a resident of the new state.
The act also accords similar treatment to military spouses for voting and certain land rights residency requirements. The act is effective for any state or local tax return filed for any tax year beginning with the tax year that includes the date Nov. 11, 2009.