Best States for Retirement

When it’s time to plan out your retirement, you’ll want to think about more than just retirement annuities. There are three very important factors you might want to consider: location, location and location.

In the United States, studies say, the quality of your life in retirement may rise or fall depending on where you live. Economic and quality of life conditions vary from state to state. And those factors that made your residence a fit during your working years may become less important in retirement.

A recent study by WalletHub ranked which states let retirees keep more of their money and have the best quality of life. Florida came out on top, while Kentucky placed last. The study ranked all 50 states in affordability, quality of life and health care categories.

Top Five States to Retire According to Wallet Hub

Overall Rank State Score Affordability Rank Quality of Life Rank Health Care Rank
1 Florida 65.6 1 7 27
2 South Dakota 63.72 9 22 5
3 Colorado 62.19 26 9 4
4 New Hampshire 61.8 25 3 9
5 Virginia 60.82 14 13 24

 

Worst Five States to Retire According to Wallet Hub

Overall Rank State Score Affordability Rank Quality of Life Rank Health Care Rank
46 New Jersey 47.85 45 33 29
47 Vermont 47.76 50 6 23
48 West Virginia 47.26 22 41 49
49 Rhode Island 45.94 46 43 18
50 Kentucky 43.85 32 48 47

 

But these ratings are not cast in concrete. They differ based on what data are used to compile the lists. You should examine what factors are important to you in your retirement.

Even within the WalletHub study, some states ranked poorly in some categories even though they came out well in the overall calculation. And some states at the bottom did well in some areas.

For example, Florida ranked No. 1 overall but came in 27th place in health care. And Vermont, which ranked 47th overall, came in sixth place for quality of life.

Different Studies and Different Rankings

Different studies come to different conclusions. But in general, the same states seem to be showing up near the top in most recent studies that look at retirement locales. Florida, South Dakota and New Hampshire seem to be common favorites, as are Colorado and Iowa. The bottom rankings are less consistent between studies.

For example, a study by Bankrate in July ranked South Dakota first overall, followed by Utah, Idaho and New Hampshire. Florida came in fifth place in that study, which ranked New York in last place. The other bottom states were New Mexico, Maryland, Louisiana and Arkansas.

Top-ranked South Dakota came in 38th place in the weather ranking in the Bankrate study. New Hampshire, which was rated the fourth best state to retire, came in 43rd place in both cost of living and weather.

And 47th-rated Louisiana came in third place in weather. Arkansas, which came in 46th overall, ranked second best for cost of living.

In August, the finance website MoneyWise, ranked New Hampshire as the best place to retire, followed by South Dakota, Colorado, Iowa and Florida. MoneyWise didn’t rank the worst states. Its report said it took into account, scenery, quality of life, health care and things to do.

Taking these studies a step forward, Forbes in August ranked the two best places to retire within each state.

In Florida, for example, those places were Jacksonville and The Villages. In South Dakota, Sioux Falls and Pierre were ranked the best for retirees.

In Kentucky, Forbes picked Lexington and Bowling Green. In New York, Ithaca and Rochester got the nod.

Forbes reported that among its perennial retirement favorites are: Athens, Georgia; Fargo, North Dakota; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Social Security’s Limitations Make Finances Important

Financial considerations are a high priority for most retirees because Social Security benefits replace as little as a third of a worker’s prior annual earnings, while fewer workers receive pensions. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the average Social Security benefit in June 2018 was about $17,000 a year, which replaced, on average, 39 percent of past earnings.

This Social Security income is further reduced by the fact that most retirees have deductions taken out of their Social Security to cover Medicare Part B, also known as Supplementary Medical Insurance.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says the United States ranks in the bottom third of developed countries around the world in the measure of income that is replaced by a public pension.

Experts Weigh In

The most common mistake many retirees make when choosing a state in which to reside is basing their decision on how much house they can buy for their money, according to Jerry L. Bassford, associate vice president for Business & Auxiliary Services in Student Affairs at the University of Utah.

“One thing they often don’t look into is what the property taxes will be in the new location,” Bassford told WalletHub. “Often what they save from their lower mortgage is eaten up by increased property tax.”

There are also factors that can’t necessarily be included in a calculation. Your feeling about where you live is probably the biggest factor to weigh.

Bassford gave his top five indicators to consider in choosing a state in which to live:

  • Nearness and convenience to high-quality medical care
  • Access to public transportation
  • Convenience of airport for both the retiree and family or friends
  • Understand the hidden costs, including taxes, transportation, food costs
  • Will you be happy there?

Another expert, Terri Holbrook from the University of Texas at Austin, gave WalletHub her advice:

  • Consider that grown children may move for their careers, so don’t expect them to live where they are forever.
  • Assess cost of living, especially if you are limited to a specific budget.
  • Look at access to healthcare, including hospitals.
  • Think about a place where you may be better able to participate in the activities you enjoy.
  • Realize no place is perfect in every way every day, so accept the bad with the good.

5 Cited Research Articles

  1. Barrett, W.P. (2018, August 28). The Best Places To Retire In Each State. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/williampbarrett/2018/08/28/the-best-places-to-retire-in-each-state/#6ffe4b7975c1
  2. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. (2018, August 14). Policy Basics: Top Ten Facts about Social Security. Retrieved from https://www.cbpp.org/research/social-security/policy-basics-top-ten-facts-about-social-security
  3. McCann, A. (2019, January 14). Best States to Retire. Retrieved from https://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-states-to-retire/18592/#
  4. Tepper, T. (2018, July 12). These are the best and worst states for retirement. Retrieved from https://www.bankrate.com/retirement/best-and-worst-states-for-retirement/
  5. Trattner, E. (2018, August 24). America’s Best States to Retire In. Retrieved from https://moneywise.com/a/americas-best-states-to-retire
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