The Best and Worst States for Retirement

It’s easy to associate retirement with traditional hotspots like Florida and Arizona, but retiring comfortably goes simply beyond enjoying the weather.

When factoring in the cost of living, crime rate, health care quality, well-being along with weather, the best state for retirement is Wyoming, according to Bankrate’s annual Best and Worst States to Retire rankings.

The Cowboy State ranked within the top-10 across three out of the five retirement metrics; ranking first in tax-rate, fifth in crime rate and eighth in weather. Meanwhile, it scored 19 on cost of living and 20 on community well-being.

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Following Wyoming in the top-50 rankings was another untraditional candidate to bend retirement perceptions: Colorado. The state scored best—third overall—in the weather category, while recording the sixth overall spot in community well-being. Colorado also posted the highest cost of living (30) compared to other states ranking in the top-five, as well as the highest crime rate, ranking in at number 25 overall.

Rounding out the top-three states was Utah, whose low cost of living (7), health care quality (7) and weather (6) ratings made the Beehive State a prime destination for retirees. The state also ranked within the top-25 in metrics like community well-being (19), crime rate (22) and tax rate (23), too.

Bankrate compiled its rankings based on various data metrics, including data provided by the Council for Community and Economic Research, a Virginia-based group that tracks retail prices in more than 300 communities nationwide. 

Crime stats included property and violent crimes reported by police departments to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, while health care quality scores derived from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a federal office that measures each state’s performance on about 160 different health-related issues.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provided data Bankrate used in its weather calculations, which included readings on temperature, humidity and sunshine. 

Lastly, the “well-being” scores were provided by Healthways, a research group that works with the Gallup polling service to survey the public about their happiness and general satisfaction with their surroundings. 

Taking these data sources into account, Arkansas, New York and Alaska took top honors as the worst states to live out one’s non-working years, according to Bankrate’s findings.

Where Alaska ranked poorest in cost of living (49), crime rate (46) and weather (50), New York ranked the worst in tax rate (50) and cost of living (47), while Arkansas’ high crime rate (45), community well-being (47) and health care quality (44) kept it at the bottom.

The 49th state to join the U.S. did, however, rank second overall in tax rate, behind only the top-retirement state of Wyoming. 

Other states that are home to major metropolitan areas like Illinois and California ranked closer to the middle—at 26 and 31, respectively—mostly due to high costs of living, tax rates and weather (looking at you, Chicago).

“Densely packed, touristy communities tend to be more expensive places to live,” writes Chris Kahn, research and statistics editor at Bankrate. “There’s more competition for space and resources, and, as a result, those states tend to put more financial pressure on people with fixed incomes. Retirees still may find a lot to love in those states, but it could take more work to stay happy.”

The purpose of the analysis is to be a starting point in retirees’ conversations about where to find the optimal place when considering a move during retirement, Bankrate says.

“It’s not meant to pinpoint a spot for you, but it could help you decide among several possibilities,” Kahn writes. “For some retirees, the most important factor is to simply live near their friends and family, even if that means moving to a low-ranking state. Others may want to stay put in the home where their children grew up. If that’s you, then congratulations! You’ve already found the best place to retire.”

View Bankrate’s Best and Worst States for Retirement.

Written by Jason Oliva

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