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Best and worst states to retire

Which are the best states in the United States to spend your retirement?

When you think about retirement your brain almost automatically conjures images of Florida but is that the best you can hope for in retirement? While the weather is almost perpetually hot and sunny, weather does not a retirement make.

To find out which states are the best and worst places for retirement we looked at 32 different rating factors across 6 categories including: affordability; crime and poverty; culture; weather and location; and health and wellbeing to help you find the best place to spend your golden years.

The best state for retirees in America

While the common school of thought in regards to retirement is to head South, the state that comes in as Finder’s number one state for retirement requires your brain to do a one-eighty and point that car north — well, more accurately northeast — and head to New Hampshire.

1. New Hampshire

New Hampshire scored an overall 69.3 out of 100 in our retirement index. In five out of the six categories we looked at, New Hampshire scored in the top 10.

Most notably, New Hampshire was the best rated state for crime and poverty. Its score was helped along with the lowest burglary rates in the country, the second lowest rates of property crime, violent crime and senior poverty rate, the fourth lowest rate of larceny-theft and the fifth lowest percentage of the senior population who are food insecure.

New Hampshire also finished on the podium for health and wellbeing and ranks as the third best state in the USA. This category includes factors such as the number of healthcare benchmarks for seniors that are at least average, life expectancy, senior deaths per 100k people and the risk of social isolation for people over the age of 65.

Also scoring well for affordability and culture, New Hampshire ranks 7th and 9th respectively; the only category dragging the state down was weather and location with New Hampshire only managing to rank 37 out of 51.

2. North Dakota

While New Hampshire takes Finder’s number one ranking, North Dakota is not that far behind with an overall score of 65.2 out of 100 in our retirement index. Like New Hampshire, North Dakota also had two podium finishes, ranking as the second best state for weather and location and the third best for culture — don’t @ me on this; it’s per capita.

It also had one other top 10 finish as the 10th best state for health and wellbeing. Just outside the top 10, North Dakota ranks as the 14th best state for crime and poverty. Surprisingly, pulling down North Dakota’s overall score is affordability, with the state ranking 42nd in the nation.

3. Idaho

Coming in third place is another Northwestern state, Idaho, with an overall score of 63 out of 100 in our retirement index. Like North Dakota, Idaho also ranks in the top 10 for 3 categories and is the 2nd best state in the country for crime and poverty, the 5th best for weather and location and the 9th best for health and wellbeing.

Unlike the previous two states, it doesn’t have one below-average score pulling down its overall ranking but rather two lower but still above-average scores ranking 22nd for culture and 23rd for affordability.

4. Maine

Heading back to the Northeast, we find our 4th ranked state, Maine, with an overall score of 62.1 out of 100 in our retirement index. Once again, this state also has three entries in the top 10 overall, ranking 5th for both crime and poverty and crime and 8th for weather and location. Maine also scores a commendable 16th for health and wellbeing. What really brings down its overall score is its affordability ranking at 49, meaning it’s the third least affordable city for retirees.

5. Montana

And rounding out our top 5, we head back to the Northwest to Montana, which scores overall 61.2 out of 100 in our retirement index. Montana only managed 2 top 10 finishes, but it ranks 2nd for culture and 3rd for weather and location. Montana also ranks as the 20th placed state for crime and poverty and health and wellbeing. Affordability is Montana’s lowest-ranking metric, coming in 43rd.

Which are the worst states to retire?

While we’re not saying you can’t or shouldn’t retire in these states, these are the five states which scored the worst in our retirement index.

1. West Virginia

West Virginia ranks as the worst state for retirees, scoring an overall 25 out of 100 in our retirement index. West Virginia ranks in the bottom 5 states for retirement in 3 categories, coming in as the worst state for culture, the 4th worst for both health and wellbeing and weather and location. It ranks just outside the bottom 10 for crime and poverty ranking as the 11th worst, and it’s the 23rd worst for affordability.

2. Oklahoma

Oklahoma also finishes in the bottom 10 in three categories on its way to scoring 29.2 out of 100 in our retirement index. Oklahoma finishes in last place for health and wellbeing, 3rd worst for weather and location and 8th worst for crime and poverty. It also just squeaks out of the bottom 10 as the 11th worst for culture.

However, unlike all the other states in the bottom 5, there is a ray of sunshine that comes in the form of affordability, with Oklahoma ranking as the 5th most affordable state.

3. District of Columbia

While looking at the faces on Capitol Hill, you might think that DC is a retirement Mecca, it’s actually the third worst state (district) in the country for retirees with an overall score of 31 out of 100 in our retirement index. Washington D.C. has the distinction of being the only state (district) in the bottom 5 to rank in the bottom 10 in 4 out of the 5 categories being the 2nd worst for weather and location 6th worst for crime and poverty, 8th worst for affordability and tied-10th worst for health and wellbeing. Its one saving grace is culture, with D.C. ranking as the 17th best.

4. New Mexico

Scoring less than a point better than DC is New Mexico, with an overall score of 31.8 out of 100 in our retirement index. New Mexico ranks dead last for crime and poverty, and 6th worst for culture. It also ranks as the 16th worst for both affordability and health and wellbeing. Helping it out a little is weather and location, where New Mexico ranks as the 17th best.

5. Louisiana

Rounding out the bottom five states with an overall score of 32.1 out of 100 in our retirement index is Louisiana. Louisiana is the second worst state in the nation for crime and poverty and the 9th worst for culture. Louisiana also ranks in the bottom 20 for health and wellbeing (13th worst) and weather and location (19th worst). However, Louisiana does score quite well for affordability and is the 13th most affordable state for retirement.

StateRankAffordabilityCrime and povertyCultureWeather and locationHealth and well-beingOverall score
New Hampshire172.597.670.333.372.669.3
North Dakota249.560.487.571.259.465.6
Idaho360.288.249.358.460.563.3
Maine442.376.982.354.955.762.4
Montana549.349.388.667.552.161.3
Minnesota649.866.166.762.261.161.2
Iowa760.565.373.642.360.760.5
Vermont833.880.085.040.060.059.8
Alaska951.027.264.378.468.958.0
South Dakota1063.240.780.653.350.057.6
Colorado1159.844.150.055.378.457.5
Massachusetts1248.469.059.553.555.257.1
Connecticut1345.778.061.441.657.456.8
Delaware1473.249.252.928.573.855.5
Nebraska1550.554.469.647.047.853.8
New York1646.261.154.252.250.052.7
New Jersey1753.385.841.325.452.551.7
Hawaii1850.138.540.456.469.250.9
Virginia1975.070.825.040.043.850.9
Maryland2052.248.439.250.057.549.4
Rhode Island2135.766.763.630.950.049.4
Wisconsin2253.866.775.00.050.049.1
Oregon2343.839.863.544.053.949.0
Pennsylvania2464.772.345.828.331.348.5
Florida2577.633.727.551.746.447.4
Utah2655.136.129.253.362.547.3
California2758.029.442.948.254.446.6
Nevada2869.423.534.153.650.046.1
Michigan2965.551.837.545.030.346.0
Kansas3059.339.754.433.540.445.5
North Carolina3165.627.535.354.142.745.0
Wyoming3253.80.0100.020.050.044.8
Indiana3366.549.140.332.231.343.9
Illinois3457.646.945.328.734.542.6
Washington3553.816.725.053.358.341.4
Arizona3662.426.016.244.855.741.0
Ohio3764.142.233.333.323.339.3
Missouri3859.028.028.043.236.038.8
Georgia3972.529.211.935.940.037.9
South Carolina4070.06.735.030.045.037.3
Tennessee4173.110.425.042.528.135.8
Arkansas4266.712.123.944.129.835.3
Kentucky4359.750.515.920.030.335.3
Mississippi4472.226.910.639.423.134.4
Alabama4571.716.714.040.527.534.1
Texas4670.37.210.728.646.532.6
Louisiana4767.64.217.238.132.832.0
New Mexico4852.81.814.551.638.231.8
District of Columbia4949.012.355.47.231.031.0
Oklahoma5072.514.325.011.421.428.9
West Virginia5157.716.70.020.025.023.9

We didn’t want to just give you the best and worst states to retire. Finder also reached out to experts to provide some essential retirement tips. Check out these five retirement planning words of wisdom.

Expert tips on retirement planning

1. Automate your retirement savings

Don’t rely on yourself to manually save money every month. You want to automate your retirement savings. As soon as your income comes in, set up automatic transfers to move money from your checking to investment accounts, such as an IRA or taxable account.

If you’re behind in your retirement savings, it can be overwhelming to think about increasing the amount you save, like going from a 10% savings rate to 20%. A good tip here is to start small and increase your savings rate in increments. For example, look to increase your savings rate 1% every three months. In 2.5 years time, you’ll have increased your savings rate by 10%.

– R.J Weiss, CFP, founder of The Ways to Wealth

2. Make investing a priority

Suppose you receive a $5,000 annual raise early in your career. If you simply invest that $5,000 annually into an investment account growing at a 10% annual rate, you will have accumulated over $822,000 in 30 years. You will have invested a total of $150,000 and have earned $672,000 from those investments.

And, lest you believe that a 10% average annual return is unrealistic, according to Ibbotson Associates, since 1926 the average annual return on a large capitalization stock index (think S&P 500) is 10.2%, while investments in long-term government and long-term corporate bonds have on average grown annually by 5.5% and 6.1%, respectively.

– Robert R. Johnson, PhD, CFA, CAIA , Professor, Heider College of Business, Creighton University

3. Use the power of compound interest

One way to retire faster is to start making money with the money you have. This technique is usually referred to as compound interest. Basically, what this means is that you receive interest on the money you’ve saved, and then start receiving interest on the money you save plus the interest gained.

The more money you have saved, the more money you’ll earn through interest, and then the more money you’ll get as a result. It’s a snowball effect which can help you to save a lot more further down the line and might just cause you to be able to retire earlier than you originally planned.

– George Birrell CPA & Founder of TaxHub

4. Squeeze as much money out of Social Security as possible

A pension guarantees you a lifetime income, but they’re rare in the private sector these days. There’s been some research, though, that shows a lot of younger workers are looking at annuities as a replacement for pensions.

These are a kind of financial arrangement you pay into when you’re planning your retirement. Then, when you retire, they pay you a fixed amount of money every year for as long as you live. That’s a number you can depend on and plan around – without having to worry about outliving your retirement savings.

One more thing you need to consider is how to squeeze as much money as possible out of Social Security. You can start collecting your benefits as young as 62, but the younger you collect your Social Security benefits, the smaller your benefits.

– Terry Turner, Senior Writer at RetireGuide.com

5. Avoid Relocation Stress Syndrome

Simply moving to another city, state or region in the U.S. can be a disruptive life event: health experts have identified a set of symptoms that occur when individuals move from one environment to another and have labeled it Relocation Stress Syndrome’ (RSS). So regardless of what people read in the popular press, retiring to an ‘affordable paradise’ is a much more complicated and stressful process than many folks might imagine!

– Timothy G. Wiedman, D.B.A., PHR Emeritus, Associate Prof. of Management & Human Resources (Retired), Doane University

Methodology

To determine the best and worst states for retirement, Finder compared the states and Washington, DC across 32 ranking factors. We scored each factor on an index with scores closer to 0 representing the states with the best drivers and 100 representing the states with the worst drivers. A score of 50 suggests the average score across all the states and DC.

Our broad categories were weighted evenly at 20 points for each:

  • Affordability
  • Crime and poverty
  • Culture
  • Weather and location
  • Health and wellbeing

Affordability

  • Cost of living index
  • Median annual income for seniors
  • Average yearly OASDI (Social security) for retired workers
  • Social Security income taxed?
  • Withdrawals from retirement accounts taxed?
  • Public and private pension income taxed?
  • Property Tax Rate
  • Inheritance tax?
  • Estate tax?
  • Adult Day Care Median Monthly Costs
  • Home Care Median Monthly Costs
  • Assisted Living Median Monthly Cost
  • % of seniors that could not see doctor b/c of cost in the past 12 months

Crime and poverty

  • Senior poverty rate
  • % of seniors that are food insecure
  • Violent crime per 100k people
  • Property crime per 100k people
  • Burglary per 100k people
  • Larceny-theft per 100k people

Culture and Arts

  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation establishments per 100k people
  • Food Services and Drinking Places establishments per 100k people
  • Golf courses and country clubs establishments per 100k people
  • Senior volunteer rate

Weather and Location

  • Air pollution
  • Drinking water violations
  • Natural disasters per 100k sq miles
  • Coastal shoreline mileage
  • National Park Service acres per 100k people

Health and well-being

  • Number of healthcare benchmarks for seniors that are at least average
  • Life expectancy
  • Senior deaths per 100k people
  • Risk of social isolation among seniors

Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Social Security Administration, Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, Tax Foundation, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), SeniorLiving.org, America’s Health Rankings, Feeding America

For media inquiries:

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Allan Givens
Public Relations Manager
203-818-2928
allan.givens@finder.com
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