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Best and worst states to retire

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

Retirement. A word almost synonymous with Florida. But is that the best you can hope for in retirement? While the weather is almost perpetually hot and sunny, the 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 well-being to help you find the best place to spend your golden years.

Best and worst states to retire at a glance

  • Overall best state for retirement: New Hampshire scoring 68.6 out of 100.
  • Best state for affordability: Alabama scoring 74.9 out of 100.
  • Best state for crime and poverty: Pennsylvania scoring 86 out of 100.
  • Best state for culture: Maine scoring 88 out of 100.
  • Best state for weather and location: Hawaii scoring 80 out of 100.
  • Best state for health and well-being: New Hampshire scoring 83 out of 100.
  • Overall worst state for retirement: Oklahoma scoring 32.5 out of 100.
  • Worst state for affordability: Vermont scoring 37.8 out of 100.
  • Worst state for crime and poverty: Louisiana scoring 13 out of 100.
  • Worst state for culture: Oklahoma scoring 15 out of 100.
  • Worst state for weather and location: Oklahoma scoring 27.6 out of 100.
  • Worst state for health and well-being: District of Columbia scoring 21 out of 100.

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 68.6 out of 100 in our retirement index. In three 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 health and welfare. 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.

New Hampshire ranks as the fourth-best state in the USA in terms of crime and poverty. Its score was helped along with the below-average rates for burglary, property and violent crime. It also has the lowesr rates for senior poverty and the percentage seniors that are food insecure.

New Hampshire also scores well for culture, ranking 7th. The categories dragging the state down include affordability (21st rank) and surprise, surprise, weather and location with New Hampshire only managing to rank 35 out of 51.

2. Hawaii

Hawaii takes out the second spot with an overall score of 63.9 out of 100 in our retirement index. Like New Hampshire, Hawaii has three top-10 finishes, and you’ll never guess which category Hawaii ranks highest in.

Of course, it’s weather and location. Hawaii ranks first in the category with a score of 80 out of 100. Hawaii also scores well for health and wellbeing (4th highest ranking) and crime and poverty (5th highest).

3. South Dakota

South Dakota comes in third place (63.7) with its ranking bolstered by the number two rank for affordability and a third place ranking for culture — don’t @ me on this. The ranking is based on arts, entertainment, and recreation establishments per 100k people, food services and drinking establishments per 100k people, golf courses and country clubs establishments per 100k people and the senior volunteer rate.

4. Maine

Maine comes in fourth place with an overall score of 63.6. Maine also sees its ranking propped up by two categories in particular, with Maine scoring the highest ranking for culture at 88. It also finished third for health and well-being. What really pulled its ranking down was its 44th-place finish for affordability.

5. Wyoming

And rounding out our top five is Wyoming, which scores overall 62.8 out of 100 in our retirement index. Wyoming also managed two top-10 finishes, ranking 6th for culture and 9th for affordability. In fact, Wyoming, on a rankings basis, finshed better than average in all categories finishing 18th for health and well-being, 19th for crime and poverty and 21st for weather and location.

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. Oklahoma

Oklahoma ranks as the worst state for retirees, scoring an overall 32.5 out of 100 in our retirement index. Oklahoma ranks in the bottom 5 states for retirement in 3 categories, coming in as the worst state for both culture and weather. It ranks 47th for health and well-being and 46th for crime and poverty.

The one bright spot is its 6th-place rank for affordability.

2. Louisiana

Louisiana scores 34.8 out of 100 in our retirement index. Louisiana finishes in last place for crime and poverty and 46th for health and well-being. Louisiana’s highest rank is 17th for affordability.

3. Arkansas

Arkansas comes in as the third-worst state for seniors to retire with an overall score of 38.7 out of 100 in our retirement index. Its worst rank comes for crime and poverty (49th) while it ranks best for weather and location (17th).

4. West Virginia

West Virginia ranks fourth-to-last on our list with an overall score of 39.8 out of 100 in our retirement index. Its highest rank comes in at 32 for affordability, while its lowest rank is 46 for weather and location.

5. Mississippi

Rounding out the bottom five states with an overall score of 39.9 out of 100 in our retirement index is Mississippi. Mississippi is the second worst state in the nation for health and well-being. However, it ranks 16th for affordability.

Expert tips on retirement planning

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.

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

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