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What's the worst place you could retire to?

September 15, 2010

| MoneyRates.com Senior Financial Analyst, CFA

Where is the worst place you could imagine spending your retirement?

This coming Monday, September 20, MoneyRates.com will post its list of the 10 worst states for retirees. If you are giving some thought now to where to spend your golden years, this list is a must-read.

What makes a bad place for retirement?

What will determine the list of the worst states for retirees? Naturally, subjective opinions on what makes a place great or terrible will vary, but MoneyRates.com takes an objective view by coming up with a list of quantifiable criteria.

Those criteria take into account the following factors that can make a state a bad place for retirees:

  • A bad economy. Even if you are no longer working, you don't want to be living in a bad economic environment, because that can lead to deteriorating housing values and a decline in the availability of commercial and social services. MoneyRates.com looked at tax burden, unemployment and cost of living as economic indicators.
  • Crime. Both personal and property security are important to retirees, so the MoneyRates.com study accounted for both.
  • Bad weather. Since most people are comfortable in a moderate climate, the MoneyRates.com accounted for how extreme a state's temperatures could be, high or low, throughout the year.
  • Shorter life expectancy. There are surprising variations among states in life expectancies. Whether it is because of the health care, the environment or something else, states with short life expectancies should be less attractive to retirees.

Add your take on retirement locations

These objective criteria are food for thought before you decide on a retirement location. Ultimately, your own opinions matter, so we invite you to share your opinions.

Join the discussion by commenting on this blog. Before we release the 10 worst places to retire, get your thoughts in early. What do you think are the worst states for retirement, and why?

When our list of the worst states for retirement is published next week, tell us what you think. What redeeming features do these states have? What terrible places for retirees did we overlook?

Your responses to ‘What's the worst place you could retire to?’

Showing 34 comments | Add your comment
William Becker

27 March 2011 at 9:52 am

I would appreciating seeing additional detail regarding the states that fell in the middle of the list and your assessment leading to their placement. Thanks

William Becker

27 March 2011 at 9:49 am

I thought Nevada was solid blue. How could any state re-elect Harry Reid? Personally I am retired and looking to relocate. Climate and COL are major considerations, but because I intend to travel extensively, tax burden for RV owners trumps them. Recently I compared Kansas to Indiana where I currently live. Although Kansas has a higher income tax rate, the manner in which they calculate deductions place them close to Indiana in the higher bracket. They are higher in terms of sales taxes however, with their county and local option taxes. One thing that makes me comfortable about Indiana is that we are one of four states that remain in the black. Thanks to the outstanding leadership of Mitch Daniels and our republican congress. I believe it is important to include this in your criteria. States with deficits are going to have to address it by drastically curtailing services or severely raising taxes and no the federal government can't bail them out. They can't even handle their own crisis. I do agree that South Dakota appears to be one of my top choices. They treat RV owners well!


8 March 2011 at 8:57 am

Alaska should not be on the bottom 10. It is pretty up here the weather is not as harsh as they say. The summers are great for hunting, fishing, camping and again what a view that is breath taking. You can not get anywhere else. I have lived in many states and Alaska is where I am retiring. Crime rate is not that bad either... Hawaii's cost of living is worst and then where can you go to get away oh no where you have to pay to fly anywhere to get of the island and it is on the top 10 list yeah right..... I'll take Alaska before Hawaii.....

Joline Brakefield

21 February 2011 at 10:38 pm

I would like to thank you for the endeavors you have made in publishing this article. I am trusting the same best work from you in the future as well. In fact your fanciful writing abilities has inspired me to start my own blog now. Genuinely the blogging is spreading its wings rapidly. Your write up is a fine example of it.

Bill Settlemyer

18 January 2011 at 7:16 am

I agree with Alan Cook about the very limited usefulness of this type of list. We've lived in South Carolina since 1982 after moving here in mid-life from the northeast.

When we recently both retired, we were all ready to move off to that mythical place that's so much better than the Charleston, SC area, but darned if we couldn't find it. Some places are too cold and rainy or snowy, some places even hotter, some a lot more expensive.

As for the state's crime rate, it is most likely (and unfortunately) due to the relatively high poverty rate and low overall educational attainment. But (again unfortunately), the poor are often the most likely victims of crime, and seniors who live in middle income communities do not face a high risk of being crime victims.

I also agree with Alan's observation on life expectancy. Again, low incomes, poverty and the traditional southern diet all contribute to the poor numbers. Retirees who move here don't have those characteristics and it's hard to see how a geographical change harms your longevity if you maintained a healthy lifestyle before you moved and continue to do so after you move. In addition, there is good access to health care for seniors in or near the major metro areas.

No, South Carolina is not paradise, but few places really are. Over the years I've seen a lot more people moving here (pre-retired as well as retired) than moving away. Most people who've moved here say they really love the area.

Eva Sandfort

11 January 2011 at 6:44 am

To rate SC as number4 in the worst places to retire is ridiculous! I moved to Spartanburg in 1985 and lived here since, raised children, lived in many areas/neighborhoods and crime is non-existant . You can walk at night even downtown and be safe. Unemployment is high, but so it is across the country until Corporations stop sending our work out of this country. An if retirees are worried about the life expectancy of only 74.8, then don't move here and pick up smoking and over eating and you'll be fine. This area has the nicest people, climate, and smaller town feel without crazy traffic, pollution, and craziness that you have to deal with in big cities across the country!
I'm not sure what criteria you researched to get your information, but you need to come see us for a visit sometime and your information will be different!


4 January 2011 at 2:25 pm

I want to know the percentage of the cost of living and the tax burden for Indiana. I also want to know about the crime rate.


20 December 2010 at 8:53 am

I, too, agree w/ the life expectency comments made earlier- Perhaps a focus on quality health care for retirees could replace this criteria- As for crime, urban crime may skew the data as well- A state like Tennessee might jump to the top of the desireable list based on these two issues (health care and crime)- An earlier blogger talked about political leanings- That might be a neat topic to add- However, unlike him, I would be looking to get away from whacko left wing liberal loons that dominate my state and be looking for solid red! Thanks for the article

Gerald Petrie

10 November 2010 at 6:37 pm

And another correction ... I meant TWO months later. (Duh again.)

Gerald Petrie

10 November 2010 at 6:36 pm

Richard - This is not a question. I just wanted to say thank you for answering my Nov. 8 question so promptly -- the next day! It must be gratifying to know that a piece you posted in mid-September is still prompting questions and comments a month later. I'll bet that, like me, everyone who has read the article, commented or filed a question appreciates this piece and your insight. Thanks.

Richard Barrington

10 November 2010 at 5:16 am


The crime data was based on per capita U.S. Census Bureau data. According to the Census Bureau, South Carolina has 788 violent crimes per 100,000 residents (#1 in the country) and 4,272 property crimes per 100,000 residents (#2 in the country).

Of course, crimes tend to be concentrated in a few areas, so I have no doubt that there are large parts of South Carolina that are less troubled by crimes than the above figures would suggest, but the numbers should still be cause for concern.


9 November 2010 at 3:34 pm

I live in South Carolina. There is no way that SC is #1 in violent crime with all the major cities in the US, i.e, Baltimore, Detroit, NY, etc., etc.! How was that determined? This is an excellent place to live for seniors and retirees.

Richard Barrington

9 November 2010 at 4:46 am


Thanks for your interest, and for the kind comments. You can see the complete list here:


In answer to your specific question, Texas ranked 15th -- not too bad.

Gerald Petrie

8 November 2010 at 7:20 pm

I meant I thought those four states WOULD rank high. (Mind works faster than fingers do!)

Gerald Petrie

8 November 2010 at 7:19 pm

Richard - I enjoyed your article and was a bit surprised at some of the stats given for a few of the states. Though I'm not yet ready to retire, I had long thought North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas rank high on a list of Best Places to retire.

As Jim suggested on Sept. 24, the complete list of 50 states would be very helpful. Could you tell me how Texas rates? I lived in the Dallas area for five years and absolutely loved living in that state, though it also had its challenges. I now live in central Indiana, and I'm not thrilled.

Thanks for your consideration.

Warren Maxwell

29 October 2010 at 9:10 am

Many of us aren't going to be able to be that selective in determining where we retire but we have some flexibility. How can we find out the same information for the rest of the country. It would be really helpful to have an annual list of all of the states with the same perameters.

Richard Barrington

29 October 2010 at 6:33 am


I don't think we're too far apart -- COL and tax burden make up two-thirds of the economic factor. As for unemployment, this is relevant because a) many seniors these days are looking to work at least part-time and b) if you've ever lived in an area with high unemployment, you'll know that it's not a pleasant situation for anyone -- whether you are a "have" or a "have not".

As for life expectancy, I'd love to fine-tune it for expectancy from age 65 on, but that degree of detail simply wasn't available, so overall life expectancy was the best proxy we could find. At least some of the elements this captures -- environment and health care -- are very relevant to seniors.


28 October 2010 at 6:26 pm

Bad methodology.

Unemployment should be tossed - retirees aren't looking for employment. They are also more likely to be in retirement aged communities.

And why would bad economies affect retirees. Again, they're retired. Bad economies also mean lower cost of living which is good for people on fixed incomes. This should be tossed, but COL and tax burden should be kept.

Life expectancy needs to be altered. You need to look at life expectancy for 65 year olds - ie what is the life expectancy for retired people. General life expectancy rates include mortality for people who died before they retired.

Norma Unger

28 October 2010 at 1:46 pm

Many very important factors are always left out of these lists, political orientation for just one. Utah? Give me a break. I retired to Las Vegas for sunshine (which I had all my life in CA and don't want to live without) and because I thought my family would want to visit more often and I was sooo right--no more getting on a plane to go see them. I love my retirement community, but the number of right-wing nitwits that are here are causing lots of liberals to move away. I'll stay and keep fighting to make the state a sold blue. The economic downturn means I've been able to eat out and see shows at low prices. Looking forward to more liberal Californians and Chicagoans retiring here.

Richard Barrington

11 October 2010 at 1:11 pm


As you say, the list is a conversation starter -- people's personal tastes differ enough that the last word on the subject will always be a function of individual preferences. For example, while some people are more weather-sensitive than others, the fact is that New Hampshire is a popular retirement destination for people from the NYC area.

As for the life expectancy issue, the differences among states -- and they are substantial -- must come into play to one degree or another throughout a person's life, so you can think of the impact being amortized over a person's life span. Given that retirees typically have 20 - 30 years more of life ahead of them, there is time for those factors affecting life expectancy to be relevant to them.

alan cook

9 October 2010 at 7:19 pm

I would also be interested in understanding how my life expectancy would increase if at retirement age, after living in a low life expectancy state all my life ,I suddenly at age 65 move to a high life expectancy state. Is this even a factor in considering a retirement location, I think not.
Sorry i didnt see this site before lists were selected since I have definate opinions based on my own research prior to retirement. I'm sure there are thousands of others who have also researched retirement locations and its a sure bet very few elected to retire to cold weather locations such as the Dakota's or northern New England.

alan cook

9 October 2010 at 6:54 am

A crazy list based on crazy criteria. Having lived is several states over a 40 year career, including several of the states in the top10 and bottom 10 I would hope no one contemplating retirement would put too much weight in these types of lists. An example almost no one retires to North and South Dakota. It's a place you retire from, huge expanses of farm land, extemely cold winters etc.

Having lived in #1 New Hampshire and neighboring Mass for much of my working career I would only comment that yes N.H. is a nice place to live about 5 months out of the year unless you're into winter sports. Yes unemployment is low, every one cluster on the southern boarder commutes to Ma. to work, Yes crime is low, there are no big cities, and yes state taxes are low but local property taxes are very high. Many people that I know who have retired split there time in N.H. during its summer months then off to Flordia for six months, not all can afford this luxury.

This list is a good conversation starter but little else as far as a serious guide to picking a retirement location.


28 September 2010 at 5:12 am

Hmmm, surprising. I would have thought Kansas and Nebraska would have been reversed. Thanks for the info. Jim

Richard Barrington

27 September 2010 at 4:20 am

Jim -- in the order in which you asked, those states ranked 16th, 12th, 39th, and 29th.

Librada Gamble

26 September 2010 at 4:23 am

Taking a good look at what you're saying here I think I can totally agree and I do like the stuff.
Thanks for letting us read it.


25 September 2010 at 5:08 am

Thanks Richard,

Curious about Kansas (where I live), Nebraska (where I use to live), Louisiana (where I'm from, who dat!) and Mississippi (a state I've always liked).


Richard Barrington

24 September 2010 at 6:26 am

Intriguing thought, Jim. We hadn't planned to do that, but I'll consult with the MoneyRates team. In the meantime, what states did you have in mind? I'll make sure to get you an answer on those you are especially interested in.


24 September 2010 at 4:59 am

Richard, is it possible to publish the entire list? I'd like to see where a couple of other states list (that I'd be interested in).

Richard Barrington

24 September 2010 at 4:11 am

William: As a NYC native, I applaud your choice. Unfortunately, a great city like NYC, like the rest of the country, depends on everyone chipping in to make it work, so taxes will be with us always. The best we can hope for is to see the money spent more wisely!


24 September 2010 at 2:57 am

In my dreams I envision that taxation would end for anyone over 65 or be reduced for the elderly. That would make it more possible to retire to New York City which is my favorite city with so much to do and excellent transportation so driving a car would not be necessary.


15 September 2010 at 2:01 pm

Florida, especially Miami - Having no state tax is lovely, the weather is great for that arthritic knee, and you wont be hard up to find some friends to play golf or mahjong with. But if you don't drive, you may want to rethink your location. The public transportation leaves much to be desired.

Richard Barrington

15 September 2010 at 9:14 am

Regarding pyueqs' guess, I don't want to let anything slip before the official list is released on Monday, but let's put it this way -- Michigan sure didn't make the "ten best" list!


15 September 2010 at 8:59 am

Weather would trump nearly everything for me... I wouldn't seriously consider anywhere with a harsh winter. Slushy sidewalks, wind chill, and slipping on ice when I'm 80? No thanks. Guess that rules out the Midwest and Northeast for me.


15 September 2010 at 8:51 am

Hmmm... crime, economy and weather? I heard Detroit wasn't doing so good, maybe Michigan?

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