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Best Places to Retire: Latest MoneyRates.com Survey Ranks Top States

MoneyRates.com Senior Financial Analyst, CFA
February 06, 2017

Best and Worst States for Retirement 2017

Are Americans looking for something other than sunshine when they retire?

New England states actually tend to have higher proportions of older residents than warm-weather states. Has the challenge of saving for retirement has forced retirees to choose cost-effectiveness over the beach? Or could it simply be that many people have different priorities for where they want to live when they retire?

Methodology

If you are looking to retire over the next year and want to know where you can stretch your retirement savings, a new study might help you decide where to settle. MoneyRates.com looked at eleven different criteria grouped into five categories to determine 2017's best and worst states for retirement.

The five major categories are:

  1. Health and longevity 
  2. Personal safety
  3. Climate
  4. Economic factors
  5. Proportion of older residents

This analysis showed that retirees know what they are doing by not necessarily flocking to warm-weather states. Based on this wide range of criteria, seven of the 10 best states for retirement are in the northern portion of the country. But don't despair if you are a sun worshiper - there are also a few warm-weather states represented in the top 10.

Here are best states to retire for 2017, followed by a list of the 10 worst states to retire and the full ranking of all 50 states:

10 Best States for Retirement 2017

New England states are especially well represented in the top 10, but there is also plenty of variety for people who favor other parts of the country.

1. Iowa

Best States for Retirement 2017 - 1. Iowa

If your idea of a good retirement is a worry-free lifestyle, then Iowa may be a good fit for you. Iowa came out No. 1 overall despite not cracking the top 10 in any of the five major categories. The reason? It had above-average scores in each of the five categories. So, rather than being pulled up by a major area of strength, Iowa avoided being pulled down by any particular problem area. For people who want their retirement to be smooth and headache-free, that absence of major problems might sound ideal.

2. Hawaii

Best States for Retirement 2017 - 2. Hawaii

From mid-western Iowa to tropical Hawaii, this list does not lack for variety - which is good, because people have different tastes in what type of retirement life style they seek. Perhaps surprisingly, Hawaii's strongest suit was not the weather, which is a little bit of a mixed bag - it is certainly very warm, but it is also quite rainy. Instead, Hawaii's greatest strength is that it seems very good for the health of retirees, with the greatest life expectancy of any state for people at age 50. One caveat though - while Hawaii did well on other economic criteria, it does have the highest cost of living of any state.

3. Maine

Best States for Retirement 2017 - 3. Maine

This high ranking for Maine might surprise people in some parts of the country, but this state must be doing something right for retirees - Maine has the highest proportion of residents aged 60 or over out of any state. One obvious attraction is personal safety. Maine has the lowest rate of violent crime of any state, and it also has less property crime than most states.

4. New Hampshire

Best States for Retirement 2017 - 4. New Hampshire

The New England states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont are all clustered together around this stage of the rankings, and it is no surprise because these neighbors share some characteristics. Like Maine, New Hampshire is not going to win any prizes for its climate, but it does benefit from very low crime rates. While New Hampshire isn't quite as popular with older residents as Maine, the proportion of its population aged 60 or older does rank in the top 10 nationally.

5. Vermont

Best States for Retirement 2017 - 5. Vermont

Again, the pattern of cool temperatures but very low crime rates is repeated here. This is another state which has proven very popular with older residents, as its proportion of population aged 60 or over is the fourth highest of any state.

6. Florida

Best States for Retirement 2017 - 6. Florida

Of course, this is the traditional poster child of retirement destinations, so it is no surprise to see Florida on this list. Florida ranks second only to Maine in its proportion of older residents. Those older residents tend to live a long time in Florida, as the life expectancy there at age 65 is third-highest in the nation.

Naturally, the weather is warm, but one important caveat should be pointed out, which is that Florida does suffer from high crime rates. Its rate of violent crime is one of the 10 worst in the country, and it also has more property crime than most states.

7. Idaho

Best States for Retirement 2017 - 7. Idaho

Now the study turns to a very different part of the country and one that might not be commonly thought of as a retirement destination, though the facts show Idaho has some key strengths going for it. Obviously, if you are looking for warm weather this isn't the place for you, but Idaho did very well on safety and economic factors. Idaho has the nation's second lowest rate of property crime, and its violent crime rate is seventh lowest. Economically, Idaho ranked well across three different measures, with the third-lowest cost of living in the nation being of particular interest to anyone whose savings accounts for retirement are not quite as robust as they might have hoped.

8. South Dakota

Best States for Retirement 2017 - 8. South Dakota

Here's another top-10 state that might come as a surprise, and obviously not the right choice if you are looking to retire to a tropical paradise. However, South Dakota offers the comfort of low crime rates, and the overall environment must be beneficial to older citizens because life expectancy at age 65 in South Dakota is among the 10 highest in the nation.

9. Arizona (tie)

Best States for Retirement 2017 - 9. Arizona (tie)

Like Florida, this is a state traditionally thought of as being attractive to retirees. Certainly, it is a good place to go if you like sunshine, as Arizona has more clear days than any other state. That atmosphere must be kind to older constitutions because life expectancy at age 65 is among the five highest states. Just be aware that there is a bit of an issue with crime. Arizona's property crime rate is among the 10 highest in the nation, and it also has more violent crime than most states.

9. Connecticut (tie)

Best States for Retirement 2017 - 9. Connecticut (tie)

While the colder climate may be a drawback to some, Connecticut offers a high life expectancy for older residents, as well as low crime rates. Its property crime rate is among the nation's 10 lowest.

10 Worst States for Retirement 2017

The list of the 10 worst states for retirement is a mixed bag, with different characteristics tripping up different states.

Here are the states that came out in the bottom 10:

1. Alaska

Worst States for Retirement 2017 - 1. Alaska

Obviously, the weather is a major drawback - it's not just cold in Alaska, but clear days are rare as well. Beyond the weather, Alaska also suffers from a very high rate of violent crime, third worst in the nation. It also falls down on economic factors, as a high cost of living and a weak job market are a negative combination.

2. Louisiana

Worst States for Retirement 2017 - 2. Louisiana

This is a great state to visit to have fun, but its high crime rates probably represent too much excitement for retirees. The rates of violent and property crime in Louisiana are both among the 10 worst nationally.

3. Georgia

Worst States for Retirement 2017 - 3. Georgia

This is another state with much to offer but also a crime problem to overcome. Georgia's property crime rate is among the 10 worst in the country. How much to seniors care about that? Well, Louisiana and Georgia both have issues with crime, and each has one of the 10 lowest proportions of older residents, suggesting that personal safety is a factor.

4. Nevada

Worst States for Retirement 2017 - 4. Nevada

Like Louisiana, this may simply be more of a party state than a peaceful retirement environment. One thing in particular to watch out for: Nevada has the second highest rate of violent crime in the United States.

5. Illinois

Worst States for Retirement 2017 - 5. Illinois

Relative to its size, Illinois has one of the smaller older populations of any state. In addition, one thing that may be driving retirees away is the property taxes, which on average are the third most expensive of any state.

6. Tennessee

Worst States for Retirement 2017 - 6. Tennessee

Crime is a big concern for the state. Tennessee has the highest rate of violent crime, and its property crime rate is also among the 10 worst.

7. Texas

Worst States for Retirement 2017 - 7. Texas

Texas has one of the smaller proportions of older residents, and its relatively high crime rates may have something to do with that.

8. Mississippi

Worst States for Retirement 2017 - 8. Mississippi

The most prominent concern about Mississippi is the nation's lowest life expectancy at age 65.

9. Alabama

Worst States for Retirement 2017 - 9. Alabama

Alabama's property crime rate is one of the 10 worst, and the violent crime rate is worse than that of most states.

10. Maryland

Worst States for Retirement 2017 - 10. Maryland

The violent crime rate in Maryland is one of the 10 worst, and the cost of living is well above average.

The variety reflected on the above lists is good, because people want the freedom to choose among different types of environments. The idea behind this study is not to presume to define which state might be best for your retirement, but instead to suggest some characteristics you may want to look for - or watch out for. To get a better idea of how much to save for retirement, use a retirement savings calculator and determine the lifestyle you want to live.

Full Ranking of 50 Best and Worst States for Retirement

Didn't see your state in the best or worst lists above? Here is the full ranking of all 50 states for retirement:

Overall Rank State
1 Iowa
2 Hawaii
3 Maine
4 New Hampshire
5 Vermont
6 Florida
7 Idaho
8 South Dakota
9 Arizona
9 Connecticut
11 Minnesota
12 Delaware
13 Wisconsin
14 Massachusetts
15 Montana
16 Utah
17 Rhode Island
18 Colorado
18 Virginia
20 North Dakota
21 Oregon
22 Nebraska
22 Pennsylvania
24 Wyoming
25 Michigan
26 New York
27 Kentucky
28 West Virginia
29 Ohio
30 South Carolina
31 New Jersey
32 California
33 Arkansas
34 Kansas
34 Missouri
36 Indiana
37 New Mexico
38 Washington
39 North Carolina
40 Oklahoma
41 Maryland
42 Alabama
43 Mississippi
44 Texas
45 Tennessee
46 Illinois
47 Nevada
48 Georgia
49 Louisiana
50 Alaska

Sources

Data sources gathered for the Best and Worst States for Retirement 2017 report:

  1. Health and longevity (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  2. Personal safety (U.S. Department of Justice, FBI)
  3. Climate (Current Results)
  4. Economic factors (C2ER, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Tax Foundation)
  5. Proportion of older residents (U.S. Census Bureau)

COMMENT: Where does your state rank? Which state do you want to retire in and why?

Overall Rank State
1 Iowa
2 Hawaii
3 Maine
4 New Hampshire
5 Vermont
6 Florida
7 Idaho
8 South Dakota
9 Arizona
9 Connecticut
11 Minnesota
12 Delaware
13 Wisconsin
14 Massachusetts
15 Montana
16 Utah
17 Rhode Island
18 Colorado
18 Virginia
20 North Dakota
21 Oregon
22 Nebraska
22 Pennsylvania
24 Wyoming
25 Michigan
26 New York
27 Kentucky
28 West Virginia
29 Ohio
30 South Carolina
31 New Jersey
32 California
33 Arkansas
34 Kansas
34 Missouri
36 Indiana
37 New Mexico
38 Washington
39 North Carolina
40 Oklahoma
41 Maryland
42 Alabama
43 Mississippi
44 Texas
45 Tennessee
46 Illinois
47 Nevada
48 Georgia
49 Louisiana
50 Alaska
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