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

MoneyRates.com Senior Financial Analyst, CFA
October 29, 2013

11 Best States to Retire 2013

If you dream of retiring to a sunny climate, be careful what you wish for -- not only can those climates bring hazards like skin cancer and mosquitoes, but the cost of living and crime often take their tolls in those places as well. For a more peaceful and affordable retirement, you may want to try a place like Idaho, the state that tops MoneyRates.com's 2013 list of the Best States to Retire.

MoneyRates.com looked at numerous factors across five categories to come up with this year's rankings of the best and worst states for retirement. The list did yield some traditional, warm-weather retirement destinations such as Hawaii, Florida and Arizona, but it also produced some surprises, such as overall winner Idaho. Indeed, one reason for looking at a diverse set of criteria is to produce a varied list, which offers people a wider range of choices -- including some unexpected ones.

Determining the top factors for retirees

Here are the five categories of factors MoneyRates.com used in producing this year's rankings of the Best and Worst States to Retire:

  1. Senior population, including the current portion of the state's population that is 65 and over, and the percentage growth of that segment of the population between the 2000 and 2010 Census tallies.
  2. Economic factors, including cost of living, taxes and unemployment.
  3. Crime, including both violent and property crime.
  4. Climate, with an emphasis on comfortable temperatures and moderate amounts of annual precipitation.
  5. Life expectancy at age 65, including both overall life expectancy and the Center for Disease Control's healthy life expectancy.

Below are the top finishers in this year's list of the Best States to Retire. This is normally a list of 10, but there are 11 states this time because of a tie for 10th place. Different factors will matter more to different people, so this list also highlights some of the strengths and weaknesses of each state.

1. IdahoIdaho

  • Best areas in the study: Crime (No. 1 in the nation), Economic factors (No. 4 in the nation)
  • Worst areas in the study: Climate (No. 31 in the nation), Life expectancies (No. 24 in the nation)

If you are looking for personal safety and security, Idaho might be your spot. Idaho had the best scores for crime when both property and violent crimes were considered, and it also rated in the top five for economic conditions. As you might expect, Idaho's one weakness was climate -- annual precipitation isn't bad, but the temperatures are often below what most would consider comfortable. Overall though, there must be something to the notion that Idaho is a good place to retire: Idaho had one of the nation's fastest-growing senior populations between 2000 and 2010.

2. IowaIowa

  • Best areas in the study: Crime (No. 10 in the nation), Economic factors and Climate (both at No. 12 in the nation)
  • Worst areas in the study: Senior population (No. 24 in the nation), Life expectancies (No. 18 in the nation)

Iowa only made the top 10 in one area (crime), but it earned above-average scores in every category. This all-around consistency allowed Iowa to edge out Hawaii by the narrowest of margins.

3. HawaiiHawaii

  • Best areas in the study: Life expectancies (No. 1 in the nation), Senior population (No. 5 in the nation)
  • Worst areas in the study: Climate (No. 25 in the nation), Economic factors and Crime (both at No. 23 in the nation)

Hawaii has a relatively large proportion of older residents, and the growth rate of this demographic is above average as well. One reason is that people live longer there -- Hawaii ranks at the top for both overall and healthy life expectancy. Two things to watch out for though: Hawaii has the highest cost of living of any state, and the most precipitation.

4. South DakotaSouth Dakota

  • Best areas in the study: Life expectancies (No. 8 in the nation), Crime (No. 13 in the nation)
  • Worst areas in the study: Climate (No. 35 in the nation), Senior population (No. 19 in the nation)

South Dakota is one of the top states for life expectancies, and it had decent rankings for everything else -- except climate. It's not especially wet there, but it is very cold.

5. OregonOregon

  • Best areas in the study: Climate (No. 5 in the nation), Senior population (No. 9 in the nation)
  • Worst areas in the study: Economic factors (No. 37 in the nation), Crime (No. 26 in the nation)

An above-average and relatively fast-growing senior population show that many people are choosing this state as a retirement destination, perhaps because of its fairly moderate climate. Its weakest point is the economy -- the cost of living is above-average, which hurts especially since the job market in Oregon is struggling.

6. FloridaFlorida

  • Best areas in the study: Senior population and Life expectancies (both at No. 3 in the nation)
  • Worst areas in the study: Crime (No. 41 in the nation), Economic factors (No. 31 in the nation)

Florida continues to attract large numbers of retirees, and people there tend to live longer than in nearly any other state. If you choose Florida, just pick your spot carefully -- it has one of the highest overall rates of violent crime in the nation.

7. (tie) ArizonaArizona

  • Best areas in the study: Senior population (No. 2 in the nation), Life expectancies (No. 5 in the nation)
  • Worst areas in the study: Crime (No. 42 in the nation), Economic factors (No. 36 in the nation)

Like Florida, Arizona is a warm-weather location that has attracted many retirees and seems to be healthy based on its residents' high life expectancies. Also like Florida, Arizona is plagued by high crime rates, though in Arizona property crime is a bigger problem than violent crime.

7. (tie) North DakotaNorth Dakota

  • Best areas in the study: Crime (No. 3 in the nation), Economic factors (No. 7)
  • Worst areas in the study: Climate (No. 44 in the nation), Senior population (No. 31 in the nation)

It may be odd to see a cold-weather state like North Dakota tied with a traditional retirement haven like Arizona. However, if you don't mind bundling up, North Dakota's strong economy and low crime rates make it worth considering.

9. VermontVermont

  • Best areas in the study: Crime (No. 5 in the nation), Senior population (No. 7 in the nation)
  • Worst areas in the study: Climate (No. 41 in the nation), Economic factors (No. 35 in the nation)

Low crime rates and long life expectancies make Vermont welcoming to retirees. There must be something to it -- Vermont has one of the highest concentrations of senior citizens of any state.

10. (tie) MinnesotaMinnesota

  • Best areas in the study: Life expectancies (No. 4 in the nation), Crime (No. 12 in the nation)
  • Worst areas in the study: Senior population (No. 38 in the nation), Economic factors and Climate (both at No. 25 in the nation)

This is another state where you have to overcome some very cold weather, but the people there must find it healthy -- life expectancies in Minnesota are well above average.

10. (tie) UtahUtah

  • Best areas in the study: Economic factors (No. 3 in the nation), Life expectancies (No. 8 in the nation)
  • Worst areas in the study: Climate (No. 45 in the nation), Senior population (No. 31 in the nation)

Utah got outstanding scores for economic factors, and its crime rates are relatively low while its life expectancies are fairly high.

Now that you know MoneyRates.com's picks, what are yours? If you are retired, what factors did you consider in choosing a retirement destination? What do you like or regret about your decision?

Please also see our latest Worst States to Retire feature, as well as the full 50-state list for 2013.

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