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Worst Places to Retire: MoneyRates.com Lists the Lowest Ranked States

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

10 Worst States to Retire 2013

There are a variety of factors to consider when choosing a place for your retirement, and your personal preferences will determine which are the most important. Still, the 10 places on MoneyRates.com's Worst States to Retire 2013 list all have drawbacks that may concern virtually any retiree.

To construct this list, MoneyRates.com examined a range of different factors that are likely to matter to retirees:

  • Size of the senior population
  • Economic factors, including cost of living, taxes and unemployment
  • Crime rates
  • Climate
  • Life expectancy at age 65

In turn, data from a variety of government sources were used to score all 50 states in each of the above categories and rank them accordingly. When these rankings were combined, the result was a listing of states from best to worst in terms of conditions for retirees.

So which states landed at the bottom of the list? Here are the 10 worst states for retirees, starting with the worst:

1. LouisianaLouisiana

  • Worst areas in the study: Senior population (No. 49 in the nation), Crime (No. 47 in the nation)
  • Best areas in the study: Economic factors (No. 11 in the nation), Climate (No. 25 in the nation)

The home of the bayou and the Big Easy has its charms, but it also has some of the worst crime rates in the country, and some of the lowest life expectancies for its elderly population. It isn't just this survey that thinks Louisiana is a tough place for retirees: People have voted with their feet too. The state's population has a below-average proportion of elderly people, and that demographic has been growing at a slower pace than the elderly segment of most states.

2. (tie) MississippiMississippi

  • Worst areas in the study: Life expectancy (No. 50 in the nation), Senior population (No. 47 in the nation)
  • Best areas in the study: Economic factors (No. 18 in the nation), Crime (No. 24 in the nation)

Like Louisiana, Mississippi has an unusually low percentage of seniors in its population -- perhaps because its healthy life expectancy is the lowest of all 50 states, and its overall life expectancy is the second-lowest.

3. (tie) NevadaNevada

  • Worst areas in the study: Climate (No. 47 in the nation), Crime (No. 40 in the nation)
  • Best areas in the study: Senior population (No. 16 in the nation), Life expectancies (No. 35 in the nation)

Nevada has had some serious economic problems over the last few years, and perhaps as a result, crime is a problem -- especially violent crime, for which Nevada has the second-highest rate per capita of any state.

4. AlaskaAlaska

  • Worst areas in the study: Economic factors (No. 43 in the nation), Climate (No. 38 in the nation)
  • Best areas in the study: Senior population (No. 23 in the nation), Life expectancies (No. 29 in the nation)

Obviously, harsh temperatures are a challenge for older people, but another factor counting against Alaska is its cost of living, which is the third-highest of any state. Tellingly, Alaska has the lowest proportion of 65-and-older residents of any state, though that segment of its population has been growing at a healthy rate.

5. IllinoisIllinois

  • Worst areas in the study: Senior population (No. 50 in the nation), Economic factors (No. 46 in the nation)
  • Best areas in the study: Climate (No. 7 in the nation), Crime (No. 27 in the nation)

The economy in Illinois is unfriendly to people living on retirement incomes, as property taxes and the overall cost of living are high. As is the case with many states, the population numbers back up what the rest of the factors seem to be saying: Illinois has a below-average senior population, and that demographic is growing at a slower rate than most other states.

6. TennesseeTennessee

  • Worst areas in the study: Crime (No. 48 in the nation), Life expectancies (No. 44 in the nation)
  • Best areas in the study: Economic factors (No. 15 in the nation), Senior population (No. 18 in the nation)

Crime is the leading problem in Tennessee. The state has the highest rate of violent crime in the nation, and the 10th highest rate of property crime. Also, both healthy and overall life expectancies for seniors in Tennessee are among the bottom 10 of the 50 states. If you are looking for a bright spot, the cost of living in Tennessee is among the lowest in the nation.

7. MassachusettsMassachusetts

  • Worst areas in the study: Climate (No. 45 in the nation), Economic factors (No. 44 in the nation)
  • Best areas in the study: Life expectancies (No. 10 in the nation), Crime (No. 20 in the nation)

The New England climate can be a bit harsh for older people, and even hardier souls would be challenged by the state's high cost of living and high property taxes. Seniors seem to agree -- the population growth rate for people 65 and older in Massachusetts is the fifth-lowest in the nation. That slow growth of the elderly population is despite the fact that life expectancies in the state are relatively high.

8. (tie) New JerseyNew Jersey

  • Worst areas in the study: Economic factors (No. 50 in the nation), Senior population (No. 45 in the nation)
  • Best areas in the study: Crime (No. 8 in the nation), Life expectancies (No. 24 in the nation)

New Jersey leads the nation in average property tax assessments, so even older residents who have paid off their mortgages still must continue to pay a steep price for their homes. This is consistent with the overall cost of living in New Jersey, which is one of the highest in the nation. This is yet another example where population trends help tell the story: The growth rate for the 65-and-over population in New Jersey is among the 10 lowest in the nation.

8. (tie) Rhode IslandRhode Island

  • Worst areas in the study: Economic factors (No. 49 in the nation), Climate (No. 39 in the nation)
  • Best areas in the study: Crime (No. 14 in the nation), Life expectancies (No. 19 in the nation)

Economic factors are the biggest problem for Rhode Island. Having high living expenses and one of the weakest job markets in the nation is a bad combination. Remember, even seniors who aren't seeking work have to deal with the overall atmosphere of decline that is characteristic of an area with high unemployment. Significantly, Rhode Island is the only state where the senior population declined between the 2000 and 2010 U.S. Census tallies.

10. GeorgiaGeorgia

  • Worst areas in the study: Life expectancies (No. 42 in the nation), Crime (No. 38 in the nation)
  • Best areas in the study: Climate (No. 20 in the nation), Senior population: (No. 26 in the nation)

The warm climate may be an attraction, but the older population doesn't seem to thrive in it: Georgia's life expectancies are among the 10 lowest in the nation. A high rate of property crime is also a concern.

These rankings generally start a lively debate, so feel free to give your opinion in the comments below. Have you lived in a retiree's nightmare, and if so, what made it so bad? Or, do you live in one of the above states and want to tell people why you like it? Let others know your opinion so they can benefit from your experience.

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

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Your responses to ‘10 Worst States to Retire 2013’

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J Louis

29 October 2013 at 8:45 am

This 2011, Louisiana was ranked 5th. I'm not sure crime or population has changed that dramatically in just 2 years. Certainly the criteria has. But retirees don't move to Louisiana because they want to be surrounded by retirees -- they relocate because they want to LIVE a less boring lifestyle. Crime rates in New Orleans don't impact the quality of life that is available in Leesville, Toledo Bend or on the banks of Cross Lake in Shreveport/Bossier where there is extremely high interest by retirees using criteria other than crime rates.

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