Best and Worst States for Retirement 2010: Complete List

Richard Barrington

See the current Best States to Retire and Worst States to Retire lists

MoneyRates.com has received a flurry of press coverage plus several questions and comments regarding our lists of 10 worst and 10 best states for retirement.

Some of you asked about specific states that weren't on either list -- or to see the entire list. To let everyone see where their state ranked, here's MoneyRates.com's entire list, from the best state for retirement to the worst state for retirement:

1. New Hampshire

2. Hawaii

3. South Dakota

4. North Dakota

5. Iowa

6. Virginia

7. Utah

8. Connecticut

9. Vermont

10. Idaho

11. Rhode Island

12. Nebraska

13. California

14. Massachusetts

15. Texas

16. Kansas

17. Kentucky

18. Minnesota

19. Florida

20. New Jersey

21. Colorado

22. West Virginia

23. Washington

24. Wisconsin

25. Wyoming

26. Arizona

27. Montana

28. Maine

29. Mississippi

30. Oregon

31. Oklahoma

32. New York

33. Alabama

34. New Mexico

35. Delaware

36. Georgia

37. Indiana

38. Pennsylvania

39. Louisiana

40. Illinois

41. Arkansas

42. Missouri

43. North Carolina

44. Ohio

45. Tennessee

46. Maryland

47. South Carolina

48. Alaska

49. Michigan

50. Nevada

With that, let the arguments begin!

MoneyRates.com recognizes that there will be differing opinions on this. In fact, most of the states in the bottom ten had a top-ten ranking for at least one of our criteria, proving that there is usually something to love about every state. Also, a recent MoneyRates.com/GetRichSlowly.org poll confirmed that proximity to family often outweighs all other considerations in choosing a retirement location.

Still, the importance of the MoneyRates.com list is to help retirees make their choices with open eyes. After all, while most of the bottom states ranked well in one category or another, most had bottom-ten rankings in multiple other categories. If a state has a great climate, but also has a high tax burden or a problem with crime, those are things you should know about before retiring there.

As always, we appreciate your comments. Specifically, was there something we missed? Is there a quantifiable factor that should be figured into our calculations of best and worst states for retirees? Your suggestions will give us food for future thought.

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Thiago daLuz 25 April 2013 at 12:29 pm

I don't know who did this or how, but I'm just glad Texas is in the top 15. Though I must say I was impressed with several retirement communities in Maine, but those are for really really old people.

Richard Barrington 20 September 2012 at 12:09 pm

For Winston Lee, M, and the Old Wolf: The rankings will match up if you look at lists from the same years. We update this study every year, and I believe you may be comparing one list from 2010 with another from 2011. By the way, look for the new study to be out next month.

Winston Lee 18 September 2012 at 5:38 pm

Interesting that Nevada is ranked 50th on this "Complete List", while it was not included in the original "10 Worst" What gives?

M 14 September 2012 at 3:38 pm

Your list of fifty has no relationship to your lists of top ten and bottom ten. Nonsensical.

jacques lavaud 22 June 2012 at 7:09 am

I think New York will serve better our retired base on its 24 hours on duty for any services needed by our retired love one.I mean ambulance,police,fire and other

The Old Wolf 30 March 2012 at 10:39 am

This makes no sense at all. Maine ranks #28 on your total list, yet you've rated it the worst state to retire in on your list of 10. Someone isn't paying any attention at all.

be 29 March 2012 at 2:35 pm

which state has no tax on retirement earnings. could that be washington

Richard Barrington 13 March 2012 at 5:16 am

L: Of course, you are free to like the article or not like the article, but I don't understand why you should object to a statistical analysis of these factors. There are many subjective opinions about the merits of different states, so our idea was to approach the question using purely objective data. We take pains to acknowledge that subjective factors are also relevant, but please don't question our credibility when the approach was objective and quantitative.

L 9 March 2012 at 6:07 pm

You hold no credibility at all with rankings like these and all readers should be very suspect of you having a senior financial anaylst write a column like this. Anyone who knows even a little about these states will clearly see that he did not do an appropriate amount of homework which gives rise to the credibility of all your articles. Somebody who cruches numbers for a living should not be writing articles like this without appropriate knowledge and research, which clearly, he does not have! I, for one, have removed you from my "go to" after this dismal effort from your "expert!"

Steve 3 March 2012 at 12:20 pm

Nevada is the greatest!

L 1 February 2012 at 9:01 pm

Census Bureau report: The 10 poorest states in the country, are the reddest in the nation -- solidly GOP states. Most impoverished state is Mississippi followed by Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginia, Louisiana, Montana, South Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama and North Carolina.

Dave P 17 January 2012 at 4:37 pm

New Jersey number 20?? Really?? Delaware and North Carolina I would place above NJ and their property taxes.......

PS 5 January 2012 at 11:30 pm

Iowa has 9.98% personal income tax, 12% state corporate tax, high property tax, and taxes social security. In addition, it has BAD weather for at least a third of the year, and not enough physicians or specialists to serve the population. I know Iowa well, but the only folks that retire here are ones with grandchildren in the area.

John Smith 30 November 2011 at 12:55 pm

One small issue... how many newly retired can live on social security and their decimated 401k accounts - ? - maybe 20%... So, it is imperative to live in a NO TAX ON RETIREMENT INCOME STATE - as most of us will have to work, you may want to address that in your rating...

AJMcMullan 15 October 2011 at 7:43 am

What is wrong With S.C.

Don 15 October 2011 at 6:55 am

It seems strange to me that Connecticut is on both of your list of Best and Worst states to live in.

robert 1 October 2011 at 9:15 am

I thank you for all the info ! Im not ready to retire yet ,I am 51.But I have started my search ! I will take the results as an overall ,but will visit each one to make a decission by the time im ready .I question the weather in New Jersey.

eVELYN bILLINGS 25 September 2011 at 3:30 am

Seems Connetticut is on both lists. Need info on what makes these states good or bad. I saw on the bad list but not why it was on the good list

Shelby Saeler 6 September 2011 at 8:35 am

Hi Nice post here. I've been hunting more data about this matter. Glad I came across it. I'll add to my favorites today.

luci widmann 5 August 2011 at 7:30 pm

I think your information on NV may be somewhat outdated. We moved here from FL and the taxes are lower, insurance rates are lower, grocery costs are lower. As for crime we find it is no worse here than it was in FL in the Tampa Bay area. Most if not all cities have their less attractive areas, but here in Las Vegas there is such a wonderful blend of neighbors and friendly neighborhoods. The school system needs help and we are not so sure about medical, but other than that we love it here. You get to experience all the seasons without having to shovel your driveway, tolerate hurricanes or tornadoes, constant threat of fires and mudslides. You should visit sometime and see for yourself.

Richard Barrington 29 July 2011 at 4:27 am

Ralph: Thanks for the kind words. I'd love to break the study down into more specific areas, but that's just not practical for our approach. In any case, I view the study as a broad-brush starting point, alerting people to the pros and cons of retiring in certain states. Beyond that, there is no substitute for getting out and discovering places on your own. As for your retirement dream, I hope you find a way to make it happen!

bruce 25 July 2011 at 4:59 pm

I sure can't see where Missouri rates at the bottom of the list, we live in a rural area in central Mo tax rate is low, housing prices fair, and our unemployment for are area is one of lowest in the state. You must be getting all your info from St Louis and KC areas, which I agree has high unemploment and taxes and high home prices if buying.You need to redo a lot of your results for the bottom ten states. as you have got the wrong information on firgues

MGT 23 July 2011 at 3:28 pm

Thank you for ranking Nevada last in states to retire to. I retired a year ago and relocated to Las Vegas and have been extremely happy about our decision. Here's a few reasons why we're pleased with our move. Housing - have a house that is 50% larger than the one we had in California plus we have an oasis in our backyard - pool with waterfalls, spa, outdoor kitchen. Our housing costs are $3,000 a month cheaper. And that includes taxes, insurance, mortgage, and HOA. HOA gives us a gated community with guards and maintenance of common areas. HOA is $150 per month. Our car insurance is lower, no state income tax, superb medical facilities, great restaurants, etc. etc. Again, thanks for trashing Nevada.BROKEN tatedr

Ralph Baker 14 July 2011 at 6:54 am

Good morning, Sir! I just discovered your column today, and I'll come back to it many times. Question: while you itemize the facts for all of the states, do you and/or your readers consider specific areas within the states? I must win a lottery to afford any move to another locale (from Rhode Island), and I prefer the mountain towns north of San Bernardino, California. This dream is from 55 years ago! Got errands to run, will check back when I can. Ralph. Cheers!

Linda 12 July 2011 at 10:30 pm

I live in Missouri, near Branson. Lots of people are retiring here. I, however, do want to get out of Missouri because the climate here is horrendous, except for autumn. Is this the reason why Missouri ranks so low to retire?

Richard Barrington 11 July 2011 at 10:43 am

Beth: "Blunt instrument" is a fair description. I absolutely view this list as merely the first stage of someone's search for a retirement location, not the definitive list.

Beth 30 June 2011 at 9:34 am

Very interesting interchanges; it's great to see analysts responding so directly with the public. Having worked in policy and data analysis of a sort for years (different subject area however), I always am leery of relying too much on rankings--even when it comes to public policy development, but most certainly for personal decision-making. I find this kind of index to be a blunt instrument of sorts; useful for a quick, thumbnail sketch, but I would urge people not to base their retirement/relocation decisions on an index--or, at least, not solely on an index. I'm not disputing the data sources or methodology- for quantitative rankings to be credible and comparable state-to-state, you have to use nationally available sources. But, it's so true that a large crime rate in the most populous county of a state can skew the results for the entire state. I wish there were more varieties of data collected, but maybe you could add some indicators that could enhance the index. Richard, Is there a methodology page with source links? (Maybe there also could be links to sites that offer related information on county levels or regions, over time?) As for how to decide on a location to retire -- I'm not there yet, but after observing my parents and others' experiences, I'm planning to look at a wide range of sources of information. Use rankings like these, surveys, but look at local data, and trends over time. Read the local papers online, stay in the area during off-season times of year, read articles, find online discussion boards, etc., etc. but first, just determine my own personal priorities--as has been mentioned, repeatedly, above. My parents had never done that--and they ended up moving back to their home state five years after their relocation. After witnessing their difficulties and disappointments, I've learned what to avoid and what questions to ask. Now, if only I hadn't worked for years at low-paying nonprofits that didn't match my retirement contributions and paid so little that I didn't have much to put aside enough for retirement. I'm 58; I'll be working at least until I'm 70. Luckily, I grew up with depression-era parents so I know how to scrimp. We scrimped, oh boy--we scrimped. So, low-cost places (meeting a few criteria)-- here I come... eventually.

Howie W 25 June 2011 at 6:04 am

the State Of North Carolina is good to federal retired employees by not taxing your retirement if you are a fireman, policeman, other state or federal retired worker. This is a plus for the person retired on a limited retirement.

Richard Barrington 23 June 2011 at 4:37 am

Mary: Certainly, Tennessee has some strong points, and it's worth noting that more people seem to have spoken up for Tennessee than any other low-ranked state on this list. However, to answer your question, Tennessee's primary drawback was that it had the second-highest crime rate of any state. So if you are planning to move there, pick your location carefully, and check out what the crime in that area has been like. Another category in which Tennessee had a bottom-10 ranking was life expectancy. Some people have quibbled over the importance of this category, but especially for people who are up in years (i.e., the retirees for whom this survey was compiled), life expectancy is usually a significant concern. It probably captures a number of factors, including an area's safety, purity of the environment, and quality of health care. Finally, you mention that Tennessee has plenty of jobs, but the state's unemployment rate is higher than the national average, so this was another criterion that hurt its ranking. I hope you find this helpful, and whatever you decide, good luck with your move!

skippy 23 June 2011 at 1:13 am

I`m ofended RI has the best politicians money can buy. they tried arresting narcotics squad in police dept. for gues what ??selling narcotics isn`t that their job title, Not to worry they were all let off with full pension benifits

debbie martin 22 June 2011 at 12:49 pm

Do not retire in Prescott Valley AZ The wind never stops blowing. The utilities are high. The sales tax is close to 12%. They have more policemen than people. They have vans and cameras everywhere to catch you going 2 miles over the speed limit. The police hide everywhere to catch you. People drive under the speed limit because they are paranoid.

deelee1955 22 June 2011 at 6:06 am

I'm surprised North Carolina made it so high up from the bottom, even though it is still in the bottom ten. In northeastern NC, so many people from the northeastern United States relocate dreaming of relief from high property taxes and being close to the water. FORGET IT! Sure the property taxes are lower BUT....the county in which I live has no law enforcement and, if you have enough money, the sheriff will let you make your own laws. There is no legal relief here since the system is based on the "good-ole-boys" and old money controlling the courthouses. I.e.: I was outside of a vehicle when a cop drove by...he made me get back in the vehicle then issued me a ticket for not having my seatbelt on. The prosecution was a joke and objected to every bit of evidence I had. That one cost me $240 including court costs and no records are kept in the court if you want to appeal. Another: a friend of mine was on his way home from work when a trooper pulled him over and made him get out of his car, put his hands on his vehicle and then proceeded to shoot him 11x with a taser which, in effect, killed him. My friend was black, the trooper was white. There were no charges filed. The DA found it "justifiable" and no investigation was ever performed. There is absolutely NO competent medical care and many of the "doctors" are here in hiding from malpractice suits in other states. The good ones disappear usually within a year after arriving realizing the snake pit they've walked into. Most people here, retired or not, go to Virginia to get their medical care. There is no cultural activity here except drugs, church and violence. The nursing homes have horrible reputations for abuse and neglect. The majority of housing is trailers and double-wides, poorly kept, on one side of the road with unoccupied million dollar homes on the other, making sure that the pre-Civil War slave mentality maintains a strong present. The churches are segregated - black churches , white churches and if you step into one that is not your colour, the service stops...I've experienced it on several occasions. Racism is rampant. Violence and crime are outrageous. If you would intend to rent rather than own, the price you pay for an apartment would match that of one you could get in, say, NYC...but at least in NYC the heat and water are included. Here, they are not and you must set up your own account with just water being around $300-$400/month and another $400-$700 for electricity depending on the time of year. There is no diversity of shopping so whatever you need you will have to go to VA to purchase. Then, the NC State Income Tax form requires you to claim everything you purchased in any other state so they can charge you NC sales tax on it as if you purchased it here. The people in NE NC are very rude and unfriendly, especially if you are from points north or central US, and demonstrate their hostility toward you. Kids are allowed to drop out of school in 7th grade and most who make it through high school do so with all final exams being open-book and walk out of their graduation ceremonies with an average reading grade level of second grade. They cannot perform simple mathematical functions. So the only positive here are beautiful sunsets and I keep promising my deceased father I'll move back to Yankeeland. Save yourself the shock and heartache and stay as far away from NC as possible. At least Nevada has no state income tax! It deserves to be a little higher up on the worst end of the list.

Mary Marsegliaq 19 June 2011 at 12:44 am

Hey, can anybody tell me or the publisher of this information tell me why you ranked Tennessee as one of the top 10 worst places to live!!?? And #45 in all 50 states. I will be moving the the Nashville, TN(Middle,TN area) hopefully by next late spring/late summer or hopefully definitely by early Fall 2012, and everything that I have looked online for and Money Magazine & Kippinger's rates Nashville 2nd & 3rd respectively, great place to live!!!!! They too have no state income tax and LOTS OF JOBS!!!!!! AND LOVE LOVE LOVE COUNTRY MUSIC & SOUTHERN PEOPLE. Most are very friendly and very REAL!!!! Let me know, thanks, Mary

Richard Barrington 13 June 2011 at 6:54 am

Clive: Arizona and Texas make an interesting comparison, because they had quite similar ratings in a few criteria. A significant difference, though, is in cost of living. The cost of living in Texas is below the national average, while the cost of living is more expensive than average in Arizona.

Richard Barrington 13 June 2011 at 6:48 am

There've been a few interesting questions about the weighting of factors in this study. The first time around we weighted each category equally. However, the next time we update this, I hope to use weightings from a poll we conducted just after the original article ran. This poll showed how our readers weight factors in choosing a retirement state (economics was the highest priority, and crime was the lowest concern). By applying those weightings next time we do this analysis, our next list will be informed by reader feedback.

Kim Holland 11 June 2011 at 9:17 am

Is there any chance you can release a spreadsheet of the data on each of the states values for each of the criteria. That way I could re-weight the values that I consider important. Thanks

William W Gorman Jr 10 June 2011 at 12:10 pm

Florida at 19??? Florida has very good healthcare and it has no state income tax. Property taxes are based on purchase price and the rate of increase is capped at 3% per year. The weather is generally temperate. You can live in Florida without heat and air conditioning if you select the correct area. In most sections, the crime rate is non-existent. Just stay away from those areas of known crime rate highs and you should not encounter any at all. Hurricanes are a problem if they strike but there are many shelters open. If you live in a house or condo built post Hurricane Andrew then you are in one which will likely survive any storm. We live in a condo on the beach. The building is of poured concrete and our windows are made to Dade County code and we have storm shutters on each window.

Clive Hallam 4 June 2011 at 1:53 pm

I'd like to compare TX (#15) to AZ (#26) What are the specifics that make TX a better state to retire to than AZ? Some of your criteria may/may not apply in our specific instance. Can you give us the rankings in various criteria you used to compile your comprehensive list just for these 2 states? That would be most helpful and very much appreciated. Sincerely, Clive

maggie 4 June 2011 at 12:31 pm

You must have had a spreadsheet with criteria and weights when you compiled this list. You've hinted at some of the critiera but you haven't really revealed the exact criteria and weights for each. If you did that, since everyone would have different weighting, we could apply our own weights to the criteria and come up with a meaningful list for ourselves... how about it?

Bill 4 June 2011 at 7:12 am

The diverse opinions expressed made this entertaining reading. First, home is where the heart is. Just as important, we must be able to afford the place. Richard Barrington makes astute observations. For some fortunates, the ideal situation would be two places to deal with weather extremes. And don't forget the kind of people who live in various places. Arkansas is different than Maine is different than Nevada etc. We've been around and we are still searching for a place that meet both our needs. Keep us informed and thanks.

kt 3 June 2011 at 1:26 pm

I don't understand your justification at all. In one response you said the economics was a large part, yet you rate Hawaii #2 when it's 167% of average. Another big botch is taking a whole state. Some cities are way better than others in the same state.

Richard Barrington 5 May 2011 at 11:15 am

Just a couple comments on two issues that keep coming up: 1. For details on the criteria that went into this list, please scroll up to the article and click on the links to the two original articles on this subject. 2. I know some people have a hard time believing that retirees would want to choose a cold weather state, but the fact is that many do. In fact, the northern New England states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont each has a higher percentage of people aged 65 and over than the national average. Some people don't rate climate ahead of other factors; some even think the cold weather is healthier. Given that those states all have above-median average life expectancies, maybe there's something to that!

elaine 3 May 2011 at 4:55 pm

I live in East Tennessee - and I retired here by choice. Knoxville and the Smoky Mountains are an amazing place to live. Richard don't lump all of Tennessee together! We have the arts, recreation and Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.The weather is temperate, people are incredible. Anyone wanting to retire here should seriosly consider it. Crime rate in East Tennessee is low excpt for isolated areas. Check it out.

Julie 23 April 2011 at 6:03 am

Although Pennsylvania has fairly high taxes, there are areas that are reasonable. The best thing about here is the weather. We do get snow and rain and winds, but are still safer than nearly all areas from the very damaging storms that cross the country. It is also a beautiful state with many outdoor activities. We travel at least 25-40 minutes to the nearest large shopping area. Timing and managing your trips are a way of life. But we don't mind that. The choice is ours.

Patricia Teel 16 April 2011 at 8:22 am

I get the feeling that a very healthy person in their 30s came up with the criteria for this list. And for their information, no one makes snow tires for power chairs.

Shane 13 April 2011 at 10:07 am

I would love to see a list like this for specific regions of a state. I live in NC and when ever I read and hear about reports on the state in general I typically do not see that in person. I live in Asheville which seems to be one of the most popular places to relocate (at any age) it is also VERY popular for vacationers. When studies say that the average income for NC is something like $38,000 a year. I don't see that in Asheville. What I personally see is more like around $20,000. When reports say property taxes are moderate, again I don't see that. What I see is people having to sell of family land because they can no longer afford the taxes. Sure Asheville has the mtns, the parkway & all the nature but you can not survive off of the scenery. Asheville has recently been labeled as Foodtopia. Yeah that is great but only the tourist can afford $20 & up for a plate of food. Asheville has so much to offer the tourist but very little to offer it's residents in comparison to other areas of the state with the same population & city size. Housing prices are one of the highest in the state, taxes are also one of the highest in the state, gas prices are more here than somewhere like Charlotte, Insurance is much more than most areas of NC, with all that said it is surprising to find out that the pay scale in Asheville is one of the lowest in all of the south east. I know a lot of that does not affect those who are wanting to retire here, but in a way it does. How can someone who is on a fixed income afford to live in a town that is so much more expensive to live in than any other area in the state of the same size. Asheville may be pretty to look at but all that prettyness is not going to pay the bills.

D. Hintz 11 April 2011 at 1:03 pm

I find you listing of Tennessee incredulous. We spent five years visiting states and checking out taxes, et. al. While Tn has a high sales tax... not so bad compared to many states, it's property tax was 60% lower than our home state which was ranked 28th high in the nation. If you do not receive dividends from out of state company's not interest from out of state banks... you do not qualify for the Hall's income tax which only 4 % of people pay in TN. We found TN to be in the top 3 most friendly retirement states and we are paying 33% less taxes on the dollar than Indiana, where we originated from. Add the Smokies, the tourism, the climate and you have the best of all. I'm not sure why you rated TN low... but for most of the people in our retirement village, East Tn is a godsend. I suggest you do some real number crunching.... plus four seasons the longest being spring and fall.... short winters.. and we've never had snow accumulation in the valley of east tennessee... I always wonder about these recs.... but our 11,000 plus residents in our village just laugh at your figures.....

Austin Amberville 9 April 2011 at 9:28 am

I find it interesting that of the top ten states to retire, three are among the coldest in the country, i.e. North & South Dakota, and Iowa. Did entertainment and winter driving conditions factor in your criteria? Assuming we seniors (at least those of us who can still drive) can plow through the snow and leave our homes in the dead of winter, where do we go to have some fun? I have an 88 year old neighbor who is homebound from December to April because she's scared to death of breaking her neck let alone her hips on the ice. That's no way to live, is it? What on earth is there for seniors to do in Idaho? Also, why is New Mexico so far down on the list at 34? I bought a winter home there and the climate and scenery are spectacular all year round.

JIm Stafford 9 April 2011 at 7:51 am

Moved to SC from MA in 2010...SC is friendly, low tax burden, great weather, golf, horses, beaches, cheap housing, good medical facilities...what's not to like. SC should be at the top of list...NOT 47th! MA has long, gray, cold winters, high taxes, outrageous housing costs, etc. My advice: get out of MA as soon as you can. (and I lived there all my life...66 years, but finally got smart.)

Shirley Buchholz 9 April 2011 at 6:49 am

We retired from Alaska to North Carolina. Alaska is hard if you have arthritis , but Asheville, North Carolina on the other hand has really high allergy pollens. We love our change, even with the extra taxes, and reduced retirement income. The biggest drawback is being away from family. There is a wonderful senior friends group here, and plenty of activities for the elderly. A country drive in the fall or spring is full of fantastic and colorful scenery. We're looking forward to what our first summer brings. We discovered this place as it was listed as one of the best (I believe top three) places to retire and now it is near the bottom of the list. Like Tom, I would like to know the criteria for the lists.

Stephen O'Brien 2 April 2011 at 7:53 am

Iowa is a very aging friendly state ,with in most spots a very reasonable cost of living.99 counties offer many services to the elderly due to the wonderful family friendly people found in this state.Tax consequences are in about the middle,with a few unfriendly personal income tax issues.The first 12,000 dollars of joint income is exempt from some pensions.Federal income tax is deductible so you are not taxed on both ends.As an ex Government employee with many private sector jobs also and many years living in IowaThe cost of living here is very good but retirement income and affordable housing is the key.If you want to live exactly with the style you lived in high cost states you will find Iowa has incredibly great health care with the University of Iowa, and Iowa health and Trinity Health care systems.Winters

Godelieve 25 March 2011 at 7:18 pm

I agree with most of your member readers. WHAT IS THE CRITERIA USED BY MONEYRATE.COM to establish their two lists of best and worst States to retire? Thanks.

Tom Gniech 20 March 2011 at 4:54 pm

What was the criteria that was used -- that information is necessary in order to understand the results.

Loa Williams 19 March 2011 at 5:28 pm

My daughter has lived in Cookeville, TN for many years....we are thinking of retiring there in a couple of years and still work part-time. It is a college town and absolutely friendly and country. Only 90 miles from Nashville, nothing could be finer. Exactly where in Tennessee is this "high crime rate"?

Richard Barrington 14 March 2011 at 5:11 am

Patti: At number 26 on our list, Arizona is at about the middle of the back because it is a mix of good and bad characteristics for retirees. As you might expect, it gets a strong score for climate, and it also has a fairly low state tax rate. However, it rated very poorly on crime -- its crime rate is 7th worst in the nation. Arizona also has an above-average cost of living, and it's unemployment rate is a little worse than most states'. I hope you find this helpful, and thank you for your positve comment.

Lynn 12 March 2011 at 9:53 am

I enjoy reading lists of things, but maybe that's because I am a list person. I know this list has just some basics but have you thought of writing a book and detailing each states pros and cons and including comments from retirees? I would buy such a book. Thank you for the list and for taking the time to answer these questions that people have asked. I read this mainly for entertainment but really would be interested in such a book or website since I am 13 years from retirement and would like to plan ahead. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks again for your time. Lynn

Sue Andrews 12 March 2011 at 9:27 am

I moved from South Dakota to Arkansas 30 years ago. Wages were smaller, but cost of living was so much less. NW Arkansas has Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale and Fayetteville have all been on 10 BEST places to live. Schools are good, violent crime is low, and we get to enjoy four seasons with winter normally mild (compared to SD). As Ed Weaver mentioned above, our state has a surplus in our state budget so taxes are usually not an issue. Little Rock has had crime issues, but most of the state does not have violent crime issues. Even though it's been 30 years since we moved, SD did not have the employment opportunities Arkansas has, and I have a sister living in the western part of the state and she and her husband both drive 40 or miles to work for $9 or $10 per hour now. My part time job here in Arkansas averages $15 per hour.

Patti Gulotta 7 March 2011 at 11:33 am

Can you please post the same information about Arizona? I am interested in the possibility of retiring there and would like to know the statistics about that state. The good and the bad, thank you. I found your article(s) very interesting.

Richard Barrington 27 February 2011 at 6:21 am

Barbara: The seven states with no state income tax are: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. I hope that helps.

barbara hills 22 February 2011 at 9:03 pm

i have always lived in so.cal...i am about to reiire @ 55 yrs old...i own my home outright & want to protect my 401k,roth ira,pension and ss as much as possible...i have possiblity to move to so dakota or colorado with my kids with no cost to me...so where is the best place to NOT incur taxes on pension,401k,roth,social security to me?

ed weliver 20 January 2011 at 9:22 am

WE moved from Ann Arbor ,Mi. to Myn. Home,Ar. 11 years ago. We found the slower pace of life, wether, taxes and the friendliness of the arkansans to be at the top of our list. We have little or no crime. Our sheriff and city police are top drawer. Currently Arkansas is one of 5 states that has a postive cash flow. Our past and prestent govenor are great, even though they represent different parties.
This is the natural state and it truly is that. We elected not to live in town,but to live rural,15 minutes from the court house. The white river runs 600 feet down the mountain from us. The white is one of the top 10 trout streams in the nation. The weather has 4 seasons witbh winter the shortest season. Come stay awhile and enjoy Arkansas.

Richard Barrington 19 January 2011 at 4:55 am

My sympathies, Larry -- I'm sure most of us have done something similar at one time or another....

Larry 18 January 2011 at 8:03 pm

So, I made the mistake of printing the article and got ten pages (more or less) of peoples comments, which are nearly all unique to the person writing them. That's really dumb.

A 17 January 2011 at 4:26 pm

Wow Dr. Don,

I liked where you were going for half a second until you started spewing what I know to be nonsense. How do you know so much about Hawaii's gas prices? $6 a gallon? I know our gas is expensive but here in Honolulu the gas is under $4 a gallon and I doubt anywhere else in Hawaii is really $6 a gallon. I know you probably exaggerated a bit to make a point but if you're exaggerating that how can any of your other facts be taken seriously??

Richard Barrington 17 January 2011 at 5:49 am


Thanks for the comment. I'm a big fan of the area you describe, having visited St. Pete Beach several times over the past 25 years for business and pleasure. It is amazing how many transplanted New Yorkers -- especially upstate New Yorkers -- one meets down there.

Rebecca 15 January 2011 at 12:19 pm

I am surprised at how Hawaii, the most expensive cost of living state, ended up as the #2 state for retirees. You listed your criteria, but I can only conclude that employment, crime rate and longevity were weighted much more than cost of living and climate since several high cost of living states are ranked high in you list and several states that were ranked fairly well in areas other than longevity and/or crime rate were ranked very low. To me it seems counter productive since there is nothing you can do about the cost of living and climate (except move to a better area) where employment isn't that much of a factor if you're really retired, life expectance has as much to do with your own lifestyle as the area you live in (so you carry it with you) and there are things you can do to protect yourself from crime.

Pat Krohmer 15 January 2011 at 5:53 am

I too loved all the great comments this topic generated. I noticed not much said about Florida so I had to contribute. We moved here from NY in 2003. of course the big attraction is the WEATHER! No more snow for me. Today we are getting out of a few day cold spell where the nights actually went into the 30's. Real Floridians cannot believe this. But there is almost always sunshine daily to bring us back to the 60's and 70's for now. We are in our second Fl home having moved from a lovely community equidistant from Tampa and Sarasota to another smaller one that is a short beautiful ride over a long bridge to St. Pete. That was to have more property. Even with property ( NY style ) of 3/4 acre, property taxes are fair and our county ( Manatee ) has made adjustments down based on declining prop values.
No state income tax. No oil heat. Electric is not cheap and we need it for A/C many months of the year but it is fair and have only had to use minimal heat these past two years. We saw hurricanes the first two years here and none since, but remember Nor'easters as bad or worse. Theaters and restaurants abound and are reasonable. Auto insurance is less than NY and so is prop ins despite the hurricane issue. I love Southwest Fl and meet loads of NY'rs and NJ'rs who do too.
We have LOTS of snowbirds whom we appreciate. What we now consider a traffic jam is silly when we think about the LIE and trying to get into NYC.

Richard Martin 15 January 2011 at 12:46 am

This is in response to todays AARP Bulletin that used this survey in part:
.I worked, (if you want to call it "work" because it really was so much fun), as a waiter, I lived walking distance to work and surfed at a spot that you could see from the dining room where I worked, “Bowls” also known as Ala Moana Bowl. I read the following article and it brought back painful memories of those times in the late 1960’s.
It's kind of unfortunate, in my humble opinion, that the marketing/research companies have free reign to build up or tear down the status quo, by selling what used to be as the Rolling Stones espoused in their song SATISFACTION so many years ago:

"When I'm drivin' in my car
and a man comes on the radio
he's tellin' me more and more
about some useless information
supposed to fire my imagination"

Useless information, that is, that can change the direction of someone’s life and in this case it may be somewhat irresponsible to encourage the newly retired "Baby Boomer(s)" to contemplate moving to "That Home Across The Road"*, whether it be New Hampshire, Hawaii, South Dakota, etc. in these troubled times. I can remember working at The Chart House Restaurant in the Illikai Hotel on the edge of Waikiki and the retirees would come in on a once or twice a month basis for the “Early Bird Special”. That is, until their nest egg was gone, due to the inflation in the late 60's. Some would confide in me, that they had no choice but to go back to the mainland and move in with their kids. Thinking back, it must have been, not only sad but embarrassing as well, when they said to me with tear laden eyes “This is our last night here, this is going to be our last sunset in Hawaii”. “Thank you”, or on occasion a couple would attempt “Mahalo” they would say “for making our memories so special.”

20 20 hindsight: "So when you see your neighbor carryin' somethin', Help him with his load, And don't go mistaking paradise for that home across the road!"*
*From: The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest by Bob Dylan

Judith 12 January 2011 at 8:09 pm

I live in NH and was considering VA, PA, or IN (where I have family). I was surprised to see NH at the top of the list...which goes to show you that the grass is always greener...!

Richard Barrington 10 January 2011 at 2:16 pm


The big problem with Tennessee -- and one which surprised me -- was it's crime rate. Overall, it was the second worst state for crime, with only South Carolina being worst.

With that being said, we've certainly had a few passionate defenders of Tennessee comment on this blog, so clearly some people have had very positive experiences in the state. But, our approach was to rank the states quantifiably, and on that basis Tennessee made the list of ten worst states.

Karen 10 January 2011 at 10:56 am


We were considering Tennessee as an option for retirement (possibly the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area). What factors attributed to Tennessee making the Top Ten Worst states?

Beverly 6 January 2011 at 10:01 am

I think the list should be reivsed. I don't think the unemployment rate should be used as when your're retired why should this matter? In my opinion it tshould only be about: weather, taxes, and crime rate.

Richard Barrington 5 January 2011 at 4:49 am


I like your suggestion. We don't have the resources to build out that kind of application now, but we are learning a great deal from the comments about ideas for the next time we do this list.

Richard Barrington 5 January 2011 at 4:43 am

Bula Hawkeye:

Thanks -- I've enjoyed the conversation. I hope it leads people to check out other areas of MoneyRates, especially the blog where we discuss what's going on in the economy and the banking sector now.

Barney 4 January 2011 at 2:28 pm

Richard, I read about the best and worst 10. I see New Jersey is #20 and this is where I live and just retired. What I would like to find is a page to go to that I could click on New Jersey or Florida to see what there good points and bad points are. I see where you have them on the list but what makes Florida a little better. I would guess climate but what is the tax rate and cost of living rate and crime rate. Or, can't we find that out on the middle 30 states. It would be a great help. Thank You

bula hawkeye 4 January 2011 at 2:22 pm


I am very impressed with your patience and thoroughness of responses to comments. and very impressed with the intelligent and civil comments that were submitted.

well done to all.

Richard Barrington 4 January 2011 at 5:05 am


Indiana came in around the middle of the pack for a number of things, but was dragged down primarily by its high unemployment rate, which was 10.2 percent when the study was done.

Why does unemployment matter to retirees? For one thing, it is a good reflection of overall economic conditions, and retired or not, living in an area with heavy unemployment is not pleasant. Also, with so many Americans coming up a little short on their retirement funding, going back to work (at least part-time) is an option many retirees will have to keep open.

Judy 3 January 2011 at 4:56 pm

You said Indiana was rated 37th and I would like to know why.

Joe 20 December 2010 at 6:00 pm

What a great discussion. Probably the most intelligent I've encountered. Honestly. As one of the other bloggers does, I live in Sparks, NV, too. Have since Dec. 9, 2002. Not in one of the old RR bungalows within spittin' distance of Interstate 80 and John Asquaga's Nugget but near the hills west of Spanish Springs Peak in the northeast quadrant of the town. Great little town, Sparks, with, it turns out, a lousy budget but not as bad as neighboring Reno's budget. Reno is a very good music town for lovers of classical music: Reno Philharmonic Orchestra, Reno Chamber Orchestra and Nevada Opera. Many of the same players in each. Lake Tahoe is close by. A big, old rainshadow gives us here a different climate from Truckee's and Lake Tahoe's, witness the recent and current storms: feet in the Sierra Nevada, mebbe 3 in over 3 days here. Then it melts if your house faces south. Lived in Silicon Valley for 41 yrs. Excellent weather there, but the handwriting was on the wall in 2002: miscreants in state gov't, high taxes, lotsa traffic, galloping high real-estate prices. Of course, the latter have tanked here in the Reno-Sparks area, but are improving slowly. I'm about a dollar or two from being underwater but, again, housing prices are moving s-l-o-w-l-y back up in the face of foreclosures and short sales. We have an outstanding Newcomers Club here with many activities, a big help for, you guessed it, newcomers. In our neighborhood, my wife and I have good neighbors; we'll join some of them for Christmas dinner Saturday. Yes, the idiots, er, politicians, in Carson City, at least some of them, will try to start an income tax someday, but it will take years to put it in place if it is voted in by the legislature. In other words, those of us who care about such things can move to Wyoming before an income tax is started. Medical care with Renown Medical Center (silly name, was Washoe Med), St. Mary's Hospital, and Northern Nevada Hospital. Drove thru Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming for 3 wks. last August. Beautiful states with tough winters. So far, I'm stickin' here tho' I do like New Hampshire a lot, too. Now, if people would only learn to pronounce Nevada correctly, or at least the way we do here: "Nevahduh" as it says on a bumper sticker.

JIm 20 December 2010 at 4:41 pm

How can CT possibly be number 8 ? LOw crime ? Regardless of where you live in the state your are 30 minutes from a city with a high rate of violent crime such as Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford or Meriden.

Check out the congestion (traffic) and property taxes in CT, then go check the cost of food, oil, gas for your can and Electricity.

I now live in the upper midwest in a much nicer area with much lower crime, winters are bad but unless you work outside it's not that big of a deal. I would estimate livig here ( with a paid PD and FD) costs maybe 75% of the New haven CT area.

Buck 20 December 2010 at 3:31 pm

I live on the Calif-Nevada state line and it has been 13 yrs now.I have seen a lot of Nevada and I am surprised to see it get such a bad rating.You can get a house and or land for for pretty cheap,much value.Towns that I think would be attractive to people are Minden/Gardnerville,some areas of Carson city,some areas of Reno.
There are so many small towns that a person or persons can get quite a lot for their money and are still close enough to a larger city for city type needs.I am not aware of the crime factor but I do know that a homeowner has the law on his/her side on owning a firearm.

Ethel 20 December 2010 at 6:02 am

I agree on NC and I live there but hopefully will not retire here. The state has an overall high crime rate and what concerns me most is high cancer and an overall corrupt government that voters do little to change. A lot of government waste is why they have the highest income taxes in the southeast.

John Eversoll 19 December 2010 at 11:58 pm

By the way, the lenght of your life can be up to you depending on diet medication and excersize.

Plus the area where you live can have something to do with that as well.

That is why I have our home on ten acers ..No stress -- just get up when

you want If you really need a job then get something to fill in your boredom

Insted of going out to eat three times a week make it once a week or every other weekend.. Ya got to budget your money when you are done with that Boss"

John Eversoll 19 December 2010 at 11:51 pm

I have to disagree with you to some extent..

I beleive that you yourself make a place a home or Hell!!!

I have lived in Ca. for all of 51 yrs and am going to retire in Oregon.

Calif., is the pits.. Sure you have Disneyland "Big deal, they treat their employees like crap..
Unless you are lucky enough to get a job in a Union company You will be treated

Poorly.. Apts, too exspenscive for what you get. food prices are just to the point of I will diet!!!
People are not friendly ..

My wife and I bought property in Oregon and am glad we did!

The people that we met haev always treated us with reaspect and are genuenly happy to see us when we return every year. Now moving there full time and leaving this Crappy state is a Blessing... I could not live here on my retirement. I would have to put both dogs down and live in my small Rv. parking from parking lot too parking lot.
And waiting for My SSI check to come in. So if you think that you are capeable
of living in another state with your retirement then go right ahead!! Just do the math first.
Then save for a year or two and make the move. There, I have said my self and the rest is up to you.. Oregon Rocks!!!!! Gooo Ducks!!!!!!!!!

Southern 19 December 2010 at 2:17 pm

If I had gone through all the work of setting criteria and researching the data......when I saw North and South Dakota listed in the top 5 for best places to retire....I would not have published it tillI found out what I did wrong. There is more to life than absolute cost of living and low crime. Crime for instance..most people would not agree that you can lump Violent Crime together with Property Crime.
But maybe you are right...
How many people have flocked to the Dakotas since this article was published?

(And do you really set your Thermostat to 68? Pretty damn chilly in the summer I would say..........)

fill c 19 December 2010 at 7:50 am

I've lived in Sparks, NV since 2004 and mom retired there at the same time. We chose Sparks because of its air quality, elevation, and quiet character of the town. Housing costs less than 20% of what it does in the San Francisco bay area and crime by comparison is negligible if you compare say Reno to SF or San Jose. Property taxes are proportionately less, there is no income tax, gas is 10 to 15% cheaper, electricity is 20 to 30% less. Mom has excellent medical care and always talks about how good it is. My medical costs, minimal as they are, cost less than before. Restaurants and retail stores charge about the same, but those costs tend to be pretty level nationwide. Casinos on the other hand have some very good food deals. My data and experience do not match this survey at all.

Richard Barrington 16 December 2010 at 12:42 pm

Dan F:

I agree with you that the quality of life matters more than the quantity, but I looked at life expectancy as something of a proxy for environmental conditions and effectiveness of health care in the state. Still, we've learned a lot from this first shot at putting this list together, and I expect that next year, we will weight the different categories according to how our site visitors ranked the in response to a poll shortly after the list was released. I haven't looked at the poll results in a while, but as I recall life expectancy will receive a lower weighting relative to other categories.

Dan F 16 December 2010 at 12:03 pm

Would like to see the list revised after deleting the Life Expectancy category. Whether I live 75 years or 78 doesn't matter much to me; it's the quality of those years that counts.

Richard J. Drozdowicz 11 December 2010 at 7:04 pm

Somebody is haveing a better life through chemicals! I moved out of IL because I couldn't afford to live there after I retired. I now live on a lake in TN, look out and see the Smoky Mountains through my back windows. IL is ranked above TN!!

Pour another!


Sharon 11 December 2010 at 12:07 pm

Having been born and raised in Iowa, went to college for two years in South Dakota, lived in both Vermont and Connecticut and now live in Utah, I have first-hand knowledge of half of the states on the "best places to retire" list. As has been stated many times, there are pluses and minuses for all, and it makes a big difference where in the state you live, particularly when it comes to crime rate. Utah has the best climate (low humidity and mild winters--at least compared to the other states I've lived in), fabulous recreational opportunities, gorgeous scenery, good health care (at least in the northern part of the state) and mostly friendly people. It isn't the cheapest place to live, but compared to Connecticut, property taxes are reasonable, as are utilities (other than water). We lived in the northeast corner of Connecticut, which is very rural and cheaper than most of the rest of the state, but still somewhat pricey and the people were not friendly. Vermont is also beautiful, and slightly more friendly than Connecticut, but very expensive. South Dakota is inexpensive, but doesn't offer as much in the way of cultural, educational and recreational opportunities. Other than some pretty nasty winter weather and summer humidity, Iowa is a great place to live. If you feel the need for what the big cities offer, you can get to Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City and Minneapolis all within 4-6 hours drive, making for great weekend get-aways without having to put up with the crime and hassles of living in the big city. Unfortunately, the ratings in the article do not take into consideration one of the most important aspects of affordability for retirees, which is how the state taxes retirement income (Social Security, pensions, etc.). I wish those had been included in the ratings, as it would probably have made a big difference. I know that is more important to me than the average life expectancy for that state. It won't make much difference if I die a year sooner if I hate, or can't afford, the state I'm living in at the time!

Bill 10 December 2010 at 9:44 am

As a resident of Michigan I am happy to be on the bottom of this list. Fixed income people need to move to warmer climates to take advantage of sunbathing opportunities. We also know that people on fixed income do not have education requirements, therefore no need for decent public schools.
Michigan has harsh weather conditions, I actually had to interrupt my TV watching and shovel snow today. No one on a fixed income would want to have this interruption.
Please stay in California and listen to Beachboy records, Michigan is not suited for easy living!

Jim 10 December 2010 at 8:48 am

Are you sure you looked at the property taxes in NH? These are often overlooked in state to state comparisons, since they are essentially local taxes. That means the state allows the towns and cities to fund their schools unassisted. Check out typical taxes on a new modest-sized home in rural NH -- assessments are high and the rates stratospheric. One couple we know has property taxes of over $1000 a month, five times what we pay on a similarly assessed home in a rural area here. We know crime rates are low in rural NH, but who needs criminals when you're being mugged by the tax asssessors? NH does not have an income tax as yet -- its aversion to "broad-based taxes" is famous -- but a very "narrow-based" income tax affects seniors disproportionately. That would be the 5% interest and dividends tax, with a very small deductible, for those who have bothered to save for retirement. High utility rates and heating costs are a consideration, as are the famously short
vehicle lifespans, due to road salt and road frost damage. Yes, we've moved. It was like getting a $10,000. raise.

shawn 10 December 2010 at 4:45 am

I find it amazing that Reno Nevada has gone from being the number one retirement city in the nation to a part of the worst state in the nation.

There are still many small towns spread across nevada that are wonderful places to live.

bellfleur 9 December 2010 at 8:59 pm

I can not wait to retire in 3 years. Calf is killing us with tax's and furloughs..go to the store for food. and there is healthy people with 10 kids getting free heatlh care and food stamps..hope the Cal pers still gives me a retirement check.we are going full time RV ing..and yes the gangs are super bad.inmates get free loving care.best health care and food in prison..i could go on,..will need some wine.. signed, get the hell out of caif.

Doug 9 December 2010 at 8:15 pm

People should stay home and try to improve their own states, instead of running around trying to find a perfect place somewhere else. I was born in NC, and know it's not perfect, but I intend to remain a Tarheel, and try to improve it as much as I can. Those who jump around are trying to find that perfect place without working for it. I could care less about the best retirement states. Happiness is being able to go back to an ancestral place called home. What the survey left out was the happiness quotient. What good is retiring in a strange place, when you know no one and have no roots.

Kenneth 9 December 2010 at 8:52 am

I disagree with a lot of this information. I live in Ohio and the costof living is a lot cheaper than some of the states listed as good. The cost of living in most of the southeast and southwest is much higher. Taxes are not always the worst for cost of living. Property taxes are higher and values cheaper in a lot of the states called good places to live. If a person is retire the cold weather is not as big a factor, since you don't have to go to work every day. The cost for medical care, groceries, automobile licenses, and other fees are higher in most states than Ohio. I've looked at a lot of these so called retirement havens and I haven't seen one yet that is overall better than Ohio.

Phil 9 December 2010 at 4:57 am

I'll cast another vote for East Tennessee! By the way this whole attempt to analyze the best place to retire can be really misleading. For starters, it is foolhardy to generalize about crime in a state. It all depends on what type of community you choose to reside. For example, there is a world of difference between East LA and Santa Barbara in CA. Nuff said. Income, sales and property taxes are certainly key factors to consider, but in many cases they can result in added services seniors may value, such as parks, good roads, better fire and police protection, city beautification, fine schools, etc. Things like weather, scenery, recreation opportunities, communities we can be comfortable in, and convenience to restaurants, stores, etc. are much more important in the long run. Don't forget convenience to freeways and airports to visit family and friends. Pointless to relocate to North Dakota to save a few dollars tax if your kids live in Virginia and you can't get to the airport at Christmas because of six feet of snow. Bottom line is this decison cannot be made by looking at a list of states. Use your own judgment.

Jack Rice 9 December 2010 at 1:17 am

Late to the discussion, but have to put in a good word for California.

I see California knocked all the time, and am mystified, so I was glad to see my state listed fairly high on the list. Yes, it's expensive, but I think that's a function of the fact that so many people, legal and otherwise, want to live here. Supply and demand.doesn't lie. I think some of the piling on at California's current economic mess is just schadenfreude that used to be sour grapes.

For retirement, consider that although real estate can be sky-high in the most desirable areas, like San Francisco, Santa Barbara, West L.A., Orange County, etc., there are scores of beautiful small, unpublicized towns, with that wonderful California climate, that are quite affordable.

9% sales tax? So what! Not wanting to help fund schools and other social benefits, simply because you don't use them isn't politically correct -- it's just plain mean. I thank God our federal system let Californians thumb their noses at the geezers' Tea Party on November 2.

As the man says, regardless of ranking, all states have their positives. California happens to be where people who follow the sun end up.

Charla 7 December 2010 at 2:34 am

After retiring to Washington state (after living in Illinois all our lives), we moved back to Knoxville, TN. We lived in Bellingham, WA, for over seven years and found that while the scenery is drop-dead gorgeous, the cost of living is very high. Also, while Bellingham is continually listed as a "best place to retire", we found many of our senior friends having to travel to Seattle (2 hours south) for good medical care. There was much crime there.......meth problems in the outskirts, lots of college kids and the mischief they bring, lots of homeless because of the mild climate. Someone shot and killed ten people in one day just south of town a few years ago, and the crime near the Canadian border---drugs, etc.---is legendary. The weather is perfect for around three months----June, July, and August. However, the rest of the year is dark, gloomy, and rainy. I had to start taking theraputic doses of Vitamin D staring in my third year there. Anyone who craves sun to feel well had better consider someplace else! It is becoming increasingly difficult to get transportation out of Bellingham, too. If your family lives far away---and most of the retirees had moved great distances to live there---the cost of flights and all the hassles need to be considered. Want a day in Canada? Bring lots of money, and be prepared for gargantuan hassles at the border getting in and out. All in all.....a good place to vacation, but a lousy place to live. And I am just talking about the western third of the state........the rest of WA is not really all that attractive.
I researched Knoxville for two years before we made the decision to move. The climate is wonderful---full four seasons without the drama. The people are friendly---except maybe a few holdouts (like anywhere). There is so much more to do here. The mountains are accessible, unlike the ones in western WA. You have the Smoky Mountains and all the wonderful activities they bring. You are within a day's drive of half the US (and our kids...). It is a "big-little city" where you can get what you want and need, but without all the craziness of a huge city. We have a dozen hospitals here---and University of TN medical to boot. Sports---major entertainment here. Lakes galore..........I could go on and on. Down side? Yes---high sales tax. But senior "deals" take care of that. Crime? Sure----but with the down economy you will have that anywhere. Most seniors are smarter than you give them credit for on that score. And the citizens here in Knoxville aren't "victims".....just last week during a home invasion, one of the invaders was shot and killed by the "victim".
Your list is misleading and I hope people will do more research before they make a decision to relocate for retirement. As always, it is a personal decision considering many individual circumstances. But for us.....ultimately it was about proximity to family, COST OF LIVING, climate, and opportunities for entertainment that brought us to Knoxville......and I am glad we did. I have met many people from all over the world who chose Knoxville for a variety of reasons, including retirement.

Richard Barrington 12 November 2010 at 4:17 am


Washington did well in terms of tax burden and life expectancy, but relatively poorly on cost of living and crime rate. Oregon had a good score for life expectancy, but fell down on cost of living and unemployment. I hope that helps!

Connie Hansen 11 November 2010 at 11:18 pm

I'd love to know the stats behind Washington State and Oregon being so low. Any way to find out their ranking? Trying to decide between my roots in both, closing out expensive Virginia. Would like to know what I am getting into before I make errors in assumption.

Thanks for illumination.

Charles H. Bryan 11 November 2010 at 11:26 am

The problem on some level is that blanket statements are made about entire states. I live in Michigan, and while the tax impact and heating costs don't vary much from locality to locality, the crime rate and unemployment rates certainly do. Moreover, I don't think many people decide to retire to Detroit, Flint, or any other high crime communities -- they usually (even those retiring in-state) move to a smaller towns or rural locales where violet crime is almost non-existent. I guess the big surprise for me is that the criteria do not include measurements of health care/senior care quality.

Richard Barrington 27 October 2010 at 3:53 am

Dr. Don:

I appreciate your reasons for liking North Carolina, and we've taken pains throughout this series to emphasize that there are plenty of subjective reasons for liking or disliking particular states that are not part of the scope of our analysis. There are three things in your comment I would take issue with:

1. The factors used were economics, climate, crime rate, and life span. You may consider these irrelevant, but I think most seniors would include one or more of these high on the list of priorities when choosing a place to live.
2. You express concern about the heart attack rate in New Hampshire -- it can't be too bad, since the state boasts the nation's sixth highest life expectancy.
3. There is no Yankee bias here -- one of the distinguishing features of this series is that we used a quantitative formula to arrive at an objective judgement.

By all means, enjoy North Carolina -- it's a nice state with much to offer. Just please respect the fact that other states may have their charms as well.

Dr. Don 26 October 2010 at 12:22 pm

You look at some pretty irrelevant stuff in this survey. I live in NC, the 9th or 10th largest state, with a wide variety of climate, terrain, cost of living, and cultural amenities, so it's hard to generalize. You make a big deal out of crime. Of course the elderly worry about getting mugged or burgled, but outside urban areas the state's crime rate is low (unless you happen to stumble upon a meth lab or something). And you consider job opportunities. NC's unemployment rate is about average, but why would retired people worry about that? And as always it's taxes. Old folks do not like to pay taxes, even though they want tax-funded services like police (to protect them from all that crime), libraries, senior centers, meals on wheels, etc. We do have a high, regressive sales tax, and state income tax. But

as a retired senior whose home is paid for, living in a town (and county) with remarkably low property taxes, and whose days of "dressing for success" and conspicuous consumption are over, I don’t think my taxes are too high. Hawaii, where gas is $6 a gallon and unless you like pineapples the cost of food is astronomical? New Hampshire, where you spend 6 months a year digging out of snowdrifts? The heart attack rate must be staggering for seniors there. North and South Dakota: you’re kidding, right? Ditto for the snow and your gas bill, just to fill up and drive to centers of civilization, will keep you impoverished. I mean, how many times can you take in Mt. Rushmore? I sense a decidedly "Yankee" bias, even a contrarian perspective here, since for years the retirement industry has been directing people to the Sun Belt. Is it full down South now? Are we all now to move back North? Only if Global Warming will make Bismarck feel like Phoenix!

police (to protect them from all that crime), libraries, senior centers, meals on wheels, etc.-- services often paid for with tax dollars. We have quite a high sales tax, which I find regressive, but as a retired senior whose home is paid for, living in a town and county with remarkably low property taxes, and whose days of "dressing for success" and conspicuous consumption are over, I am perfectly happy living in NC. Hawaii? Where gas is $6 a gallon and unless you like pineapples the cost of food is astronomical? New Hampshire? Where you spend 6 months a year digging out of snowdrifts? The heart attack rate must be staggering for old people there. North and South Dakota? You’re kidding, right? Ditto for the snow and while you may not pay much in taxes, your gas bill, just to fill up the car and drive to centers of civilization, will keep you impoverished. I mean, how many times can you take in Mt. Rushmore? I sense a decidedly "Yankee" bias in this survey, even a contrarian perspective, since for years the retirement industry has been directing people to the Sun Belt. Is it full down South now? Are we all willing now to move back North, since Global Warming soon will make Bismarck as warm as Phoenix?

Richard Barrington 25 October 2010 at 1:29 pm


The climate in Michigan isn't so great, but what stands out most on the negative side is the unemployment rate. Michigan's unemployment rate is the second-highest in the nation; even for retirees who aren't working, that can make for an unhealthy environment of crime, deteriorating government services due to a diminished tax base, and neighborhoods with a lot of abandoned houses.

Jim Angone 25 October 2010 at 12:55 pm

Thabks for the list. We are trying to decide where we will locate now that we are retired (currently in Ca). interesting to see iowa, which is on our top list as well. We visited iowa and met a lot of friendly people, the State Govt in iowa is fiscally solvent. My only suggestion is to describe nmore fully why each state received the ranking that it did. Important to reirees is the Sate income taxes, weather, medical services, cultural activities. more details would be of great help.

We are also thinking of Michigan but wonder why it rceived its low ranking?

Richard Barrington 25 October 2010 at 4:50 am


Your comments highlight one of the realities about any state -- that whatever strengths a given state might have, there are also some weaknesses, and vice versa. In particular though, your comments seem to center around living expenses, and that's not surprising -- California has the second highest cost of living of any state, and is in the top ten for tax burdens. If living expenses are truly your number one issue, consider moving to a low-cost-of-living state such as Oklahoma, Tennessee, or New Hampshire. You might miss the climate, but that's sort of the point -- there are always trade-offs to be made.

Bee Davis 23 October 2010 at 8:14 am

I am confused I was surprised to see California rated so high We have a high sales tax-it varies because some areas have a city tax Housing is high--rental isn't much better--if you move inland you have hot summers-88-1oo degrees is not uncommon winters are also harsher. The state has been mismannaged--multi-billion dollar debt--they keep saying more money for schools--I am tired of paying for schools--I have worked 30=yrs never had children and don't really care anymore--I know not politically correct but I am just tired...We have an illegal alien problem that is not going away--go in any school in southern california and check how many children are there and arefrom undocumented parents-I don,t want to hear that we all got here that way--my parents got paid by check paid taxes income,real estate sales etc--a very large portion of illegal only pay sales tax when they purchase goods--a very large part of their income goes to Mexico to support familiesback home--any given individual is a fine hard working person -but that is not the point is it? The point is thqt as a group they use emergency room at a high rate-they have large families--more burden on school systems and not a small % in the area of crime--Gangs are a problem in Ca White gangs Black gangs Mexican gangs--does it ever stop! There is also a fee for cars on the roads-thqt is not cheap either-just how much does any goverment think people can pay--we also have a crisis in state pensions that will have to be paid to state employees such as police firemen and teachers-all fine people but I am getting by on SS and what income I saved I am sorry but I feel resentment for what I consider excessive pensions of 70K plus in addition to SS I blame the goverment for giving into the groups and promising them this--With 1million dollars in the bank some advisors recommend 5% per year--that is 50K per year plus SS I don,t have a million I will get approx 1400 for SS So I ask the question everyone else asks--what is in it for me? I would appreciate any comment or thoughts that you would have. And would especially appreciate any indepth thoughts facts and recommendations as I am struggeling as to what to do and really afloat but caught in a rip tide so a bit hopeless. Thank you Bee Davis

Richard Barrington 19 October 2010 at 10:23 am

Well, Ed, as you say, there are good and not-so-good reasons for choosing any state in the U.S., and many of the criteria for those judgements are subjective. Our goal was to use some basic, objective criteria that could be measured quantitatively, just to create a framework for evaluation, over which people can add their own subjective priorities.

Ed 19 October 2010 at 8:51 am

I've gone through this list and can't figure how Mr. Barrington has justified his ratings.
Having traveled throughout the US states (including Hawaii & Alaska) for over a 40 yr. period I've found both good and not so good reasons for wanting to live in all of the states.
Certainly crime, weather, amenities, taxes, cost of living, etc. all factor in but without giving some criteria for his rating system this list is relatively worthless.

Richard Barrington 19 October 2010 at 4:25 am


You make some good points -- North Carolina's cost of living and tax burdent are moderate (i.e., around the middle of the pack) and the climate is very good. However, it ranked less well on other factors, most notably crime. The state's crime rate was 10th worst in the nation.

Liz Sanders 18 October 2010 at 8:07 am

Why is NC on the bottom ten?
Yes we have state income tax. Yes we have sales tax, not so high on food.
Right now, unemployment is high.
The cost of living is reasonable.
There is excellent medical care available.
The climate is good.

Richard Barrington 12 October 2010 at 2:57 pm


The states you mention all have different strengths and weaknesses, but the one thing they all have in common on the negative side are relatively high crime rates.

Richard Barrington 12 October 2010 at 2:43 pm


Affordability was effectively two-thirds of our economic category, because we included both cost of living and tax burden, which is a factor in affordability. You are absolutely right about New Jersey being expensive -- its cost of living and tax burden are each in the top five nationally. As you point out, that is an important issue for many people -- but it isn't the only factor.

Richard Barrington 12 October 2010 at 2:37 pm

T Helm:

For more on the criteria, and which ones dragged down the worst states, please click on the link in the above article to the original article on the ten worst states.

Rena 12 October 2010 at 12:51 pm

Please don't move to Burlington, VT. The crime rate gets worse there every day with break-ins, drugs, car and building fires by misguided people . Most other places in VT. are good, although the high taxes are to be considered for sure.

Cate 12 October 2010 at 7:00 am

I retired in New York...cold winters and taxes are driving me out. I was considering Delaware (near the beach area), my son lives in Savannah, GA, so GA, NC and SC are also in consideration. FL because it won't take styate taxes out of my teacher's pension. What's so bad about these states?

Joan Dalton 12 October 2010 at 5:45 am

Since each of us may have different criteria upon which to base a move or we would at least weigh factors contributing to such a list differently, more info should be given about the methods used, varying factors and the importance given to each.

Also, in some states the county and city/town will make a huge difference in the overall tax burden, crime rate, availability of excellent medical facilities, college that interacts with the community, transportation etc. Perhaps a spreadsheet listing all these factors which includes the state capital as well as a 'typical' middle class town might be more helpful.

Gary Kalmus 11 October 2010 at 4:32 pm

Obviously Those who compiled the list are putting very little weight to affordability. We recently moved from New Jersey to Delaware. In doing so I substantially increased my mortgage, and added home owner's association fees. Despite this, between lower taxes, reduced insurance costs and lower utility rates we are saving $300 to $400 per month. There is an exodus of retirees and those about to retire from New Jersey. It is unaffordable on a fixed income.

T Helms 11 October 2010 at 4:19 pm

I am just wondering what determines that a state is not a good one to retire in.I live with in SC & am about 5 minutes away from the NC state line & was not hoping to move after I retired ,so what makes these states so bad?

Jackie Chesser 11 October 2010 at 3:30 pm

Is there someplace where we can read the individual criteria used, with the ratings for each criteria?

Richard Barrington 30 September 2010 at 10:12 am

Nassau67: you are right on the money about Nevada's tax rate, but while it may have relatively cheap housing, the overall cost of living there is still quite expensive (12th highest of the 50 states). This, along with high unemployment dragged Nevada down on the economic front, and a high crime rate and relatively low life expectancy further dragged the state down.

While Connecticut and Vermont do have high tax rates, they also have very low crime rates. With taxes as with anything else, sometimes you get what you pay for!

oldnassau"67 29 September 2010 at 4:11 pm

Can - and will - Mr. Barrington post the criteria used and the rankings of the states for those criteria? For example, why is Nevada, which has no state income tax. and relatively cheap housing, dead last - whereas Connecticut and Vermont, which have high taxes and housing costs, near the top?
Given more detailed rankings, retirees can better select which state is for them.
(email me if you wish)