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