10 Best States to Retire 2014

Richard Barrington

What's your perfect retirement spot? Is it a place with warm temperatures and a healthy environment? What about low taxes and an affordable cost of living? Or maybe you just want some peace and security, away from a crime-riddled society?

Different people have different priorities when deciding where to retire, which is why MoneyRates.com looked at 11 different data series across five major categories in examining the best and worst states for retirement in 2014.

Here are the five categories:

  • Senior population. By looking at both the current proportion of seniors and the growth rate of that population segment, this study accounted not just for how many of their peers seniors can expect to find in different states, but also how well each state is attracting older residents.
  • Economics. This took into account taxes, cost of living and unemployment, to measure whether a state was affordable and had a thriving economy.
  • Crime. This category took into account both violent and property crime.
  • Weather. MoneyRates.com looked at a combination of temperature, precipitation and hours of sunshine to measure how pleasant each state's climate was.
  • Senior life expectancy. How long a state's residents typically live after age 65 reflects on both the healthiness of the state's environment and the level of medical care available.

Based on these criteria, here is the 2014 MoneyRates.com list of the best states for retirement.

1. Hawaii

As you might expect, Hawaii scored well for its climate, but that was not its greatest strength. The category in which Hawaii ranked No. 1 out of all 50 states was life expectancy for people at age 65 today. There is just something about the place that agrees with people. One caution is that Hawaii has the highest cost of living of all 50 states, but it does somewhat offset that by having the lowest property taxes as a percentage of property value.

2. Iowa

You might not expect to see Hawaii and Iowa listed side by side, but the value of looking at a wide range of data is that it takes many attributes into consideration. Iowa did not really excel in any one category, but it was well above average in four out of five. Its strongest suit was low crime rates, with a combination of low property and violent crime rates placing Iowa in the top 10 nationally in that overall category.

3. Idaho

This may seem like a particularly out-of-the way place to retire, but some people like that -- especially when being out of the way means getting away from crime. Idaho ranked best of any state in the crime category, and with its low cost of living and thriving job market, the state also did well in the economic category. Just don't choose this state if you are looking for balmy weather. Idaho was well below average in that category.

4. Florida

Perhaps the ultimate traditional retirement choice, Florida has the highest percentage of its population age 65 or older of any state. That demographic thrives there, as the state's life expectancy at age 65 is one of the best in the country. Obviously, the climate is also a plus, but choose your neighborhood carefully. Florida is one of the 10 worst states for crime.

5. Vermont

Here's proof that not everybody seeks a warm-weather retirement: Despite one of the worst scores for climate, Vermont has one of the highest percentage and fastest-growing senior populations in the country. Low crime may be one of the attractions, as the state has the second-lowest rate of violent crimes.

6. Arizona

The characteristics here are somewhat similar to Florida: a good climate, a significant senior population and long life expectancies, with the chief drawback being high crime rates.

7. (tie) Colorado

Economic factors and senior life expectancy were Colorado's biggest assets in this study. The state was about average in every other category.

7. (tie) Maine

Again, cold-weather states may not be what everyone wants for retirement, but they are popular with many older Americans. Maine already has one of the largest percentages of seniors, and that demographic is growing faster than in any other state. Besides weather, economic factors are a drawback, with a relatively high cost of living and property taxes.

9. Virginia

Climate and low crime rates are among Virginia's attractions, but not everyone agrees. The senior population is relatively low -- perhaps because its life expectancy for people at age 65 is the 10th worst nationally.

10. Montana

One more state for the rugged, get-away-from-it-all types. Despite one of the worst climate ratings in the survey, Montana has a thriving senior population -- perhaps because its economic factors rank in the top 10 nationally.

The results above were based on an equal weighting of the major categories. You might put more emphasis on one category than the others and have different preferences as a result. But as a starting point, the descriptions above might give you some feel for which states belong on your retirement wish list today.

Also see the MoneyRates.com list of the 10 worst states for retirement and the full 50-state rankings.

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Marilyn 24 March 2015 at 11:15 am

I have real issues with the weighting of the 50 best places to retire. Montana? Idaho? Maine? The winter weather up there is harsh, to say the least! What is the rate of broken hips? That is a real concern for retirees, and a big cause of death in the 90-day perioperative period. Crime is certainly a concern if you live in a city, but I think that it is not a state-wide problem. There are many, many tiny towns in Tennessee for example, and I highly doubt they are crime-ridden. I agree with one of your former commenters - moving to Colorado is not going to make you healthy any more than moving to Arkansas will make you fat. Taxes are a big concern for retirees, including sales tax, real estate, cost of fuel, and inheritance taxes. Do they tax your pension? Is there tax on clothing and food? What is the overall climate like? How about access to sophisticated healthcare? (for example, if you need an open heart, do you have to travel 100 miles away?). Overall cost of living is big - Hawaii may be beautiful, but you sure won't find reasonable housing - especially if you are coming from somewhere like Iowa. You make some valid points, but unfortunately, your index falls short of what we really need to know.

Bob Jaissle 10 March 2015 at 6:37 am

Agree with Truffle Pig's comment. How about correcting the survey?

Truffle Pig 24 October 2014 at 2:01 pm

The criteria used for these lists invariably fail to make any logical sense. Why does a *retired* person care whether a state's unemployment rate is 6% or 7%? They're not in the labor market, and a percentage or two difference in unemployment rates is unlikely to have any real practical impact on their life. Senior population? The difference between the 4th and 44th states for senior population is a whopping 3 extra seniors for every 100 people, and this is used as a major weighting? Outside of the extremes, you're not even going to notice the difference. If retirees want to be around a bunch of other seniors then presumably they're going to live in some kind of senior community anyway, which you can find in abundance in virtually any state. Life expectancy is mostly determined by the lifestyle choices of those living in a state. Moving from a state with a life expectancy of 78 to one with a life expectancy of 81 is unlikely to make you live any longer. Living in a state with a 38% obesity rate isn't going to make you fat. Living in a state where people exercise and have a low BMI average (like Colorado) isn't going to magically make you healthier by osmosis. Climate and other factors can play a small role there but you can be healthy or unhealthy in any state, that is up to you.