Worst States for Retirement 2011

Richard Barrington

Also see the current list of Worst States for Retirement

For the second year in a row, MoneyRates.com has ranked the best and worst U.S. states for retirement. We based our rankings on four factors:

  • Economic factors
  • Climate
  • Life expectancy
  • Crime rate

This year, each factor was weighted according to a MoneyRates.com poll that asked readers to rate its importance in the context of retirement. Based on reader responses, economics determined 47 percent of a state's final score, climate accounted for 33 percent, life expectancy determined 12 percent and crime accounted for 8 percent.

    Here are the MoneyRates.com 10 worst states for retirement:

    WisconsinNo. 10: Wisconsin

    Why it's in the bottom 10: Unfortunately, Wisconsin had decent scores in two areas that readers said should receive less emphasis, and did poorly in the more heavily weighted areas of economics and climate.

    Economic factors: Wisconsin's real downfall in this category is having the second-highest tax burden in the country, after adjusting for retirement exemptions.

    Climate: Wisconsin did not fare well in the climate category either, with a climate rated in the bottom 10.

    Life expectancy: At 77.9 years, Wisconsin's average life expectancy is a little above the national median.

    Crime: Wisconsin's crime rates were a little worse than average for both violent and property crime.

    New YorkNo. 9: New York

    Why it's in the bottom 10: As with the preceding example of Wisconsin, New York did poorly in the two most important areas in the analysis. So decent scores in the other two areas were not enough to keep it from the bottom 10.

    Economic factors: New York came out decidedly below-average on economic factors, particularly because of its sixth-highest cost of living.

    Climate: New York's climate wasn't among the worst, but it was below average.

    Life expectancy: At 77.7 years, the life expectancy of New Yorkers is slightly above median.

    Crime: New York has one of the lowest property crime rates in the nation, and its violent crime rate is about average. This gave the state an above-average overall ranking.

    WashingtonNo. 8: Washington

    Why it's in the bottom 10: The real problem was a poor showing in economics, the most heavily weighted category in this study.

    Economic factors: Washington was below the median on cost of living, unemployment and taxes, making economics the state's biggest downfall.

    Climate: Washington's climate rated roughly average.

    Life expectancy: Washington has one of the highest life expectancies in the nation at 78.2 years.

    Crime: Washington scored poorly in this category, due primarily to having the 10th-highest property crime rate in the nation.

    Rhode IslandNo. 7: Rhode Island

    Why it's in the bottom 10: Being near the bottom in economics was just too big a burden for Rhode Island to overcome.

    Economic factors: With scores for cost of living, unemployment and taxes all among the 10 worst in the country, Rhode Island got the second-lowest overall rating for economic factors.

    Climate: Rhode Island sat in the middle of the pack for climate.

    Life expectancy: Rhode Island's average life expectancy is 78.3 years--one of the best in the country.

    Crime: Rhode Island ranked below most states for both violent and property crime.

    MarylandNo. 6: Maryland

    Why it's in the bottom 10: Again, a bottom-10 showing in economics is going to drag any state down--not that Maryland scored particularly well in the other categories. The good news is that this year's ranking is a mild improvement from last year's, when Maryland ranked as the fifth-worst state for retirement.

    Economic factors: Maryland placed among the bottom-10 states, largely because it has one of the highest costs of living in the nation.

    Climate: This was Maryland's strongest category, with a slightly above-average rating.

    Life expectancy: At 76.3 years, Maryland's life expectancy is below that of most states.

    Crime: Maryland's violent crime rate is among the 10 worst in the nation.

    AlaskaNo. 5: Alaska

    Why it's in the bottom 10: Optimists can point to Alaska's improvement from last year's list, where it ranked as the third-worst state for retirement. Also, any improvement for Alaska is impressive, considering that climate ranked more prominently in this year's study.

    Economic factors: Alaska rated about average on economics. Its tax burden, which ranked among the lowest, offset its cost of living, which rated among the highest.

    Climate: Not surprisingly, this was Alaska's downfall. The state's climate rated as the nation's most extreme.

    Life expectancy: At 77.1 years, Alaska's life expectancy is near the middle of the pack.

    Crime: Alaska's murder rate is the fifth-highest in the nation.

    ConnecticutNo. 4: Connecticut

    Why it's in the bottom 10: Because of its poor economic performance, no state was punished more by the reader-weighted preferences than Connecticut, which last year ranked as the eighth-best state for retirement.

    Economic factors: Connecticut ranks near the bottom, thanks to a deadly combination of high taxes and high cost of living.

    Climate: Connecticut's climate rated a little below average, though not as bad as other states in its region.

    Life expectancy: With a life expectancy of 78.7 years, Connecticut tied with Utah for the nation's third-highest.

    Crime: Connecticut's violent crime rate is slightly below the median, and its property crime rate is well below average.

    MassachusettsNo. 3: Massachusetts

    Why it's in the bottom 10: With good scores on crime and life expectancy, and bad scores on economics and climate, Massachusetts has a profile similar to that of neighboring Connecticut, so the close rankings are not surprising.

    Economic factors: Massachusetts has less unemployment than most states, but that wasn't enough to overcome a high cost of living and high taxes.

    Climate: Though not among the worst, the climate in Massachusetts rated below average.

    Life expectancy: Massachusetts ranks fifth in the nation, with a life expectancy of 78.4 years.

    Crime: The property crime rate in Massachusetts is one of the 10 lowest in the nation, helping the state to an above-average overall crime rating.

    MichiganNo. 2: Michigan

    Why it's in the bottom 10: Michigan duplicated its ranking from last year as the second-worst state for retirement. Because it was similarly below average in all four categories, the reader weightings did not make much of a difference.

    Economic factors: Unemployment is high, and tax burdens are also above average.

    Climate: Michigan rated well below median for its climate.

    Life expectancy: At 76.3 years, this was another below-average factor.

    Crime: Michigan's violent crime rate is also worse than average.

    MaineNo. 1: Maine

    Why it's the worst state for retirement: Maine's low ranking was a result of having bottom-five scores in the two most heavily weighted categories, economics and climate.

    Economic factors: Maine got the fifth-lowest score for economics, with its high cost of living and tax burden as the primary culprits.

    Climate: Maine's climate ranked third-worst in the nation.

    Life expectancy: At 77.6 years, Maine's life expectancy is about average.

    Crime: If personal security is a high priority, you may want to reconsider Maine. Its violent crime rate is the lowest in the nation, and its property crime rate is below average as well.

    About the rankings

    For more details on what data MoneyRates.com took into account and why, read our list of the 10 best states for retirement.

    If you didn't see your state on either list and would like to know how it fared, read our full 50-state ranking of the Best States for Retirement 2011.

    You may also want to compare this list with the 2010 rankings.

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    Mrn Mrca 11 March 2013 at 9:39 am

    You listed Michigan as #2. It should be #1, especially now that the new governor will be making shams with all of the retiress, and the working peoples monies.

    DCMilwaukee 21 November 2012 at 1:02 pm

    Climate: Wisconsin did not fare well in the climate category either, with a climate rated in the bottom 10. This is asinine. Wisconsin Climate is not in the top 10 worst. There are ten southern humid states that are easily worse. Summer until the end of December is usually great weather. I get the feeling the climate rating is based on erroneous information, e.g. People's opinion.

    Carl Sperr 18 October 2012 at 7:43 am

    I think that's bull shit that you have Washington in the top 10 worst states to retire in! I bet you barely got out of the city limits of Seattle LOL In eastern washington you can buy or rent property dirt cheap. Taxes are far less as well just as they are if you get out of the Seattle metro area. I suppose we liberal Democrats have control of the weather LOL also how many states have no state income tax? Damn few.

    Lanny Cunningham 28 September 2012 at 10:44 am

    Don't you find it interesting that all ten states are controlled by liberal Democrats?

    lance sjogren 12 September 2012 at 4:14 pm

    Wow I just noticed, California is NOT listed among the 10 worst states to retire. What's with that? It has a good climate. It also has high taxes, high crime, pollution, traffic gridlock, some of the worst K-12 education systems in the nation, one of the worst transportation systems in the nation, and a state government that is a wholly owned subsidiary of the public employee unions. Any survey that doesn't come up with California as the worst of the 50 states based on any criterion other than weather is a survey that has something very wrong with it.

    lance sjogren 12 September 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Jamie: The article says that Wisconsin ranked low because of high taxes and weather. Do you blame Scott Walker for high taxes? Do you blame him for the weather?

    lance sjogren 12 September 2012 at 4:08 pm

    I find Washington state a wonderful place to retire. NO STATE INCOME TAX. Also property taxes are reasonable and we have an excellent property tax limitation law, it holds them down while not being discriminatory based on when you bought your property like California's is. The scenery is beautiful. The climate is pleasant, a bit chilly in the winter but tempered by the coastal influence. Washington has a rosy future compared to most states. It is tied in to the pacific rim economy. We have abundant hydropower on the Columbia river, as fossil fuels become scarce many regions will experience sky high electricity costs. And of course we have abundant water, something increasingly scarce in some parts of the nation. Washington has the scenic wonders of the Columbia River, Pacific Ocean, San Juan Islands, Olympic Mountains. We have got it all. (almost. Climate wise we don't quite measure up to California, but that state is undergoing economic meltdown.)

    ERIC WINKELMAN 27 August 2012 at 6:12 pm

    A year ago, Good Morning America [ GMA ] viewers voted Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore the "Most Beauftiful Place in America !" True cities like Detroit, Saginaw, Flint and Benton Harbor are all depressed economcially, but also no one in thier right mind would choose to retire to any of those cities either !! So Michigan needs to be re-evaluted . Traverse City, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor,East Lansing are tops considerations when looking for Urban and semi urban palces to live. University of Michigna is in Ann Arbor, and Michigan State is in East Lansing. Only California has more crop diversity than Michgan, and yet we are not broke like Califiornia, in spite of our state still in transition from beiing too dependent for too long on the automobile manufacturing. So for next year please take into consideation the above positves when once again you evlauate our State. True, January can be a bummer sunshine wise here in Michigan, but then Seattle has that challange about 10 months a year!

    Milton Dudley 28 July 2012 at 8:23 am

    Re: Washington. There words: Economic factors: Washington was below the median on cost of living, unemployment and taxes, making economics the state's biggest downfall. Isn't being below the median in these areas a plus? I don't get it.

    Jamie 26 July 2012 at 11:36 am

    This article is just stupid. Who uses statewide crime rates when they decide where to live? Does everyone who lives in Michigan live in Detroit? Crime rates make a lot of sense when analyzing cities. When analyzing states? Not so much. Yeah, you probably don't want to retire to Detroit or Flint. What does that tell you about, say, Ann Arbor? Absolutely nothing.

    b 23 July 2012 at 9:24 am

    would be great if this article actually contained some information.

    Al Kohlman 29 June 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Thanks to our poor excuse for a Governor (Scott Walker), Wisconsin has slid to the bottom in Jobs, Pay and split the middle class like never seen before. Can't wait to leave this state!!!!!!!!!!

    Pat in Washington 25 June 2012 at 8:03 am

    I'm surprised Washington state is on the list. We have no state income tax, we have GREAT hospitals, the cost of living is low compared to California and it really, really doesn't rain all the time. We have beautiful scenery, wonderful recreational and cultural opportunities, and real estate prices are very reasonable. There are areas with high crime stats, but that is NOT the norm.

    BigGuy 22 June 2012 at 8:37 pm

    Most of these states have higher taxes than most, but they also provide far more services to the elderly than most. The criteria used do not take those services provided into account.

    Peter A 21 June 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Have lived in Conn. for nearly 50 years. Living costs here have risen astronomically in the last 20 years as have taxes. Until the '80's this was a low tax State, but unrestrained spending have saddled us with very high taxes, many of which are hidden (Conn. legislators are supreme at imposing hidden levies). This is all a terrible shame brought about by irresponsible legislators. This was once a uniquely wonderful place to live and retire. As soon as I can sell out, I'm gone.

    Anteek Geek 13 June 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Wow...wish you had kept Tennessee off the "best" list. Those of us (retirees) who live here know what a great state we have for retirement -- low cost of living, no income tax, nice weather, great medical care, friendly down-to-earth folks. Hopefully Memphis drags down our crime stats enough to make the whole state look unattractive. We don't want to see a bunch of carpetbaggers and scallywags assaulting our boundaries. ;-)

    Steve M 12 June 2012 at 4:47 am

    Having been retired in CT for 8 years, I can't think of why it dropped so much this year. Yes, the taxes are high, but my pension was salary-based, so it is proportionately high. I live in the center of the state, so the cost of homes is relatively low, while the proximity to cultural and recreation centers is high.The scenic beauty and relaxed pace of living here are great. I can't think of a place i'd rather live!

    robert fahl 4 June 2012 at 12:38 pm

    I find it interesting that NINE of the TEN worst rated states for rerirement are LIBERAL bastions. Only Alaska is not one of the Liberal Democrat states with UNIONS and HIGH TAXES.

    Archie 2 May 2012 at 11:59 pm

    Your selection priorities, placing economics at the top for retirees is looney! Climate, TOTAL tax cost for people on retirement income, crime rate and cost of living are probably the most reasonable assessments. It's obvious that this article was not written by a retired person!

    Sandals Pal 2 May 2012 at 10:47 am

    MAINE on the bottom. I don't think so. Then why are so many older folks moving here?? Climate is the worst?? Really, winter is winter, we get snow for Pete's sake. Spring summer and fall are absolutly wonderful and I love to snow shoe and cross country ski. I live here year round and would NOT move anywhere else now that I am retired. Get your information from some other sources. Forbes Magazine gives our biggest city the top ranking.

    Richard Barrington 1 May 2012 at 5:26 am

    Why is unemployment a factor? Two reasons. First, between longer life spans and economic conditions today, more and more seniors are choosing to work at least part time after retiring from their primary careers. Second, if you've ever lived in a place with high unemployment, you'll know it is not a very desirable environment, whether you are looking for work yourself or not.

    RayinSF 30 April 2012 at 10:49 am

    I'm surprised Washington is listed as in the 10 Worst. While a comment said the property tax burden is high, the state has no income tax, which is a benefit for retirees. The COL is low, and real eatate is quite reasonable. I say this in comparison to the SF Bay Area. If you haven't lived here, you have no clue what "high" is. This place has almost everything at "high" prices...homes, tax burden, government fees...you name it, they tax it.

    chuck daily 30 April 2012 at 9:53 am

    Is the crime rate why so many (100,000+) have requested and recieved carry and conceal weapons permits? Has the current govenor's policies on Education, Social Services, and millions to businesses (tax breaks) and without jobs increases (his platform), cutting Badger care (for ALL AGES), and removal of the right to bargain for wages, benefits, and working conditions for government employees (hoping to lead the way for those in the private sector to follow) having an inpact? Well, if you can read and have a sixth grade level of education or better you might understand.

    sisterspitfire 30 April 2012 at 9:15 am

    Thanks, Walker. We weren't there before.

    Marq 29 April 2012 at 4:03 pm

    Washington state is rated 8th worst because of unemployment? And this is on a RETIREMENT topic? Yet they have one of the highest life expectancy rates in the country. I can't help thinking that life expectancy has GOT to be a more important issue for retirees than unemployment. Ya know being as they're RETIRED!!!

    zeeba 27 April 2012 at 9:28 pm

    What do unemployment rates have to do with retirement? You're not working anymore, so who cares? In reality, many of the "worst-ranking" states fare very well in terms of cost-of-living, particularly in terms of housing. As for climate, the focus seems to be only on the negatives of winter weather, when in reality high summer temperature and burgeoning insect populations common to southern states are a bigger problem for insects. And crime figures are skewed by major metropolitan areas where few retirees live. As for me, I'm planning to stay in Michigan when I retire, and my retired lady friend has already chosen to do so and likes her choice!

    John 27 April 2012 at 6:16 pm

    New Jersey! Everything is expensive. Very hard to live here based the cost of living for non-retirement residents.

    John J Kolbus 19 April 2012 at 2:04 pm

    I expected Michigan to be near the bottom of the 10 worst because of the crime rate (below the bridge) and economic conditions. However, if you don't mind a little snow, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with it's laidback atmosphere attracts all of it's "Snowbirds" who opt for warmer climes after the Fall Color and Christmas Seasons.

    Antonia Keane 11 February 2012 at 1:36 pm

    How about adding quality of medical care, cultural amenities and transportation as criteria? Maryland has all of the above in abundance.

    dfish 3 February 2012 at 6:19 am

    NY was a great place to live for me! and Mass. has good social services so I don't know why you include these...NY you can walk everywhere, there's tons to do and see, loads of free stuff like libraries good public transport, etc. only rent is high!

    Selma Herbst 10 January 2012 at 2:58 pm

    Lived in Madison, Wisconsin for the past 17 years, Elkhorn for 5 years, Milwaukee for 9 years and Whitefish Bay for 3 years. Although Wisconsin is a beautiful state.... I could not stand the long dreary cloudy winter days which lasted 7-8 months out of the year! (The nice summer days seemed to last for only 3-4 months out of the year). The high property and state taxes in Wisconsin.certainly reduced my quality of life. Retired to Florida within the past 2 years and enjoy all the sunny days here immensely and the no Florida state taxes on our income. The many beautiful sunny days here in Florida and no state taxes on income have increased the daily quality of my life immensely!.

    haroldburbank 7 January 2012 at 3:16 pm

    born and raised in maine, i think maine is a very good retirement state, especially for an active lifestyle, to which i may return after over 20 years in CT. portland is on the ocean with excellent and salt and fresh water beaches within minutes of downtown, farm fresh local foods, superb restaurants (especially seafood), the 2nd largest state university branch including the law school, excellent medical care, a symphony, and other major arts groups, to name just a few amenities. summer weather, lasting from APR to OCT is peerless, with very low humidity and considerable sunshine, from the coast, to the woodlands and mountains offering some of the best camping, kayaking, fishing, and hiking in the world (ll bean is not in ME for nothing). winter temps are moderated by the ocean, and the very best snow skiing east of the rockies is just hours away over good roads. yes, living costs and taxes are high, but scores of generations of mainers have lived frugally, making this lifestyle practically an institution. your neighbors will know you and help you when they can. bottom line: if you love the outdoors, healthy living, hearty neighbors, and great summer weather, ME should be near the top of your retirement list.

    ejhickey 7 January 2012 at 1:55 pm

    I too am wondering why Illinois was left off the worst list. Property taxes are sky high compared with other states like Washington. From my personal investigation and comparison of properties in or near Seattle, similar to the one in which I currently live, I would save about $6,000 per year. I focused on single family houses that cost the same as my house with more square footage and bigger lots. Some may say it rains a lot in Washington. I say you don't have to shovel rain. I suggest that ARRP take a second look a Washington

    maggt 26 December 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Washington state has a high tax burden, especially property taxes. They do not have an employment tax which is of no benefit to retirees and it is offset with higher property taxes. Gas tax is also high. Utilities are low, insurance seems to be on the high side as well. Overall I would agree that Washington state is not a retiree friendly state

    BDamron 26 December 2011 at 9:32 am

    I wonder how Illinois missed the 10 worst? Full of crime and has higher taxes than most states?

    Charles Thornton 10 December 2011 at 6:57 pm

    This list is suspect. Washington is in the botton 10 rated lower than California and New York. Economic factors in California with high property taxes, and an income tax and housing prices increase the cost of living in the San Franciso Area, Greater Los Angeles, and San Diego. Unemployment rates are high in Calif. Compared to Washington, there are no income taxes. Property is high in Seattle, but moderate in the rest of the state. There are better employment oppurtunities in Seattle than Spokane, but this is for retirement. Unemployment can't be one of the highest factors anyway. The crime rate in Seattle may be high, but once again, the rest of the state of more moderate. I can leave my door unloced anytime. I am retired and live well in Washington. I don't need to work to survive but I have a comfortable income.I have problems with how these were rated.

    Richard Barrington 8 November 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Scharlene: New Jersey narrowly escaped the list - had it been a "bottom 11", they would have been on it. As your comment suggests, New Jersey ranked very badly on economic factors. It did, however, score quite well on crime, and reasonably well on climate.

    EugeneHunnewell 21 October 2011 at 11:47 am

    And I thought it was just me that Maine was so bad for retires. Maybe they are trying to tell us something

    scharlene snowden 18 October 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Why is New Jersey not on the list? The property taxes are the highest in the nation? Home foreclosures are also high. Crime in Springfield Massachusetts and abandoned homes is also a negative to be added to the list.

    Kardinal 12 October 2011 at 10:42 am

    Alaska has the most extreme climate/weather? really?? Let's see...zero tornadoes, zero hurricanes in the past...uh...thousand years or more? So is cold bad? We put warm clothes on when it gets cold. What does Texas due about the heat? Go to work naked? Don't think they have invented portable air conditioning yet. That's fine, we like our space...