10 Worst States to Retire 2012

Richard Barrington

See the current Worst States to Retire feature

It's no secret that retirees generally don't like the cold, so it should come as no surprise that there is an abundance of northern states on this year's list of 10 Worst States to Retire from MoneyRates.com. However, the weather is far from the only problem these states have.

If you love one of the states below, don't take its inclusion personally. This list only reports what an objective look at retirement-related factors dictates. Naturally, individual preferences can greatly affect your choice of retirement destinations. However, as a guide to some possible warning signs for retirees, MoneyRates.com has sought to identify the states that may have the most significant issues on quantifiable measures.

Key factors for retirement

The following measures formed the basis of this year's analysis:

  • Senior population growth. Based on census data, some states have just been more attractive to retirees than others in recent years, so the growth in each state's senior population factored into these rankings.
  • Economic conditions. Even if you don't intend to work at all in retirement, chances are you wouldn't find living in an area of high unemployment very pleasant. Cost of living and property taxes were also taken into consideration, since these greatly affect seniors.
  • Crime rate. Seniors can be especially vulnerable to both violent and property crimes, so both were factored into the list.
  • Climate. Not everyone wants a warm-weather retirement, but seniors tend not to enjoy extremes, so the climate factor in this list was based on monthly deviations from a moderate 68 degrees.
  • Life expectancy. Looking at each state's average life expectancy for people at age 65 can provide clues on factors ranging from quality and availability of health care to the purity of the environment.

10 worst states for retirement in 2012

When rankings for all these factors were considered, the following states achieved the 10 lowest scores. Here's the countdown, beginning with the 10th-worst:

10. Rhode Island

The U.S. population overall is both growing and aging, yet Rhode Island was the only state to see its senior population shrink between the 2000 and 2010 census surveys. Having a cost of living and average property tax that are among the highest in the nation might be one reason. Seniors have a pretty long life expectancy in this state, but that's not enough to offset the negative factors.

9. Maryland

Like Rhode Island, Maryland suffers from relatively high property taxes and cost of living. Crime and life expectancy are also well below par, which are enough to more than cancel out an above-average climate.

8. Maine

One of the harshest climates in the nation, along with a low life expectancy for seniors, were leading factors in putting Maine on this list, despite the fact that the state does have a very low overall crime rate.

6. New York (tie)

Some of the nation's highest property taxes and cost of living could be the factors keeping many seniors away from New York. As a result, this state has seen very slow growth in its over-65 population. It should be noted that despite its reputation, New York does have a lower-than-average overall crime rate.

6. Ohio (tie)

Ohio is another state with sluggish growth in its senior population, and its unusually low life expectancy at age 65 might be one reason why. Coupling those factors with mediocre scores in other areas put Ohio near the back of the pack.

5. Massachusetts

These lists always spur a spirited discussion, but Massachusetts is yet another state in the bottom 10 that ranks near the bottom in growth of its senior population, so there must be something to the relationship between these criteria and attractiveness to retirees. Like New York, Massachusetts suffers from being one of the more expensive states in the nation, in terms of both property taxes and cost of living.

4. Illinois

Illinois ranked below-average in every category, with its chief problems being high property taxes and high unemployment.

2. Alaska (tie)

The harshest climate in the United States and the second-highest cost of living form a bad combination for retirees. Not surprisingly then, Alaska has the lowest percentage of people aged 65 and over in the country, though it should be noted that its senior population has been growing at an impressive rate.

2. Pennsylvania (tie)

After Rhode Island, Pennsylvania has seen the slowest growth rate of its senior population in the country. Poor scores on life expectancy and economic factors also dragged the state down, and it didn't have a stellar performance in any category to offset its drawbacks.

1. Michigan

Michigan ranked below average in every category, and particularly low scores on climate and economic factors hurt the state's ranking. Michigan was not among the 10 worst states in any single category, but consistently low scores across the board gave it the worst overall total.

It should be noted that most states on this list had at least one redeeming feature among the factors considered, and where that was the case it was mentioned in the summaries above. Again, while there are reasons to enjoy life in every part of the country, before you decide on a state for retirement, it may be wise to examine that place's potential drawbacks. If you don't, your retirement may not go as you planned.

For more on how other states fared, please see the 10 Best States to Retire and the full 50-state rankings.

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karl Hausler 14 November 2012 at 7:43 am

ranking a state is not a very good way of ranking retirement areas because one very negative area of the state out weighs the areas that on their own are wonderful. I.e. Michigan with Detroit and Traverse City areas one which is one of best places to retire especially if you still like winter. The weather part should be flexible and allow individuals to choose weather category seperately.

Kris S 13 November 2012 at 4:26 pm

I just wonder why they did not take into consideration taxing of retirement incomes? I get crime rates, but Hawaii got best when its cost of living is very high? Not so sure I would go by these suggestions....

Duke 31 October 2012 at 5:49 pm

Most of these states listed here have been government by liberals... Wonder why the correlation? Anyone care to guess?

Matt 29 October 2012 at 3:53 am

With the exception of Alaska, every state on this list is a blue state. Huh.

Roger Johnson 26 October 2012 at 7:51 am

Thanks for ranking Maine nr 43 in the nation! Hopefully, that will keep a lot of the out-of-state riffraff out. BTW the climate in southern Maine is BETTER that some states mentioned in the BEST catagory!

Tim Graham 23 October 2012 at 12:18 pm

I moved to Winston-Salem ,NC 5 years ago at age 55. One of the reasons was for a new job and two to get a jump start on retirement (save more money) and away from the high cost of living (taxes and home cost) on long Island New York . I am now 60 ,live fairly inexpensively ,have incresed my retirement savings and net worth,live in a better climate,near great schools (Wake Forest,Salem College ,NC school of the Arts)great hospitals (Wake Forest Baptist and Forysth Medical) which thank fully I do not need ,beautiful country (ride my road bicycle 100 miles a week)Can certainly see why up north weather and high costs make it difficult . And I love NY!