Which are the Best & Worst States to Live in for Retirement?

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Are you a senior looking for the best place in the United States for your retirement? For most seniors, mild weather, sunshine, and low crime rates are the top concerns when selecting a State to enjoy their golden years. However, there are other factors like taxes and community spirit that are worth considering as well.

With so many states to choose, where do you go? Your personal preferences will determine your choice. Some seniors may prefer the cold, while to others, the thought of the cold makes their joints hurt. You may prefer sunshine and clear skies, but others may enjoy the rain and overcast weather that dampens the heat.

Whatever your preference, we analyzed the data from top retiree sites to determine the top location choices for your retirement. Here are our qualifying criteria we used in compiling our list from the data.

  • Climate conditions – Average temperature, precipitation levels, snow, and temperature extremes all make our list of qualifying criteria.
  • Safety and crime levels – Our top choices include areas with low crime rates and a community that looks out for one another.
  • Healthcare – As a senior, healthcare is a critical factor when considering where to move. We also take into account the average healthy life expectancy figures.
  • Local economic situation – We considered the employment data in each of our choices, as well as part-time work opportunities for seniors. Cost of living and tax status also play a role in the qualifying criteria.
  • Senior communities – We looked at the percentage of seniors within the community to give us an idea of the State’s attraction to the senior population.

While we’re confident the choices on our list will suit the majority of seniors, there’s room for error, as everyone’s wants and needs are different. However, this list should provide you with a guideline of what to expect from each.

The Best States for Retirement

1. Virginia

“Take me home country roads, to the place where I belong.” When John Denver penned and sang these words, he knew what he was talking about. Virginia is one of the best locations for retirees in the United States.

Virginia has the highest ranking on the SeniorScore™ system for overall wellness and quality of life for seniors. This East Coast paradise has plenty of open spaces and beautiful scenery to enjoy from the deck of your log cabin.

However, it’s another State where temperatures drop significantly during the wintertime, and getting around during the season may be a struggle for some seniors that have a hard time dealing with cold weather. Virginia has a significant retiree community, and you won’t find it hard to make new friends in most towns.

With low crime levels, a burgeoning retiree population, and plenty of leisure activities in the fall, summer, and springtime, Virginia is a top destination for seniors looking to live out their golden years.

The States financial position is stable, and residents enjoy favorable property taxes, as well as low sales tax, with the average household income grossing $65,000 per year. The Old Dominion State is also a top location for assisted health care, nursing homes, and some of the best healthcare in the country.

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2. Wyoming

Home to the glorious Yellowstone National Park, and some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, Wyoming is a picturesque state with plenty to offer retirees. There’s a decent senior population, low crime levels, no gang violence, and quiet, respectful communities.

We were pleased to discover that the costs of nursing homes in the State were lower than the national average, and property taxes were among the lowest in the nation as well. State income tax and sales taxes are some of the lowest in the United States, with an affordable cost of living that stretches your retirement dollars.

The average household income in the State of Wyoming is $70,000 per annum, so it’s not a State where the poor are flocking to take advantage of the low taxes. Most seniors in Wyoming take advantage of professional retirement planning, and there is one of the lowest rates of homelessness in the nation.

However, Wyoming can get cold in the winter, so if you don’t mind seasonal snowfalls and chilly winds, and enjoy the crackle of a wood fire in the wintertime, Wyoming is for you.

3. South Dakota

Known as the home of the legendary Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills National Forest, this jewel of the American Mid-West is also a top choice for retirees. Wide-open spaces, fantastic forests, and breathtaking scenery all make the quality of living excellent for seniors.

You’ll love South Dakota if you can handle the cold weather and the rainy season, and the financial health of the State makes it a top choice as well. With low property taxes, and favorable income and sales tax rates, South Dakota shines in comparison to many of the states in our top-5 list. The cost of living is low, based on a basket of popular items purchased by seniors, and the unemployment rate is meager.

If safety and security are a concern for you, then you’ll love South Dakota, which benefits from one of the lowest crime rates in the country. Daycare and nursing costs are rock-bottom, and there are plenty of healthcare professionals available.

South Dakota is a sparsely populated region, so if you’re looking to live the quiet life, then this State is for you, but don’t expect too much in the way of community and activities.

4. Louisiana

If you’re a senior who loves the culture, then think about moving to Louisiana for your retirement. This South-Eastern State has a bit of everything, from the scenery of the Kisatchie National Forest to the lakes on the western side of the country. The Mississippi waterways lead to the hustle and bustle of New Orleans that’s rife with tourists, trendy hotspots and historical landmarks – Louisiana has it all.

If the ocean is your thing, then move to the gulf coastline of the State, and enjoy mild weather in the wintertime, and blistering-hot summers. There’s a substantial senior population in Louisiana, and you won’t struggle to find a community with plenty of activities on offer.

The State offers financial perks for seniors, including low property and sales taxes, as well as an affordable cost of living when compared to other coastal states like Florida. The Pelican State has one of the lowest income tax rates in the country, along with a favorable unemployment rate, which is good news for seniors that want to pick up some part-time work to supplement their income.

Louisiana also has excellent access to affordable healthcare, as well as plenty of assisted living programs and senior communities.

5. Alabama

Alabama is another South-Eastern State that’s brimming with history and culture. Mild weather makes it ideal for seniors that can’t take the cold, and the Talladega National Forest has some of the best scenery in the country.

Alabama has a growing senior population, accounting for 28-percent of all residents in the State. You won’t struggle to find a senior community anywhere in the State, and there’s plenty of activities to do throughout the year. The Heart of Dixie also provides seniors with a low cost of living and affordable healthcare, as well as assisted living programs that won’t break your budget.

A study shows that adult daycare costs in Alabama are half the national average, providing a financial incentive for seniors. It’s for this reason that Alabama has one of the most significant senior populations in the country.

The Worst States for Retirement

1. California

Seniors looking to move states for their retirement years should avoid California at all costs. While the weather is among the best in the country, with warm summers and mild winters, it’s got so many factors counting against it as a favorable destination for retirees.

Crime rates are through the roof, drug use is rife, and homelessness continues to grow in all of the major cities. Feces on the streets and the rise of rat populations led to an explosion of preventable diseases such as typhoid and hepatitis.

California also has one of the highest property and income tax rates in the country, with expensive healthcare costs. Studies show that nursing facilities charge on average $10,000 more per year than in other regions of the United States.

The high unemployment rate is a significant driver of crime, and trying to find a property is next to impossible unless you want to live in a slum such as the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. The Golden State is top of our list for places that seniors should avoid for their retirement.

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2. New York

Second, on the list of States retirees should avoid, is New York. While Upstate NY has some breathtaking scenery and beautiful forest, living in the Big Apple is a nightmare for any seniors.

Cost of living across the State is possibly the most unaffordable in the country, with the average cost of living being close to $100,000 per year.

Safety and health standards are some of the lowest in the country, and the cost of nursing homes is astronomical, charging retirees an average of $129,000 per year, that’s $37,000 more than the national average.

Adult daycare costs are the highest in the country, with property and income taxes making life unaffordable for seniors on a pension. It’s no surprise that New York State has one of the smallest senior populations in the country, and you can forget about any sense of community.

3. Rhode Island

If you’re a senior looking to retire on the Eastern Seaboard, then you should cross Rhode Island off of your list. New England has some fantastic beaches and seaside colonial towns, but it’s a terrible choice for retirees to live out their golden years.

The Ocean State has a high property and sales tax that eats up your savings and pension quickly, and property prices are some of the highest in the country. High unemployment rates and crime levels don’t provide seniors with a secure setting, and the low rates of seniors in the population also limit any sense of community.

The cost of healthcare services for retirees is also sky-high, with the yearly average costs of assisted living facilities being $20,000 above the national average.

4. Illinois

The Prairie State is home to farmlands, wetlands, and rolling hills in the south, and the bustle of the city of Chicago in the north. The further north you go, the worse the crime gets, and Chicago has one of the highest murder rates in the country.

The high property, sales, and income taxes make the cost of living unaffordable for seniors on a limited income, and it’s no surprise to see that the State has one of the lowest senior populations in the country.

The cost of healthcare is also astronomical, and you can expect to pay far more assisted living, adult daycare, and other associated costs.

5. Maine

This Eastern Seaboard State is right on the border with our Canadian cousins, and home to some of the most desolate coastline in the country. While the beauty of the State and the quiet surroundings may appeal to some seniors, the brutally cold winters will freeze your thoughts of moving to Maine.

Maine has high property taxes, as well as significantly higher sales and income taxes than other parts of the United States. Maine has one of the lowest average household incomes in the country, but the cost of living is still very high.

Retirees moving to main can expect to pay more for healthcare costs, with nursing home care and assisted living costing seniors a bundle. However, it’s with adult daycare fees that Maine outdoes the rest of the States. The average cost of adult daycare across the country is $18,000 per annum, but you can expect to pay $29,000 in Maine.

Wrapping Up – Choose Wisely

If you plan on retiring, then we recommend you look at Wyoming or Virginia as your top choices. If you can’t handle the cold weather, the Louisiana or Alabama are excellent choices as well.

Retirees should forget about moving the California or New York unless they want to live a life filled with financial strife and hardship.


Oliver Dale is Editor-in-Chief of MoneyCheck and founder of Kooc Media Ltd, A UK-Based Online Publishing company. A Technology Entrepreneur with over 15 years of professional experience in Investing and UK Business.His writing has been quoted by Nasdaq, Dow Jones, Investopedia, The New Yorker, Forbes, Techcrunch & More.He built Money Check to bring the highest level of education about personal finance to the general public with clear and unbiased

1 Comment

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    David Johnson Reply

    Thank you for the insight. However, John Denver was singing about West Virginia, not Virginia.

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