Best States for Retirement – 2011 Edition

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

Note: See latest version of “Best States for Retirement – 2014“.
March 29, 2011 — No article we have ever written attracted more attention than our “Worst States for Retirement“. Ever since the list came out last December it has been fiercely debated. In the end we think we accomplished our goal: we were able to get people to think about some of the important factors they should consider before they choose their best place to retire. This article will update the reverse of that article – the best states for retirement.

Rather than produce one ranked list of states for this article, which is always arbitrary, we will list a number of the best retirement states on the basis of economic factors: taxation, fiscal health, and cost of living. Note that in our opinion, state economic factors are not the only and are usually not the best criteria for selecting a retirement town. Other factors such as climate, physical and political environment, healthcare, and proximity to relatives and friend are normally much more critical. For the purposes of this article, however, those factors are so personal that we don’t feel it is our place to rate them for you – you know what you are looking for on these preferences. Some people want to live in a warm climate, while others hate high temperatures and/or humidity. When it comes to environment, some folks want mountains, others want the ocean or a lake, and yet others prefer a city. Some seek out a liberal political and religious landscape, while others prefer the opposite. As we try to stress over and over again, your personal criteria for retirement are much more valuable than…

anyone else’s.

1. Taxes
The principal taxes are those on income, sales, and property. Fuel, cigarette, and inheritance/estate taxes are facts of life, but are generally not that significant or different among the states. If you are a retiree with a modest income, an income or sales tax probably won’t effect you too much. But if you have a sizable pension or other income sources, the income tax might be particularly important to you. If you rent or own a modest home, property taxes will not have much effect on you. But if you own a valuable house but don’t have a lot of income, property taxes could consume a significant part of your cash. As you will see, the tax mix gets even complex, and is very related to your own situation. Therefore our recommendation is that if taxes are very important to you, study this information and select states that be favorable to your needs.

Income Taxes. These states have no income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. Tennessee and New Hampshire only tax certain amounts of dividend and interest income.
Income tax on pensions. These states do not tax federal, state, and local government pensions: Alabama, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, and Pennsylvania. Most of these states also exclude all or most private retirement plan income (except for Kansas and Massachusetts). There are some additional states that do not charge income tax on military pensions.
Income tax on social security. The majority of states do not tax social security income. The ones that do are: Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Utah

No sales tax. Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon do not collect sales tax. Note that many states permit cities to add to the sales tax.
Property tax. The 5 states with the lowest per-capital property taxes are: Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and West Virginia. On the other hand, most of these states are often criticized for not spending enough on public programs such as education. Some of the highest property tax states (in terms of taxes paid as a % of income) are New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Connecticut, Illinois, and New Hampshire. Many states have limits, or circuit breakers on how much people over 65 pay on property tax, or how much property taxes can go up for anyone (Florida, for example). These protections are worth knowing about (Contact the state Department of Revenue for more).

2. Fiscal Health
In our “Worst States” article we singled out Illinois, California, New York, and a few other states for the precarious state of their finances. To do that we relied on data from the Pew Center on the States Report on the States: Beyond California. We believe fiscal health is an important consideration in selecting a retirement state. States in trouble will have to do something to get their affairs in order. That could include cutting important services and it could mean raising taxes. Both could cause people to leave the state, reducing property values and making it that much harder for the people who remain.

The Pew Center compared all U.S. states to California, using its dire fiscal situation as the benchmark. It assigned California an index of 30 on a variety of economic factors such as budget gap, unemployment rates, and bond ratings. The U.S. average was 17. States which had an index lower than 17 were in very good financial health compared to CA and the rest of the states. The 6 strongest states, with indices below 10, were:
Montana
Texas
Wyoming
Nebraska
North Dakota
Iowa

3. Cost of Living
According to MERIC (Missouri Economic Research Information Center), these are the states with the lowest cost of living indices as of the 4th quarter of 2010. Note that sometimes a low cost of living corresponds to low economic activity, which might mean it is hard to find a good job in these states. There are other cost of living considerations as well, for example: states in hurricane alleys or flood zones usually have high very high property insurance rates.
Kentucky
Tennessee
Oklahoma
Arkansas
Alabama
Texas
Nebraska
Kansas
Mississippi
Missouri
Georgia
Mississippi

Putting it all together
States with low taxes and fiscal strength. Only 4 states made our ultimate category – they have low taxes (for retirees at least) combined with very high fiscal strength:
West Virginia (low property taxes)
Wyoming (no income tax)
Pennsylvania (low income taxes for retirees, but relatively high property taxes as a % of income)
Texas (no income taxes for retirees, but relatively high property taxes as a % of income)

Low tax states in terms of income, sales, or property taxes We included here states that do not tax pensions or social security. States whose fiscal health is worse than the U.S. median were excluded. States with unusually low cost of living have an *.
Alabama*
Alaska
Arkansas*
Delaware
Montana
New Hampshire
Oregon
Pennsylvania
South Dakota
Tennessee*
Texas*

For further reference:
Most Tax-Friendly States
2009 Best Retirement States
Worst States for Retirement

What do you think?
As you can see from this article, choosing a retirement state for economic reasons is not that simple. To make a smart decision you need to weigh a lot of factors, which we hope we have outlined for you here. So what do you think – will you pick a state because of its financial health or tax treatment of retirees? Or maybe some other reason – perhaps not even considering the state situation – but rather choosing on the basis of some more local factor, like it has the college town you’ve always loved. Let us know in the comments section below.

Posted by John Brady on March 29th, 2011

94 Comments »

  1. Very good column, and helpful. But you could help a great deal more if you would include “death taxes” in the column. Not all states rules for death taxes conform with federal rules, and a family can get really ripped off by allowing a paterfamilias to die in the wrong state. Estate taxes and inheritance taxes can present huge tax bills to unsuspecting citizens who fail to consider all taxes. New Jersey, in particular, has a very low threshold and a very high tax rate for death taxes. We jokingly say “You can’t afford to die in New Jersey”.

    by Daniel Williams — March 29, 2011

  2. Daniel, Excellent comment about so called Death Taxes. See our article from last year, “Best States to Die in”
    http://www.topretirements.com/blog/financial/best-states-to-die-in-but-its-not-a-good-year-to-do-it-anywhere.html/

    by John — March 30, 2011

  3. That’s some really valuable information, a lot to digest, but it will prove very helpful to us in the next year as we look to a retirement somewhere in New England. Thank you!

    by Bill S. — March 30, 2011

  4. Good article. However, I think you should take a look at the cost of utilities and auto insurance in some state. We lived in Houston, Texas from 1990-93 and while property values were low, property taxes were high. Wages were low and the cost of utilities (gas & electric) for your home were absolutely astronomical. The cost of living was not very low when you figured in the utilities cost. Also, due to high auto theft in the city of Houston, insurance was high. What cost us $1200 for 6 months in Seattle was $1800 in Houston. One of the reasons for high property taxes was due to the fact that Texas uses the “Robinhood” theory for property taxation. Better areas are taxed heavier to support the poorer areas, such as El Paso, which could not survive on its own taxation and relies heavily on the “Robinhood” taxation system.

    by Debra Larsen — March 30, 2011

  5. A point of clarification for the Robinhood taxation system in Texas. The state does recapture property taxes from wealthy districts to equalize per capita spending in poor districts. However, areas with higher property values do not necessarily have higher tax rates. Also, school property taxes are capped at age 65. If you are considering retiring to Texas, please consider the Austin/Central Texas area. We consistently rank among the top retirement cities in the nation. Housing prices are very affordable and there are numerous options for the 55+ age group. Our real estate team focuses on 55+ and we have helped many people retire/relocate to the area in order to be closer to their adult children who have moved here due to our strong job market. From Sun City in Georgetown to quaint older neighborhoods to fabulous downtown condos, we’ve got it all and we can even find a very nice home for the mid 100s. Yesterday I visited with a couple who relocated from Ohio to manage an Independent Living Community and they are so happy – especially with the weather! I think the article is accurate in putting Texas at the top of the list of great places to retire. http://www.austin55realty.com

    by Heather Kight — March 30, 2011

  6. Thanks for the clarification Heather! But what about the utility costs in some of these areas? Do you take them into account when choosing the better places to retire?

    by Debra Larsen — March 30, 2011

  7. These are very good resources and provide a reasonable “starting point.” Ultimately, besides living where we WANT to live, fiscal considerations are also very dependent upon one’s sources of retirement income and how that income is treated in a particular state. For example, even though North Carolina is not in very good fiscal shape, federal retirees with at least 5 years service before Aug 12 1989 benefit from the “Bailey Decision” and will pay zero state income tax on their federal pension. Texas could be great for someone with a large retirement income and modest home but prove to be a fiscal disaster for someone with a small retirement income coupled with a modest home in one of the higher property tax counties/school districts. We all have rather unique factors to consider…but it’s great having these resources to help sort through the decision-making.

    by Chuck — March 30, 2011

  8. [...] If there was ever a subjective question, “what is the best state for retirement” must certainly rank right up there. After all it is a very personal question, almost as personal as your preference in mates or sports teams. To try to avoid too much controversy we shall answer the question in terms of what you, our Topretirements visitors, seem to prefer when it comes to retirement states. Note: Don’t miss our late 2010 piece on the other side of the equation, “10 Worst Retirement States“. Or the 2011 edition of this story, “Best States for Retirement – 2011“. [...]

    by » What are the Best States for Retirement? Topretirements — March 30, 2011

  9. The Kiplinger guide to state taxes for retirees is a good graphical map: http://www.kiplinger.com/tools/retiree_map/index.html

    by Mark Martin — March 30, 2011

  10. That Kiplinger reference is a great resource! Thank you.
    Time to make a list of all the factors you (as an individual retiree) consider important. Then research each one to create your options. Then a visit to each is in order.

    by LuluM — March 30, 2011

  11. U.S. News & World Report created an index to measure which states are the best for Americans who are saving for retirement. It looked at each state’s housing market, unemployment rate, per capita income and taxes to get a sense of where Americans are most likely to be able to tuck away money for their nest eggs.Nice discussion.Thanks for sharing.

    by Toronto Retirement Homes — March 30, 2011

  12. A key point for retirement states or communities should include the political mentality of the area. For example most of the Southern states which are desirable also have a very conservative political point of view which can make many Northerners a bit uncomfortable. While it is frequently said that you should not discuss politics or religion, if you are a progressive Catholic, you won’t find too many similar people or Catholic churches in those areas.

    by Nancy Hazo — March 31, 2011

  13. Go to http://retirementliving.com/RLtaxes.html for very detailed tax information, state-by-state. For example: Alabama: “…Social Security, military, civil service, state/local government and qualified private pensions are exempt. All out-of-state government pensions are tax-exempt if they are defined benefit plans.
    Retired Military Pay: Pay and survivor benefits not taxed.”
    Rates, Federal Tax Exemption: all included.

    by oldnassau — March 31, 2011

  14. This article was interesting but arrived at a completely different conclusion than Kiplinger’s article on the same topic! Is someone misinformed???
    At least you both agree on CA & NY. Kiplinger’s website had a letter from a woman in Austin who said her property taxes are very high ($7,000/year!) and she lives in a “modest home”.

    by Kathy — April 6, 2011

  15. I would like to add a clarification about Massachusetts income tax towards other state pensions. As a retiree with a Connecticut state pension, I discovered that Massachusetts WILL tax my pension if I move there because Connecticut fully taxes all pensions, including Massachusetts pensions, if they retire in Connecticut. I have verified this odd law with a Massachusetts CPA. I don’t know how this kind of mean spirited law was enacted but it exists. I was considering retiring to Massachusetts but have now ruled that state out. :sad:

    by Richard Stanley — April 6, 2011

  16. Montana has high cost of electric and heating bad in winter thanks northwestern energy.

    by Lea — April 16, 2011

  17. This is fine as general guidance goes, but cost of living can vary significantly from one part of a state to another. And if you have your eye on a planned community (I research and review golf communities at my blog site, GolfCommunityReviews), the costs among them vary widely. Like all politics, cost of living is local too. One thing, however, is certain: From the perspective of a northeasterner, if you move now to the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia or virtually any other southern community, you will be gifting yourself a major cost of living decrease. That makes it a little easier to gulp hard and sell your home up north for its current market value.

    by Larry — May 9, 2011

  18. I retired 8 years ago at age 58 to Calabash area of NC. I moved 3 years ago to Myrtle Beach and have “died and gone to heaven”. Inexpensive real estate, extremely low property taxes and a $30K exemption (maried/2 pensions) of retirement income and incredible weather. Only downside is property insurance if you live closer than about 5 miles from the ocean (I don’t but something to consider when looking for homes).

    by Bill — May 11, 2011

  19. For family reasons, we moved from Northern VA to Rancho Mirage, CA. The sales tax here is much higher than in VA. However, we have made up for this by living in an area where we turn on the heat about 5-6 times during the winter and use the AC about 9-10 nights a year. The Coachella Valley has two utility companies, a fact not known to many people. One company is anywhere from 2-3 times the cost of the other based on usage. Water fees are reasonable and based on a tiered system. CA income tax has turned out, to our surprise, to be much better than VA. To our surprise, living here has not been as bad financially than we had anticipated. There are more things to take into account than taxes.

    by Anne — May 12, 2011

  20. [...] the other hand, TopRetirements.com’s study looked only at states’ tax rates and fiscal health. Here’s what they [...]

    by Which are the Best (or Worst) States to Retire? | Ally Straight Talk — May 27, 2011

  21. My workplace is giving me an opportunity to move to Boulder, and my daughter is apply to UC Boulder. I know it’s an expensive place to live in, but I would be renting at first anyhow. Does anyone have pros and cons on the state of Colorado??
    Tank you!~:grin:

    by Monica — May 28, 2011

  22. This is in response to Heather’s (Kight) comment about Texas…
    You omitted 2 important negatives RE:Texas-living…
    #1: The HEAT.
    A NY transplant, I currently live in the tourist town of Ruidoso (in Lincoln County) NM. Despite ‘Doso providing info for many a ‘Nat Geo’ & ‘The Histy Channel’ program RE: the “Great American West” *steeped* in hist’y as it is (it’s home to both ‘Billy the Kid’ & ‘Smokey the Bear’), the town would literally be gone from the map were it not for the Texans who come in DROVES,each summer,seeking respite from Texas’ summer temps.(The town’s census jumps from 25K fulltime resident to well over 100K as there are now, for Memorial Day Wkend.)
    **The 2nd negative you omitted abt living in Texas? You’d be living in TEXAS!* :mrgreen:
    *One o’my fave “pokes” (@ Texans) is as follows:
    “Wouldn’t you agree Texans & NYers are pretty much the most ARROGANT citizens of all the 50 states?”
    After a little (& I mean LITTLE) bit of thought, the Texan will agree.
    “Know what the difference is?” (The Texan will shake his/her no.)
    “NewYorkers have REASONs for their arrogance!” (& then I run away b4 they beat the crappy* outta me! *[A “crappy is a fish, btw. GOTCHA, censors!)
    PS: Just kidding! The ONLY thing that SHOULD matter is that we *are* States, United — and that divided, we *fall*.
    –“EZ Writer, in the ‘Enchanted Land’ of ~New Mexico~

    by EZ Writer — May 29, 2011

  23. Unfortunately, Michigan just passed a new law that does tax pensions if you are born after 1952 at a rate of 4.25 or 4.35% – I’ve seen both listed. Born before that you have a reduced rate until age 60 or 62 and then after that, they don’t tax your pension. So if you’re an older person, your pension is safe…younger than that and you pay taxes. I’m sorry my figures are not specific, the law was just passed and I keep seeing different info. Either way, retirements are now taxed..but, Social Security is not.

    by Josie — May 31, 2011

  24. [...] further reference 2011 Worst States for Retirement Best States for Retirement 2011 Best States to Die in: Inheritance and Estate Taxes The Tax Foundation is an excellent source of [...]

    by » Surprising Results: The Worst Retirement States for Taxes Are Not What You Thought Topretirements — September 6, 2011

  25. The list of best states to retire is a joke! Texas is on there, and why? I’ve lived here since 1986 and I definitely won’t be retiring here. The cost of homes is not cheap. The property taxes are sky high. You’re literally taking your life into your own hands if you are elderly and decide to drive here. The sales tax rate is 8.25% +, dependent on where you live. The weather is HORRIBLE! Yes, Texas is NOT a good State to retire in.

    by RobertoK — September 21, 2011

  26. I grew up in Nebraska and the heating cost will kill your wallet in the winter. The crooks at KN Energy were charging my Father there $300+ a month for natural gas in the winter. He was living on SS & Navy retirement pension. Nebraska has an income tax, but the property taxes are low, so it’s actually more expensive to live in Texas where there is no income tax. You can buy an extremely large & nice home in Nebraska for $200K, where it will get you a dump in Texas.

    by Texas in my rear view mirror — September 21, 2011

  27. What are the expenses like in Wyoming for retirees?

    by Zee — September 23, 2011

  28. I know a lot of people that live in the north during the summer and winter in TX, AZ or Fl. Best of both worlds.

    by Charles Skjeveland — October 1, 2011

  29. Just stay away from Florida. This state use to be the number one state to retire in. Not anymore. They hit you with ever tax you can think of. Especially the high rate of house insurance. I came from CT & I still feel we pay more for food here and also we can not get Hood products here or the food that we all loved. And to try & sell a house here in Florida is impossible – the only way is to give it away. I hate Florida.:sad::evil:-oh, also the Florida weather every year gets worst by the year.

    by Sue — October 9, 2011

  30. Sounds like someone bought a house at the top

    by Michael Jones — October 10, 2011

  31. I agree with Sue, we moved to FL in 1995 paid $90,000 for a 1600 sq ft home that fit our needs nicely, no pool, hot tub, not on a golf course, etc.just a nice 10 year old block home. Sue is correct there is a tax, fee, whatever for everything you do, if there’s a hurricane or tornado anywhere in the South HO insurance goes up, not a few dollars, a few hundred, why, quote just because it didn’t happen in FL doesn’t mean we don’t all have to pay for it. Then they tell have a wind mitigation inspection done, insurance will go down, inspection is good for 5 years, we did it, 3 years later have to do it again at twice the cost because photos wern’t required 3 years ago, they are now. I could go on forever, yes the weather is a problem humidity is a constant thing from May to mid October use to have breaks now and then past few years no breaks, even old timers say its bad. I’m from Mass I can’t say food is higher then up there but its been climbing weekly lately. We also have talked about moving but there are so many foreclosures and short sales now , the Homes and Land magazine for October has homes as low as $49000, nearly half what we paid for ours. So if you are considering FL or at least the North Eastern section give it a 2nd, 3rd, & 4th look its NOT even close to what it use to be. Should also mention when we moved here many folks didn’t even lock there doors, now if you don’t lock your vehicle you may find it or its contents gone from your garage, if you are working in your backyard you’d better have your front locked. Sad but that the way its become, FL was our dream and couldn’t wait to get here, its become much, much less.

    by Barbara — October 10, 2011

  32. Bill, may I ask what attracted you to Calabash, NC and why you chose to move to Myrtle Beach, SC (less expensive as you outlined or other)? What were the positives about Calabash? Would you be so kind as to compare and contrast the 2 places? Thank you, in advance.

    by Jane — October 10, 2011

  33. Can anyone give information about retiring to Delaware? Everything I read about Lewes and Reheboth sound great,but what is the weather like? Winter:snow, rain, ice
    Summer: how high is the humidity, temp.
    Hurricanes: Does one have to evacuate if you’re living a couple of miles inland. (I’d rather not live roght on the waterfront.)
    Are there reasonable long term rental properties available?

    by KAY — October 11, 2011

  34. The key is understanding your situation. For very people with higher incomes in retirement, income (and estate) tax are #1 followed by sales and real estate taxes. For moderate income people where Social Security constitues a majority of your income, most states don’t assess an income tax. Also, FL does have a homestead exemption for portions of real estate taxes, but be aware of assessments for hurricane/wind pools. For retirees that have large IRAs/401(k) balances, MS doesn’t tax distributions from these sources or SS. So it comes down to understanding your situation. If you will need to fly (or have relatives travel) look to areas with discount airlines – like Orlando, BWI, Austin. Essentially, retirees should weigh many individual factors climate, entertainment (college towns bring in interesting speakers), medical care (including cost), taxes, travel and then priortize because no one place is perfect.

    by Dave — October 14, 2011

  35. Very sad to read the remarks on FLA. If anyone can chime in on their personal
    opinions/comments regarding FLA. it will be grealy appreciated. We were considering FLA. to retire to, but w/such negatative comments about the crime, climate, and expenses, we may need to reevaluate our decision. Any suggestions/comments will be greatly appreciated. So far FLA. had been our choice, mainly for the affordability of buying a small home, under 50,000.

    by Judy — October 15, 2011

  36. Regarding Judy’s comment and her considerations about moving to Florida. While some folks here are very unhappy about moving to Florida, I think it is very dangerous to generalize about a state as big as this from other people’s experience. Florida is so big it takes 2 days to drive from Pensacola to Miami (and you could keep going to the Keys). It has communities on 2 coasts and a big interior. Sure, parts of Florida have high crime rates, might be expensive, and are seeing public services decline. But don’t forget about no income tax, ridiculously low housing prices, and a warm winter climate. There are plenty of communities with below average crime rates and with nice places to live. My advice is come and see for yourself, check out different places, and then decide based on the merits. P.S. – we think Dave’s advice above is helpful too.

    by John Brady — October 16, 2011

  37. I agree with John. Judy, you are preparing for retirement very well … by reading this web site, others like it, the retirement magazines, talking to friends, neighbors, relatives, etc. However, in the end, a personal visit is absolutely necessary. We have travelled through central FL (almost south to that large lake in the south) and down I-95 corridor in east to Key West. We love the west coast from Dunedin to Ft. Desoto, and Palmetto to Naples. However, that might not be for YOU. Every state/place we have visited has its greatness and problems. If we could, we would retire to Marin Co, CA … we LOVE it!!!! Problem … costs. Part of our ideology is to be happy with each other wherever we are … that is not always easy, but we try. Best to you.

    by Mad Monk — October 16, 2011

  38. Judy Just got back from Florida, alot of retirement areas to look at, the best we have seen. We have looked in the South West and feel that Florida has much to offer in homes, places and things to do. The homes are afforable and constructed well. We have a home to sell before we can get serious about a move but plan on giving Florida another look for retirement. Oh Yes it is humid but not a convection oven like some other areas we have looked at .

    by Brad — October 17, 2011

  39. I am currently looking at Jacksonville, FL and the Atlanta metro area to move to and settle in for the retirement years. I like the tropical feel of Florida along with the absence of income tax; however I agree that there are many factors involved in the decision, and desired lifestyle and available resources should weigh in when making the final decision. I have lived in the Atlanta area before and I really like it, I do not like the traffic. Anyone have experience with both of these cities and can shed some light on living there?

    by Terri — October 17, 2011

  40. I moved to St. Petersburg 3 years ago. I love it here. I moved from southern California which is very expensive. Housing prices here are reasonable and they are still falling. There is a lot to do and most people are very friendly because they have moved here from some place else.There is some crime, but I think a lot of it is due to the economy and unemployment and I think a lot of other cities are experiencing the same thing. If I had to do it again, I would still move here.

    by Charm — October 19, 2011

  41. I will be eligible to retire in less than a year & am having trouble deciding where to go. I am considering returning to Fla where my friends are, or to Texas where my son is, or perhaps to Oregon- where I know no one. What kind of experiences with this situation are our there? I want to be near my kids but i want my own life & need to be where I can do things. Money is of course a big factor. Any comments would be welcomed!

    by kim — October 20, 2011

  42. We are considering a move to the Independence community in Delaware. I find the community in many active adult community listings, including the top 100 here, but never any first hand reports. Does anyone know about this community first or second hand??

    by Katrina — October 21, 2011

  43. Kim-I’ve never replied to comments on here but feel I must respond to your remarks. I can’t really say anything about Texas as I have not ever lived there and only driven across it. However, I spent nearly 40 years in Oregon and unless you live in the eastern portion of the state which is quite barren, you should expect gray skies, clouds, and rain about 9 months out of the year. Once I moved away and realized there is sunshine out there I hope to never have to move back. I have family there and go to visit in August or September. I currently live in Georgia and very frequently we take our Rv to Florida. What’s not to like about Florida? Perhaps the cost of living is a bit high and homeowner insurance is high but right now it’s a buyer’s market. It sure makes life easier when you don’t have cold and snow. Oregon currently has high unemployment and I’m telling you it’s just too depressing most of the time.

    by Karen Ingram — October 21, 2011

  44. Congratulations on your upcoming retirement. If you move to Oregon you will meet new friends and the state is beautiful. Your friends and son will look forward to your annual visit, perhaps more than once a year. Presently, I live in northern California, beautiful as well, but expensive, high taxes, high gas prices etc. So, I’m relocating to. I am considering Oregon, Idaho or northern Utah. Hopefully near a college town for the educational opportunities, activities and cultural atmosphere w/o the high cost of living as here in Cal. I will take an annual road trip or two and visit my daughter.

    by Michael — October 21, 2011

  45. Oregon is a beautiful state, green and much more affordable than Northern California where I currently live. I don’t know about the rain though…

    by lucienne — October 22, 2011

  46. Hi Kim My Wife and I know what and how you are feeling. Being in a home where you can truly enjoy life and the things you have been putting off for years is important to us all. We have just returned from Florida and feel that it has much to offer in retirement. As for seeing our friends and family thats what airplane are for plus living in florida you might get a few more visitors from time to time. That is a plus. Enjoy your life we all need to have fun and have a smile on our faces.

    by Brad — October 23, 2011

  47. Thank you for all the input! I was/am really struggling here. I must decide before i retire since I wouldn’t qualify for much after I retire. Otherwise it would be so simple……..rent for a year then decide. I still welcome new comments! & thanks again!

    by kim rose — October 23, 2011

  48. thank you all for your comments,i live in central illinois, i have been retired for almost 5 years, the winters are starting to stress me out, iam thinking about doing the snowbird thing to florida.again thanks for the comments, i have a friend who lives in northern arkansas, homes are inexpensive and taxes are cheap, but boy it gets hot in the summer, have friends in chandler arizona, but 100 degrees

    by Douglas — October 26, 2011

  49. Having said that I never comment on here – here I go again! I was the one who mentioned on the dreary rain in Oregon. I now live in South Georgia and am retired. My husband still works and says he will work for as long as possible for the free insurance. That being said I work part-time but my job allows me to take time off whenever I wish so we do take our RV and travel quite a bit as my husband has lots of vacation time. Living in Georgia means extremely hot, humid summers. I like the hot and the sun but I hate the gnats that are here from June until – well they’re still here. I would like to buy a cabin in the mountains of North Georgia. For a long time I toyed with the idea of a winter home in Florida. My husband is one of those people that is hard to get away from home. Oh he enjoys going for a while but loves to get back home. I’m more of an adventurer. Help!

    by Karen — October 27, 2011

  50. I’ve lived in many places in the US and the Phoenix area is till my favorite. Sunshine 330 days a year, little rain, small amount of bugs (thye don’t like the dryness), and tons of things to do and see. The worst it gets in in the summer, but even at 105 degrees and vey low humidity, it is annoying, not oppressive. You are an hour from the mountains, a few hours from San Diego or Las Vegas, and with 3.5 million people, the entire area has lots of everything. I lived there for 6 years and could not find anything bad. I will be returning there ina bout two years for pemanent retirement. PS: houses are very cheap, taxes very low, and some of the communities are extremely safe and clean (Gilbert, Queen Creek, Maricopa, Chandler, Tempe)

    by Joel — October 27, 2011

  51. Question for Charm – what was your process and experience in selecting a moving company for the move from CA to FL?

    by Kats — October 29, 2011

  52. We didn’t use a moving company. We had downsized considerably when we moved to CA and didn’t have very much to move. We looked at a number of truck rental places and PODS. We did it ourselves hiring guys to load a U-haul and hiring some guys to help unload the truck in FL. I don’t remember the name of that company, but would not recommend them. Some of my firends here have moved from other states using PODS and have been happy with them.

    by Charm — October 30, 2011

  53. Hi all my wife and I are considering Tennessee or South Carolina. We will be traveling there in a few weeks…any recommendations for either location? We believe a non age restricted community to be best perhaps in a mater planned area.

    by George — November 7, 2011

  54. Hi George – We put an offer in on a house in Fairfield Glade TN. It is located close enough to Knoxville for our cultural needs that can not be met by the great local theater group. Close enough to airports for friends. Not age restricted, but master planned for the past 25 years or so. It is not a cookie cutter community. Homes are varied by many builders, not just a few styles. If our offer goes through (short sale -a very strange process) we hope to be very happy there for our next phase of life, semi-retiring at age 55.

    by Holly — November 8, 2011

  55. Holly thanks for the reply. You might do financially well with a short sale but its my experience that they take forever to close on. I took a look at Fairfield Glade…its looks nice…do you have any idea what the costs will be to reside in this community…hoa and plan costs?? Living on a fixed income when we retire so costs are a concern.

    by George — November 9, 2011

  56. Your article focused mainly on taxes; there are many other considerations for where to retire. We live in Arizona and retired there. There are state taxes, but they’re low and provide essential services; states without state taxes, like Nevada, are in dire straits. Arizona has very low housing costs, great scenery, good weather year round and if you want a change of seasons, you just have to drive to it. It doesn’t have the great culture of the expensive states, but Phoenix and Tucson do have good cultural opportunities such as good museums, and the Phoenix area has a great symphony orchestra, zoo, sports stadiums, botanical gardens and archeological sites. The article was too narrowly focused and should have spent more time on quality of life issues.

    by dr reality check — December 27, 2011

  57. George – Yes, the short sale process is a long one as the buyer. There is wonderful information at the website http://www.fairfieldglade.cc where you will find minutes to HOA Board meetings, as well as the powerpoint presenation and videos of the actual meeting where the 2012 financial plan was presented. Minutes of meetings for the entire year 2011 are available as well as the HOA dues schedule. Homes with septic pay less than those with sewer, so HOA dues depend on your home or lot. Currently homes with sewer (the highest cost) are just under $81 per month and that includes sewer, water and access to the activities. The real estate taxes on the home we are looking at are 1/10th of what they would be for a similar house in Illinois, so we find them very reasonable. There is no school tax as children attend school in Crossville. We did not find much of anything to be higher than Illinois – including groceries or dinners out. Gasoline is MUCH less expensive. All in all we feel like we will be spending much less to live in Fairfield Glade than Illinois. Please provide us your impression of the places you visit!

    by Holly — December 28, 2011

  58. Move to Fl 3 years ago “kicking and sceaming”, My wife loves fl so I decided would stop complaning and try to enjoy the Fl lifestle . Fl is an aquired taste – summer are hot but winters are great. We are in South Fl and find the people are very friendly – although,like anywere in US must lock your car and homes – still great buys on homes. Food less expensive especialy at resturants and do not mean just the “early bird special”. All communities are similar – all landscaped with the same type of Palm trees etc. Can get boring – after a while you begin to think about New England – and have an urge to move. Overall the best is if you can afford it – winter in Fl and summer in the Northest. But most of us cannot afford this. So good luck in deciding were to retire.

    by jerry — January 11, 2012

  59. [...] Tax Foundation Tax Burden by State Tax Friendly States The Most Important Issue Might Not Be What You Think Our 2011 List of the “100 Best Retirement Towns” Best Retirement States for 2011” [...]

    by » Worst States to Retire 2012: Northeast and Midwest Come Up Losers Topretirements — January 11, 2012

  60. I would love to retire, once the housing market levels. My income will be lower than what I make now. I will have a fede:???::???:ral retirement and social security and a bit from IRA. What my dream area would be on the water or very close, have warmish weather (50-90), friendly neighbors, with low real estate taxes, close to excellent medical services and low crime plus religiously tolerant. Other factors to consider are friends and possible part time low stress work. Not much to ask for, is it?:???: Any suggestions?

    by Mona — January 14, 2012

  61. What about Fort Knox, Kentucky for military retirees? Anyone willing to comment on that?

    by Daisy — January 25, 2012

  62. Oregon is beautiful but you have to be careful where you retire to. Especially for someone not familiar with living in this region of the USA. Southern Oregon and the Bend/Central Oregon area are very nice. The climate isn’t as wet and dreary as Northwest Oregon and the Coast. Unless one is wanting to retire in the Portland area I would forget it. I recently retired and I’m out of here in a few months. The type of resident here is worse that the miserable climate. I would say Southern Oregon is the better bet for this state. I wouldn’t say Oregon was that cheap a place to retire to any longer though.

    by JR — January 25, 2012

  63. The best advise I give people on where to retire from a monetary standpoint is to understand where your sources of income are coming from and understand if those sources will be taxable in the state you want to move to. Any state with no state income taxes can be a very desirable state to move to. I recommended to one person to retire to eastern Washington (Walla Walla) where there are no income taxes and then attempt to do your shopping in Oregon where there are no sales taxes.

    by Mark — January 28, 2012

  64. Would be nice if they had retirement communities for single people.
    You always see Reirement Commmunitie advisements showing pictures
    of couples.

    by Jean — January 29, 2012

  65. When I get to around 80, I no longer want to worry about all the upkeep on a home and the costs of the constant expensive repairs. I want to move to an apartment in a retirement complex somewhere in the Southern or Western US. I thought I could find information on them on TopRetirements. However, all of the information I see on this website is for retirement real estate and buying a home. Does anyone know where to look for senior apartment rental information? Thanks in advance.

    by Joanne Hice — January 29, 2012

  66. I am about to hit the road with my 2 yo Golden Retriever and 16 year old cat.
    Am looking for what I understand is called a Class B Motor Home (Basically an SUV with Motor Home amenities–Bathroom, kitchen, pull out bed) The only one I have seen is a $100K+ Mercedes–Would prefer–A. American–B–We could stay in hotels for 3 years for tha. Any ideas? All suggestions appreciated.

    by Bev Worley — January 30, 2012

  67. Bev, You can find gently used RV’s now at great prices. The Class B you are looking at are more expensive because of their small, compact size, but a used one will be half that price and they are not all Mercedes engines. They are more labor intensive to build. Look at a small Class C about 27 feet. I think with pets, the Class B will get mighty small for you quickly. We have been full time in a Class A 35 foot Motor Home for 11 years. Legal residents of Texas with no state income tax nor property taxes. Home is where we park it.

    by Bonnie — January 31, 2012

  68. Hi Bonnie,
    I bet you wintered in Destin!!!! I recognized your 11 years on the road and the Class A35footer!!!!!!!!!!! You can really drive that rig. Hope all is well – it is nice downstate Florida

    by sandy — January 31, 2012

  69. Bev- I can recommend two websites to educate yourself about RV selection 1 RV education 101 and RV lifestyle ezine; I would strongly advise renting a unit initially before you purchase, Mal Harling

    Editor’s Note: Thanks for the tips. Don’t miss the 6 part series that Betty Fitterman wrote for Topretirements on the Mobile Lifestyle. Fascinating, and great tips too (See under Adventurous Lifestyles section): http://www.topretirements.com/tips.html

    by mallory harling — January 31, 2012

  70. Good Sam Club offers buyers guides and classified ads for RVs. You can join their mail forwarding service and have a permanent Florida address which has no income tax. They can also take care of all your vehicle registration services. Their vehicle insurance has special coverage for full-time rv’ers. http://www.goodsamclub.com

    by Margaret — January 31, 2012

  71. Ah, good old NH…a so-called tax free state.

    If folks are thinking about coming up here from other states, having sold their home for a fine price or with investment income, they should be aware that building or buying a large retirement home will cost them.

    I have friends in SW who live is a very small poor town, near the MA border. Their hand-built timber frame home, nicely landscaped, with a view of MA, has a $10K property tax bill. In hindsight, they said they should have built or bought a home in MA, where friends are paying, on average, $3K. They would have paid more for income and sales tax when younger and making money, but what they care about with retirement pending is their property tax, which will drive them out of their beloved home at the current level and with likely increases.

    This is an issue for all too many folks all across the state. Our heavy reliance on property tax has a cost, one that is not always evident.

    by Ben — February 11, 2012

  72. I have retired from the military and have lived in a lot of different places. Before deciding on settling in NH, I did a careful review of ALL taxes and other burdens in several states, but was living in MD at the time and able to get an accountant who also knew MA taxes to validate my calculations. NH is far and away the lest taxing. Here’s what I got using stable and identical assumptions: MD taxes: property, $6300; income (state and local) $10,500; sales tax estimate, $1,800. MA taxes: property, $4,100; income (state and local) $11,500; sales tax estimate, $ 2,100; “hidden” MA taxes, $600. NH property, $8900; income (state and local) $0; sales tax estimate, $0; motor vehicle tax, $350. NH Taxes are deductable on federal, and sales taxes in other states are not. So, property taxes may be “high” but in terms of what one would pay elsewhere when considering all taxes, NH is a bargain and the place to be. In MA there is some exemption of military and governmental retirement payment, and a $5K in MD only for miltary. The numbers are still in favor of NH. Also, as aside, the chances of being murdered, beaten, robbed and left by the side of the rad in NH are 90% lower than in MD and 85% than MA. Ya, I know, those stats include cities like Boston, Springfield, Baltimore, but that’s the way the stats run. For me, I’ll take the Granite State any day. At least I can purchase my own self-defense weapon and not have to be totally at the mercy of thugs. Then again, I am former military LOL!

    by Dr. Grizzley — February 12, 2012

  73. we are considering moving to Crossville Tn,, any comments on that city? we both are retired,,

    by kathy — January 30, 2014

  74. My wife and I are considering Crossville as well as Bardstown Ky. we would not pay income tax in either state because they don not tax SS, pensions or retirement plan distributions. However we are concerned the sales tax in Tn. The tax is 7% for state and localities can add up to 2.1/4% more. Groceries and pharmacy are taxed 5%. Ky has a 6% sales tax and no tax on groceries and pharmacy, but the cost of living is about 5% higher (Bardstown}.

    by Jeff — January 31, 2014

  75. Jeff,
    My wife and I live in Southern IN just across the river from KY and we were considering moving to KY after we sold our home. But our tax preparer suggested we reconsider because the state gov was considering raising the taxes on retired people. Also in KY you do have to pay taxes on your pension or retirement plan unless you are a state employ. Granted at the present time they give you a break on the first 41,000. Most states don’t tax SS.
    We checked on several states but like TN the best and then we visited Crossville TN and fell in love with it. The house are reasonable and the property taxes are real low. The hospital has a good rating. My wife enjoyed Crossville being 2000 ft above Sea level because she has sinus issues. We talked to several people who had moved there from Florida and they loved living in Crossville.

    by Keith Flowers — January 31, 2014

  76. Just this week on the internet I read another top ten and bottom ten states for retirement. Tennessee was a bottom ten due to a very high crime rate and poverty rate. I know Tennessee is a very popular state for retirement. I have seen it’s ratings and recommendations bounce all over the map.

    by Bubbajog — January 31, 2014

  77. Re: TN ratings jumping around, it’s probably because the crime rate and poverty varies so much around the state. I’d guess that economically, Nashville is more solid than say Memphis, etc. This would actually true of most states so, beyond state taxes and other common statewide factors, a state wide rating system is petty much unreliable; I’d say it’s the specific area that needs to be considered.

    by Dan — February 1, 2014

  78. Keith
    Thanks for the update. We looked a SC as well but they are changing their tax code also.

    by Jeff — February 1, 2014

  79. Jeff or others: Any idea how SC will be changing their tax code? I’ll be retiring on SS + 401K withdrawals, and am trying to factor taxes on 401K withdrawals into my spreadsheets. So far it looks like the property tax savings in SC offset a possible income tax.

    Also – is natural gas heating available in SC and NC? I have a relative who complained about a $400/mo bill for electric heat during the artic freeze, and my gas heat bill (PA) was about $220/mo.

    by Sharon — February 2, 2014

  80. Thanks for putting this questions out there, Sharon. I am considering retiring to the mountains of either TN, NC, SC, or GA; and, try as i can, i can’t figure the best state for taxes. Anyone???

    by ella — February 2, 2014

  81. Hey, since i asked about taxes (above, i figured i may as well ask my BIG QUESTION. Any input about what state to choose (see above).

    Many thanks!

    by ella — February 2, 2014

  82. Ella, Under News Categories (top right-hand side of blog) you’ll find a category for Financial and Taxes in Retirement. This site contains many articles on factoring in taxes as part of your retirement plan. One article even compares NC versus SC for taxes. (Though one person has mentioned that SC’s tax code is changing.) There’s also a tax checklist and links to articles outside this blog ranking the best states for taxes.

    by Carole — February 2, 2014

  83. Someone mentioned websites for choosing an RV. We are interested in a 18-21 foot trailer. Thanks!

    by Cindy Whetstine — February 2, 2014

  84. Ella, it depends on your sources of income as well as other factors for income taxes, but also many other taxes, property, sales, etc…best state for me may not be best for others. http://www.kiplinger.com/tool/retirement/T055-S001-state-by-state-guide-to-taxes-on-retirees/index.php this web site has a good starting place. Notice if you are looking at NC for example under income section it mentions in the bottom line that it is changing for 2014.

    It is a complicated issue. And just one factor to consider

    by Elaine — February 2, 2014

  85. PS. The kiplinger site allows you to compare up to 5 states. Of course, it is for 2013 taxes.

    by Elaine — February 2, 2014

  86. Spent some time in SC last summer and was told the PROPERTY taxes in some counties are changing, and they did. We spoke to the assessor in a county of interest. No one mentioned SS income being taxed.Has someone heard/read this somewhere? Regarding the gas question in SC, every community is different.
    Some were gas only, most were gas and/or electric and some were electric only.

    by marilyn — February 2, 2014

  87. Cindi
    If you are going to spend any length of time in a trailer then an 18 to 21 foot trailer is going to be too small. My parents started off with an 18 footer but finally comfortable when they got a 32 ft trailer. I have a 25 ft 5th wheel and it is too small. I wish I had a 32 or 35 ft 5th wheel. Maybe try renting a trailer for a vacation.

    by Keith — February 2, 2014

  88. Note: This has been a really interesting discussion about RVs but the subject is a little off topic for “Best States”. So we have moved all of those posts over to http://www.topretirements.com/blog/great-towns/retiring-in-an-rv-always-an-interesting-option.html Keep it going there!

    by Topretirements Editor — February 3, 2014

  89. I live in SC and have had property here since 1993. There has been nothing in my local papers (Hilton.Head/ Bluffton area) about my income taxes changing. My property tax increased by about &50 this year, but they had stayed the same for many years. If you are over 65 and live here full time, Beaufort County taxes are a bargain, especially if you come from a higher tax state.

    by Barbara — February 3, 2014

  90. When communities claim to have “gas” available, make sure it’s natural gas rather than propane. In some areas, the term is loosely interchangeable. This winter, meeting the demand for propane has been a challenge. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

    by Sandie — February 3, 2014

  91. Barbara
    Can you contact me on my email mkovach242@aol.com? I have some questions about a specific community in your area.
    Thank you

    by marilyn — February 4, 2014

  92. Bev Worley, a simple google search of “class b motorhomes for sale” revealed many listings, primarily on 3 sites: rvtrader.com, eBay.com, and camping world.com. Class b is always more expensive. For an alternate, much cheaper possibility, take a look at http://www.rvsueandcrew.com.

    by Ginger — February 4, 2014

  93. Does anyone have any experience/knowledge of these two communities: Plantation Oaks in Flagler Beach, Fl. and The St. Augustine Shores in St. Augustine. Thanks for any info.

    by judy — February 5, 2014

  94. Hello. In NJ property taxes along the shore communities have historically been less than inland. We find that to be true because there are less constraints on the tax base, i.e. less permanent residence thus less kids in the schools and more fees collected from the summer fun seekers. In NJ, school taxes are the largest contributor to property taxes. I am not promoting NJ as a retirement location, although it has a lot offer (even temperate weather from Atlantic City south with no to very little snow), i am using it as an example. I think that a state with higher property taxes could be and no/low sales or no/low income taxes, could play an important roll in deciding on a retirement location if finances is a primary concern. As someone mentioned Hilton Head in SC. It is more of a vacation spot as the Jersey cost is and taxes remain pretty low and stable. Delaware and NH have no sales and income taxes so a place in a low property tax town has a big advantage over over supposed lower taxed states.
    In the end, you need to decide the type of area you would like reside in; hot/cold, shore/mountain, east/central/west, etc. and then find a way to make your finances to would for you and there are different finance situations for individuals all across the board. Income and spending habits are different for each of us. You have to decide what affects you the most and what will suit your life style best. Most would agree that NJ isn’t a place to retire to but for some it just might work. It’s got a lot more to offer, again, in my idea of a retirement location, than Murfreesboro, NC. (not picking on Murfreesboro it’s just that I was past there last week)

    by Don Cie — May 27, 2014

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