April 6, 2016 — Are any of the Best States to Retire” lists you see so frequently worth the few minutes it takes you to read them? That is a pretty good question, since A: there are so many to read, and B: they seem to contradict themselves more than they agree. This article will illustrate the many ways that 2 recent lists differ from one another, along with the few ways they coincide. We will also see how these lists best and worst selections compare with the last 2 editions of Topretirements “Best (and Worst) States” lists. All of which has us shaking our heads at the general lack of agreement!
Every time we publish one of these types of lists we can count on a few readers taking a shot at why we picked this or that place, or why we didn’t include yet another. That is understandable, as even when objective criteria are used to make the selections, there is still some subjectivity that can’t be avoided. Not only that, so much depends on an individual’s own retirement preferences. If you, for example, love the full range of 4 seasons, Georgia is never going to make you happy. If you need a certain type of medical facility because of your health, any location with that resource could be a good place to retire. Likewise if you like the beach or mountains, the prairies are not going to float your boat. Another problem is that states are usually so big and so diverse that it is dangerous to generalize about them – within any state there are surely many nice, and not so great, areas.
The 2 lists we examined were one from Bankrate.com, “States Ranked from First to Worst for Retirement“, and LPL Financial, “Which State is the Most Desirable for Pre-Retirees“. Both lists used fairly similar selection criteria which included: Cost of living/financial, crime rate, community well-being, health care/wellness, tax rate, economic climate and weather.
The top 10 and bottom 10 states from each list are shown below. There were 5 states (shown in bold) that made the top 10 on both lists. That is not too surprising, as they shared more or less the same criteria. The states at the bottom of desirability were not so coincident – only 3 states shared worst honors in both lists.
Interesting choices. A few choices on these best lists were fairly obvious. Wyoming and South Dakota (chosen by both sources), neither of which have state income taxes or much crime, and which also have fairly robust economies, are frequently selected as top states for retirement. Tennessee, Arizona, Colorado, and Delaware are frequently listed as great states – no surprises there. But other “Best State” choices were curious – Nebraska, Missouri, and Iowa might be very pleasant places, but we don’t see many folks ready to throw their golf clubs in the retirement wagon and head off for the plains. On the “Worst” side of the equation we agree with some choices; Connecticut and New York (along with New Jersey and Illinois) have always been near the top of every worst state for retirement list from Topretirements. Alaska’s weather makes it an obvious choice as a low ranking place to retire. But we are puzzled at the inclusion of Arizona on the LPL worst list (oddly – ranked #9 Best by Bankrate). Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Oregon seemed to be curious selections to be included in the 10 worst ranking retirement states, as they each have some great places to retire and a generally friendly environment for retirees.
Strange exclusions. Most of all we were astonished at the absence of Florida and to a certain extent, Texas, on the top 10 of either list. As you might recall in a recent Topretirements’ article, The Villages is the fastest growing Metro in the U.S. Several other parts of Florida and Texas are also among the fastest growing Metros. Neither state has an income tax, they have many first-rate medical facilities, and their winters range from mild to warm. The same could be said for Nevada, which was ranked #44 for pre-retirement by LPL. How could FL, TX, and NV not make the top 10 when so many people are in fact retiring there? Why New Jersey and Illinois, with their high taxes and rocky finances, did not rank worse is also a mystery (at least NJ was #47 on the LPL list). See the Topretirements Best and Worst selections below for more comparison fun.
Here are the top 10 “Best” states from both lists. States that made both lists are in bold.
The Bankrate.com Top 10
2 South Dakota
LPL Financial “Top Ranking States”
2 South Dakota
These were the lowest ranking states for retirement according to Bankrate.com and LPL. States that made both lists are in bold.
Bankrate’s 10 Worst)
49 West Virginia
50 New York
LPL Financial’s 10 Worst
43 South Carolina
45 Arizona (Note: AZ was #9 on the Bankrate best list!)
46 New Mexico
47 New Jersey
49 New York
Topretirements 10 Best
Our “10 Best States for Retirement” article dates from 2012. You will see a strong preference for the Sunbelt, and that for the most part our choices were very different from those of LPL and Bankrate.com. Look forward to an update of this article in the near future.
Topretirements 10 Worst
As promised, here are the 10 Worst States for Retirement from the last time we published that list at Topretirements (2014). Our criteria were fairly similar to those used by LPL and Bankrate, although we added recreational opportunities as a factor. In the article linked to above you will see find some short bullet points on the pros and cons of each state that might be helpful.
Getting back to the original question – are these lists worth reading? Yes – at least for entertainment and to learn more about the factors that go into making a great state for retirement. In our comparison we did not see all that much agreement – so at least someone is off the mark! All of which leads us back to this mantra: check out different places to retire yourself. Visit to see if different states can deliver on the factors that are important to you, and offer you a happy retirement. You can find out a lot about different places to retire from lists like these, but for heavens sake don’t pick any state or town without checking it out yourself!
Comments? We look forward to your comments and observations in the Comments section below.