May 17, 2017 — Note, this is Part 2 of a two part article. Here is the link to Part 1: Crazy Lists and Not Much Agreement.
In Part 1 we compared 2 popular “Best States for Retirement” lists to the states where retirees actually move. It was not a pretty comparison. The 2 popular lists agreed on almost nothing, and neither one included more than one or two of the states where baby boomers actually move. To help you prepare your own best states to retire list, in this installment we will present various lists of specific attributes that retirees might be interested in, such as culture or climate. We have even included a few whimsical factors to liven things up!
Best Cultural Opportunities
WalletHub included a ranking for the top 5 and worst 5 states for museums and theaters. You can easily search to find out if there is a college, university, lifelong learning center (e.g.; Osher), or community college in the area you are considering for retirement. Here were the top states for museums and theaters per capita:
Most College Towns
A lot of baby boomers are attracted to college towns, and for good reason. They are often prettier, more interesting, and provide more stimulating experiences than a typical town or city. According to Quora.com, Vermont has more colleges per capita than any other state, followed by North and South Dakota. Ranked by the number of institutions, California is first with 400, followed by New York (307), Pennsylvania (262) and Texas with 208. Ohio has 194 public and private universities. Arizona and Delaware have very few college towns. Although community colleges doesn’t always provide the most beautiful campuses or create a college town setting, they can make their towns very attractive places to live because of their course offerings and possibility of employment. You might want to check out our 4 part series on “College Town Retirements“.
Our esteemed members and visitors will recognize of course that weather is a matter of personal taste. If you live to snowshoe you probably won’t be happy living in Southern California, and if surfing is your thing don’t move to Colorado. Some people hate humidity, snakes, and the big bugs often found in warmer climes. But, our research indicates more baby boomers are a lot more interested in places with warmer winters than they are in colder ones. So to help those people we’ve listed the U.S. states with the warmest winter temperatures. Note that we haven’t attempted to factor in climatic catastrophes, since almost no state is immune to some type of disaster – earthquakes, hurricanes, ice storms, tornadoes, sinkholes, etc.
The highest average winter temperatures (F.) by state (source: http://www.currentresults.com/Weather-Extremes/US/hottest-states.php): Note that these are state-wide averages – many of these states have significant temperature ranges from north to south and even west to east.)
South Carolina (46.1)
To put another dimension on weather, the average number of days of sunshine could be important to you. Here are the states with more than 120 “clear” days per year, interesting, they are all in the west:
Highest Avg. Days of Sunshine
New Mexico (167)
States with Lowest Cost of Living
According to a report from the Federal Reserve, about a quarter of people over age 30 have no retirement savings at all. That means they are going to either have to keep working or rely on Social Security. Choosing a low cost state to retire in is particularly important for them. These are the states with the lowest cost of living according to https://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/
States with Lowest Taxes
Assuming that you either have a substantial income or valuable property, you might be interested in finding a state that has low taxes. All things being equal, we would rather find a great place to live than save a few dollars on taxes. Here are some of the best states on various kinds of taxes.
Best States – Lowest Income Taxation
These states do not tax income at the state level:
– South Dakota
Tennessee and New Hampshire only tax certain types of dividend and interest income. Note that of the other states that do tax income, many of them have high deductibles, exclude various types of retirement income (most exclude Social Security), and have other features that make them tax friendly to retirees.
Best States – Lowest Property Taxes
These are the states with the lowest property taxes – the kind of tax that is often the hardest for retirees, since it occurs irrespective of your actual income. Source: https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-the-highest-and-lowest-property-taxes/11585/ . The states with the highest property taxes are mostly in the Northeast. Note that these are ranked by the tax as a percent of value – Hawaii’s percentage is low but property values are very high.
Lowest Prop Taxes
– District of Columbia
– South Carolina
– West Virginia
Highest Prop Taxes
– New Jersey
– New Hampshire
States with the Healthiest Lifestyle
We are not sure how valuable this data is for you, since you always have the option to choose to live a healthy lifestyle, wherever you choose to live. Nevertheless, here are the states with the best overall “well-being” from Gallup-Healthways 2016.
3. South Dakota
The states at the bottom of the well-being rankings tend to be in the South and Appalachia, along with Nevada. The states at the bottom of this list either tend to have regional diets that are on the unhealthy side, or have many poor people who live an unhealthy lifestyle.
Best Health Care
USNews.com provided a list of the best states for healthcare. They looked at 3 factors: Access, Quality, and Public Health. Recognize this attribute carries the same caveat as with the others – generalizing about a state can be dangerous. Also, just about every large city in America has a great hospital and so do the towns that have a university hospital.
Top 10 States for Healthcare
4. New Hampshire
7. Rhode Island
8. New Jersey
Interesting places to live
Here we enter yet another subjective dimension. One person’s definition of interesting might be very different from someone else’s. To help your thinking we’ve listed the states where Topretirements has the most cities reviewed as potential retirement spots. You might view this list as a starting place that must say something about where people want to live in retirement. See Our State Directories for reviews of all these towns (and more!).
Florida (110 cities/towns)
North Carolina (54)
South Carolina (34)
New Jersey (26)
As we warned in Part 1, relying on state or even city crime data is not a good idea. The data is just too general to be useful in broad geographic area. Here are the most dangerous states for violent crime according to USAToday.com. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2016/07/29/americas-most-violent-and-peacefulstates/87658252/
9. South Carolina
Vermont, Maine, Wyoming, and New Hampshire are the safest states.
It is fairly self-evident which states have the most mountains (most of the west, northern New England, and along the Appalachians in the East). Likewise with ocean coastline, a glance at the map will tell you to head for states like California, Florida, and those on the Gulf Coast.
The data on states with the most lakes is little harder to get – and extremely subjective. According to Wizzley.com:
Alaska claims to have 3 million lakes, but only a handful have names. Some might just be mud puddles. Minnesota has 15,291 lakes, but only 2/3rds have names. Wisconsin has 15,074 lakes, but only 6,044 have names. Michigan has 11,037 named lakes. Florida comes in next with 7,700 lakes – but they have to be over 10 acres to be included. Pennsylvania has very few natural lakes but 2500 man-made ones. The Great Lakes are immense – states with one of those touching their borders have a lot of lake at their command!
if you are looking for your best state to retire we recommend that you start with prioritizing the attributes you are most interested in for your retirement. It might be climate or cost of living. It might be getting to the state where your relatives or best friends live. Once you have identified your priorities you can then use lists like this to help you find the state of your dreams. We have even prepared an excel “Best States” spreadsheet that you can use as a tool and modify to weight your choices. The last thing we would recommend is for you to blindly follow any published “Best States for Retirement” list. Whoever created it doesn’t know your wishes and priorities, or for that matter, where your grandchildren live.
Comments? Please share your thoughts about these “where to retire” results in the Comments section below. Did any of this information surprise you or change your mind? What are your retirement location priorities – anything that is not in this article? Please let us know! PS – Don’t miss the many interesting Comments made to Part 1 of this article, see link above.