Editor’s note: This is a 2 part article. Part 1 discusses two popular Best and Worst Places to Retire lists. Part 2 explores best retirement states from multiple perspectives – taxation, cost of living, culture, climate, cost of living, property taxes, etc.
May 9, 2017 — To paraphrase something from the news – “Who knew finding the best state for retirement was so complicated?” Eager to attract baby boomer readers for their advertisers, the publishers of these lists sometimes do it “scientifically”, using data to back up their picks, and sometimes whimsically, using 20-something writers for whom retirement conjures up geezers in rocking chairs and old folks homes. The results from these “Best” lists are so all over the place that is hard to take them seriously – each list directly contradicts another.
Best places to retire lists can be useful as a starting place for your retirement planning. But their authors are clueless on your preferences on climate, cost of living, types of locations, areas of the world, transportation, culture, healthcare, etc. You have to take some time and figure out which of these attributes are important, and not so critical, in your retirement. Once you do that there are plenty of resources, including websites like Topretirements, to help you figure out your own best places to retire list.
As an example of far apart some of the most popular best places lists are, consider two recent ones that generated a lot of press. The first is from WalletHub, “2017 Best and Worst Places to Retire“. It ranked states on many factors, but 3 seemed most important: affordability, health care, and quality of life. Bankrate.com also has a new list of Best and Worst States for Retirement. It also ranked states on multiple factors including culture, weather, crime rate, and taxes. Although these seem like pretty good attributes to base a ranking on, it is amazing how different their results were. To compare them we have created the chart below, which compares those “best” lists with the actual states which attract the most retirement age moves. Only 4 states made it to both the WalletHub and the Bankrate lists – South Dakata, Iowa, Colorado, and Idaho. Great places to live for some, but for the most part these are not retirement meccas. In fact they are quite chilly – only 3 of the 20 states on the WalletHub/Bankrate lists are in the Sunbelt!
3 South Dakota
7 South Carolina
1 New Hampshire
8 South Dakota
Where Retirees Actually Move
6 North Carolina
Worst states for retirement
It is also interesting to compare how Bankrate.com and Wallethub.com rank the states for worst place to retire. The only state on both lists is Alaska. Topretirements last rated the 10 worst states for retirement (in 2014), and the results are very different from Bankrate and WalletHum. The only one that Topretirements had in common with either WalletHub and Bankrate is Rhode Island.
3 District of Columbia
5 Rhode Island
2 West Virginia
4 New Mexico
More perspective on best and worst places to retire
We conclude Part 1 with a recommendation not to be a slave to anyone else’s best places to list. Figure out your retirement priorities, and then use these lists to help guide you. Remember also that generalizing about a state or even a city is unwise. Crime rates in states and even cities are not evenly distributed so an overall figure rarely makes sense. Likewise so is culture, even weather. We urge you to dig down to the local level and not make sweeping generalizations.
An article from the New York Times,”The Best Places to Move in Retirement: They’re All Over the Map“, makes interesting reading on the sometimes silly and inconsistent choices that show on up on “Best Places to Retire” lists. It is a good article worth reading with a lot of background on best places to retire lists.
For further reading:
Part 2: Best States for Retirement from Multiple Perspectives
Best States for Retirement 2014
Money Savings Pro: Best States for Retirement (analyzes by many interesting factors)
Comments? Please share your thoughts about the best and worst states to retire in the Comments section below. Did any of the results surprise you or change your mind – please let us know!