The most frequent comment on all of the websites that have been covering our “Worst States for Retirement” article has been this one: “How can the same state be on the best and the worst list?” A typical comment is the one made by “stylesb” on the AARP.com site: “Real credible info. Connecticut is on both the Best and Worst ranked states for retirement.”
The main reason why a state might show up on both lists is that the lists were prepared by different organizations using different criteria. That’s the situation with Connecticut, which is #9 on the Topretirements’ list of worse states, and #8 on the Money-Rates’ list of best states for retirement. The lists use different rating criteria. Topretirements used the fiscal health of the state, taxes, and climate as its 3 criteria for choosing the worst states. Money-Rates used climate, crime rate, life expectancy and economic factors for its criteria. How those criteria are weighted is important too, which might explain how Money-Rates rated North Dakota as the #4 best retirement state in the country – it probably didn’t give too much weight to ND’s cold climate! One of the best articles we have seen on multiple factors to consider is this one from US News – “How to Find Your Best Place to Retire“. It cites statistics ranking various states on those attributes.
The comments made by visitors highlight the complex nature of the decision about where to retire. As we try to point out on a regular basis, your retirement decision is very personal. It must be based on the most important criteria for you, not anyone else. More than that, some of your criteria might be more important than others, which means you must juggle many factors in forming your decision. You should also consider how your criteria stack up for towns within states as well, because many cities levy additional sales taxes or have very high property taxes, or have fiscal troubles of their own (See “Camden Lays Off 50% of its Police Officers“.)
Developing your own “Best States for Retirement” and “Worst States for Retirement” lists might actually be a pretty good idea. You don’t really have to develop both lists, all you have to do is rank your choices and look at the top and the bottom. If you take the time to do so, here is how you might develop a list that doesn’t have states that show up as both best and worst!
The first step in developing your own best and worst list is to identify your personal criteria, and then weight them by importance. As we have pointed out in previous articles, here are some possible factors you might choose:
– Proximity to family. Let’s say that Hawaii is one of your top states because of weather and the other criteria on your list. But if your family lives in New Hampshire and being near them is your most important consideration, forget about those alohas. Hawaii is going to be one of your worst states to retire.
– Cost of housing and cost of living. If this factor is super-important to you, don’t even think about living in the beautiful state of Connecticut, where the average home costs $246,100 (Zillow.com) and the cost of living is high. Although many parts of Florida have a low cost of living, insurance rates can be very high.
– Taxes. We think too many retirees over-weight this factor. But, if saving on taxes is very important to you (for example you have a substantial government pension or large social security income), don’t go to a state that taxes these items, no matter how attractive its climate or environment.
– Climate. We think most people over 55+ would prefer to live in a warmer winter climate, if they had the resources. But if you live for snow and skiiing, your best and worst states will look different.
– Financial health of the state. In our most recent list of worst states, Illinois came out at the bottom (#1) because of its precarious finances. If you are concerned about receiving services like an organ transplant, libraries, or public transportation, steer clear of the many states like California whose borrowing might be curtailed and forced to raise taxes and cut services.
– For more criteria see the list in our “Worst States for Retirement” article.