Most people save for a lifetime so they can enjoy their retirement years. However, those savings go farther in some states than others. Millions of Americans are reaching retirement age each year, and many of them are making decisions about where to retire. Some choose to remain in the same place for various reasons, like having family nearby. However, others decide to retire at the beach or another favorite spot. For those choosing to relocate for retirement, affordability is often one of their biggest concerns. Other concerns include crime rates, health care options, and available activities. We’ve put together a list of the ten best states to retire, and we’ve also included five that you should avoid. Keep reading for all the details.
10 Best States For Retirement
When compiling our rankings of the best places to retire, we took several factors into consideration. We examined things like cost of living, weather, access to health care, income tax rates, quality of life, and others. While your retirement plans might take you elsewhere, here are the ten best states in America to spend your retirement years.
The Sunshine State ranks at the top of our list for a number of reasons. Florida not only has fabulous weather, but the affordability of the state is one of the best in the nation. Florida has no state income tax, and its sales tax rates and property tax rates are quite low compared to many other states. Plus, who doesn’t love the miles and miles of beautiful beaches the state has to offer? Sure, Hawaii has plenty of beaches too, but Hawaii is much more expensive. While Florida only has average health care options, the state has proved to be a great place for your overall well-being. There are plenty of retirement communities in the state, so you will never be short on activities with friends. In fact, Florida ranks second in the nation for the most people over 65 per capita. Florida ranks #1 on our list of best places to retire in the US for all these reasons.
Coming in at #2, the Peach State shares many of the same advantages as Florida. Georgia is an extremely affordable state with great weather. The state is tax-friendly to those on Social Security, and the state offers a little bit of everything when it comes to living options. You can choose to live in the mountains in the northern part of Georgia or head closer to the coastline in the state’s southeastern part. Crime tends to be a little higher in the major metro areas, like Atlanta, so most retirees choose to avoid the big cities. However, Georgia is still a great place to retire. The state’s healthcare and wellness rankings are average, but the other advantages more than make up the difference.
Virginia is a popular retirement destination for many reasons! It ranks #3 on our list because it provides a great mix of almost everything that retirees are looking for. Virginia is near the top of the list when it comes to culture, wellness, and health care options. There is a wide range of activities that can be done almost year-round in the state. While the cost of living is a little higher in Virginia than in some of the other states on our list, it still provides a great place for retirees to call home. Retirees here tend to have an outstanding quality of life, and the U.S. Census Bureau has found that more and more retirees are deciding to head to Virginia for this reason.
If wellness and healthcare options rank high on your list of needs, then Colorado is the place for you. Colorado has some of the highest metrics in America when it comes to these two categories. Outdoor activities abound in the great state of Colorado. Whether you are hiking in the Rocky Mountains, skiing, or fishing, there is always something to do outside. Colorado might not be the most affordable state on the list, but it is a great option for those who are looking for a place that has a great overall wellness score.
Many people might be surprised to learn that Delaware is one of the best retirement states and scores very high on the affordability metric for retirees. Retiring in Delaware typically means that your tax burden will be lighter than in many other states. Another benefit to retirees is that Delaware has no inheritance tax. This means that your beneficiaries will not pay taxes on property that they inherit from your estate, but remember that your estate might still be subject to a Federal estate tax regardless of where you live. Delaware also does not tax Social Security benefits, so it is a great place to be from an affordability perspective. The quality of life here is not as high as in some other locations, and some people find this to be negative. However, if you are looking for affordability, then Delaware is a great option.
You can stretch your retirement income farther in Alabama than in almost any other state. Alabama is an extremely affordable place to live with low property taxes and very reasonable state income taxes. Similar to some of its Southern neighbors, Alabama offers almost any outdoor activities you could want. From mountains to lakes to beaches, Alabama has a little bit of everything. There is a reason that some towns along the Alabama Gulf Coast are some of the fastest-growing towns in America. Overall wellness and health care options are a little lower here than in other places, but the affordability and quality of life make it a place that many retirees flock to.
Missouri is another great option for those looking to stretch their retirement income. Missouri is one of the most affordable states in America, and it offers a great quality of life that draws many people to retire here. Missouri offers many great outdoor activities, and these activities can be done almost year-round. The weather only tends to keep people indoors for a couple of months during the middle of winter. Crime is somewhat higher in Missouri than in other states, but that is partly due to bigger cities like St. Louis. If you stay away from the metro areas, you should not have to be concerned about the crime rate.
Tennessee ranks as the most affordable option on the list. If your personal finances are your only factor, then Tennessee is the place to go. Affordable housing, low sales taxes, and no inheritance tax all make Tennessee an attractive option for retirees. Plus, there is always plenty to do in places like Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville. The weather in Tennessee is great all year long, and the state has great health care options. If you are looking for a great place to spend your golden years, then Tennessee might just be the place for you.
Wyoming ranks near the middle of the road when it comes to affordability, but it has some of the lowest crime rates in the U.S. Plus, the culture in Wyoming ranks extremely high. While most people don’t think of Wyoming as a traditional retirement state, many people find that they love the quality of life here. Although the weather can get a little unpleasant during the winter, the summertime months are usually wonderful. If you need a great place to retire that is a little more off the beaten path, Wyoming is a great option.
Arizona might just have the best weather of any state on the list. In fact, many lists rank Arizona as having the best weather of any state in the country. Retirees like to spend their time doing activities they enjoy, and you’ll have plenty of time to do that in the Arizona weather. Although it’s not the most affordable state on the list, it is still in the top 25% in the country when it comes to the cost of living. Arizona has good access to health care, and the overall wellness of the state ranks fairly high. If you enjoy the sun, then Arizona is the place to be during your retirement years.
Honorable Mention: South Carolina
South Carolina barely missed out on our top 10, so we had to include an honorable mention. South Carolina blends great affordability with great weather and culture. There are many different types of activities across the state, and South Carolina is quite tax-friendly. You’ll find great food and plenty of activities in South Carolina to enjoy during retirement. If you are looking for a place to retire, South Carolina should certainly be in consideration.
5 Worst States For Retirement
Now that we’ve discussed the best states for retirement, you should also be familiar with the states on the other end of the spectrum. The worst states for retirement have high taxes, high crime rates, bad weather, or some combination of all those things. Here are the states you should avoid when making your retirement plans.
#1. New Jersey
New Jersey boasts one of the highest cost-of-living metrics in America. Taxes are high here, and the overall quality of life in New Jersey tends to be quite low. Crime rates are high in many parts of the state, and the weather can get downright dreadful during the winter months. Staying indoors and paying high taxes is no way to spend your retirement. New Jersey is definitely a state you should avoid when you get ready to retire.
#2. New York
Just like New Jersey, New York also has an extremely high cost of living. Similarly, the weather in New York can get tough to deal with during the winter months. Property taxes here are very high, and the quality of life is on the lower end of the scale. While New York does have great access to health care options, that does not usually make up for the other drawbacks. Many people move away from New York to spend their retirement years in more enjoyable states.
When you think of expensive states to live, Maryland might not immediately come to mind. However, Maryland ranks very low in affordability — right behind New York and New Jersey. Culture index scores in Maryland also tend to rank pretty low. Maryland taxes are quite high, and crime rates in the state are not the greatest. Many people who live and work in Maryland decide to leave upon retirement. The plus side to Maryland is the fact that the state scores high in the overall wellness of its citizens. However, if you want an affordable place to live with great weather, Maryland is not the place for you.
It is probably no secret that Minnesota winters can be brutal. Many people who live in Minnesota migrate south for the winter and return home in the spring. This is one reason that so many retirees choose to leave the state for better weather upon retiring. In addition to the bad weather, Minnesota is also an expensive state with higher than average taxes. Now you can see why most people do not decide to retire and move to Minnesota.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Alaska has the lowest population of individuals 65 or older. One of the biggest reasons for this is the brutal weather in Alaska for several months out of the year. Surprisingly, Alaska also has high crime rates compared to other states. Much of Alaska is extremely remote, with little access to health care. This leaves the overall health and wellness score of Alaska quite low. When you’re ready to retire, consider moving somewhere warmer instead of Alaska.
Best Places For Tax-Friendly Social Security Treatment
Most retirees rely on their Social Security benefits for at least a portion of their income during retirement. Keeping taxes to a minimum helps put more money in their pocket. However, some states tax Social Security benefits, while others do not. It is extremely helpful to understand which states are more tax-friendly for your Social Security payments.
Most states do not tax Social Security benefits. Only 12 states in America levy a tax on these benefits. If you live in one of the following states, you can expect that at least a portion of your Social Security benefits will be taxed.
- New Mexico
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
The following states do not tax Social Security at the state level. So, if you live in one of these states, you will not need to worry about paying taxes on your Social Security benefits.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
Other Considerations When Planning For Retirement
Weather and taxation of Social Security benefits are not the only things that you should consider when deciding where to spend retirement. There are many other factors that go into your decision. First, the state’s treatment of retirement income from personal retirement plans, like a pension or 401K, should be a big factor. You’ll want to look for states that do not tax retirement income or at least have lower rates. Some states even have different rules when it comes to things like a backdoor Roth IRA. In addition to Social Security, most retirees receive some income from one of these sources.
Another thing that plays into your decision is likely the proximity of family. Many people choose to stay near family members, like children, who can help them with things during their elderly years. Moving away from family can be difficult, especially when children and grandchildren are involved.
Finally, most people would agree that the biggest deciding factor should be your own desires. If you have always dreamed of retiring in a certain place, then you should not let a few percentage points of taxation stop you. Even though it might be more expensive to live in New York, then if that has always been your dream, go for it! If you can afford to live in a specific place, then you should not let some of these factors stop you!
The Bottom Line
The United States offers many great states in which you can retire, and many of those states are extremely affordable. Many people often try to find a great balance of affordability, weather, and health care. Thankfully, there are many states that include all of those items. Any of the states on our Top 10 list would be great places to retire, and you should also be aware of the states to avoid. High taxes, higher crime rates, and lower quality of life scores make the states on our “worst states” list ones that you should avoid when you get ready to leave the workforce.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the least expensive state to retire in?
It is difficult to name a single state as the cheapest place to retire. There are several things that factor into the total cost of living of a state. You must consider state income taxes, taxation of Social Security, property taxes, and the cost of goods and services in the area. If you are looking strictly at affordability, then Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Georgia are some of the least expensive states to retire in. These states offer low taxes, affordable housing, and a low overall cost of living.
What is the best state to retire for people with a low income?
The states that tend to be the most affordable are Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Georgia. However, you should also consider things like access to low-income programs. Some of the most affordable states do not have robust welfare programs for people with low incomes. You must balance your need for these types of programs with the overall affordability of the state.
What states should I avoid when retiring?
Typically, you will want to avoid states that have high tax rates, impose inheritance taxes and ones that tax Social Security benefits. In general, you will want to avoid New York and New Jersey because of the extremely high cost of living in those states. Similarly, Minnesota taxes Social Security, and it has high property taxes and bad weather. You should likely avoid any of the five states that were listed in this article as the worst states to retire.