The Best and Worst States for Retirement
Life + Money

The Best and Worst States for Retirement


The best state for retirement is not the one that most likely comes to mind — Florida, the Sunshine State — but rather one that is a lot colder and surrounded by land rather than mostly sea.

Wyoming ranks as the best place to retire in the U.S., according to new Bankrate study that considered a handful of factors important to retiring seniors. Three of its neighbors — South Dakota, Colorado and Utah — all broke the top 10.

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Florida, a stereotypical haven for snow birds and the state with the highest percentage of people 65 and older, didn’t even make the top 25. Neither did Nevada, which has America’s second-highest increase in senior population from 2003 to 2013.

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“The places that scored higher are not places that people generally think of, but a lot of it comes down to cost of living,” says Claes Bell, a senior analyst at Bankrate. “When people haven’t done much research on retirement planning, they think of retirement as a vacation. But most people are behind on retirement savings. They don’t want to compound that problem by moving to an expensive place, but rather to a state where they can stretch that retirement money.”

Bankrate considered six factors: cost of living, taxes, healthcare, weather, crime and residents’ overall well-being. It weighted crime and cost of living more heavily and weather and well-being less heavily based on a how people ranked each factor’s importance in a survey last year.

Before moving to a new state for your golden years, test it out first by renting for a while rather than purchasing, advises Howard Pressman, a financial planner at financial services firm Egan, Berger & Weiner in Vienna, Va. “Create a list of possible locations and spend at least a month in each,” he says. “Once you've narrowed it to your favorite, rent for a year. If you're still happy, then buy.”

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Another factor to consider, one that couldn’t be measured by Bankrate’s survey, is a person’s community network, says Kevin Reardon, president of Shakespeare Wealth Management in Pewaukee, Wis. Questions to ask yourself include: How will you meet new people? Do people in the area share viewpoints, interests and lifestyles similar to yours? Is there is a church or other community group that you want to join? Is it important to be close to family?

“For a person living in the same location most of their life, they have an established a network of family, friends, colleagues from work, church community, et cetera. When you move, you want to be in an environment where you can rebuild this community and support network relatively easily,” Reardon says. “Golfing every day in retirement may sound fun, but if you don't have people to do it with, it's not enjoyable.”