Step Aside, Florida: The Best (and Worst) States for Retirement

What makes a great retirement location? Sunset views, sandy beaches, fine dining? Beautiful landscapes and tropical flowers? Sunny days year round? Though these immediately spring to mind, the things that make a place perfect for a vacation don’t necessarily make it suitable for a retirement location. After all, those balmy January days might lead to unbearably scorching summers. That ideal isle might have shockingly high taxes and prices. And that quiet mountain town might become inundated by hordes of tourists every ski season.

So we were glad to see a recent ranking of the best and worst states for retirement based entirely on practical considerations: the tax rate, the cost of living, crime statistics, weather, health care quality, and life satisfaction of its residents. And the results weren’t at all what we’d think.

The best three states for retirement were South Dakota, Colorado, and Utah. Each of these has a low cost of living as well as low taxes, which allows retirees to really stretch their savings, as well as good health care systems, low crime rates, and perhaps most importantly, a high level of life satisfaction among its residents.

On the flip side were New York, West Virginia, and Alaska. New York earned its rock-bottom #50 ranking due to high taxes and a high cost of living, while West Virginia’s health care system, which is ranked as one of the worst in the nation, put it at #49. And Alaska, despite its spectacular natural beauty, was ranked #48 because of its cold and dark weather, poor health care system, and a cost of living that is second only to Hawaii.

But of course, we don’t live our lives entirely by practicality. If we did, we’d defer every vacation in favor of a bigger 401(k) contribution, every dinner with friends for a little extra grocery money. Some of us find it worthwhile to retire next to the sea or in the mountains, even if the crime rate is high and the health care system poor. And some of us can’t fathom leaving our home state despite high taxes. So we’ll take this list with a grain of salt.

But what do you think? If you are nearing retirement, where are you planning on relocating, and why? And if you’re retired, do you think your state is ideal for retirees? We welcome your comments!

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