10 Best And Worst States To Retire In 2019

Pink piggy bank with glasses standing on books next to a blackboard with retirement savings message.  Sharp focus on the piggy bank with blackboard slightly blurred.

As you approach retirement age, it is essential to consider which locations are best suited to your financial situation, your healthcare needs, and other ancillary factors that will impact your happiness in retirement. The best retirement states offer their senior residents tax incentives, access to high-quality healthcare, and the opportunity to cultivate meaningful relationships with other seniors.

FAQ: Best And Worst States In Which To Retire

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1. What Do The Best Retirement States Have In Common?

The best retirement states make long-term financial viability a possibility through low taxes on retirement income and foster a culture of connectivity among seniors that provides a sense of purpose later in life.

2. What Role Does Healthcare Play In The Best Retirement States?

Affordable access to a high level of healthcare is one of the leading factors in determining whether a state belongs among the best retirement states.

3. How Does A State Attract Retirees?

The easiest way for the best retirement states to attract seniors is to lower or eliminate taxes on social security distributions and other forms of retirement income.

4. Where Are The Best Retirement States?

The best retirement states stretch from Idaho to Florida. The most common factor that elevated a state’s popularity among retirees is the ability to develop a sense of community with other older residents of the states we reviewed.

How We Reviewed

We reviewed each state in the US based on costs faced by seniors in the form of tax burden, healthcare, and general cost of living. Outside of expense we reviewed states to find the best regions and cities for seniors based on crime rates, cultural institutions, weather, and locations in which seniors are welcomed and included in the social fabric of the community.

Overall Financial Factors

Rankings included living expenses, tax burdens, health care costs, household incomes, poverty rates and the economic wellness of the state itself.

What We Reviewed

Rankings included living expenses, tax burdens, health care costs, household incomes, poverty rates and the economic wellness of the state itself.

The Best

  • Florida
  • South Dakota
  • Hawaii
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Georgia
  • Pennsylvania
  • Idaho
  • North Dakota
  • New Hampshire

The Worst

  • New York
  • New Mexico
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • New Jersey
  • Louisiana
  • Connecticut
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Illinois

Best States (In Order, Best First)

1. Florida

wide shot of florida

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Features

Florida continues to dominate the best retirement states by offering no taxes on social security, retirement income, estates, or inheritances. These tax advantages offset the relatively high cost of healthcare in the Sunshine State. Seniors also have a great opportunity to socialize with their peers in retirement in Florida where a disproportionate percentage of the population is over the age of 65.

Pros

  • Favorable tax situation         
  • Robust retirement community
  • Fantastic weather

Cons

  • High healthcare costs
  • Property taxes

Cost of Living

Florida has a roughly average cost of living which is augmented by tax favorability for seniors.

Best City

Sarasota, Fort Myers, and other locations on Florida’s west coast offer the best communities for retirees.

Desirability

Florida is among the most desirable retirement destinations in the country.

2. South Dakota

South Dakota streets without people in the streets

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Features

Despite the weather and the middle of the road cost-of-living situation in South Dakota, the state ranks first among life satisfaction for seniors. This is due to the strong sense of community propagated by South Dakotans and the dearth of reported financial stress in the sleepy midwestern state.

Pros

  • Low financial stress level
  • Strong communities

Cons

  • Cold winters
  • Cost in line with national averages

Cost of Living

South Dakota’s cost-of-living does not differ substantially from the national average in any category.

Best City

Pierre is a cultural hub for seniors who find homes in the many small towns scattered across South Dakota.

Desirability

South Dakota is not widely seen as a retirement destination, hence seniors can find homes for lower prices.

3. Hawaii

clean hawaiian beach

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Features

If retirees can stomach the high cost-of-living in Hawaii, they will have access to the healthiest state for retirees. The culture of Hawaii promotes an active lifestyle among residents of all ages and offers the most efficient and affordable healthcare system in the country.

Pros

  • Great healthcare system
  • Appreciation of the outdoors
  • Beautiful weather

Cons

  • Highest cost of living in the country

Cost of Living

Not a state in the country has a higher average cost-of-living than Hawaii.

Best City

Retirees should avoid the expense of the capital in a smaller city like Hilo, Paia, or Haleiwa.

Desirability

Hawaii is the Cadillac of the best retirement states, which is reflected in the cost.

4. Texas

Dallas Texas in higher angle shot

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Features

Texas remains one of the most desirable retirement locations despite the state’s high healthcare costs. The Lone Star State gets away with expensive healthcare because cost-of-living is low across the board in Texas and the state levies no income tax.

Pros

  • No income tax
  • Low cost-of-living

Cons

  • High healthcare costs

Cost of Living

With the exception of healthcare, the cost-of-living in Texas is among the lowest in the nation.

Best City

Tyler, Texas offers rock-bottom expenses and proximity to metropolitan Dallas.

Desirability

Texas ranks as one of the most desirable locations along with Florida and Hawaii.

5. Utah

Features

Similar to Hawaii, Utah provides a great space for seniors interested in maintaining an active lifestyle and an appreciation of natural beauty. The community of seniors in Utah is among the healthiest in the country and the state’s cost-of-living, healthcare, and tax expenses are all reasonable.

Pros

  • Beautiful part of the country
  • Opportunities to stay active outdoors

Cons

  • Not particularly tax friendly

Cost of Living

The cost-of-living in Utah is roughly on par with the national average.

Best City

Retirees can find cheap homes and warm weather near the Arizona border in towns like Kanab, St. George, and Washington.

Desirability

Utah is not seen as a particularly desirable location for retirement despite its many advantages.

6. Georgia

creative shot of Georgia at night

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Features

In an effort to compete with its neighbor to the South, Georgia has cultivated a reputation as one of the best retirement states. Georgia offers a roundly favorable tax situation for seniors, low home prices, and reasonable healthcare costs. These financial advantages are complimented by the state’s mild winters and pleasant year-round weather.

Pros

  • Reasonable healthcare costs
  • Affordable tax rates
  • Great weather

Cons

  • High statewide crime rates

Cost of Living

Expenses in Georgia are below the national average in most categories.

Best City

The Georgia coastline between Savannah and Brunswick is the perfect seaside location to spend your golden years.

Desirability

Georgia is not considered desirable by retirees, so its home prices are low.

7. Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania in a higher angle shot

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Features

For retirees who are hoping to stretch their retirement savings, Pennsylvania is among the best retirement states. Pennsylvania levies minimal taxes on all forms of retirement income. The state also offers below average expenses in most every category including healthcare costs.

Pros

  • Low healthcare costs
  • Favorable taxation

Cons

  • Bad weather

Cost of Living

Pennsylvania’s cost-of-living is below the national average in most categories.

Best City

The Philadelphia suburbs offer reasonably priced homes and have access to all the services a senior could expect from a major city.

Desirability

Pennsylvania is considered a fairly desirable retirement state, the weather is the most inclement factor.

8. Idaho

view of Idaho falls

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Features

To inspire seniors to hunker-down for the brutal winters, Idaho has eliminated all taxes on social security and estates. This provides seniors an affordable long-term retirement location considering the already low cost of living in Idaho.

Pros

  • Low cost of living
  • Advantageous tax policy

Cons

  • Cold, snowy winters

Cost of Living

Idaho has a very reasonable cost-of-living compared to the national average.

Best City

Idaho Falls is an affordable little city tucked into Idaho’s least snowy corner.

Desirability

Idaho’s dearth of desirability keeps prices down.

9. North Dakota

North Dakota official seal logo

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Features

Similar to South Dakota, North Dakota is not particularly affordable, but it is not expensive. The state offers retirees very low income tax rates and a sense of community and purpose that is not matched by the experiences of seniors who choose other options among the best retirement states.

Pros

  • Low income tax rate
  • Strong sense of community

Cons

  • Long winters

Cost of Living

With the exception of low home prices, costs in North Dakota are similar to national averages.

Best City

Both Bismarck and Fargo are small enough to feel like home and large enough to offer diverse services.

Desirability

North Dakota’s prices stay low based its perceived lack of desirability.

10. New Hampshire

New Hampshire official seal logo

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Features

New Hampshire counteracts its own high cost-of-living by levying no taxes on social security or other retirement income. The state has a great healthcare system and boasts the best overall health for seniors living in the best retirement states.

Pros

  • Favorable tax policy
  • Excellent healthcare

Cons

  • Cost-of-living

Cost of Living

New Hampshire’s cost-of-living is well above the national average in most categories.

Best City

The towns near Manchester and Nashua in the southern part of the state are the most popular among retirees.

Desirability

Outside of the taxation situation, New Hampshire is not generally considered a desirable place to retire.

Worst States (in order, worst first)

1. New York

New York city at night

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Features

The absurd average expenses in the city of New York on everything from groceries to healthcare drag the average costs in the state to an extraordinary level and high statewide taxes on income provide a further deterrent for retirees thinking about the Empire State. Prices decrease substantially as you move away from Manhattan.

Pros

  • Cheap out-state locations are available

Cons

  • Most expensive state in the continental US
  • Disadvantageous tax policy

Cost of Living

The cost of living is high in New York, especially in and around Manhattan.

Best City

Seniors who plan to retire in New York should flee the Tri-state area and head to cheaper cities like Rochester or Buffalo.

Desirability

It may be fabulous to live in New York but the expense limits desirability.

2. New Mexico

view of New Mexico

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Features

New Mexico has the low expenses a retiree looks for in one of the best retirement states but the taxation situation leaves a lot to be desired. Taxes on retirement income and property in New Mexico are onerous leading to a disproportionate percentage of retirees living in poverty.

Pros

  • Excellent weather
  • Low cost-of-living

Cons

  • High taxes

Cost of Living

The cost-of-living in New Mexico is low but the taxes are high.

Best City

Retirees should limit their search to the larger cities in New Mexico like Santa Fe and Albuquerque to ensure access to healthcare.

Desirability

The weather in New Mexico makes the state a popular destination despite the taxes.

3. Massachusetts

view of Massachusetts

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Features

Similar to New York, Massachusetts comes replete with high healthcare costs, high taxes, and disadvantageous tax policy regarding retirement income. Perhaps the only advantage to found in Massachusetts for retirees are the tax-free social security distributions.

Pros

  • No taxes on social security

Cons

  • High healthcare costs
  • High cost-of-living
  • High taxes

Cost of Living

Massachusetts in among the most expensive states in the US.

Best City

The farther from Boston the better

Desirability

The expense of living in Massachusetts makes the state unpopular among retirees.

4. Maryland

Maryland top shot angle

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Features

Like Boston and Manhattan impacting the averages of their entire states in terms of cost, Maryland’s high costs are driven up by the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Maryland taxes most forms of retirement income which is burdensome in tandem with the state’s high costs generally.

Pros

  • Mild climate

Cons

  • Onerous tax burden
  • High home prices

Cost of Living

Maryland’s cost-of-living is substantially higher than national averages in most categories.

Best City

Smaller towns outside the Washington D.C. area will be the most affordable locations in the state.

Desirability

Expense precludes Maryland’s popularity among retirees.

5. New Jersey

clean streets of New Jersey

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Features

New Jersey is very similar to New York. The portions of the state adjacent to Manhattan are so expensive the state-wide expense averages look absurdly high. This is augmented by high healthcare costs and high property taxes across the state.

Pros

  • Proximity to major metropolitan areas

Cons

  • Property taxes
  • Healthcare costs

Cost of Living

Cost of living in New Jersey is among the highest in the nation.

Best City

Retirees in New Jersey would be wise to prefer the southern portion of the state, especially small towns like Carney’s Point.

Desirability

Retirees typically avoid New Jersey meaning the state ranks low in desirability when compared to the best retirement states.

6. Louisiana

aerial shot of Louisiana

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Features

On its face, Lousiana seems like a great retirement state based on the low cost-of-living. Unfortunately, low prices in Lousiana reflect low average incomes across the state. Residents must endure the state’s high healthcare costs with minimal average disposable income in a state with poor health among seniors.

Pros

  • Low cost-of-living

Cons

  • High healthcare costs
  • Poor health among seniors

Cost of Living

Prices in Lousiana are below the national average in every category.

Best City

If healthcare is a concern, seniors should consider a home near Baton Rouge, home to the state’s best hospital system.

Desirability

Lousiana’s high poverty rate prevents popularity among seniors.

7. Connecticut

beautiful house surrounded by water

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Features

Connecticut is in a very similar situation to New Jersey. Because many of the state’s communities are suburbs of New York, consumer prices in all things are sky-high and impact averages across the state. Unlike the best retirement states, Connecticut taxes all forms of retirement income leaving seniors less to work with in a more expensive environment.

Pros

  • Proximity to major urban areas

Cons

  • High taxes on retirement income
  • High prices across the board

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Connecticut is substantially higher than the national average.

Best City

Connecticut is tricky, in the eastern part of the state Manhattan drives up prices; in the west, Boston and Providence have the same effect. The northern part of the state is most affordable.

Desirability

ike its neighbors, Connecticut is not popular for retirees on a fixed income.

8. Arkansas

view of Arkansas

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Features

Much like its neighbor to the south, Arkansas appears to have very favorable consumer prices until you account for the low state-wide incomes. Arkansas has one of the highest poverty rates for retirees and while healthcare is affordable, it is not of the highest quality.

Pros

  • Low consumer prices

Cons

  • High poverty rate among seniors

Cost of Living

8. Arkansas

Best City

Homes in Fayetteville are very affordable and adjacent to the University of Arkansas Hospitals, the most reputable healthcare provider in the state.

Desirability

Seniors generally are not attracted to states with high poverty rates like Arkansas.

9. California

light tower aerial shot

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Features

Only Hawaii can claim a higher cost-of-living than California and this situation is not offset by incentives for seniors. In California, all forms of retirement income are taxed at high California rates. The spectacular climate is, unfortunately, only accessible for relatively wealthy retirees.

Pros

  • Beautiful weather
  • Excellent healthcare

Cons

  • Sky-high prices
  • Disadvantageous tax policy

Cost of Living

California sports the second highest cost-of-living in the country with the exceptions of New York and/or Hawaii depending on the metrics.

Best City

For retirees with sufficient disposable income, Palm Springs is among the best retirement destinations in the country.

Desirability

California may be the most desirable of the best retirement states but the price is steep.

10. Illinois

Illinois

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Features

Illinois offers roughly average prices for most goods and services along with numerous tax incentives for seniors. It makes our list of the worst states to retire in because the state’s financial future is tenuous to say the least. Chances are the state will be forced to abandon tax incentives of every variety to avoid going into default on its loans.

Pros

  • Average consumer prices
  • Tax breaks on retirement income

Cons

  • Calamitous financial future

Cost of Living

Illinois’s cost-of-living is very close to the national average.

Best City

Retirees heading to Illinois would be wise to avoid the expense of Chicago in favor of small cities like Bloomington which has normal to lower costs and a milder climate.

Desirability

The impending financial crisis has scared off most retirees in the state of Illinois.

The Verdict

When choosing one of the best retirement states, you should find a state that fits with your financial situation based on tax policy and healthcare needs. With these baseline factors taken into account, you can search for a particular community within that state that facilitates access to cultural events, family members, and a community of like-minded seniors with whom you can cultivate a sustainable social group.

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