20 Best States To Spend Your Golden Years – And 20 You Should Probably Avoid

After years spent behind the desk, it’s finally time to say goodbye, put your feet up and retire. But there’s not just extra time on the horizon; the entire world is at your feet. And if those feet would rather remain in the United States, maybe this list can help point you in the right direction as to where you ought to relocate to. (Avoiding needless goose-chasing in the process).

20. Vermont

In 2014 McCarty Real Estate agent Rebecca Copans told Marketwatch, “Summers in Vermont are gorgeous, green and warm. It is just the most beautiful place on earth.” As well as its rural charm, famous maple syrup and beautiful 19th century architecture, Vermont has excellent healthcare. That’s probably why the cost of living is higher there – 16.7 percent higher on average. But if you can afford the cost and withstand its chilly winters, Vermont’s a retiree’s dream.

19. Wisconsin

Retirement is a great opportunity to make new relationships, and Wisconsin has a strong community spirit. “There’s always someone who’s willing to shovel your driveway, to help you in an emergency,” retired professor Joanne Miller told Marketwatch in 2013. “You can’t beat the friendly people here.” The state’s perhaps more attractive to the active retiree due to its plethora of golf courses and plentiful hunting grounds. Be warned though ‒ Wisconsin does have a high income tax rate.

ADVERTISEMENT

18. Hawaii

The only thing better than retiring to a tropical island is retiring to one that has the best healthcare system in the United States. Hawaii makes up for its costly living wage with top notch medical care. In fact, its services topped “2021’s Best States to Retire” list according to Wallethub. Plus 2018’s United Health Foundation’s Senior Health Report says Hawaii has the third healthiest seniors. Want another reason to retire there? It’s Hawaii!

17. Arizona

ADVERTISEMENT

Despite having a lower healthcare system ranking than Hawaii, Arizona actually has a higher quality of life. That’s probably because it’s a desert climate, and plant allergies are virtually non-existent! That doesn’t mean you can’t get back to nature, though. If you’re an energetic retiree there’s a lot to see, including national parks and, of course, the Grand Canyon. Things get busier in the winter; Arizona’s population temporarily grows by 300,000 pensioners seeking respite from the cold.

16. Iowa

Iowa, AKA the Hawkeye State, isn’t the cheapest place to live, but you get what you pay for. In this case, you spend a little extra for a high grade of both healthcare and quality of life. The downside, however, is the climate. If you’re not fond of humid summers and harsh winters, you might want to reconsider Iowa. The same conditions that are ideal for growing crops might not suit some weather-sensitive retirees.

ADVERTISEMENT

15. North Carolina

ADVERTISEMENT

North Carolina’s a popular state with retirees, and for good reason. Relatively low costs of living combine with attractive senior tax breaks to make it an affordable state to settle down in. Plus you get to experience all the seasons without extremes thanks to North Carolina’s mild climate. Are you a history aficionado? Then the state’s many battlefield sites and memorials are an added incentive.

14. South Carolina

If you thought that North Carolina was affordable, hold on to your hats. While it came in at number 19 on Wallethub’s list of most affordable states, South Carolina reached number three. And if you’re a senior trying to expand your education, good news ‒ you can attend any college course tuition-free, space allowing. The only downside is the hurricane risks which come with Carolina living.

ADVERTISEMENT

13. South Dakota

ADVERTISEMENT

South Dakota can’t compete with the Carolinas in terms of affordability. The cost of living is still lower than average, though, and it offers better healthcare. Perhaps the most appealing part of South Dakota is the range of activities available. From the physical, such as hunting, to cultured wine tasting and an art scene, the state’s got something for everyone.

12. Missouri

Missouri doesn’t just have a competitive cost of living. It also has an impressive healthcare system, which is crucial to retirees. Of course, they call Missouri the “Show Me State” for a reason, and that’s because of its natural beauty. Plentiful state parks mean outdoor pursuits are a big draw for retirees looking to get back to nature. And with nearby Kansas City and St. Louis, you’re never too far from the big city allure.

ADVERTISEMENT

11. Wyoming

ADVERTISEMENT

Speaking on behalf of the American Association of Retired Persons’ (AARP) Wyoming branch, Tom Lacock told Insider in 2020, “We do have a very strong network of senior centers around the state. For somebody in some of our more rural areas, they are really a nice lifeline.” Rita Lovell ‒ a real estate agent in the state ‒ added, “People retire to Wyoming because of our low tax structure. And, of course, the beauty.”

10. New Hampshire

New Hampshire’s ideal for seniors who want a balanced cost of living with impressive health care. Wallethub ranks the state ninth best in medical services, but its residents’ quality of life is second to none. Taylor Home’s Paul Charlton, spoke to New Hampshire Magazine about his state in 2020. He said, “Retirees are coming to the Lakes Region. It is skewed to people who have a real appreciation for nature and the beauty of this region.”

ADVERTISEMENT

9. Minnesota

ADVERTISEMENT

Minnesota’s known for its biggest ball of twine, and its biting winter weather. So why would such a cold state appeal to retirees? Well, many Minnesotan seniors are staying for the warmer seasons and fleeing south when winter rears its snow-covered head. The other reason is the people. “Minnesota nice” didn’t become a famous expression for nothing. Apparently, the warmth of its residents is an appealing factor, not to mention its excellent healthcare system.

8. Utah

Both the United Health Foundation and Wallethub’s findings highlight the impressive health of Utah’s residents. Perhaps the varied amount of outdoor activities are responsible. Boasting 43 state parks, five national parks and seven national monuments, Utah has a lot to offer energetic retirees. The downside? Utah is also a taxer’s dream, which even targets social security benefits. Even so, poverty levels for seniors are incredibly low, so they must be doing something right!

ADVERTISEMENT

7. Idaho

ADVERTISEMENT

Home to part of Yellowstone National Park, Idaho’s both retiree and eco-friendly. Mobile residents will enjoy the rambling and cycling opportunities. And thanks to the low crime rate, you won’t be afraid to leave your house to participate. If you’re looking for less physically-challenging hobbies, though, you might want to check out the culture scene. Idaho’s got vineyards and microbreweries for you alcohol connoisseurs, and Boise State University caters for seniors willing to learn.

6. Montana

Montana ticks all the right boxes. It’s super-affordable thanks to low income tax rates (they max out at 6.9 percent) and has great healthcare. That can be partly attributed to the state’s lauded Kalispell Regional Medical Center. Plus Montana’s community is senior-friendly, with several retirement-based towns such as Whitefish, Missoula and Helena.

ADVERTISEMENT

5. North Dakota

ADVERTISEMENT

We’ve already covered South Dakota but the Northern part of the state is an even more desirable retirement locale. It has pretty much the same appeal, albeit with a slightly higher living cost. But with that comes an improved quality of life and healthcare, too. Also, according to Kiplinger in 2018, North Dakota’s low income taxes still put it in the tax-friendly bracket. No wonder it’s such a highly regarded retirement state.

4. Virginia

If you like your summers hot, you could do worse than retire to Virginia. The warm climate creates less punishing winters, too. The state has a great combination of both rural and urban living areas, so it appeals to a variety of lifestyles. Expense-wise, though, you may have to look around. On average, living costs are 9.4 percent higher in Virginia, but this can vary wildly from city to city.

ADVERTISEMENT

3. Delaware

ADVERTISEMENT

Delaware just sneaks into the top five states for affordability, and if you like relaxed living look no further. The state has some lovely coasts which are close enough to cities to take advantage of the amenities. If you’re feeling social, you can also take advantage of Delaware’s festivals. It hosts music in the summer and some unique features in the fall, too. For example, there’s the halloween-like Sea Witch Weekend and the veggie-hurling “Punkin’ Chunkin’” celebrations.

2. Colorado

From small towns to big cities, culture and national parks, Colorado has everything a retiree could want (including tax breaks). Healthy living is encouraged here with the assistance of a group called Nourish that promotes well-being through food. And it’s working, too; according to U.S. News, in 2021 Colorado had the country’s lowest obesity rates. Plus the state hosts the United States Air Force Academy. Keep an eye on the sky, flight fans!

ADVERTISEMENT

1. Florida

ADVERTISEMENT

Florida is the number one retirement state in the United States for good reason. Housing is cheap, quality of life is high and you won’t feel alone. Florida boasts 3.5 million senior citizens and climbing, so it’s very accommodating to the older generation. A word of warning: the climate fosters creepy crawlers, snakes and Florida’s famous alligators. So if you’re not fond of things with too many (or too few) legs, you might want to reconsider the move.

20. Washington

Washington starts the top 20 worst states to retire in, but it’s not all bad. Wallethub gave the state’s healthcare system a rating of seven, which is pretty high, as is the living quality of its residents. The problem is that the cost of living is considerably high ‒ one of the highest in the States, in fact.

ADVERTISEMENT

19. Pennsylvania

ADVERTISEMENT

Pennsylvanians live well, but it comes at a cost which is, well, the cost. Although the day-to-day living prices are low, high taxes make life expensive. There’s another caveat to moving there, too: the traffic. Roads can be heavy with commuters from DC and New York, so if you drive, road conditions aren’t ideal.

18. Maryland

Maryland residents enjoy a high level of well-being and a decent healthcare system. So why shouldn’t you move there? Maryland hosts some government employees with high salaries, which drives the urban property prices higher than the state average. Maryland’s proximity to DC also ratchets up the property taxes, adding to an already considerable cost of living.

ADVERTISEMENT

17. Louisiana

ADVERTISEMENT

Louisiana has many appealing qualities including its low cost of living, but it’s not ideal for all seniors. This is partially down to the state’s difficulty giving out decent healthcare and, as a result, Louisianans’ quality of life suffers. The native wildlife might be another dealbreaker. Swamp critters aren’t afraid to investigate your home, and chasing uninvited guests around your house might tire you out. Then again, good exercise anyone?

16. Tennessee

Tennessee is an appealing prospect because of its affordability. Property prices are low, and it’s one of the few states with zero income tax. Unfortunately, the state’s healthcare system suffers for it, and its residents have some of the worst quality of life on Wallethub’s list. Still, if you like whiskey, country music and spicy chicken maybe you could get over that?

ADVERTISEMENT

15. Kansas

ADVERTISEMENT

Retirees looking for a sense of community might need to look further afield than Kansas.The state’s size means that unless you’re situated near a city, you could end up living in isolation. And then there’s the yearly tornado season to consider. When you include the weather extremes, it puts Kansas firmly out of the running as a place to spend your golden years.

14. Maine

If you’ve ever read a Stephen King book, you’ll be familiar with Maine. And although you won’t find any supernatural killer clowns there, the living costs may terrify you. In 2019 Vitanna.org estimated Maine living costs at $40,000 higher than average. Sure, you get great healthcare for your money, but it might be enough to put off cash-prudent retirees.

ADVERTISEMENT

13. Arkansas

ADVERTISEMENT

Arkansas is affordable and the weather is nice, so why did it reach the list of worst states to retire to? Much like many rural areas, the state’s size makes getting good healthcare tough. It also ranks close to the bottom on Wallethub’s list for quality of life. This is perhaps partly due to its high crime rate. And if mosquitoes bug you, definitely look elsewhere – Arkansas bloodsuckers will eat you alive. Metaphorically. Probably.

12. Oregon

Good luck if you want to retire to Oregon. So many people want to live there that it’s driving the property values right up! But even if you could afford the living costs, you might want to reconsider the move, especially if you don’t like the damp. Oregon’s regular showers means your umbrella will get plenty of use. And if rain upsets your arthritis, that’ll be a literal pain.

ADVERTISEMENT

11. Oklahoma

ADVERTISEMENT

Although housing costs are low, Oklahoma stumbled on the healthcare and quality of life categories in Wallethub’s rankings. The state’s issues with maintaining infrastructure could be one of the reasons, leading to disrepair in key areas (roads are one example). Plus expect to pay tax when you buy food. Despite the state’s efforts, you could be charged up to 10 percent extra on both grocery items and eating out.

10. Illinois

If you’re into outdoor activities, Illinois isn’t your best option. The rural landscape is mostly farming, so its prominent feature (farms) doesn’t leave much room for anything else. The climate could also pose a problem. The summers are fine, but when winter hits, temperatures can drop to a bone-chilling -23℃. Yikes, that’s cold.

ADVERTISEMENT

9. Texas

ADVERTISEMENT

Many of the reasons Texas isn’t optimal for retirees are linked to its size. Texas is huge, and if you want to get very far you’ll need to travel. And that, in itself, can be a problem; the roads (specifically the I-35) tend to get packed with motorists. That’s the last thing you need if you find yourself in an emergency situation health-wise, which is the other reason Wallethub doesn’t recommend it.

8. Connecticut

The one big issue you’ll face in Connecticut is affordability. It’s one of the most expensive states to live in, and taxes are rife. Both living and property costs are high, and that’s before you factor in tax. Drivers will even be taxed on gasoline, so only consider Connecticut if money is no object. You lucky so-and-so.

ADVERTISEMENT

7. West Virginia

ADVERTISEMENT

West Virginia bottomed out Wallethub’s list for the worst healthcare system in the United States. Unfortunately, that impacts the general quality of living. Plus Vittana.org points out that crime is rife in some parts of West Virginia, with violent offenses higher than that of your average state. More concerning might be the higher-than-average property crime rate, which if your home is gonna be your castle, isn’t assuring.

6. Kentucky

For all of Kentucky’s lovable qualities (ah, the food) it’s still considered an unattractive prospect for retirement. Those relocating from the West coast, especially, will face some challenging weather changes. And if you’re into city living, be forewarned: many cities ‒ notably Louisville ‒ have some severe pollution issues. This is partially due to all the road congestion, but the factories like to make their presence known smell-wise too.

ADVERTISEMENT

5. Rhode Island

ADVERTISEMENT

As its nickname “The Ocean State” indicates, Rhode Island has some beautiful beaches. And while that may appeal to some, the state still ranks as the fifth worst for retirees. This is largely on the basis of affordability, both in property costs and daily living. It’s also got a very high population density, although that might be a plus for some. If you don’t like being alone, you should have plenty of neighbors.

4. New Mexico

A low minimum wage and tough job market make New Mexico a difficult place to seek employment. And while that doesn’t directly affect retirees, it does create a low quality of life. That’s where the state loses appeal points for movers. The other is the climate; it’s comparatively warm all-year round which is good for those who don’t like winter. Summer, on the other hand, may prove challenging.

ADVERTISEMENT

3. Mississippi

ADVERTISEMENT

Aside from its name being a dyslexic person’s nightmare, Mississippi has lots of good points. It’s affordable and the food there is legendary. Unfortunately it comes in third as the least desirable state for retirees, on the basis of its quality of life. Healthcare is a real issue and Mississippi’s sub-tropical climate makes it prone to natural disasters. So remember that tornado insurance!

2. New York

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that New York will put a massive dent in your wallet. It’s a big city after all. If fast-paced living isn’t enough to put off retirees, the price of living probably will. So unless you’re looking for some hustle and bustle in your golden years, rethink a move to the Big Apple. Then again, the quality of life ain’t half bad.

ADVERTISEMENT

1. New Jersey

ADVERTISEMENT

You may have heard a lot of jokes about New Jersey, but it turns out… they’re true! Seriously though, New Jersey may be the worst state for retirees, but that’s because of the high taxes. By and large, New Jersey didn’t score too badly in healthcare and quality of life. So it might not be great for those looking to relocate, but don’t worry New Jersey ‒ we still love you!

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT