How to Determine the Best U.S. State for Your Retirement

Choosing the perfect retirement destination is actually a deeply personal and multifaceted decision. And, frankly most people love where they already live. However, if you want to relocate, you’ll want to carefully consider factors ranging from climate and cost of living to healthcare access and social connectivity. By understanding your retirement vision, conducting thorough research, and prioritizing your needs and preferences, you can identify the place that feels like home for this next chapter of your life.

best state for retirement

Remember, retirement is not just about where you live, but how you live. Here are various criteria to consider when figuring out which state is best for YOUR retirement.

Home is Where the Heart Is

When considering the best state for you to retire, you probably first want to think about your loved ones. How close do you need and want to be to family and friends? For many people, this may be the most important factor when choosing where to live.

Community and Social Connectivity

Social connections are vital for a fulfilling retirement. Regardless of existing family and friends, retirees should seek out communities that foster social engagement and provide opportunities for meaningful connections with others. Explore general locales, retirement communities, social clubs, volunteer organizations, and recreational groups that align with your interests and values.

Building a supportive network of friends and peers can enhance your sense of belonging and well-being in retirement. And, having access to people and events that feel comfortable to you can be important.

Lifestyle Factors

Retirement is a time to indulge in your passions and interests. So, you ought to choose a locale that enables you access to the activities you want to do.

Consider the recreational and cultural amenities available in potential retirement destinations. Whether you enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, golfing, or fishing, or prefer cultural pursuits such as museums, theaters, and art galleries, ensure that your chosen locale offers opportunities for enrichment and enjoyment.

Not sure what you want to be doing in retirement? Explore 120 ideas for what to do in retirement.

Housing and Housing Affordability

There can be different approaches to housing affordability in retirement. Here are two stories that illustrate different ways people solved for buying a retirement home they love:

  • I heard a couple on the radio the other day. They didn’t care where they lived, they just wanted to love (and be able to afford) their house. They didn’t limit their search for a retirement destination to any one state, they looked at real estate listings all over the country. And, they eventually settled on a 3 acre property in a small town in Maine. Why? They loved the style of the home and the location is working out for them.
  • On the other hand, my mom did not want to relocate for retirement even though she lives in one of the most expensive cities in the United States. She affords staying there because she purchased a lovely home in a great mobile home park that happens to have fantastic amenities.

So, you don’t necessarily have to relocate to one of the states with the lowest housing costs if affordability is a factor for you. There are both expensive and affordable homes everywhere.

Most Affordable States: If you are curious, here are the five states with some of the best housing affordability: Mississippi, West Virginia, Arkansas, Alabama, and Kentucky.

Low State Tax Rates

Taxes can be a big line item in many retirement budgets. So, considering state taxes can be a critical factor to your decision about the best state for your retirement. State and local taxes can include income tax, property tax, sales taxes, estate taxes and more.

Learn more about the best states for low taxes or compare scenarios in the NewRetirement Planner. Run one scenario with where you live now. Run another scenario with a relocation to another state. We’ll calculate your estimated tax burden for each scenario and you can compare.

Overall Cost of Living

U.S. News and World Report ranked states by cost of living. They found that:

  • Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Iowa have the lowest cost of living
  • Hawaii, California, New York, New Jersey, and Washington have the highest cost of living

Healthcare Access, Affordability, and Quality

Like it or not, you are going to need healthcare in retirement. And, you will want to make sure that where you live provides healthcare that is accessible, affordable, and of good quality.

Medicareguide.com did an analysis to help provide answers on which states provide the best healthcare for seniors. Overall, they ranked

  • Minnesota, North Dakota, Massachusetts, California, and Nebraska as the top five
  • Oklahoma, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and West Virginia at the bottom

However, different states excelled or failed at different criteria.

Quality and Health Outcomes: Healthcare quality was assessed by evaluating Alzheimer’s disease rate, life expectancy, cancer mortality rate, stroke disease rate, heart disease rate, share of adults with type 2 diabetes, and fall death rate per 100,000 people.

  • Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Hawaii ranked best for quality.
  • Mississippi, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Alabama, and Tennessee ranked worst for quality.

Accessibility: To assess accessibility, the study looked at doctors, geriatricians, nurse practitioners, home health aides, skilled and nursing facilities per capita. They also considered how many Medicare Certified clinics were available, the share of doctors who opt into Medicare, and the number of Part D Medicare plans that are available.

  • Maine, Vermont, Minnesota, North Dakota, and West Virginia offered the best access to healthcare.
  • Nevada, Georgia, South Carolina, Utah, and North Carolina have the worst access.

Affordability: To consider affordability, they assessed average monthly insurance premiums, out of pocket spending, Medicare Advantage premiums, medicare supplement premiums, deductible for part D PDP plan, and prescription drug prices & Medicare Advantage max out of pocket amounts.

  • Utah, California, South Carolina, Kansas, and Minnesota had the best costs.
  • Delaware, West Virginia, Connecticut, Vermont, and Maryland had the worst costs.

Walk-ability, Public Transportation, and Other Accessibility Factors

When deciding where to live, you’ll want to think about how you are going to get around. The experts say that being able to walk to activities can improve your quality of life and health. But, maybe access to an airport or great public transportation is important to you.

Weather & Geography

Climate and geography are key considerations for many retirees. Some may crave the warmth of year-round sunshine, while others prefer the changing seasons. Coastal regions offer beachside living and ocean views, while mountainous areas boast scenic landscapes and outdoor recreational opportunities.

Consider how climate and geography will impact your daily life and overall well-being.

Natural Disasters and Other Risks

Hand in hand with weather are climate related disasters. You may crave the warm tropical climate of Florida, but not want to deal with the threat of hurricanes. Arizona has extreme Summer heat. California has wildfires and earthquakes. Almost everywhere has potential risks and burdens related to natural disasters.

CoreLogic analyzed wildfire, inland flood, severe convective storm, winter storm, earthquake and hurricane perils and decided that the following 10 counties are safest from natural disaster:

  1. McKinley, New Mexico
  2. Duchesne, Utah
  3. Conejos, Colorado
  4. Emery, Utah
  5. Summit, Colorado
  6. Pondera, Montana
  7. Saguache, Colorado
  8. Uintah, Utah
  9. Mesa, Colorado
  10. San Miguel, Colorado

Where is Your Best State to Retire?

The reality is that most people stay put for retirement, but those that want to relocate have a lot to consider. Think carefully about your options. Use the NewRetirement Planner to run financial scenarios for the relocation.

Besides all of the quality of life issues, you’ll want to account for the financial factors, including:

  • State income taxes (the Planner will do this automatically when you enter the relocation)
  • Property tax changes (add to your recurring expense budget)
  • Cost of living differences (reflect in your recurring expense budget)
  • Medical cost changes (for after 65 costs, the Planner will do this automatically by location if you are using the estimation tool)
  • Insurance costs (some areas have much higher costs than others)

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