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Retirement Planning: Top 10 Best and Worst States to Retire

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Dreaming of retirement? Take some time to consider multiple factors that impact retirees so that you can make a sound decision about where to retire. Check out the things you need to include in your decision as well as these lists of the best and worst states to retire.

Retirement means the end of your career as you know it, but it’s certainly not the end of living your life. You may not be punching a clock or wondering how to tackle your latest work project, but your retirement plan does bring up new questions you need to answer. When do you want to retire? Where do you want to spend your days once you aren’t reporting to work everyday?

While many people retire somewhere around the age of 65, there are many factors that go into taking the plunge into retirement. Many people retire around that age because it coincides with when you can begin receiving Social Security benefits (or maybe pension checks). 

However, there are many people who can’t retire for several years after that or can’t afford to retire where they want to.

Fact: Twenty-six percent of non-retired adults have no money saved for retirement according to the Federal Reserve. This figure sheds light on the fact that many people aren’t able to retire when they want to because unfortunately, Social Security or pension benefits alone aren’t enough to cover living expenses.

Also Read: How do Social Security Benefits Work During Retirement? 

Retirement planning. Worst states for retirement.

Identifying The Best and Worst States for Retirement

In addition to deciding when you can afford to retire, you have to decide where to retire. Should you settle down right where you have been living, downsize where it’s warm and the snowbirds visit, or move closer to the kids and grandkids?

Many people spend decades in locations dictated by their employment. Retirement offers the opportunity to live in a location where you want to spend your time. 

Keep in mind that this is not a one-dimensional decision as there are many factors to consider. When choosing which state to retire in, consider these factors.

Also Read: 6 Ways to Retire in Luxury with Less Money

Proximity to Family and Friends

Social and support networks are a crucial factor when deciding where to retire. Many people find it difficult to make new friends when they retire, and friends are important for mental and emotional well being in retirement. 

If you have friends who live in a certain area, consider retiring near them.

Cost of Living

Compare the cost of living of the place where you live now compared to the place(s) where you want to move. Running the analysis will let you know whether you have the means to live somewhere more expensive. 

As you work through your planning, make sure to factor in selling your current home and buying a new one (which may be cheaper or more expensive depending on where you move).


This may sound silly. However, it’s definitely an important factor in determining where you want to retire. If you hate snow and cold weather, then retiring to the mountains or somewhere cold most of the year may not be right for you. Do you really want to be dealing with hurricanes or sweltering in 100+ degree heat?

Keep weather in mind as you choose where to live after retirement, especially if you enjoy spending your time outside.

Presence of Other Retirees 

In addition to considering where current friends live, you will likely make additional friends over time. That’s why it’s important to look at the percentage of people over 65 living in the area. 

You’re more likely to make lasting friendships with other people in your same stage of life than you are with the 35-year-olds who are raising kids and climbing the corporate ladder.

Enjoyable Hobbies and Activities 

How do you want to spend your time after you retire? Having hobbies is a great way to spend time – and connect with other people. And having hobbies makes for a much healthier and more enjoyable retirement than sitting around watching TV. 

If you enjoy hiking, make sure to move somewhere not far from established hiking trails. If you love to fish, moving to an area without rivers, lakes or oceans wouldn’t be ideal. Remember your hobbies (or hobbies you want to take up) as you think about where to retire.

Also Read: Top 25 Best Cities to Stay Active in Retirement

Healthcare. Retirement Planning: Top 10 Best and Worst States to Retire

Access to Quality Health Care 

Hopefully you’re able to experience many years of good health after you retire. However, most people find themselves dealing with health problems at some point. 

If you move to an area where the good medical care is hours away, you may find yourself spending more time traveling to appointments than enjoying retirement – or worse, unable to get the help you need when you need it most.

Also Read: Enrolling in Medicare – Avoiding Scams

Assisted Living Costs

Healthcare isn’t the only medical factor to consider. You also need to account for assisted living costs, especially if you’ll possibly move to a place where you don’t have younger relatives who would be willing to lend a hand should you need it.


It’s a fact that some areas have higher levels of crime than others. Although it may not be the top factor, it’s important to consider the likelihood of scams, robberies, and other potential crimes targeting older people in the areas where you want to retire.

Also Read: Retirement: 10 Things You Need to Know Before You Retire

Retirement Planning: Top 10 Best and Worst States to Retire

Choosing the 10 Best States to Retire for You

Finding the best states where you can retire can be difficult. You can find lists online, but the problem is that lists vary depending on the criteria used to generate them. The same thing applies to finding the worst states to retire too.

Here is an example of the best and worst states to retire in financially from Retirement Living using four different indicators to help in their rankings.

Retirement Living’s 10 Best States for Retirement

  1. Arkansas
  2. Florida
  3. Alabama
  4. South Carolina
  5. West Virginia
  6. Ohio
  7. Delaware
  8. Idaho
  9. Kentucky
  10. Arizona

Retirement Living’s 10 Worst States for Retirement

  1. California
  2. New York
  3. Alaska
  4. Rhode Island
  5. New Jersey
  6. Colorado
  7. Massachusetts
  8. Connecticut
  9. Oregon
  10. Washington

Wallethub, on the other hand, used 45 key indicators to come up with their rankings. For comparison’s sake, check out these lists:

Wallethub’s 10 Best States for Retirement

  1. Florida
  2. Colorado
  3. Delaware
  4. Virginia 
  5. North Dakota
  6. Montana
  7. Idaho
  8. Utah
  9. Minnesota
  10. New Hampshire

Wallethub’s 10 Worst States for Retirement

  1. Illinois
  2. Texas
  3. Connecticut 
  4. West Virginia
  5. Kentucky
  6. Rhode Island
  7. New Mexico
  8. Mississippi
  9. New York
  10. New Jersey

Those two lists were quite different, right? There’s one more list I want to point out. Moneywise took other major rankings and basically combined them to form the ultimate lists of the best and worst states to retire in. Here are their lists.

Moneywise’s 10 Best States for Retirement

  1. South Dakota
  2. Florida
  3. New Hampshire
  4. Utah
  5. Virginia
  6. Idaho
  7. Wyoming
  8. Iowa
  9. Colorado
  10. North Dakota

Moneywise’s 10 Worst States for Retirement

  1. California
  2. Illinois
  3. West Virginia 
  4. Connecticut
  5. New Jersey
  6. Rhode Island
  7. Louisiana
  8. New Mexico
  9. New York
  10. Maryland

The Bottom Line

As I hope you see from the differences in these lists, choosing the best states to retire in isn’t a simple one-size-fits all thing. Your “best” state may end up being one of the worst states to retire for other people.

That’s why it’s critical to look at this decision from many different angles and including multiple factors to find the best fit for you and your circumstances. For your financial and emotional well-being, it’s worth spending some time carefully considering everything as you choose where to retire.

Still a few years away from retirement? Take the time to start thinking about this now so that you can plan ahead and make sound financial choices to help you retire where you want to and still live the life you crave.

If you could retire anywhere, where would it be?

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