Saving for retirement is much harder today than it was 25 years ago. Health care wasn’t as complicated or expensive. People live longer these days, so it takes a lot more planning to maintain a good life as a retiree. Financially, inflation and other stresses can take a bite out of retirement funds and reduce spending power. The location you choose determines how comfortable you are during your golden years. Financial considerations, such as cost of living, as well as other factors like climate, crime rates, and availability of health care, contribute to the quality of life. Avoiding the worst states to retire in could make things easier.
The Bluegrass State ranks 46th in quality of life, into which a high percentage of food insecurity is factored. Kentucky is also 49th for senior health. Studies show it is the worst state in the country for both preventable hospitalizations and mental distress for seniors. Not surprisingly, Kentucky also has one of the lowest health expectancies. Affordability for retirees isn’t great either — it's number 32 on the list — although the state offers a “tax-friendly” approach to pensions and social security income. This isn't enough to keep it from being the worst state for retirees.
The Land of Enchantment may not be such an enchanting state for retirees. New Mexico earned low scores on affordability, landing at number 37. Around 13.3% of seniors live in poverty and experience food insecurity. The state also received low scores in healthcare, ranking number 42. Additionally, New Mexico has the highest property crime rate in the nation, which contributes to its overall quality of life ranking, pushing it down to 45th on the list. However, a retirement magazine named Las Cruces, New Mexico’s second-largest city, one of the best places to retire, citing its low cost of living and rich cultural life.
Although the state’s health care rankings aren’t as bad as others on this list, its affordability rating is what landed it here. The Ocean State earned slot number 47 due to its high cost of living. Groceries, housing, and utilities are between 5% and 24% higher in Rhode Island than in other parts of the nation. The state’s health care ranks in the middle at number 25, but it’s still around 7% higher than the national average for medical treatment. The state does offer an amazing coastline and excellent seafood, but the sales tax is high, and out-of-state pensions and social security benefits get taxed.
Retirees trying to live on a fixed income will likely struggle in the Garden State. New Jersey taxes all pensions and annuities and some IRAs. Auto insurance rates are higher, as are housing costs. Property taxes are up there, too. In recent months, there have been significant increases in toll amounts on the 30-some toll roads across the state, which is taking a bigger bite out of residents’ pockets. Violent crime rates are among the lowest of all the states, however.
Not only does West Virginia tie with Kentucky for the lowest life expectancy, but it also has the 14th highest poverty rate and one of the lowest median incomes for those 65 years of age and older. While it ranks 19th in affordability due to its low property taxes and cost of living, the Mountain State drops to 40th in overall quality of life. West Virginia struggles with its infrastructure, including internet access, transportation, and energy.
The Volunteer State is among the least expensive states to live in, coming in at number 14 for affordability. However, when it comes to quality of life, Tennessee drops to number 48, and its healthcare ranking is near the bottom, too. Increased rates of poverty and food insecurity and high crime rates won the state this low rating. The lack of diverse cultural activities, such as theaters, museums, and golf courses, also contributes to a lower quality of life. Air pollution is an issue in Tennessee, too, which can lead to complications for seniors with chronic health issues.
This state’s natural beauty and low cost of living may seem like great reasons to retire here. However, its number 9 ranking for affordability isn’t enough to increase its quality of life rating, which plummets to number 50. Around 10% of the state's seniors live in poverty, and the lack of access to quality health care earned the state a slot at number 45. Public transportation is near non-existent; this issue may complicate life for retirees who no longer drive. As for its infrastructure, Arkansas ranks near the middle for energy and transportation but falls to number 50 for internet access.
The Magnolia state may offer the lowest cost of living of any other state, but Mississippi also ranks 47th in healthcare and 49th for overall quality of life. The state was among the five lowest states for retiree health care based on the number of physicians and dentists and the quality of hospitals. Mississippi also has the lowest life expectancy of any state. Although the state exempts all forms of retirement from taxation, including Social Security benefits, and enjoys low property taxes, its sales tax is moderate.
The Empire State ranks 50th for affordability. Not only do New York state residents pay the highest state taxes, but they also pay the highest local ones. Although the state offers some tax breaks for retirees, they don’t offset the high cost of living. In fact, New York has the fourth-highest poverty rate for those 65 years of age and older. But for people who wish to brave the high cost of living, the cultural and entertainment options are endless.
With low rankings for healthcare and quality of life, as well as coming in 47th for life expectancy, Louisiana may not be the best state to retire in. Although some polls rate it as a top state for retirees, these evaluations are limited to its cost of living factors, such as housing and property taxes. Unfortunately, Louisiana also has a slightly higher income tax than the national average. Its sales tax is the second-highest in the U.S., which puts a damper on retirees’ spending.
Retirement in Massachusetts may seem tempting. It's a beautiful state with historic significance and an elegant cultural scene. Before you choose, remember those brutal, bone-chilling winters. Massachusetts is the third most expensive state in America. Only Hawaii and California are more expensive—and they've got much milder climates. Massachusetts also has fairly high taxes at 12.79%. Housing is expensive; the median price for a single-family home is $508,000. On the plus side, the Bay State has a higher life expectancy, especially for those who are wealthy, and its health care is rated highly.
With 81% of Nevada owned by the federal government, there are relatively few places to live comfortably. The winter climate in parts of Nevada is wonderful, but summers in the desert can be stiflingly hot, and temperatures are rising. Housing isn't cheap--the median home price is $358,949. The state is "tax-friendly" since residents pay no income tax and no corporate, franchise, or inventory taxes. To offset this, residents pay a high sales tax of 6.8%. Nevada also gets poor marks for health care quality and access.
The Great Lake State is one of the most beautiful in the U.S. and sometimes attracts retirees because of the relatively low cost of living--until they experience lake-effect snow. Michiganders are so used to heavy snow that schools, government, and businesses don't shut down, even in a blizzard. Michigan roads are also in poor condition, and the hamlets near the shores of the Great Lakes swarm with tourists during the summer. Despite the affordability of most homes, some counties levy high property taxes.
Nebraska has become a high tax state. Despite relatively low housing costs, the cost of health care is also well above average. The weather can be extreme--Nebraska is right in the middle of Tornado Alley--and in the winter, snowfall can be abundant. Then there's the wind, which during winter makes the temperature feel up to 20 degrees colder. Retirement here might seem attractive, at least initially, but between the high tax burden and the higher chance of a natural disaster, retirees should look elsewhere.
Remember Sen. Bernie Sanders' iconic mittens at the 2021 Inauguration? He wasn't just being a character--those chunky mitts are ideal for Vermont's chilly autumns and icy winters. The cost of housing in the Green Mountain State is actually quite low, but gasoline and food prices higher than those in the Big Apple. Internet coverage is spotty. There is virtually no public transportation, so cars are a must. Speaking of cars, Vermont's long winters equal rusty cars thanks to the salt brine laid down on the ice. After winter, the state's many dirt roads turn into mud pits. Vermont also has a fairly high rate of violent crime.
While Wisconsin has affordable housing-- the median home price is $226,000--it also has relatively steep property and income taxes. Like its neighbor, Michigan, Wisconsin gets lake-effect snow during its long, bitter winters. Summers are hot and humid, bringing a long, miserable mosquito season. Wisconsin may be famous for its cheeses and beer, but buying those items is going to be pricey. Substance abuse is rampant, especially in rural areas of the Badger State. Life expectancy differs based on ethnicity, economic standing, and where in the state a person lives. Overall, Wisconsin rates #8 for quality of life.
While Hawaii is ranked #1 for health care access, retirees should think twice about living the island life unless money isn't an issue. Hawaii has the highest cost of living in the U.S. That's because it must ship nearly everything in from the mainland. So from gas to groceries, cars to housing, Hawaii will give most people immediate sticker shock. A gallon of milk on Oahu costs $8.99, for instance. Yes, it's paradise, but there are also hazards, including hurricanes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, floods, and even stinging jellyfish.
The Peach State can be attractive to retirees largely because of its low cost of living and its beautiful beaches, mountains, and farmland. Before making the move, consider the negatives. Traffic in urban areas is a nightmare. Weather is hot and humid most of the year, bringing with it the unofficial Georgia state bird: mosquitos. Winter can bring ice storms. Georgia also has some nasty tornadoes—30 twisters since the beginning of 2021. Like most of the Deep South, Georgia grapples with issues including health access disparity and economics based largely on ethnicity. Georgia has a base sales tax rate of 4%, which can go up as high as 9%, depending on the city.
Known for its Rocky Mountains and breathtaking scenery, Colorado is an attractive choice for many retirees. There are reasons to consider another state. Traffic is getting worse along the Front Range communities, which include Denver, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, and Greeley. Property taxes just skyrocketed by 40%. The median price for a single-family home is $479,127. The economy largely depends on tourism, and with the population increase over the last decade, roads, bridges, and other infrastructure built in the 1950s falls short.
As part of New England and sandwiched between Massachusetts and New York, Connecticut may seem an ideal retirement destination. Think twice. While Connecticut ranks #3 in quality health care, its infrastructure, such as bridges and roads, are ailing, and traffic is rated as the worst in the country. The cost of living is high, and depending on the area, crime can be an issue. The Nutmeg State is ranked as the fourth worst place to retire, largely because of its high taxes—even Social Security income is taxed. Yes, towns like Mystic, Old Saybrook, or Greenwich are captivating, but living in Connecticut on a modest retirement income is nearly impossible.
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