Who doesn’t dream of the day they get to ditch their morning commute, stuffy office attire, and 9-to-5 grind permanently and retire? But if you aren’t sure exactly where to embark on this slower-paced stage of life, a new report by Bankrate has some suggestions.
By examining data in five areas that matter to retirees—weather, affordability, wellness, culture, and crime—Bankrate has ranked all 50 states on just how retirement-friendly they are. The top state of them all? Georgia, due largely to its enticing combination of nice weather (coming in third in this category) and affordability (fourth). That said, Georgia didn’t fare so well for culture (41st), wellness (32nd), or crime (29th).
As for the rest of the top five, Florida was a superclose No. 2 (it was nearly a tie with Georgia), but lost a lot of ground due to its harsh weather. Sure, the Sunshine State is beautifully balmy, but as we saw this week, it also sees frequent hurricanes and tornadoes.
Up north, Massachusetts took fifth place due to its excellent scores in wellness (access to health care is high) and culture, as this New England city is blessed with many museums, concert halls, and restaurants.
“I was surprised that Massachusetts ranked so well despite its high cost of living, but it was the wellness factor that propelled it into the top five,” says Jeff Ostrowski, senior mortgage writer with Bankrate.
This report also goes to show that the top retirement destinations may not be where you think they are.
“This report does a good job of looking at a comprehensive range of factors, and as a result there are some surprises on the list, like Massachusetts,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com®.
The 10 best states to retire in
As Americans age, proximity to health care, shopping, and public transportation are also key considerations when choosing a state to retire in, says Ginni Field, a real estate agent in Oceanside, CA, who contributed to the Bankrate report’s commentary.
Taxes are another huge part of the puzzle, as are home insurance rates. And while Florida has no income tax, it does have higher homeowners insurance costs because of hurricanes, says Clark Kendall, another report contributor and author of “Middle-Class Millionaire.”
Worst states for retirement in 2021
As for those states where retirement might not be as dreamy as you’d hope, the worst of the bunch is Maryland. Yup, this tiny East Coast state on the Chesapeake Bay just can’t get a break, as it’s not only expensive (ranking 47th), but also weighed down by low scores for culture and climate.
The 10 worst states to retire in
But wait, isn’t Maine known as “Vacationland”? You’d think that kicking back by the beach with a lobster roll would be the ideal retiree life, but it turns out the icy winds from the ocean placed this state dead last in terms of weather.
“In our weather category, we upgraded states for warmer temperatures and downgraded cooler climates,” says Ostrowski.
How to choose where to retire
All told, though, Ostrowski argues that there were no runaway winners or losers this year.
“Even though we ranked the states from 1 to 50, no single place really dominated across the board, and no state performed poorly in all categories,” he explains.
In other words, there are certain advantages to retiring just about anywhere—which is good news in that it’s not always easy to pack your bags and move right when you’re hoping to relax.
Plus, picking what may be your final home is a very individual decision, so you should consider what appeals to you personally. Ostrowski would lean hard on mild temperatures and outdoor recreation, though for many people the most important factor is whether friends and family are close by.
“Ask yourself whether the state you’re thinking about will help you live well, with access to social and community resources,” says Hale. “Ask whether the area will keep you busy with activities and relationships that enrich your life.”
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