Sunday, January 19, 2020

Best States to Retire In -- 2020

     Okay, we all know that these lists are flawed. First of all, for most people, the best place to retire is right where they are already living, where they have family and long-time friends. If retirees do move it's often to follow children or grandchildren who have moved away, usually for a job.

     Then there is the category of "state," which can be quite uninformative. Living in New York City is an entirely different experience from living in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. Coastal California is a whole other world compared to the Central Valley.

     Nevertheless, a state ranking does provide some useful information. For example, when we retired we wanted to stay in the Northeast, near friends and at least some of our family - but not someplace super-cold like Maine or Vermont. We looked at several towns in New Jersey, including a couple on the Jersey Shore. We took a few trips to Maryland and the Washington, DC area. But we discovered that housing and taxes are just as high, if not higher, in New Jersey and Maryland as they are in New York and Connecticut. So we eventually focused on Pennsylvania, where taxes and the cost of living are lower, there are plenty of cultural opportunities, and we're still within shouting distance of our old haunts.

     So with that in mind, I ran across several new state rankings for retirement in 2020. As you might expect, they do not always agree with one another, mostly because they use different criteria. Some focus on affordability; others use weather or quality of life as the most important factors.

     Even using the same factors, they don't always make sense. For example, listed as the "most expensive" states to retire in are: New York, Vermont, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Minnesota. Where are California and Hawaii, two states with the highest cost of living?

Florida
     So with all those caveats, here is a summary on the Ten Best states, and the Ten Worst, based on an "observational study" averaging several other studies to come up with a general, overall list. If your state is not among the Ten Best or Ten Worst, you can assume it's about average in terms of weather, affordability, quality of life and access to health care.

     The Number 1 state for retirement is no surprise: Florida. Almost everyone ranks it number one, including the almost 100,000 retirees who move there every year for the low taxes, the low cost of living, the warm weather and generally good health care (although not everyone likes Florida, see Why I'll Never Move to Florida.)

     Two states tie for the Number 2 position: Iowa and Idaho. They're not for people who like warm weather, but they offer other benefits such as low cost of living, low crime rates and good access to health care. But these two states might be considered undiscovered gems. On average, only about 6,000 retirees move to Idaho in a year, and fewer still to Iowa.

     Two other surprises on the Top Ten list are North Dakota and New Hampshire, both of which suffer bitter winters, but enjoy low cost of living, low crime rates and ready access to health care.

     Rounding out the Top Ten best states for retirement are: Vermont, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Texas.

     As if to confirm these rankings, a separate list rates the best "places" to retire. Florida scores four cities among the top ten (Ft. Myers, Sarasota, Port St. Lucie and Jacksonville). North Carolina has two: Ashville and Winston-Salem. Texas (Dallas), Michigan (Grand Rapids) and Pennsylvania (Lancaster) each have one on the list.

     A surprise (to me at least) is that, of the five or six Top Ten lists I consulted, only one mentioned Arizona as a great state to retire in. But retirees themselves seem to disagree. Arizona ranks second behind Florida as the state where most retirees actually move.

     And the Ten Worst?

     New Mexico, Maryland and Connecticut rank among the ten states that are tough on retirees.

Louisiana
     Ranked even worse are New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey, California, West Virginia, Illinois.

     And, by general consensus, the absolute worst state to retire in is . . . Louisiana.

     But before you start to argue with me, consider this. There are three states that rank as one of the Top Ten places to retire on one list, and then as one of the Ten Worst on another. They are Hawaii, Alabama and Tennessee. That's, no doubt, because different lists emphasize different criteria. If you have a lot of money and don't mind living on an island, then Hawaii might top your list. If you're a country music fan, maybe Tennessee.

     If you don't find any of this satisfying, then maybe you'd consider one of the top countries to retire to, at least according to one list: Spain, Portugal, Switzerland or New Zealand. In the end, it's all up to you.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am surprised that Arizona is not on the list as the state continues to grow. Moving here 25 years ago for a job change the population was only about 1.3 million statewide and now is almost 6 million. Maybe it’s the congestion we have now due to growth or the price of housing that keeps going up. Now that I am here and retired it’s probably the best option. Sometimes it’s timing cause the equity in my house has over doubled but if you sell then you get less for more money moving. A lot of AZ growth has come from businesses and people relocating from California due to high cost of living and taxes that drove up housing and other prices.

gigi-hawaii said...

I was born and raised in Hawaii so I have lots of relatives and friends here. On the other hand, I lived in New York City for 5-1/2 years and really enjoyed living there, primarily because of the entertainment.

Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged said...

I'm a native Californian (and even a native of the city I live in) and will probably never move. BUT, it is getting awfully crowded and if we didn't already own our home, it would be hard to find something similar in our (especially retired) price-range here. So many friends have moved out of California over the years for various reasons (mostly job-related) and would love to come back... but they can't afford to. Because I love the ocean and sunshine, I think that if I was forced to move, it would probably be to Portugal.

Hshawjr207 said...

If I were to ever leave Maine, which I don't seem me doing despite the nasty winters, I would move to someplace a little more temperate, without the harsh winters. However, moving to anything other than a rural area doesn't interest me either, big city life and lots of people do not interest me all that much. Mountains and trees are necessary, but nearness to the ocean is necessary. I guess a small town somewhere in the old Mid Atlantic area. PA or parts of WV has a lot to offer. You probably made a good choice.

Bob Lowry said...

Another vote for Arizona. After 35 years here, this is home. The cost of living is lower than average, real estate and state taxes are very reasonable. If you live in the Phoenix area, a complete climate change (cooler summers and snowy winters) or pine forests and lakes are just two hours north. Summers are hot, but right now, in January it is 73 degrees. I grew up in the Northeast but could never go back to the cold, the humidity, or the sky high taxes.

Mary said...

I wish they’d list best liberal states or cities to retire in, as I’m in central Fla and it is anything but...

Kay said...

Illinois? Hmmmm....I wonder why.

Hawaii does have better weather, BUT the cost of living here is so high. We don't have enough doctors or nurses and senior care housing is extremely expensive. Extremely. Sigh...

David @iretiredyoung said...

Deciding on location can be a very difficult matter. I worked overseas for much of my life (roughly 20 out of the last 26 years) and it's meant that I don't have a clear feeling of where home is. I'm from the UK originally but I'm no longer sure that it ticks as many boxes as I want for it to be home. The difficultly is that I'm not sure which location does fit best. Currently I'm in France, but I'm finding my awful French language skills are a big drawback to making me feel at home. I'm not complaining, just highlighting how it can be difficult. I imagine relocating within the US, just to a different state, may be less challenging though.

Tom said...

Mary -- Liberals who retire to conservative states. That does seem to be a trend, so maybe it's an idea for another post.

Arkansas Patti said...

I did a lot of research and found I could get the most bang for my real estate dollar in Arkansas. It was a blue state then (Home of Clinton and a democrat governor) but has since morphed into a red state. Sadly states do change there complexion. Florida was blue when I lived there.

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hi Tom! I confess that I nearly always read articles or posts talking about the best places to retire...and I know California doesn't bode well on most of them...but when I see what they recommend I often just say "ugh!" I grew up in the desert and now still live in the desert southwest and I DON'T want to live anywhere cold...so that throws out a BUNCH of states that often get good ratings. We actually did consider Florida at one point because of the "warmth" and because it has so much water--but we are primarily west-coast people and the vibe in Florida just didn't fit us. We also tried Arizona and Tucson does have some appeal...but we like having access to mountains and oceans AND desert so we'll likely stay here most of our time. Sure the taxes are higher but our property taxes (with Prop 13) are VERY quite low and the weather for 9 months of the year is wonderful. During the rest of the time we travel and visit some of those other states. Of course, we are going to visit both Portugal AND Spain this coming May and June so who knows? It's nice to consider but I think it's important to remember that "Wherever you go, there you are!" So the grass won't necessarily be any greener anywhere else! ~Kathy

Mary said...

Tom..it also seems liberal states are in cold climates or expensive places like the West Coast. I love warm weather, so hence why I’m in Fl.

Anonymous said...

I read that Washington state where we reside costs more to retire and live in but we do get a big bang for the buck here..so many places to choose from only thing is home prices are rising a lot due to so many who come here to visit and like what they see, from states where they can sell their homes for a big price and buy 2 here and tear them down and build huge homes, it doesn't seem fair but hey it is their money to do what they please with..we love the beach and the dry parts of Washington but crime and lots of people are in these cities now, one cannot have paradise on earth I say..I would live in Hawaii but since the cost of living and lack of nurses, doctors and affordable nursing care for elders is scarce there we will stay here and travel when we can..We are grateful to just be alive and married and have each other..One cannot have heaven on earth..peace to you & yours!!!!!!!

Barbara said...

I've moved and come back to Houston several times. I loved Louisiana and I loved Florida but they were not home. I'm destined to live here, I'm afraid.

Wisewebwoman said...

For a while I had debated retiring to Ireland, my native land, but threw that out as cost of living there is much higher than here and I am very happy with the healthcare in this province which is a major consider for us elders.

The climate could improve, but not by much as I hate the heat (humidity - to clarify)and I worked in Florida for a while which ruined my idea of it forever.

XO
WWW

Janette said...

Tom- I think a post on liberals moving to conservative states is a good one. I'd say most places that are considered conservative by the East tend to be libertarian (but there is no party for them).
I always wonder why the people who jack up taxes to the hilt, and do tons of restrictions, then choose to move for others to pay for. They move to where others choose to keep their taxes and government out of their business and money.
Migrants proceed to say that that their new states need to change to get more of the regulations and services (and taxes) that they left behind..... Why did they move? Don't they want what they moved for? Makes no sense to me.

We are headed back to Idaho after years in the East after hanging with our daughter's family. We are libertarians---give us low taxes, solid land and leave us alone :). But Noooooo----California is draining into Idaho- bringing their fear of guns and need to control things. The town my husband grew up in now has wine tasting Fridays rather then family picnic Fridays. Weird.

Rebecca Olkowski said...

I love California, I am an LA girl and don't want to leave but it's insanely expensive. I love the vibe, though, so I'm staying. Plus, I want to stay close to my daughter who lives here too. I did seriously consider Portugal. That would be way cool!

Anonymous said...

I live in North Texas and will probably stay near where I live now. kids live near by. No state income tax. Mild winters. Housing is still reasonable but slowly going up.

Sherry

Barb said...

With regard to Mary's comment, when it comes to Texas it becomes more purple day by day and that's as direct result of people moving from more liberal areas to the state....

Sheets comment is why I'm heading back to North Texas. If only they get rid of those damned toll roads.

Barb said...

And Janette, I would love wine tasting Fridays. Actually no reason to have both but as a retired in not looking for family stuff as such.And I'm not at all sure winevtadtungbis a liberal trend at all.

Linda Myers said...

Our family home is in a Seattle suburb, which has changed a lot since I moved there 30 years ago. Still love the summers, but Tucson has been our winter home for seven years now and we stay here longer and longer. Simpler life, lower cost of living, lots of sun. We'll be here for a year this time, so I suspect I can say I live in Arizona now. But we're remodeling the daylight basement in our Washington home, so we can live simply there too while we rent out the upstairs. So HE thinks we still live in Washington!

Happy said...

I get to retire right where I’m at. I like to read about all the retirees with unlimited assets to travel and relocate. It’s like living vicariously.

Happy said...

I get to retire right where I’m at. I like to read about all the retirees with unlimited assets to travel and relocate. It’s like living vicariously.

Happy said...

I get to retire right where I’m at. I like to read about all the retirees with unlimited assets to travel and relocate. It’s like living vicariously.

Happy said...

I get to retire right where I’m at. I like to read about all the retirees with unlimited assets to travel and relocate. It’s like living vicariously.