Best U.S. States for Retirees
Your retirement benefits will stretch a bit further in these states
It's widely accepted that some 10,000 baby boomers reach the retirement age of 65 every day. This doesn't mean that all of them will stop working when they hit this milestone, but it does mean that many will start contemplating whether to relocate to a more beautiful or temperate state to spend the best years of their lives.
Some choose to do so purely for financial and health care reasons, while others choose to live near family and friends. Whatever the case, folks nearing retirement should consider how they'll stretch their retirement benefits because they might be living on a fixed income for a good stretch of years. Some states are friendlier in this regard than others. This chart shows the U.S. map, with states broken down by the cost of living.
Things to Consider
Some of the factors you might want to consider when you're thinking of retiring and moving to another state include:
- Availability of services to support longevity, including health care, fitness, and elder-care
- The cost of living index for the region to ensure that your monthly income will cover your monthly expenses
- Tax rates and shelters for retired people to make monthly income last longer
- Crime rates
- Quality and availability of retirement-friendly homes and condos for an easy transition
- Temperature and climate, which can be important for those who suffer from weather-related aches and pains
- Opportunities to be part of a community, which is vital to a positive retirement experience
- Closeness to travel, shopping, entertainment and wellness centers to help retired people remain active
- Proximity to family members so you can spoil the grandkids and get support with daily needs
- Approved pension-related wellness and military VA centers for those with these requirements
These are just a few of the many factors to consider when selecting the right state to retire. Check to see if health providers accept your benefits. Military veterans and retirees will want to live near a VA center for ongoing care. Most will want to start shopping around for assisted living and nursing care facilities that accept Social Security benefits, as well as long-term care benefits.
10 Great Retirement States
We culled opinions, ratings, and information from Kiplinger, The Street, and Investment News to come with a list of states you might want to consider if relocating in retirement is on your somewhat immediate horizon. This information is current as of 2018, but this type of data can change relatively quickly, and it often does.
There’s plenty to do here, from taking in a baseball game to visiting the Gulf Coast. More than 11% of Texas's population is age 65 or older, so you should have some company.
The cost of living is 10% below the U.S. average, but there's a caveat: Health care costs tend to be above average in the Lone Star state, about 1.7% more. On the bright side, Texas doesn't have an income tax so that should save you a few dollars.
Pennsylvania might seem like a surprising state to appear on this list, but the cost of living is 3% below the national average here, including health care costs. Those age 65 or older make up 16.7% of the population. Pennsylvania doesn't tax Social Security income or most other forms of retirement income, either.
You'll be close to the beaches and plenty of golf, particularly in Naples, if you choose Florida. This state doesn't tax Social Security benefits, either—in fact, it doesn't tax any income at all. Perhaps equally as important, there's no estate or inheritance tax here, either. Investment News ranks Florida fourth in terms of taxes, and second-best for weather.
A significant portion of the population is age 65 or older—19.1%, or about 3.8 million residents all told. Unfortunately, you'll pay a little more for all this. The cost of living in Florida is 1% above the national average. And even with all those seniors in residence, the state isn't particularly known for its quality health care.
Access to some of the best barbecue in the country can be a great perk if you're a foodie. You'll find it in the deep south in Arkansas. Access to health care here is quite easy because the population is quite low. Seniors represent 15.7% of the state.
This state's greatest advantage might be its cost of living, however—an eye-popping 17% below the national average. Health care costs are among the cheapest you'll find anywhere. Unfortunately, Arkansas isn't tax-free. Only the first $6,000 a year of your retirement income is exempt from income tax.
You might not want to select this state if nice weather is at the top of your must-have list, and its tax rate is pretty high as well, but Nebraska still has a few things to offer.
The cost of living here is 12% below the national average, and you'll have plenty of company because 14.4% of the population is age 65 or older. And the state exempts at least some Social Security from taxation. The economy here is pretty healthy and steady, and that's a good thing—maybe because of those tax rates.
Many visit Tennessee and never leave. They end up moving there because of the beautiful views, not to mention chart-topping country music. Add to that a cost of living that's 12% less than the national average and this state might seem like a pretty good deal. The Street says Tennessee is one of the best locations financially for retirees.
There's no income tax here, and health care costs are more than manageable, too. Approximately 15% of the population is age 65 and older.
North Carolina has plenty to offer retirees, although culture isn't really on the list. Nonetheless, the cost of living here is 5% below the national average if you stay away from the Outer Banks. The weather tends to be on the mild side, and Social Security income is tax-free. Almost 15% of the population is made up of seniors.
Not only is this region brimming with state parks—30 of them in all—but the cost of living is low as well at 5% below the national average so you get a break for enjoying the state's breathtaking beauty and fresh mountain air. Local colleges and universities offer free classes for retired folks, and crime rates are low.
Property taxes are below average, and you'll also enjoy low utility costs, thanks to Idaho's hydroelectricity. At $128,400 as of 2019, the median home cost is a significant $98,400 less than the national median. (Yes, you read that right!)
There's no tax on Social Security in Idaho, so retirees can make their dollars stretch further. The state doesn't have an estate or inheritance tax, either. The quality of health care ranks high. Seniors make up 14.3% of Idaho's population.
Seniors have been flocking to Arizona to retire for decades, and they currently make up about 15.9% of the state's population. Arizona offers plenty of outdoor activities for those who don’t want to sit around during their golden years, thanks to its mostly-great weather. Summers in Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun can be brutally hot, however.
Unfortunately, like Florida, this state's cost of living is north of average by about 3%. Real estate, in particular, can be pricey in some areas because a good portion of this state is dedicated to federal lands and reservations, so what's left over for sale to private individuals can be costly.
At 10% less than the national average, the cost of living in Missouri gets this state on our list. The weather isn't particularly anything to write home about, and Social Security benefits can be taxed if your adjusted gross income is $85,000 or more, or $100,000 for married taxpayers filing joint returns. Other retirement incomes are fully taxable.
But you'll save on other consumer costs thanks to the cost of living, so it might be something of a wash.
Not Sure If You're Ready to Retire?
Follow these tips:
- It's recommended that you keep working until at least 72 years of age to maximize your Social Security earnings if your health allows it.
- This can be a good time to focus your earnings into a company 401k plan, too, especially if the company matches dollars.
- Put as much money as possible into your health savings account before you become eligible for Medicare at age 65. This is a good tax shelter that you'll be able to tap into for future medical care and prescription drug coverage if you're careful.