Retirement is typically viewed as the end of the line -- a time for rest, relaxation, and the pursuit of interests long ago put on the back burner. But the narrative is far different for military retirees.
For starters, the average officer is only 45.2 years old upon retirement from service, and enlisted personnel are even younger -- 41.4 years of age, according to The Congressional Research Service. Most are therefore still in the job market. Military retirees -- combat veterans in particular -- must also deal with the struggles of assimilation, which has proven especially difficult in the wake of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with rising numbers of young vets encountering hardship and homelessness. Finally, military retirees are at the juncture of a few crucial public policy issues, namely our national security, aging population, and prodigious national debt -- which will be the subject of significant scrutiny, numerous reformatory efforts, and a great deal of turmoil in the months and years to come.
With that in mind, and in honor of Memorial Day, WalletHub sought to help ease the burden on our nation's military community by identifying the Best & Worst States for Military Retirees. This is a far more complicated issue than one might initially assume, given the extent to which state tax policies differ when it comes to military benefits, the relative friendliness of different job markets to veterans, and a variety of other important socioeconomic factors. As a result, WalletHub took 19 key metrics into account in devising its rankings. You can check them out below.
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Economic Environment Rank
Quality of Life Rank
Health Care Rank
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Military retirees are confronted with a number of unique benefits relative to the general consumer population, largely due to the fact that the average service member retires in his or her 40s and will likely move on to find a civilian job. Military retirees may also be eligible for a variety of unique benefits, from educational discounts and pensions to tax breaks in certain states. WalletHub therefore sought to supplement standard retirement-attractiveness metrics -- such as housing costs, sales taxes, and access to leisure activities -- with a variety of additional metrics that speak to the unique needs of former military personnel.
We ultimately identified 19 key metrics, which collectively speak to the differences between each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of their overall attractiveness to military retirees. You can find them below, along with the corresponding weights that we used to construct the rankings. The three overall categories in which the metrics were grouped -- Economic Environment, Quality of Life, and Health Care -- were used for organizational purposes only and had no bearing on the overall rankings.
- State Tax on Military Pension: 1
- State and Local Sales Tax : 0.5
- Veteran-Owned Businesses per 1,000 Inhabitants: 0.5
- Volume of Defense Department Contracts: 0.25
- Veterans Job Opportunities: 1
- Number of Military Major Bases and Installations per 10,000 Veterans: 1
- Housing Costs: 1
- Cost of Living Index: 1
Quality of Life
- Veterans per 100 Inhabitants: 1
- Number of VA Benefits Administration Facilities per Number of Veterans: 1
- University System Rank: 0.5
- Arts & Leisure/Recreation Establishments per 100,000 Inhabitants: 1
- Percentage of Population Age 40-Plus: 0.5
- Number of Homeless Veterans per Number of Veterans: 1
- Weather Conditions (based on sunshine and humidity): 1
- Number of VA Health Facilities per Number of Veterans: 1
- Number of Federal, State and Local Hospitals per 100,000 Inhabitants: 1
- Number of Physicians per 1,000 Inhabitants: 1
- Emotional Health: 1
Source: Data used to create these rankings is courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Tax Foundation, the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, Transparency.gov, Indeed.com, the Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. News & World Report, Gallup Healthways, the Department of Defense, Missouri Economic Research & Information Center and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
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