One of the biggest questions in retirement planning is where to retire. Nearly 400,000 Americans moved states explicitly because of retirement in 2019 alone. And millions of Americans over 55 moved across state lines to warmer climates in Florida, Arizona, Texas, California, and other states typically thought of as retirement destinations. 

Of course, deciding where to retire is more complicated than picking a state that has reasonable summers, mild winters, and plenty of sunshine. Even with a solid retirement fund, the cost of housing, healthcare, and other factors are still important. 

To determine the best places to retire, The Motley Fool surveyed 1,500 Americans aged 55 and over about what they think the most important factors are when choosing where to retire. 

The Motley Fool ranked all 50 states for retirement based on their responses. 

Key findings

  • The most important factors for where Americans retire are quality of life, housing costs, healthcare, crime, and public health (including COVID-19 response).
  • Quality of life, for most Americans aged 55 and over, is defined by retail and dining, outdoor activities, and cultural activities like museums and theater.
  • The five best states to retire in based on survey responses are Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

What do people value in retirement?

Quality of life, cost of housing, healthcare quality and cost, crime, and public health (including COVID-19 measures) are the most important factors Americans consider when deciding where to retire. 

Resistance to climate change, the political environment, diversity and equality, proximity to an airport, and public transit are the least important factors. 

Average importance of retirement factors (out of 10)

Quality of life

8.4

Housing cost

8.2

Healthcare quality

8.2

Crime rate

8.2

Healthcare cost

8.1

Public health, including Covid-19 response

7.7

Taxes

7.6

Non-housing costs

7.5

Weather

7.3

Proximity to family

7.2

Walkability

6.6

Resistance to climate change

6.1

Political environment

5.9

Diversity and equality

5.8

Proximity to airport

5.0

Public transit

4.8

Data source: The Motley Fool survey of 1,500 Americans age 55 and over, conducted December 2, 2021.

What is "quality of life"?

We asked 1,500 American adults around retirement age this question, and retail and dining came out at the top of the list, with 57% of respondents saying they're important in quality of life.

Outdoor activities (47%) and cultural activities (35%) were high priorities as well, with spiritual community (31%), organized activities for retirees (23%), and civic organizations (14%) being less of a priority.

The best states to retire, ranked

To find the best places to retire, we took the priorities identified by our survey respondents and mapped them to data. In the end, we came up with a ranking that's surprising, but driven by the desires of Americans in and near retirement age.

Here's how those rankings look on a map:

If you're interested in seeing the values behind the rankings, here's every score that went into ranking every state:

State

Overall ranking

Quality of life

Housing cost

Healthcare cost and quality

Crime rate rate

Public health/COVID-19 response

Sales taxes

Non-housing costs

Weather

Total score

Maine

1

77.8

57.4

58.7

80.9

67.5

42.6

55.8

12.1

56.60

Vermont

2

70.6

58.0

55.8

74.8

76.8

38.9

52.9

12.6

55.04

New Hampshire

3

59.4

49.4

51.1

81.8

55.6

68.7

54.5

16.4

54.62

Kentucky

4

59.3

75.3

28.6

62.6

44.1

39.4

68.5

34.0

51.48

West Virginia

5

64.3

82.2

19.2

53.9

48.8

38.1

71.3

27.4

50.66

Iowa

6

50.2

75.7

66.6

60.0

14.8

39.1

71.2

24.1

50.21

Wisconsin

7

44.2

67.6

61.4

60.0

32.6

44.0

67.3

17.5

49.32

Nebraska

8

42.1

70.6

56.0

47.0

34.1

39.0

68.7

31.5

48.61

Rhode Island

9

61.3

48.9

51.4

67.9

42.6

36.2

52.1

28.2

48.58

Wyoming

10

47.7

61.6

28.8

67.9

38.5

45.9

68.7

28.4

48.43

Oregon

11

59.4

38.6

52.3

34.8

58.2

66.7

43.4

32.4

48.23

Virginia

12

36.4

55.2

34.3

67.0

46.2

40.6

65.3

37.3

47.78

Ohio

13

46.4

73.8

44.3

48.7

39.9

33.3

69.2

26.2

47.74

Pennsylvania

14

52.7

67.2

50.3

60.0

27.3

38.5

63.5

21.9

47.69

Delaware

15

32.3

57.5

53.0

28.7

44.7

68.4

59.0

37.1

47.59

Michigan

16

49.2

70.5

52.0

40.0

36.6

40.7

70.3

19.2

47.32

Mississippi

17

71.6

78.9

6.2

43.5

16.3

34.0

75.0

51.3

47.10

Montana

18

57.5

48.9

52.6

33.1

33.4

67.8

63.3

19.8

47.06

Connecticut

19

41.5

57.0

51.6

74.8

39.4

36.2

49.4

26.7

47.05

North Carolina

20

51.6

63.7

33.5

32.2

45.1

37.5

66.6

44.0

46.78

Indiana

21

50.6

72.9

37.8

43.5

30.2

37.8

70.6

28.5

46.50

Kansas

22

51.9

74.0

41.4

29.6

23.6

32.8

73.7

41.1

46.00

Illinois

23

56.2

67.4

34.9

40.9

31.5

32.2

71.0

29.5

45.45

Idaho

24

35.4

42.6

51.8

74.0

24.4

40.7

66.1

27.9

45.36

North Dakota

25

47.9

65.7

47.2

52.2

24.2

34.9

65.6

17.0

44.32

Oklahoma

26

60.9

77.5

12.4

13.9

37.6

30.9

72.7

48.2

44.27

Florida

27

33.6

57.0

20.1

37.4

36.7

37.5

62.8

66.4

43.93

South Carolina

28

59.0

66.9

29.6

4.4

34.5

34.4

67.8

52.4

43.62

New Jersey

29

55.0

44.9

34.6

76.6

23.4

30.4

50.2

31.8

43.36

Missouri

30

56.6

71.9

28.6

13.9

33.5

36.4

70.5

35.3

43.35

New York

31

84.2

51.9

35.7

57.4

37.4

30.0

31.3

17.8

43.20

Arkansas

32

68.8

77.6

24.6

4.4

27.3

27.0

69.8

45.4

43.11

Maryland

33

34.6

50.9

49.6

33.1

47.8

38.1

47.9

34.3

42.04

Alabama

34

59.9

75.0

22.9

11.3

25.0

19.4

72.4

50.3

42.02

Louisiana

35

65.3

72.9

17.3

1.7

28.1

22.2

69.3

56.9

41.73

Minnesota

36

20.8

59.2

47.2

53.1

38.1

35.2

64.2

14.8

41.57

New Mexico

37

31.8

65.4

41.8

0.0

36.0

30.7

70.9

55.7

41.53

South Dakota

38

51.3

65.1

47.7

43.5

0.0

33.5

66.7

24.3

41.52

Massachusetts

39

43.6

31.3

43.3

63.5

44.8

39.6

39.6

24.9

41.32

Georgia

40

31.1

64.2

11.4

33.1

30.9

35.4

71.5

52.8

41.29

Utah

41

1.9

35.4

60.6

52.2

37.4

37.2

62.8

41.5

41.14

Tennessee

42

59.0

66.2

23.0

8.7

29.9

26.7

71.4

39.2

40.50

Texas

43

27.4

64.4

9.1

23.5

32.0

33.1

69.4

60.3

39.93

Colorado

44

22.3

33.3

53.3

26.1

41.7

33.1

59.6

38.3

38.45

Hawaii

45

22.4

0.0

81.6

32.2

63.8

34.9

0.0

70.4

38.15

Alaska

46

23.0

59.2

43.2

0.9

70.5

61.3

44.7

0.0

37.84

Arizona

47

0.0

49.3

44.2

17.4

22.0

30.7

58.7

63.8

35.75

Washington

48

18.4

29.3

54.7

31.3

51.6

22.3

54.4

23.0

35.63

Nevada

49

22.4

47.8

18.2

21.8

31.3

29.4

61.4

46.1

34.79

California

50

17.4

9.0

48.8

23.5

46.2

28.4

28.9

60.2

32.80

The best states to retire in by factor

Are you looking for the best state to retire in solely based on quality of life? Or the state with the lowest housing cost? Use the tables below to find out where you may want to consider moving.

Best states to retire in for quality of life

State

Quality of life score (unweighted)

Career

Social

Financial

Community

Physical

Restaurant and retail score

New York

100

46

29

41

43

22

50

Maine

92

21

23

22

12

25

60

Mississippi

85

27

48

49

45

47

29

Vermont

84

14

3

9

5

6

68

Arkansas

82

49

50

50

38

46

25

Data source: Gallup-Sharecare (2019), Census Bureau (2018).

Best states to retire in for housing affordability

State

Housing cost score (unweighted)

Typical home value, October 2021

West Virginia

100

$121,757

Mississippi

96

$149,116

Arkansas

94

$159,714

Oklahoma

94

$159,930

Iowa

92

$174,916

Data source: Zillow (2021).

Best states to retire in for healthcare cost and quality

State

Healthcare score

Healthcare quality score

Healthcare cost score

Hawaii

100

100

100

Iowa

82

77

86

Wisconsin

75

75

75

Utah

74

96

52

Maine

72

81

63

Data source: United Health Foundation (2019).

Best states to retire in for low crime rates

State

Crime score (unweighted)

Violent

crime rank

Property

crime rank

New Hampshire

100

2

2

Maine

99

1

4

New Jersey

94

5

5

Connecticut

91

3

9

Vermont

91

4

8

Data source: Federal Bureau of Investigation (2019).

Best states to retire in for low sales taxes

State

Sales tax score (unweighted)

New Hampshire

90.8

Delaware

90.4

Montana

89.6

Oregon

88.2

Alaska

81

Tax Foundation (2021). 

Best states to retire in for non-housing cost of living

State

Non-housing cost of living score (unweighted)

Mississippi

100

Kansas

98

Oklahoma

97

Alabama

97

Georgia

95

Data source: Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (2021).

Best states to retire in for weather

State

Total score (unweighted)

Sunlight score

Temperature score

Hawaii

97.00

*

97.00

Florida

91.52

83.04

100.00

Arizona

88.02

100.00

76.04

Texas

83.19

79.51

86.87

California

82.98

94.54

71.43

Data source: NOAA (2021). Centers for Disease Control (2015). *CDC daily sunlight data not available for Alaska and Hawaii. 

What does the best place for retirement really mean?

Choosing where to retire is ultimately a personal or family decision, and while we've aspired to build an index that reflects what really matters to people when they retire, everyone has unique circumstances and priorities that can drive that decision. 

As a reflection of that, our rankings dramatically change when looking at individual factors. For example, the highest scoring states for weather are among the lowest scoring states overall. However, that may discount retirees that place pleasant summers, mild winters, and sunshine over cost and other factors. 

Choosing where to retire isn't an easy task. But with preparation, research, some luck -- and a great IRA -- you'll find a location that fits your priorities. 

Methodology

Quality of life scores are based on the Gallup-Sharecare Wellbeing Index and Census Bureau Statistics of U.S. Businesses data on retail and food service and drink establishments per state. 

Housing cost is derived from the Zillow Home Value Index. 

Healthcare quality and cost are derived from the United Health Foundation 2019 Senior Report state-level data on the percentage of adults age 65 and older who reported a time in the past 12 months when they needed to visit a doctor but could not because of cost and senior quality of care data by state. 

Crime scores are derived from data from the FBI "Crime in the United States" report on violent crime and property crime per capita. 

Public health and Covid-19 response scores are based on the University of California, Berkley's 2020 Inclusiveness Index, which analyzed each state's Covid-19 response based on the number of Covid-19 infections per 100,000 people, the number of deaths from Covid-19 per 100,000 people, and the number of Covid-19 tests per 100,000 people. 

Tax scores were calculated from the Tax Foundation's 2021 sales tax rankings. 

Non-housing cost of living scores were based on the Council for Community & Economic Research (C2ER) survey. 

Weather scores were derived from a combination of state average annual temperature data from 1991-2020 collected by NOAA and state daily sunlight data collected by the Centers for Disease Control. 

Scores are weighted based on the level of importance assigned to them by survey respondents. 

The Motley Fool launched a survey of 1,500 Americans aged 54 and up on December 2. The respondents were 58% female and 42% male. 

Sources