What's the best state to retire in? It's a complicated question that you may find yourself asking as you approach retirement age.
About half of Americans older than 55 are retired, and that percentage may be on the rise. And even though retirement moves appear to be down, it's still an issue that many Americans approaching retirement think about.
Of course, people have different priorities when it comes to choosing the best state to retire in. But what are those priorities? The Motley Fool surveyed 1,500 Americans to find out -- and then ranked all 50 states based on those priorities.
We'll go over the survey results and then jump into the best states to retire to based on what Americans really want.
- Americans value quality of life, affordable housing, high-quality and affordable healthcare, safety, and low taxes when it comes to choosing a place to retire.
- The top five states to retire to in 2023 are Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Kentucky, and Rhode Island.
- Alaska, Washington, Arizona, Nevada, and California are the worst states to retire in based on the retirement factors Americans care most about.
Retirement factors ranked
What makes a state one of the best places to retire?
Instead of ranking states on the factors we think are important to people, we surveyed 1,500 Americans older than 55 to find out what they really want. High quality of life, low housing cost, high healthcare quality, reasonable healthcare costs, low crime rate, good public health, and low taxes were the highest-ranking factors.
Here's the full list of things that Americans think about when choosing a state to retire to:
|Retirement factor||Average importance (out of 10)|
|Quality of life||8.4|
|Public health, including Covid-19 response||7.7|
|Proximity to family||7.2|
|Resistance to climate change||6.1|
|Diversity and equality||5.8|
|Proximity to airport||5.0|
What is quality of life?
Quality of life is the highest-ranking factor when it comes to finding a state to retire in, but what exactly does that mean?
The prevalence of retail and dining options came out at the top of our list, with 57% of respondents saying it's important. Outdoor activities (47%) and cultural activities (35%) were high priorities as well, while spiritual community (31%), organized activities for retirees (23%), and civic organizations (14%) were less important.
In these rankings, we've used Sharecare's Community Well-Being Index to represent quality of life since it captures many of the things that people want in a high-quality life, including a wide variety of physical, social, financial, and community factors.
Best state to retire
The best state to retire: Vermont
Vermont quietly has a lot going for it, including very good scores in public health, crime, quality of life, and cost of living. It also has lower-than-average housing costs as well as reasonable taxes for retirees.
The average temperature during the time period we looked at was 43ºF, the third lowest in the country. But the state's other strong scores offset Vermont's cold winters and mild summers.
Here are the stats we used to determine Vermont's ranking at the top of the list:
- Quality of life score: 84 (4th in the U.S.)
- Housing cost: $346,177 (28th lowest in the U.S.)
- Healthcare cost and quality score: 68 (7th in the U.S.)
- Crime score: 91 (4th best in the U.S.)
- Tax score: 51 (16th best in the U.S.)
- Average temperature: 43ºF (3rd lowest in the U.S.)
- Cost of living score: 836 (29th lowest in U.S.)
Top 10 best states to retire
Top 10 best states to retire in 2023
Here's the ranking of the top 10 states for retirees based on our study and data analysis:
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
Four of the five best states to retire in are in New England -- Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.
While few states in the top ten are known for their mild winters and temperate summers, most have a combination of low crime, affordability, good quality of life, and decent healthcare.
Read on for recommendations based on specific factors, and scroll down to see the full ranking based on all of the factors we included.
The best states to retire in for high quality of life
|Rank||State||Sharecare Well-Being Index|
Our respondents said that quality of life is the most important factor to them. We measured quality of life using the Sharecare Community Well-Being Index, which combines a wide range of factors that they call "social determinants of health." This includes factors that cover physical and financial health, food access, and a variety of social and community elements.
The best states to retire in financially
We looked at two different factors that make a state affordable: housing cost, via the Zillow Home Value Index, and non-housing cost of living, represented by the C2ER Cost of Living Index. With the recent drop in average financial well-being among Americans over 61, this is more important than ever.
States with the most affordable homes for retirees
|Rank||State||Zillow Home Value Index|
States with the lowest cost of living for retirees
|Rank||State||C2ER Cost-of-Living Index|
Best states to retire in for healthcare
|Rank||State||America's Health Rankings Clinical Care Score|
Our respondents value both the quality and affordability of healthcare when looking at states to retire in. We used a single value to represent both: the America's Health Rankings Clinical Care Score. This score is calculated using a number of factors that represent quality, availability, and cost of healthcare.
Safest states to retire to
|Rank||State||Violent Crime Offenses Per 100,000 Population|
To determine the level of safety of each state, we used the number of violent crimes committed per 100,000 population from the America's Health Rankings report. Like most factors, it's important to remember that safety is largely a community-level issue. But because it's important to our respondents, we included it here as a ranking factor.
Best states to retire tax wise
|Rank||State||State and Local Tax Burden|
We ranked states for taxes by looking at the Tax Foundation's State and Local Tax Burden tables. The six above have the lowest state and local tax burden in the country. It's important to remember, however, that taxes pay for public services, many of which are of use to retirees. Also, different states tax your retirement income differently.
Best states to retire to for warm weather
|Rank||State||Average Annual Temperature|
Identifying the state with the best weather for retirees is complicated, if not impossible. Many people prioritize mild winters, but others prefer dryness over heat. Others want to be close to the beach, and still others are fine with cold winters as long as summers aren't too oppressive. In the end, because warm winters are a common theme, we went with a four-year average temperature for our ranking, and the states above came out on top.
Retirement ranking by state
The best states to retire: The full ranking
|Rank||State||Quality of life||Housing cost||Healthcare cost and quality||Crime rate||Public health/Covid response||Taxes||Cost of living||Weather||Overall weighted score|
Worst states to retire in
The worst states to retire in
Alaska, Washington, Arizona, Nevada, and California are the worst states to retire in based on the retirement factors Americans care most about. While there are sought after areas in each state for retirees, they can be hard to afford for the average American and still come with drawbacks.
Overall, each of those five states all have poor quality of life scores and relatively high rates of crime. Aside from Alaska, their tax environment for retirees is somewhat unfriendly.
Alaska scores the worst among all states in weather, with frigid winters and an short, chilly summers.
Those five states are also expensive to live in.
California and Washington are among the most expensive states to buy a house in and home values in Alaska, Arizona, and Nevada are above the national average.
California and Alaska are in the top five states with the highest cost of living. Washington is in the top ten. Arizona and Nevada are in the top half.
Aside from Washington, healthcare for retirees in those states is middling at best.
Of course, there are sought after retirement communities in some of those states - particularly Arizona, Nevada, and the warmer parts of California. But on the whole, these states have drawbacks in key areas that Americans prioritize when retiring.
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To determine the best states to retire, The Motley Fool used a three-step process.
First, The Motley Fool surveyed 1,500 American adults at or above the age of 55 to find out what they value in retirement. This survey was distributed on Dec. 2, 2021.
Second, The Motley Fool selected data sources to correspond to the top retirement factors. The Motley Fool analyzed quality-of-life data from Sharecare's Community Well-Being Index; cost-of-living data from The Council for Community and Economic Research’s Cost of Living Index; housing data from Zillow’s Home Value Index; healthcare and crime data from United Health Foundation’s America's Health Rankings report; and tax data from The Tax Foundation’s State and Local Tax Burden tables.
Data from those sources were normalized and then weighted based on the importance of the corresponding factor from the survey.
The Motley Fool used those scores to create a final weighted score between 0 and 100 for each state to determine the best states to retire.
What are the top factors attracting retirees to your state as a popular retirement destination?
Minnesota is consistently ranked as a top place to retire, live well, and age well. Our health care system is unsurpassed and our service network is robust.
We think the primary attraction for retirees is Minnesota’s reputation as a state with a high-quality health care system and national ranking as one of the top states in providing long-term care to older adults. Minnesota is known for a high level of volunteerism and civic engagement and that is an attraction for retirees who want to be involved in their community and stay active.
What future plans does your state have in place to maintain its status as a retiree-friendly destination and support retirees' continued success and contributions to the local economy?
We are building a multi-sector blueprint for an age-friendly Minnesota and exploring aging from a holistic perspective, taking into consideration all aspects of what it takes to age well, including retirement.
This blueprint includes our multi-sector plan -- built on the strong services system we have in place to ensure we are making it possible for ALL older adults to live well and age well.
Building awareness of and respect for older adults, addressing ageism, and more consistently and meaningfully tapping the experience and expertise of older adults are key parts of these efforts.
Rajean P. Moone
How does your state cater to the needs of retirees with regards to health care, recreation, and transportation amenities and services?
Minnesota is enrolled in the Network of Age-Friendly States and works with local communities to support development efforts to help people age well in their community.
Minnesota has a strong health care system that supports retirees as they experience chronic conditions, mobility challenges and dementia. Minnesota is nationally known for a strong support system for people living with dementia and their family caregivers. In addition, Minnesota has a strong network of local supports for older adults in need of help around the house, with their personal care or with rides to health care services. This local service network is built on strong volunteer capacity and a significant level of public funding.
Leadership can also be found within our universities, public health and health systems with proven benefits to have a powerful impact on the well-being of older adults. For example, several Minnesota cities and towns focused on age-friendly work prior to COVID-19 were well-prepared to meet the needs of their older residents because they already had created the infrastructure, partnerships and communication channels needed.
Although we face transportation challenges in Greater Minnesota (the parts of the state outside the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area) where travel distances are greater and winter travel can be an obstacle, we believe our communities and volunteers go the extra mile to meet the needs of older Minnesotans. (In parts of Minnesota it’s more than a few extra miles.) As a state, we are also always looking for ways to innovate to better deliver Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) across the State.
What initiatives and programs does your state have in place to attract and retain retirees and what impact do they have on both retirees and the local economy?
Minnesota has many opportunities to engage with communities through local efforts. As a state, we rank very high in civic engagement and social participation.
This includes a robust pathway for volunteerism, civic engagement, and meaningful employment as well as trusted leadership roles in families and faith communities.
Guided by the coordination and targeted grant-making of an Age-Friendly Council established by the Governor, collaboration continues among lawmakers, non-profit providers, philanthropies, state agencies and local government to organize and prioritize the shared work needed to become a more livable place for people of all ages.
- Council for Community and Economic Research (2023). "COLI State Level Index."
- Fry, Richard (2021). Pew Research Center. "Amid the pandemic, a rising share of older U.S. adults are now retired."
- Hire a Helper (2021). "2021 Study: Where Americans Moved To Retire in 2021."
- National Centers for Environmental Information (2022). "Climate at a Glance Statewide Mapping."
- Sharecare (2022). "Sharecare Community Well-Being Index."
- Tax Foundation (2022). "State and Local Tax Burdens, Calendar Year 2022."
- United Health Foundation (2022). America's Health Rankings. "2022 Senior Report."
- Zillow (2023). "United States Home Values."
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