15 Worst States for Retirees

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When work becomes over-the-top crazy, I love to dream about the states to which my husband and I might retire. Yes, that’s many years away, but it’s fun to look at websites with houses for sale in those areas and imagine life inside them.

In reality, of course, what is a dream location in one respect can be a nightmare in another. So you have to weigh the variables — affordability, crime rate, health care quality and other quality-of-life issues — before deciding to retire to a new state. Since survey results of such livability factors are sliced and diced in different ways, I took a look at several ranking lists to compile this list of worst options for retirees.

In the end, you’ll have to weigh your own priorities, of course. Your concern about the crime rate, weather, or quality of care might not be the same as mine. And you might decide being near family (or far from them!) makes everything else irrelevant.

But this ranking will help you jump-start your retirement planning. Review the 15 states Bankrate deemed the worst for retirees and how they square with other rankings, starting with the best of the worst first:

15. Hawaii

Older woman with cup of coffee in tropical setting.
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Hawaii’s balmy weather and sparkling waters are a big draw for many retirees. But before you plant your feet in the sand of the Aloha State, you might want to think twice.

Sure, Hawaii’s weather, health care, culture and well-being ranked high — 17th, 13th, fifth and first, respectively, out of 50, according to the Bankrate analysis. But poor rankings on crime (43rd out of 50) and taxes (38th out of 50) brought the state’s overall score way down. Hawaii’s final Bankrate ranking as a state to retire was No. 36.

A similar survey by WalletHub (which ranked the 50 states plus the District of Columbia) placed the Aloha State even lower (47th out of 51). Again, despite the positives a high cost of living sank the WalletHub ranking.

Some of the big expenses faced by residents of the Hawaiian islands include housing, fuel and food, according to Investopedia. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Honolulu city center is $1,719 per month, gas costs about 75 cents more per gallon in the city of Kailua-Kona on Hawaii’s Big Island than on the mainland, and milk averages $8-$10 per gallon.

14. New York

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Wherever you live in the Empire State, plan for hefty taxes. Bankrate ranked it dead last among the states for taxes, 46th for cost of living and 32nd for well-being. The overall Bankrate ranking: 37th out of 50. WalletHub also gave New York poor marks, ranking the state 41st for retirees out of 51. Still have your heart set on this state? There are positives. As far as crime, Bankrate ranks New York 13th best, far from the picture many NYC-based crime shows may draw. And as for culture, you can’t get any better than what New York has to offer retirees — the Big Apple and the rest of the Empire State ranked first in that category.

13. New Jersey

Couple walking on beach in Atlantic City.
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The state led by beleaguered Gov. Chris Christie was ranked No. 38 out of 50 as a place for retirees, according to Bankrate. Cost of living was not much lower than its neighbors. The only states where the tax burden was greater than New Jersey were Connecticut and New York. The one positive for seniors living in New Jersey may be the low crime rate. The Garden State ranks sixth out of 50 on that factor, said Bankrate, while quality of life and health care are middling, coming in at 27th and 29th respectively. The analysis by WalletHub ranked New Jersey even lower — 46th out of 51. These factors help explain why such a large portion of people moving out of New Jersey, 30 percent, are those of retirement age, according to McKnight’s Senior Living.

12. Indiana

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The Hoosier state is one of the most affordable places in the country, ranking fourth out of 50 for cost of living, by Bankrate’s analysis. But Indiana didn’t fare well in their overall ranking, coming in at No. 39. It scored badly for weather (34th), health care quality (37th), culture (44th) and well-being (39th). The state fared slightly better in WalletHub’s analysis (34th out of 51). Even though the cost of living is low and Social Security retirement benefits are not taxed in this state, Indiana does tax pensions and retirement savings accounts, reported SmartAsset.

11. Maryland

People walking in Baltimore.
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The Free State boasts a high level of culture — ranking 13th out of the 50 states, according to Bankrate. Weather and health care quality are reasonable, too, coming in at 21st and 28th, respectively. But high taxes (44th), crime (31st) and cost of living (44th), brought the state’s overall ranking to No. 40. WalletHub doesn’t rank the state much higher — placing it 37th out of the 50 states and District of Columbia. If you love the mid-Atlantic area, consider Maryland’s neighbor Virginia. It ranks as the sixth-best state in the U.S. for retirees, according to Bankrate. Wallet Hub ranks Virginia at 19th — lower, but that’s still respectable in a field of 51.

10. Mississippi

Gulf Coast at Biloxi, Mississippi.
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The good news for those who want to retire to Mississippi is that the cost of living is lower than in any other state. Bankrate ranked it No. 1 out of 50 on that factor. In addition weather is largely pleasant and taxes are low, which earned the state rankings of ninth and 10th in those categories, respectively. Now the bad news: Health care quality in Mississippi ranks at 49th (behind only Nevada). And if you’re looking at cultural opportunities, the state comes in at the bottom, ranking 50th in culture. That brings the overall rating of Mississippi to 41st out of 50. The state fares slightly better in the WalletHub analysis, coming in 40th out of 51.

9. California

Older couple sitting on a bench overlooking the ocean.
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The Golden State’s pleasant weather and culture seem to promise the good life. But retirees should think twice before going to the land of “swimming pools, movie stars,” as touted in the mid-20th century TV show “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Of the 50 states, California was ranked at No. 42 as a place for retirees, in Bankrate’s assessment. Unsurprisingly, the state’s weather and cultural vitality scored high, ranking first and second, respectively. But the cost of living is exorbitant — exceeded only by Hawaii — and the quality of health care was 42nd out of 50. Combine that with high taxes (45th), and it’s clear that people with modest incomes and savings will struggle. California scored a bit better on the WalletHub survey, ranking No. 32 out of 51. WalletHub ranked quality of life at eighth out of 51, and gave health care a much healthier score than Bankrate did — 20th out of 51. Still have your heart set on California? Consider WalletHub’s analysis of its most affordable cities.

8. Oklahoma

Older couple looking at art at street market.
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Oklahoma boasts a low cost of living — ranking third out of 50 states for affordability, after Mississippi and Arkansas. It has decent weather (sixth) and relatively low taxes (11th), according to Bankrate. So why did the state get an overall ranking of 43rd out of 50? Oklahoma got poor marks for quality of health care (43rd), crime (37th) and senior citizens’ well-being (48th) — dragging the state into the ranks of the worst states to retire. WalletHub’s findings weren’t quite as negative. The site ranked the state just past the middle of the pack (28th out of 51), apparently due to a heavier weighting on affordability. So should you retire to the Sooner State, which advertises that “Retirees get more bang for the buck”? Consider Reader’s Digest’s lists of positives before you rule it out.

7. Nevada

Older couple in Las Vegas
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Bankrate ranked Nevada, the Battle Born State, near the bottom as a place for retirees to live, at 44th out of 50. Sure, the weather, tax rates and cultural vitality are standouts. Bankrate ranked those fourth, eighth and 11th respectively. But the high cost of living (36th) and incidence of crime (47th) drag down the standard of living. And the state ranks at the bottom (50th) for health care quality. But, hold on: WalletHub gave the state an all-star ranking of No. 8 — yes the eighth BEST place to retire — out of all the states plus District of Columbia. Although that survey also found the health care quality lacking (42nd out of 51), affordability ranked sixth and quality of life ranked ninth. Just as New York City often skews numbers for the whole state of New York, Las Vegas may be throwing off ratings for the state of Nevada. There’s much more to the state than the gambling mecca.

6. Kentucky

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Actor Tim Allen just moved to Kentucky, but consider Bankrate’s assessment before you retire there. The website ranked the Bluegrass State at 45th out of 50 for retirees. There are positives there, of course, including a lower cost of living and a low crime rate, with each ranked at 10th. Weather and taxes are middle-of-the road, ranking 25th and 27th, respectively. Two of the big detractors for the state, according to Bankrate, are health care quality (41st) and cultural vitality (46th). WalletHub did rank the state a bit higher (43rd) among all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. That’s mainly due to the site’s rating of the state’s affordability (16th). Quality of life (46th) and health care (49th) were ranked among the poorest in the country. If you’re still set on joining Tim Allen in Kentucky, find out which counties are most livable according to local ratings on Niche.

5. Louisiana

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The mild climate, casual lifestyle and eclectic mix of residents make Louisiana attractive to many retirees. But make sure you’re financially healthy if you move there. It’s no secret that residents often endure hurricanes that may destroy or damage property. Plus, the state has a hefty 9.88 percent sales tax, note analysts at The Street. And despite its reputation for good times, the state gets poor marks for cultural vitality (despite New Orleans jazz and Cajun cooking), health care quality and crime (only New Mexico and Alaska have higher crime rates), according to Bankrate. Louisiana ranked 46th on the Bankrate list. Wallet Hub found more positives in the state, ranking it 33rd out of the 50 states and District of Columbia. Although WalletHub only ranked it 43rd on quality of life and 46th on health care, it ranked Louisiana ninth for affordability, despite the high sales tax. Not budging from your commitment to retire there? Take a look at rankings for the best Louisiana communities according to Niche.

4. New Mexico

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Bankrate gives high ratings to New Mexico for weather (third) and taxes (14th), plus the Land of Enchantment has a decent cost of living ranking (23rd). But poor health care quality (47th), and high crime (50th), add up to a near-bottom overall ranking. The state doesn’t fare much better with WalletHub, coming in at 45th in a field of 51. If you still want to move to New Mexico, review the most affordable cities as ranked by Livability.

3. Arkansas

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Arkansas is a mecca for some retirees, but you may want to think twice before joining them. Bankrate ranked it in the bottom three states for retirees to live. While the site found cost of living was among the least expensive in the U.S.– a ranking of second, just behind Mississippi — it got low rankings for its crime rate (45th), senior citizens’ well-being (47th), health care quality (45th) and tax rate (34th). The rating is similar to that of WalletHub, which placed it 42nd out of 51. Still want to retire there? Find the best places in the state as reported by Niche.

2. West Virginia

Older man biking in West Virginia woods.
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West Virginia has a lot of negatives for retirees, as evidenced by the second-to-last overall rating as a place for retirees by Bankrate. Senior citizens’ well-being came in dead last, and the quality of its health care was ranked at 48th (Mississippi and Nevada scored worse). The tax rate is also a bit high (31st). Cultural vitality ranked nearly rock bottom (at 49th, second only to Mississippi). WalletHub ranked the state low (39th out of 51) but not bottom of the heap because of its affordability (13th out of 51). For a breakdown of communities, check out Niche.

1. Alaska

Senior man fishing off a boat in Alaskan waters.
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Think the last great frontier would be a great place to spend your later years? Bankrate puts it at the bottom of its rankings for retirees. One reason is the crime rate (49th), second only to New Mexico. Other low scores were for weather (50th), cost of living (48th) and health care quality (46th). An analysis by WalletHub ranked Alaska 50th out of 51, ahead only of Rhode Island as a poor place for retirees. But don’t rule Alaska out altogether. Alaska doesn’t tax Social Security or pension income. There’s also no inheritance tax. The bad news: a “relatively high” cost of living. Do you wonder what that means? We did too. Check Expatisan for some clues — like a $4.31 price tag for a dozen eggs — and an analysis of the income required to live there. But maybe for you, it’s all about the fishing. In that case, well, cast all ratings aside!

Which state are you eyeing for your retirement? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page. Or maybe you have parents or friends looking to move. Be sure to share this article with them.

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