10 Best States to Retire to in the U.S.

By Adrienne McIlvaine
Retiree walking dog

What are the important factors to consider when planning for retirement? How much Social Security will you receive? Do you want to be close to family? What hobbies and interests will you want to pursue? Generally, the best places for those 65 and over are in the South and Midwest. Coastal states like California and New York have such a high cost of living that it’s exceptionally difficult for those transitioning onto a fixed income.

These 10 states offer retirees everything from special tax deductions to quality affordable health care. As such, they are widely considered the top places to retire in the United States.     

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Arizona — The Good

If you’ve spent your entire life enduring freezing cold Northern winters, Arizona seems like a pretty good place to retire in the sun. And it is. The country’s very first planned retirement community, Sun City, is located just outside Phoenix.

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Photo Courtesy: Joshua Ganderson/Flickr

Scottsdale has one of the highest percentages of an over 65 population in the country, and the state’s dry, desert climate allows retirees to golf and enjoy other outdoor activities year-round. In fact, for seniors who may not want to spend hours on the golf course, the state has plenty of national parks and monuments to explore, like the Grand Canyon, Red Rocks and more. 

Arizona — The Bad

However, Arizona is not all sunshine and national parks. One thing to keep in mind when considering Arizona as a retirement destination is the fact that the state collects income tax from its residents. There are five brackets that range from 2.6 percent to 4.5 percent.

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A variety of municipal transaction privilege taxes push the state sales tax as high as 10 percent, which might be worth looking into when deciding which Arizona city is the right fit for you. While the dry, desert heat is less oppressive than Florida’s muggy humidity, it can get intensely hot in the summertime. The average summertime temperature is over 100 degrees.

Arizona — The Bottom Line

Arizona’s incredible natural beauty and warm desert climate (which can be a game-changer for those who suffer from allergies) make it one of the most popular retirement destinations in the country. Cities like Scottsdale, Phoenix and Flagstaff offer a variety of different urban living environments for seniors who want to enjoy the freedom and relaxation of retirement while still having access to great hospitals and doctors.

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But if you’re living on a fixed income, the state’s personal income tax and high sales tax rates can put an unexpected damper on things. Either way, the Grand Canyon State ranks high on the list of places to consider for your retirement years.

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Florida — The Good

For many Americans, Florida is the ideal place to retire. There’s beautiful weather 365 days a year and incredible beaches to sip mojitos on. There’s no state income tax or estate tax, and for new retirees, you’ll be in good company: Florida has one of the largest senior populations in the entire country. There are an estimated 4.2 million Floridians over the age of 65 and that number is expected to grow as more Boomers come into retirement.

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Much of life in Florida revolves around retirees, which is definitely not an experience you’ll get anywhere else in the country. Another factor in potentially making the move to Florida is that outside the popular metro areas, home prices are below the national median.

Florida — The Bad

There are some drawbacks to retiring in Florida. Although the gorgeous year-round weather is a huge draw, Florida is no stranger to devastating hurricanes and is at the center of the climate change conversation with cities like Miami facing rising sea levels.

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Homeowners who live near the coast should also factor in the costly home and auto insurance policies they’ll have to purchase, as well as the potential need to rebuild and/or retrofit their home to withstand powerful storms. There’s also always the risk of running into some of Florida’s dangerous local wildlife (gators!), though depending on where you live, it may not be that common.

Florida — The Bottom Line

Let’s face it: The Sunshine State is practically synonymous with retirement. From assisted living facilities to senior-focused cultural organizations, Florida’s massive senior population means retirees can expect a level of comfort and service that simply doesn’t exist anywhere else in the country.

Florida skyline
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The state is also tax-friendly considering its lack of state income tax, and retirees can also take advantage of several different tax breaks and deductions. For those who have family elsewhere, it’s easy to travel to and from Florida, both domestically and internationally. But the environmental challenges that Florida faces are severe enough that they should be carefully considered before making a final decision. 

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South Dakota — The Good

Sometimes choosing a place to retire isn’t about enjoying sunshine all year-round. South Dakota consistently ranks highly as one of the most affordable states for those 65 and over. This is due to a lower-than-average cost of living that’s 4 percent lower than the rest of the country, lower health care costs and no personal income taxes.

sioux falls medical center
Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Another plus in South Dakota’s column is its large senior population, a significant portion of which are active in the workforce. Sioux Falls, the state’s largest city, is big enough to offer seniors access to high-quality doctors and hospitals. It is also abundant with cultural opportunities without the overwhelming of Los Angeles or Dallas — the rapidly growing city’s population is still only about 187,000.

South Dakota — The Bad

South Dakota is the 17th largest state by land area, but with less than 1 million permanent residents, the Mount Rushmore State is also the fifth smallest by population. For those retirees coming from bigger states or coastal cities, the change in the pace of life of the sparsely populated region can take some getting used to.

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Photo Courtesy: Dean Franklin/Flickr

And for those who wish to travel frequently, South Dakota isn’t exactly a major airline hub. That makes planning trips — both domestic and international — quite a headache. The weather can also be a downside; the eastern, more populated part of the state is part of Tornado Alley, and the summers can be quite hot and humid. 

South Dakota — The Bottom Line

If the financials of your retirement are the driving force behind where to relocate, then South Dakota is an excellent option for retirees. Its rugged beauty is sure to appeal to those looking for an active, outdoorsy lifestyle. Life in South Dakota is simply less expensive than in most parts of the country.

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Photo Courtesy: Loren Kerns/Flickr

Plus, not having to pay any personal income tax can offer major cumulative savings for those living on a budget. Picking the right city to call home is crucial, so take the time to do research on places like Sioux Falls, Pierre and other mid-sized cities around the state.

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Idaho — The Good

If you’re looking forward to a laid back yet active retirement, Idaho could be the place for you. There’s plenty of outdoor recreational opportunities thanks to the Gem State’s high concentration of national parks and forests, as well as the scenic mountain ranges that crisscross the state.

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Another point in Idaho’s favor: Unlike Utah, the state doesn’t tax Social Security income and the other state taxes in general are fairly low. Residents have wide-ranging access to top doctors and hospitals, and the state prioritizes providing affordable health care in general. Boise, the state’s capital, is frequently cited as one of the country’s best cities for retirees. 

Idaho — The Bad

Like many of its neighbors, Idaho is a big state with a relatively small number of residents (1.7 million people). That can be an adjustment for those coming from the Northeast or other places with higher population densities. 

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Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

If you’re looking for a temperate climate, Idaho may not be the right choice. The climate can swing dramatically, and it’s common to have snowy winters and hot, dry summers. And on the financial side: Though the state does not count Social Security benefits as income, the individual tax rate can range from 1.6 percent to as high as almost 8 percent.

Idaho — The Bottom Line

Idaho can be a great place to retire if low taxes, easy access to high-quality health care and maintaining an active lifestyle are priorities to you. The state’s relatively low cost of living is beneficial for seniors who need to make their dollars go the distance.

Idaho fields
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Many of Idaho’s cities, like Boise, Emmet and Idaho Falls, have large and active senior populations. It may not be the flashiest place to retire, but for those looking forward to relaxing and enjoying the outdoors, Idaho makes a strong candidate as one of the best states for seniors. 

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New Hampshire — The Good

New Hampshire’s state motto is “Live Free or Die.” If you’re a free-thinking retiree who values independence, individuality and the great outdoors, the Granite State might be a great place to consider for retirement. For those who are politically active, New Hampshire is famous for being the first presidential primary state, and many of the state’s retirees volunteer with various local and national campaigns.

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Photo Courtesy: Holcy/Essentials Collection/iStock by Getty Images

Another plus is that New Hampshire has no personal income tax, so you can enjoy your Social Security benefits tax-free. Even better: The state does not levy a sales tax. Many New Hampshire residents also enjoy a strong sense of community in places like Keene, Concord and other retiree-friendly cities. 

New Hampshire — The Bad

Of course, there are a few other things to consider when looking at New Hampshire as a possible forever home. The winters can be cold...very cold. In January, the temperature can get down to around 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Even in March, temperatures often fall below freezing.

snow in New Hampshire
Photo Courtesy: Christian Collins/Flickr

One to two feet of snow is common. That’s great for skiing and other winter sports...but not for much else. In general, the northern part of the state is where winters can be the most brutal. And on the financial side: Property taxes and the general cost of living are higher than average.

New Hampshire — The Bottom Line

New Hampshire gives seniors a lot to consider when looking at states to retire. The incredible natural beauty and easy access to outdoor recreational opportunities can’t be beat and the state excels at delivering accessible, affordable health care. Plus, it’s easy to make day trips to Boston, Providence and other major New England cities.

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The state itself is home to many museums and cultural institutions in cities like Nashua and Concord. The financial downsides include expensive home prices and high property taxes, which need to be carefully considered into a fixed-savings budget. But if you can handle the cold, snowy winters, New Hampshire might just be the place for you.

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Utah — The Good

Like other states in the West and Southwest, Utah has experienced record population growth over the last few years. Much of that growth has been concentrated in cities and towns along the Wasatch Range, including Salt Lake City — a popular destination for new retirees due to its affordability and abundance of cultural activities.

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Other popular Utah destinations include Provo and Park City. Though the winters can be cold due to Utah’s high elevation, summers are warm and dry, so residents can capitalize on the many national parks, forests and other outdoor activities the gorgeous landscape has to offer. Perhaps that’s part of why Utah ranks in the top five states with the healthiest populations. 

Utah — The Bad

Keeping an eye on your finances through retirement is critical for long-term financial well being, and Utah has one major strike against it in this department. While the state levies a relatively low 5 percent flat-income tax, some cities and counties have higher-than-average local taxes. Additionally, the state is one of the few in the country to classify Social Security benefits as taxable income.

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Depending on how much Social Security you can expect to receive throughout your retirement, that tax could take a big chunk out of your planned savings. It’s important to work with either a family member or retirement advisor to have a clear picture of what your financials are before making a final decision on where to live.

Utah — The Bottom Line

With some careful financial planning, Utah can be a great option for those considering where to retire. Its abundance of national forests, parks and monuments, along with cultural activities in the major cities and towns, meaning outdoorsy-types have lots of great activities to get into in the free time.

Utah mountains
Photo Courtesy: Pedro Szekely/Flickr

Utah’s health care system is also fairly robust, with many hospitals and other medical institutions delivering affordable, accessible care to those who need it most. The biggest downside is the state taxing Social Security income, so planning ahead will be more important here than in some other potential options.

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Virginia — The Good

Virginia isn’t exactly on Florida’s level as a go-to retirement option, but, the state can be an affordable alternative with plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Nicknamed “Old Dominion” because of its status as the first colony established by the English, Virginia offers a variety of senior-friendly tax policies.

Virginia house and garden
Photo Courtesy: Jason Pratt/Flickr

There’s no tax on Social Security, plus pension income and various types of retirement withdrawals are tax-deductible (up to $12,000). The mild climate means you can go golfing, fishing and hiking almost the entire year, and its proximity to D.C.’s cultural institutions means you can enjoy the best of both worlds.

Virginia — The Bad

Finding the right town or city is crucial to making the most of your retirement. The gorgeous natural landscape, which covers everything from the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains to the sandy shores of Virginia Beach, makes the state a popular tourist destination.

beach in virginia
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While the median home price in the state hovers around $315,000, prices can go much higher in more affluent places. And if you are seeking a quieter environment or more space in general, Virginia might leave you feeling a little cramped — the state is the 12th most populous in the country with over 8 million residents.

Virginia — The Bottom Line

With a temperate climate year round, Virginia can be a great option for seniors who want to avoid the heat and humidity of Florida while still enjoying the charm of the South. Low taxes and an affordable cost of living are also worthy draws for retirees who need to make their budgets last.

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The state’s proximity to D.C. means seniors will also get to enjoy all the historical monuments and iconic museums of our nation’s capital. As a nice little bonus, neighboring Washington D.C. has one of the highest percentages of senior centers per capita. Active folks will love the variety of outdoor sports and activities that can be enjoyed throughout the year. 

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Colorado — The Good

There’s a lot to love about the Centennial State, which has which has consistently ranked as one of the best options in the country for retirement according to Forbes, Yahoo Finance and USA Today. Of course, there’s its incredible natural beauty. For those who love living close to nature, Colorado’s proximity to mountain ranges and extensive national parks can’t be beat.

colorado mountain
Photo Courtesy: CAJC in the PNW/Flickr

But the state also ranks highly in providing its residents with preventative care and a healthy living environment (all that fresh air!), as well as a generous tax deduction for senior citizens. Denver, the state’s capital, is also one of the fastest growing cities in the country, and along with Colorado Springs, is ranked exceptionally well as a retiree-friendly city.

Colorado — The Bad

One thing to take into consideration is that while Colorado offers a high quality of life, the cost of living in and around the state can run higher than other states. Since public transportation isn’t viable in most towns and cities, having a car or access to some form of personal transportation can become expensive and time-consuming.

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There are many assisted living communities throughout the state, but these tend to be more expensive. And for a state that’s only recently received recognition as being a retirement destination, Colorado has a rather low percentage of residents over the age of 65.

Colorado — The Bottom Line

Depending on your priorities, Colorado can be a great place to enjoy your golden years. If access to outdoor recreation and a healthy quality of life are important, then Colorado should be high on the list of places to consider. If that doesn’t convince you, the state’s commitment to equitable, accessible health care might just tip the scales.

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Photo Courtesy: Jeff Turner/Flickr

However, if you’re worried about ensuring your savings last for as long as you need, the state’s slightly higher-than-average cost of living might be an issue down the road. Either way, Colorado is a strong contender for one of America’s top places to retire. 

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Wyoming — The Good

Wyoming might not be on your radar for great places to retire, but for those who want to spend their golden years quietly basking in the beautiful wilderness, it should be. Over half the land in the Equality State is owned by the federal government in the form of national forests, monuments, parks and wildlife refuges, including the massive Grand Teton and Yellowstone park.

Wyoming waterfall
Photo Courtesy: BernardSpraggNZ/Flickr

The state also boasts an attractive, retiree-friendly tax structure (there’s no personal income tax) and below-average local and property taxes, giving Wyoming a leg up for active seniors who want to make the most of their time and money. 

Wyoming — The Bad

If the great outdoors aren’t your thing, you may have a hard time adjusting to life in one of the most mountainous states in the country. Almost two-thirds of the state are covered by the grasslands and ranges of the great Rocky Mountains and the elevated High Plains.

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And with only 577,000 full-time residents, Wyoming in the least populated state in the country. Cheyenne, the state capital, is the biggest city in the state with a census of about 63,000. The state prides itself on its rugged individuality. It also features many museums and tourist attractions that celebrate the frontier spirit, which can be a bit of a culture shock for those retirees from a more urban environment.

Wyoming — The Bottom Line

If your ideal retirement involves the quiet contemplation of fly fishing or hiking for hours in the majesty of the Rocky Mountains (or their foothills), then Wyoming just might be the place for you. Aside from resort towns like Jackson Hole, the cost of living is far lower than most other places in the country. The state’s hands-off approach to taxation means you’ll get to keep most of your savings.

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Retirees thinking of moving to Wyoming should know that the winters are notoriously long and cold, and it can take hours to drive most anywhere in this sprawling state. For those who are open to its solitary spirit and willing to brave the cold, Wyoming can be the beginning of a whole new chapter.

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Iowa — The Good

Iowa might not be the first state that comes to mind when thinking about retirement options, but it’s a good one for folks who wish to enjoy a comfortable quality of life and easy access to recreational and cultural activities.

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In general, it costs about 12 percent less to live in the Hawkeye State than it does in other parts of the country, and retirees don’t need to worry about paying taxes on their Social Security. There’s also a $6,000 tax deduction available to those 65 and older. The state offers plenty of opportunities for fishing, hiking and golfing along with volunteer organizations for those who enjoy being active in their community.

Iowa — The Bad

Iowa doesn’t count Social Security as income, but it does have a personal income tax, which can run as high as almost 9 percent. Not to mention the state’s sales tax tops out at 6 percent. Folks accustomed to a more cosmopolitan environment may find life in Iowa a bit sleepy.

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Photo Courtesy: Paul D. Sorensen/Flickr

Even in the capital city of Des Moines, which is the largest city in the state, the population is still only about 217,000. And the weather can be extreme: Colder-than-average winters give way to humid springs and summers. That makes Iowa a breeding ground for thunderstorms, tornadoes and other destructive storms. 

Iowa — The Bottom Line

Iowa has a lot to offer those who are looking to enjoy their golden years in a friendly Midwestern state that also makes the most of their savings. Cities like Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City are experiencing an influx of residents.

iced river in Iowa
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In fact, 59.3 percent of the state’s population now lives in an urban environment. Nature enthusiasts will love the ample recreational activities that can be found around Iowa’s state parks, lakes and rivers. Though the state income tax can eat into savings, its impact is offset by a low cost of living, making a move to Iowa a smart choice. 

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