U.S. States That Are Tough to Retire In, Ranked
Deciding where to retire is tough, but some states are worse than others when it comes to offering quality, affordable retirement living. Some are plagued with expensive costs of living, terrible health care systems, brutal weather and high crime rates.
Bankrate scored important factors that most retirees consider before moving, including affordability, crime, culture, weather and wellness. Culture is determined by the number of arts, entertainment and recreation establishments per capita, restaurants per capita, and adults 65 and older per capita.
Take a look at the worst U.S. states to retire in — and where they come up short — based on Bankrate’s study.
The cost of living in Ohio is pretty affordable. However, the state drops the ball when it comes to wellness. High crime rates lead to serious health problems, such as shorter life expectancy. In fact, premature death has increased in Ohio in recent years.
Unfortunately, that’s not all the bad news. Ohio is the worst state for allergies and asthma due to its terrible air quality. The state’s air pollution could cause lung cancer in addition to constant discomfort. It also doesn’t help that 21% of Ohio’s adults are active smokers.
24. Rhode Island
Looking for a low cost of living? Check elsewhere because the tiny state of Rhode Island actually comes with some huge expenses. U.S. News ranks Rhode Island No. 41 for affordable cost of living, which is close to last. It also has one of the highest tax rates in the nation.
The weather in Rhode Island is quite pleasant — until winter. It’s not uncommon for snowstorms to bury cars, delay transportation and even shut down major highways, so get ready to hibernate if you choose to live in the state year-round.
Georgia scores poorly in wellness, crime and culture. It’s one of the least physically active states in the nation. Maybe it’s due to the terrible traffic conditions in the state, especially in Atlanta. All that nightmare traffic also contributes to high levels of air pollution.
When it comes to culture, Georgia falls short with small numbers of arts, entertainment and recreation businesses per capita, restaurants per capita, and adults 65 and older per capita, according to Bankrate. The state also has a property crime problem, with a rate of 2,573.7 incidents per 100,000 residents.
Indiana is often listed as one of the most miserable states in the country, which might be due to the lack of mental health professionals in the state. For every category of well-being, the state scored poorly (including sense of purpose, social life, financial health and physical fitness). So, it’s no surprise the state also experiences higher rates of premature death.
If you love visiting national parks, Indiana is not for you. WalletHub notes Indiana has among the the worst access to national parks. Maybe that lack of access to nature is another reason the population is so miserable.
Connecticut isn’t friendly to low-income seniors when it comes to affordability. In fact, residents pay some of the highest taxes in the nation, including real estate taxes. Retirees also get their social security benefits and other income taxed. There’s no escaping the heavy toll.
Despite the heavy tax burden for its citizens, the state still faces some financial problems. Connecticut takes second place for the worst income inequality in the U.S., and some Medicaid and government services have been cut due to the state’s huge budget deficits.
There’s a great reason Maine is called the “Pine Tree State.” Forests make up almost 90% of the state’s land. Much of the area is uninhabited, which could be due to the harsh and relentless winters. Maine winters are no joke!
The cost of living isn’t so friendly. According to a 2019 report by WalletHub, Maine has the third-largest tax burden of all 50 states. For the property tax burden, the state ranks fourth and for individual income tax burden, it places fifteenth.
Delaware performs weakly in the wellness category. Every day, residents face terrible air pollution — it’s the ninth-worst in the country — and it’s extremely difficult to book doctors’ appointments because of the state’s shortage of doctors. The state has also experienced increasing rates of drug deaths among the population.
For retirees who are worried about crime, Delaware may not be the best place for retirement. In 2018, the state recorded 453 murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults per 100,000 residents.
Colorado is famous for its stunning landscape of mountains, forests and plains. However, for some people, it’s hard to enjoy the natural beauty due to the state’s high altitude and dryness. If you’re one of the unlucky ones, the elevation and thin air could turn your world upside down with endless headaches, fatigue, nausea and dizziness.
Beauty always comes with a price, so it’s no surprise that living in Colorado includes large expenses. The cost of living is high, and the housing isn’t affordable, according to U.S. News.
Winter in Pennsylvania isn’t too cruel, but it definitely affects people’s lives. Residents deal with whiteouts, slippery streets and buried cars. If the cold doesn’t bother you, the air just might. Pennsylvania has the second-worst air pollution out of all 50 states.
Pennsylvania’s cost of living is not good and not bad, landing near the middle. However, that could all change because the state’s financial future doesn’t look bright. Facing budget challenges, the state has one of the weakest fund balances in the country.
If you want to settle down where there’s a lot of entertainment and recreational activities, don’t look at Utah. The state ranks low in the fun department, and its nightlife barely exists, according to WalletHub. Sadly, it’s often called a boring place. With few golf courses and country clubs per capita, Utah is the second-worst state in the category.
Is Utah tax-friendly? Somewhat. However, it’s one of the 13 states in the U.S. that fully taxes social security income. Withdrawals from retirement accounts are also fully taxed. If the taxes don’t scare you, the expensive cost of housing just might. As a result, the state scores poorly for housing affordability.
In 2018, Louisiana logged 557 murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults per 100,000 residents. The state topped the list for the worst murder rate in the nation that same year. The homicide rate was also the highest in 2017, 2014 and 2010.
According to Bankrate’s study, Louisiana also comes up short in the culture category. Despite the availability of diverse entertainment in New Orleans, the state as a whole lacks a sufficient number of arts, entertainment and recreation venues and restaurants on a capita basis.
14. New Mexico
New Mexico has a problem with high property and violent crime rates. In fact, when comparing property crime rates, New Mexico takes first place. The state also recorded 784 murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults per 100,000 population in 2018.
According to WalletHub, the state performs well for entertainment and recreation, but falls short for nightlife. You can also leave your golf clubs behind, because New Mexico is one of the states with the fewest golf courses and country clubs per capita.
Arizona isn’t one of the safest places to live. In fact, its violent crime rate is higher than the national average. In 2018, the U.S. logged 382.9 total murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults per 100,000 residents, while Arizona recorded 508. The state’s property crime rate is also huge, with 2,676.8 incidents per 100,000 residents in 2018.
Based on Bankrate’s report, Arizona didn’t score well in culture. Retirees won’t find an appealing number of restaurants and arts, entertainment and recreation venues throughout the state. Arizona also received a poor rating for affordability due to high sales taxes. In some places, the state’s sales taxes can reach 10%.
Virginia faces some serious wellness challenges. A low number of mental health providers and a lack of public funding led to a poor score in the category. Also, the state has a high uninsured population, making health care even harder to access for many residents.
Living in Virginia isn’t cheap. In fact, the state has above-average cost of living, which could cause trouble for retirees with low incomes. Unfortunately, housing is expensive in the state, with prices going much higher than the median ($315,000) in some places.
Is the weather in Minnesota really that bad? Yes, it’s horrific. The state struggles with the most brutal winters out of all 50 states. Residents in northern Minnesota experience up to 170 inches of snow annually, and the temperature can fall down to -60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Minnesota ranks at No. 31 among U.S. states when comparing the cost of living. It’s not bad, but taxes are heavy. According to WalletHub, the state’s tax burden is 10.25% — the fifth-worst in the country.
10. South Carolina
When it comes to health, South Carolina performs poorly. The state has one of the worst healthcare systems among all 50 states, with health plans and out-of-pocket costs that are expensive. Experts believe the awful system may contribute to the state’s high premature death rate.
Crime is also a challenge in South Carolina. The state logged 506 murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults per 100,000 residents in 2018. When it comes to ranking the most violent states in the nation, South Carolina is No. 10.
9. New Jersey
The Garden State, otherwise known as New Jersey, ranked dead last among all 50 states when comparing financial strength. In the short term, New Jersey is doing okay. Overall, experts describe the situation as getting worse, thanks to its massive debt from pension and retiree health care costs for state workers.
Due to high taxes and the high cost of living, some retirees may find it challenging to save money or live comfortably. Driving in New Jersey is also expensive, mainly because gas prices keep spiking up.
California’s beaches, vineyards and great sunny weather make it seem like the perfect place to retire. However, the biggest question is probably whether you can you afford it. When it comes to cost of living and housing affordability, the Golden State ranks second to last.
The cost of living is 52% higher than the national average, with median home prices of $600,000. California’s poverty rate and homeless population are among the highest in the U.S. It’s no surprise that more than 50% of California’s residents want to abandon the state. That alone should inspire hesitation among anyone thinking of moving there.
In Oregon, the cost of living for general expenses, such as shopping for groceries and transportation, is 18% above the national average. Housing also costs an arm and a leg, meaning retirees with low income and savings may struggle to live within their means.
Not only are housing costs expensive, but health care costs are also pricey. Because patients pay more for health care, it must be more accessible, right? Nope! Oregon residents struggle to find care to meet their health needs.
Nevada residents deal with terrible health care access and outcomes due to the poor health care system in the state, but residents actually have more to worry about than just health care. The state has the sixth-worst air pollution of all 50 states. Every day, residents breathe in unhealthy air that can irritate the lungs and make it into the bloodstream.
Crime is also a big problem in the Silver State. For overall crime, U.S. News ranks Nevada at No. 41. The state logged 556 murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults per 100,000 residents in 2018.
Cars are popular in Washington — to steal. In fact, Washington has the seventh-highest car theft rate in the nation, and the issue keeps getting worse. Police logs show car prowling and motor vehicle theft rose in 2018. Even worse, finding a temporary replacement or buying a new car is expensive.
Speaking of high prices, the cost of living in Washington is quite expensive too. U.S. News ranks it No. 37 out of all 50 states for affordable cost of living. When it comes to housing affordability alone, the state does even worse at No. 46.
The health care system in Illinois is mediocre. When comparing states with the best systems, Illinois ranked near the middle. This includes costs, access and outcomes. However, wellness still has a terrible ranking for the state, probably due to its high prevalence of excessive drinking and terrible air pollution.
Illinois also struggles in the affordability category. It has the highest overall tax burden out of all 50 states. According to WalletHub’s 2018 report, the median household hands over about $8,162 in state and local taxes each year.
If you’re looking for danger, Alaska would be the perfect place to retire. Logging 829 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2018, Alaska is considered the deadliest state in the country. Experts blame the state’s poverty, lack of police services and remote location for the high crime rates.
Brr! When it comes to cold, the weather in Alaska is extreme. The state has one of the most miserable winters in the country, but besides cold, long winters, it even has frigid summers! Some towns in northern Alaska don’t see the sun for months — 65 days each year to be exact.
2. New York
New York ranks as one of the worst places in the country for cost of living and housing affordability. The state’s cost of living is 22% higher than the national median, and it gets worse in Manhattan, which is a whopping 138.6% above the U.S. average. The affordability crisis in New York is so bad that the state is plagued with the second-highest rate of homelessness in the country.
The homeless population in the U.S. is going down overall but not in New York. In 2018, the homeless population increased by 3%. Out of the entire country, New York City has the largest number of homeless people — 78,676 men, women and children.
Maryland is the worst state to retire in, according to Bankrate.com. It scores terribly in affordability, crime, culture and wellness. The only category where it performed well was weather. In 2018, the state logged 500 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, and the state’s major city, Baltimore, ranked as the third most dangerous city in the U.S.
Many retirees choose not to live in Maryland due to awful winter storms, terrible road quality and painful traffic congestion. Also, the state’s high cost of living, taxes and health care costs could have retirees burning through their retirement funds extremely quickly.
After seeing all of the worst states to retire in, let’s take a look at states that made the best list. Below are the top three best states for retirees.
Missouri ranks highest for affordability. The state’s cost of living and housing are among the lowest. Seniors can stretch their retirement funds in Missouri because the state doesn’t tax Social Security. Also, health care costs are below average. The state offers a country lifestyle with big-city amenities.
Missouri’s weather is notable for its cool winters and hot summers. Even better, seniors can enjoy more than 200 days of sunshine in Missouri. That’s plenty of days to appreciate the state’s gorgeous lakes. A shortcoming? The higher-than-average crime rate.
Iowa has a lot to offer retirees, including a cost of living that’s 12% below the U.S. average. Social Security also doesn’t get taxed here. Plus, health care is more affordable in Iowa compared to the rest of the nation. Maybe that’s why the state has a high insured rate.
Is Iowa fun? Without a doubt! Iowa has one of the highest numbers of movie theaters, golf courses and country clubs per capita. The state also has a bounty of rivers, hills, lakes, woodlands and (of course) cornfields.
According to Bankrate, Nebraska is the best place for retirees out of all 50 states. Who needs mountains or beaches? Nebraskans are happy with miles of trails, parks and natural landscapes that are waiting to be explored.
The state isn’t tax-friendly, but Nebraska’s low cost of living and health care costs definitely make up for it. Its great affordability and wellness rankings helped push Nebraska to the top. The state has excellent health care quality. In fact, WalletHub ranks Nebraska No. 8 overall for health care.