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These Are The Five Best States For Retirement

When it comes to choosing a good retirement destination, decision making should involve more than making a list of warm, sunny states. Taking the time to research areas and thinking through what you want can help you avoid disappointment and sidestep a potentially costly financial blunder.

“There are many factors to consider when deciding where to retire,” said data analyst Adrian Garcia. “Some people may choose to stay close to family, while others prefer to seek out warm weather or affordable living. It comes down to very personal preferences, so it’s important to weigh all factors and determine what is most important for your happiness.”

Nebraska is the best state to retire, according to a new Bankrate report. To identify the best and worst places to retire, the study examined 11 public and private data sets related to the life of a retiree based on five categories (weightings in parentheses): affordability (40%), wellness (25%), weather (15%), culture (15%) and crime (5%).

Although Nebraska lags behind other states in terms of weather with an average annual temperature of 50 degrees, it ranks inside the top 15 for important qualities like wellness (8th) and affordability (14th), while also scoring in the top half for crime (19th) and culture (21st). Its only bottom-half finish is in weather (30th).

“We ranked wellness as second most important in our study,” said Garcia. “If you ask seniors what they care about most it’s going to be first and foremost family, then affordability and then access to doctors, health care and wellness. Nebraska, compared to most states is rather affordable and it’s a place people can probably find good access to care. So that helps put it at the top of the list.”

Nebraska’s new tourism campaign concedes the Cornhusker State is not for everyone. In January, the Nebraska Tourism Commission began using “Nebraska. Honestly, it’s not for everyone,” with promotions focusing on the sandhill crane migration. Since the campaign was unveiled at the 2018 Nebraska Tourism Conference in October, website traffic to has been up 43 percent.

Iowa, the study’s second-best state for retirement, ranks well in affordability (8th), wellness (12th) and crime (15th). Much like Nebraska, Iowa’s primary pain point is weather (34th).

“It’s kind of interesting about Nebraska and Iowa,” said Garcia. “I don’t think those are places we often hear about as being top retirement places, but if you think about the cost of living that those places may provide in comparison with the culture and wellness in these areas, that’s why they are ranked at the top of our list. Iowa is ranked number 8 for affordability. It’s also ranked number 20 for culture. There’s a great art scene in Des Moines. Those kinds of hidden assets make Iowa number 2 on our list.”

Third-place Missouri has a relatively moderate climate and is more affordable compared with other states. But sunshine and saving money only go so far in the Show-Me State. Other states ranked higher for culture, wellness and especially safety.

Fourth-place South Dakota ranks better than most states on every measure except weather. The state had an average annual temperature of almost 46 degrees, according to Bankrate’s study. The state performed surprisingly well on culture, ranking 12th, partly due to having the second-highest number of arts, entertainment and recreation businesses per capita.

If you like a warm climate, the Sunshine State has the second-best behind Hawaii. Garcia said Florida’s exceptionally warm weather helped bring it to the top of the list, rounding out the top five states for affordability.

“We also know Florida has been a top destination for retirees for a number of years at this point,” he said. “It does well across the board in the top half. It could do a little better on crime, and it could do a little better on wellness. It’s 29 and 31 there. In terms of culture it’s ranked number 13. It’s fairly affordable. I think you have to remember that Florida is a big state, and you are going to have varying experiences depending on where you are there.”

The five worst states to retire are Maryland, New York, Alaska, Illinois and Washington.

“Illinois is definitely in the bottom 20 for affordability,” said Garcia, noting that Illinois ranks as the second worst state in wellness and 11th worst in affordability.  He said, “When you look at tax rates in Illinois compared to other places, the rates are higher than even places like Alaska and Florida, which have lower tax rates for citizens. So those two factors are pushing Illinois down for affordability.” 

To help consumers identify what state might be best for them to retire, Bankrate has developed an interactive tool to rank the best and worst states based on personal preferences. Take a look at the complete ranking of states, and see where yours falls in terms of retirement.

“The best states on our list may not come to mind as places we think about being the best states to retire,” said Garcia. “Usually we think of places near beaches or on an island somewhere. But a lot of places, especially Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri, have hidden assets in terms of art institutions, botanical gardens, restaurants and great weather that make them places that retirees would give a second look at. The hidden assets help them to rival places that we think about being the best places for retirees. You don’t just move to Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri and there’s nothing to do. What this study highlights is that there is a lot of vibrancy in the middle of the country that we don’t often hear about.”

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