Best (and Worst) Places to Retire in the U.S.

By on September 9, 2016

By Vanessa Sheets−

What makes a great place to retire? Affordability, great weather, plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities- and a great community of other older adults. Here are 5 great states to call home when you’re ready for retirement:

1.    Georgia

Offering warm weather and low living costs, is it any wonder why Kiplinger, leader in personal finance news and business forecasting, rated Georgia just peachy for retirement living? With big city and small town options, you’re sure to find the lifestyle option of your retirement dreams, whether that includes waterfront recreation around beautiful Cumberland Island, great golf in the bustling city of Brunswick, or access to lakeside luxury resorts in rural Greensboro.

2. Idaho
Idaho did well across financial rate information website Bankrate’s ranking for the best places to retire, with its low cost of living and crime rate, low taxes, and access to quality health care. With the many cultural and sporting events taking place on campus at Boise State, and seemingly endless scenic areas, including the Boise and Sawtooth Mountains and Snake River, bringing outstanding skiing, hiking, and river sports, the Pacific Northwest state attracts many active older adults.

3. Arizona

Rated one of Kiplinger’s “10 Most Tax Friendly States for Retirees,” you can save big on taxes and enjoy the sunshine and dry desert heat year-round. While there are expensive and inexpensive Arizona cities and towns to retire, all offer exceptional outdoor recreation and many come with beautiful landscapes, like scenic Sedona, and interesting communities like the working artists of Tubac. Northern Arizona University contribute to the economic and cultural life of Flagstaff, home to the Grand Canyon, the San Francisco Peaks (extinct volcano cones), Oak Creek Canyon, and Mount Humphries, the highest point in the state.

4. Utah

Known as the Beehive State, Bankrate lists Utah high on overall well-being and low on cost of living. While the state has some unfriendly tax laws- Kiplinger noted Utah as one of the few that taxes social security benefits- the nice weather, low crime rate, and incredible outdoor recreation more than make up for it, especially when off-set by the lower-than-average cost of living and health care costs for a retired couple. Boasting five national parks, including Zion National Park, and world-class ski resorts like Park City and Deer Valley, Utah is attracting a growing number of older adults. While 62 percent of the population is Mormon, areas like St. George and Park City tend to be more religiously diverse. Cedar City- nicknamed “Festival City” for its outstanding regional theater, role as host to the Utah Shakespearean Festival, and home to the Midsummer Renaissance Fair and other annual festivals- draws those looking for a cultural community.

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5. South Dakota

Surprisingly, South Dakota earned the number one spot on Kiplinger’s Best Places to Retire report, thanks mostly to the state’s outstanding quality of health care. Rapid City offers specialized services for the aging population, such as geriatric, hospice, and rehabilitation, according to the report. And, with the cost of living at 10 percent below the U.S. average and rating as the most tax friendly state for retirees, affordability boosts the Mount Rushmore State to first place.

Kiplinger also crunched the numbers for us to report the worst places to retire, based on factors like high living expenses, low quality health care, and below average resident well-being:

1.    California

It’s hard to beat the weather in the Golden State, but glorious year-round sunshine comes at a premium- with the cost of living 15 percent higher than the U.S. average. Kiplinger reports that 1 in 10 Californians over age 65 are living in poverty. California rated the least tax friendly for retirees, and soaring health care costs are among the highest in the nation.

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2. New York

Thanks to Manhattan’s status as the most expensive city in the U.S., the cost of living in New York is 29 percent above the national average. Add the high tax burden, below average overall well-being, and low quality health care and you have a retirement recipe for disaster in the Big Apple.

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3. New Jersey

Active retirement communities abound in the Garden State, but New Jersey has some strikes against it. The third wealthiest state in the U.S., cost of living is 22 percent higher than the nation’s average. And with its high tax burden and above average health care costs, many prospective retirees will want to cross the state off their list if they want to preserve their nest egg.

4. Connecticut
The charming state is crossed by four major rivers and boasts nearly 100 miles of coastline, but with high living costs (the second-highest in the country!) and exorbitant taxes, Connecticut ranks as one of the worst places to retire in the U.S.

5. Illinois

Rising state and local sales taxes, low credit rating, and an imbalanced budget put Illinois on the worst places to retire list, despite the state’s strong community appeal, including transportation services for seniors, and small towns with lower living costs. While some argue that Illinois offers lower tax incentives for retirees, Kiplinger warns that could change, due to the state’s poor fiscal standing.

If you’re thinking of relocating as you approach retirement, use this overview as a guide. Ultimately, the place you call home likely includes far more than number-crunching. You can’t put a price on being near family and friends, recreational opportunities you enjoy, and scenery that speaks to your soul.

Vanessa Sheets is a freelance journalist whose health articles have appeared in print and online magazines and business websites. Visit her website at

Vanessa Sheets

About Vanessa Sheets

Vanessa Sheets is a freelance journalist who specializes in fitness, health, and nutrition. She has written for True North, Natural Child, Newport Health, and Greenmaple Wellness and worked in public health as a community educator for a non-profit. She lives in Bend, Oregon.

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Best (and Worst) Places to Retire in the U.S.