Many retirees see interstate relocation as an attractive way to spend their post-retirement days. You get to meet new people, live in areas with lower healthcare costs, select quality out-of-state assisted living facilities, and most importantly, stray from the mental distress that comes with the busy urban jungle. But which state has the best elderly benefits?
A 2019 report from the United States Census Bureau indicates that most migrating seniors move to Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina. Although, popular does not always mean better. When deciding between the best and worst states for seniors, you need to consider the multiple factors that will contribute to the overall quality of your post-retirement lifestyle.
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The U.S. has almost 19,500 different towns, cities, and villages. Narrowing this number down to the best and worst states to retire in will involve tedious, time-consuming state-per-state research and fact-checking.
Fortunately, we're here to help. Our team made a list of the best U.S. states for those who want to spend their retirement days in a more senior-friendly environment.
We considered multiple factors while curating this list, including the costs of housing, healthcare, taxes, groceries, and transportation, among other daily expenses. Use this as a reference to determine what each state offers for its senior residents.
Note: The national average cost of living index is 100; monthly health insurance cost is $456; senior poverty line is 37.8% (65 and older, without Social Security benefits); and home value is $550,800.
Taking the number one spot on our list is West Virginia. Locals dubbed it the "Mountain State" since the majority of the entire area consists of the Appalachian Mountain's woodlands and forests. Residents won't need more than five minutes to find themselves in a camping site or trekking trail.
When it comes to the climate across all the states on this list, West Virginia has a generally sunny climate: expect mild winters and warm, humid summers. Those who despise inactivity and love to move around can take advantage of the overall pleasant weather conditions and abundance of forests to take on various outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and trekking.
West Virginia's fun, warm, and tight-knit community is lovely, but what sets the state apart from any other item on this list is its competitive living costs. Statistics show that the overall cost of living in West Virginia drops by a whopping 22 points below the national average. Most Americans can already buy a home in West Virginia at zero property tax with just a hundred grand.
Note that the government taxes state retirement income like Social Security benefits. Although, you can claim deductions to waive the fees. Consult with an honest, trustworthy legal professional on how you can further protect your income and avoid specific taxes.
Nebraska, otherwise known as the Cornhusker State, comes in strong at second place. Locals take great pride in corn, their primary agricultural product, and bring their earned nickname as the Cornhuskers to various interstate sporting events.
The state has a fair, pleasant midwestern climate that allows residents to go through all four seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and fall. Temperature levels stay relatively the same across the state. However, the eastern locations of Nebraska tend to have humid and muggy summers, while homeowners from the western site might experience dry, crisp winters.
Nebraska offers plenty of benefits to seniors, such as affordable housing, above-average income, and excellent health care provider options. However, what Nebraska excels in is safety.
With violent and property crime rates at a meager 3.0 and 20.4 percent per 1,000 people, respectively, Nebraska stands as one of the safest states for retirees. Safety plays a crucial role in determining the location of your retirement home. Keep in mind that the aging body can no longer move as well as it used to, so seniors 65 and older would do well to avoid emergencies, fights, and crises to the best of their abilities.
However, West Virginia outperforms Nebraska in culture. More than half of the counties in Nebraska are 100% rural, and even urbanized areas do not have a dense population. The lack of people leads to an overall decline in the entertainment sector. Although, seniors would be happy to know that the local government maintains health care facilities even in the tiniest rural counties.
People all across the globe see Florida as the ultimate holiday getaway. The sunny beaches, globally renowned amusement parks, and beautiful subtropical climate attract tourists worldwide. For many retirees, retiring in Florida and enjoying all the state's destinations would be a dream come true.
Contrary to popular belief, living in Florida does not cost an arm and a leg. Yes, store prices stagger a few points above the national average, but the state allows taxpayers and workers to save hundreds to thousands every month on their excellent tax laws. The IRS won't tax you on your estate, inheritance, and retirement income. Plus, you get to enjoy low, competitive property taxes.
Apart from the beneficial tax system, the state also offers top-notch health care and nursing home care facilities and services. You can take advantage of these by signing up for quality insurance plans.
Another reason for seniors to consider retiring in Florida is the state offers plenty of cultural diversity. The state attracts migrants and tourists of every age, race, religion, lifestyle, gender, and financial standing, so you will never feel alone.
However, Florida still sits below the states of West Virginia and Arkansas despite its excellent tax system and dynamic culture because of the relatively high cost of living. Only move to Florida if you have decent sources of retirement income.
Coming in at number four on our best states to relocate to after retirement is South Dakota. The state consists of a warm, welcoming community you would be happy to share the beautiful outdoors of the state. In fact, residing seniors will get to enjoy all four seasons.
Seniors might notice that South Dakota has a higher average home value than the other states on the list. However, you can still get huge savings by applying for the state's property tax relief program. Requirements vary on a case-by-case basis, but the program primarily accepts seniors that are:
Apart from the state's competitive property and income tax rates, you can also utilize their zero inheritance taxes. That means seniors who passed away in South Dakota may be able to transfer their entire estate without shelling out for excessive taxes and charges.
If you are looking for the safest states with the lowest crime rating, try Iowa. They have friendly, welcoming counties that provide uplifting community support—especially in small, tight-knight towns.
Another perk of moving to Iowa is the tax system. Seniors can maximize their retirement savings and government benefits through Social Security withdrawal tax exemptions and retirement income tax deductions.
Also, those who wish to continue working well into their post-retirement years can take advantage of the state's excellent job market and low unemployment rates. Look for simple, easy roles at companies that pay well. Remember: the goal here is not to make a living anymore but to find productive ways to spend your free time.
The reason we placed Iowa at number five is the state has above-average property and inheritance taxes. Other states on the list do not even have inheritance taxes anymore. Although, a skilled tax specialist might be able to help you out if you have good sources of retirement income or will continue to work post-retirement.
For seniors who want to lead an overall laid-back quality of life, try Kentucky. The state offers a low-crime environment that primarily consists of rural, easygoing, tight-knit counties. These are the type of communities where everybody knows everybody.
Another main contributor to the state's easy, laid-back atmosphere is the low cost of living. Seniors residing in Kentucky would not have to worry about running out of funds midway through their retirement as the goods sink nearly 17 index points lower than the national average. Safety won't be an issue as well since the entire state has relatively low crime ratings.
The only downside is that Kentucky does not offer much in the cultural and entertainment sectors. While the lack of urbanization and development plays a crucial role in creating the state's relaxed, tight-knit setting, some might find the lack of establishments a bit bland.
Although, the Appalachians are reasonably accessible from Kentucky. If you enjoy outdoor activities, you can regularly go on multiple hiking, camping, and trekking trips.
Seniors who want to relocate to the least populous states can look into the Wyoming housing market. Despite having the ninth largest state area spanning 253,348 km², they also have the lowest population among all 50 states.
Despite the low population, Wyoming still does exceptionally well. Their tourism, agricultural, and mineral extraction markets generate enough profits to boost the economy and provide citizens with fair, affordable living costs.
Another reason for seniors to consider Wyoming is they offer retiree-friendly tax systems. Retirees do not have to pay income, inheritance, or estate taxes. To utilize their tax system, consider investing your money into a business venture that would provide you steady, passive income over the next few years. You will already get better profits considering you have lower tax rates.
Despite the low living expenses, Wyoming has one of the highest health care costs on the list. The state has an overall expensive health care ecosystem cause by the overall reimbursement rates, pharmaceuticals delivery, medical device installations, among other charges in the medical industry.
Why choose between the urban and rural life when you can get both? Missouri features the convenience and luxury of big city living without compromising the natural wonders of the state, such as the plethora of lakes, coasts, and forests.
What sets Missouri apart from other states on this list is its health care system. The state has two national-ranking medical institutions, namely the St. Luke's Hospital and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Residents also have access to multiple state- and federal-funded programs geared toward assisting veterans.
Unfortunately, Missouri only places number eight on our list as it has relatively high crime ratings compared to the other states we mentioned. Make sure to do your research before relocating. Generally, seniors would want to avoid Springfield, St. Louis, Branson, Vinita Park, and Maplewood.
North Carolina offers a thriving job market, fair tax system, and overall affordable living expenses that attract seniors, growing families, and young professionals.
One of the main reasons to consider relocating to North Carolina is their tax system benefits retirees. They do not have Social Security income or State Estate taxes. Plus, their discounted corporate income tax allows retirees to venture into business without breaking the bank to cover government fees or state-mandated taxes.
Unfortunately, we placed North Carolina toward the bottom of the list because its health care system does not match what other states offer. Plus, the costs and insurance premiums stagger slightly above the national average.
Hawaii is a globally celebrated tourist attraction. The warm, tropical island regularly draws in thousands of tourists worldwide. Buying a good piece of property on the island and settling down would definitely seem like an attractive idea to all seniors.
Apart from the fantastic culture, seniors can also take advantage of the state's top-quality health care system. Hawaii boasts multiple healthcare facilities equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment and devices. Plus, insurance premiums sit a few index points below the national average.
We saved Hawaii as our last recommendation because of the high living costs. Groceries, transportation, housing, and other necessities have a whopping 70-point difference from the national average cost of living index.
If you want to retire in Hawaii, create multiple sources of retirement income and set aside hefty savings to use in case of emergencies. Make sure you have enough to last you at least a few years after the average life expectancy.
Although, those who do not necessarily want to live in Honolulu can opt for locations outside the island. You get massive savings on your home while maintaining your direct access to Hawaii's world-famous restaurants, bars, cafes, and shores.
Senior Strong has multiple resources and articles to help aging adults cope with the pressure that comes with retirement planning. Click here to read what seniors should prepare at least five years before retirement.
Minnesota takes the top spot in a new survey for best state to practice medicine, according to Medscape. The report analyzed factors like well-being and work environment before naming Minnesota as its number one pick.
In terms of healthcare, there is no better place to live than Hawaii. This state ranked number one in the nation and it was followed by Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and California for the top five spots on this list.
The reason why these states are so great for medical needs boils down to a few key items: high rankings regarding public hospital performance, low rates of poverty-related diseases like diabetes or heart disease among adults, and numerous hospitals per capita (the most being available in Hawaii).
Some seniors make a big mistake by retiring to an out-of-state destination that is out of their means, making it difficult to access the care they need. One of the most common choices is New York, which is known for being pricey. Mississippi and Arkansas also rank among some other popular destinations that can be pricey without warning.
Retirees looking for a tax-friendly place to settle down should consider South Dakota. Not only is there no state income tax, but retirees can also qualify for property taxes relief programs that will make their new home feel like it's theirs from day one.
Wyoming residents are guaranteed to have zero income, estate or inheritance taxes. Sales tax rates in the Equality State are also low and favorable for those who decide to retire there.
Based on the data alone, West Virginia provides an excellent environment for retirees. The state has an affordable cost of living, low senior poverty rate, inexpensive health care costs, and low crime rates. However, this does not mean that all Americans 65 and older should retire in West Virginia.
Take extra precautions not to fall into cookie-cutter plans set by trends. Relocation needs vary from person to person, and it all depends on the care that you're after. For example, people who do not necessarily care for the calm, peaceful rural areas in West Virginia can opt for a relatively affordable, urbanized, dynamic area like Florida. Overall, seniors should strive to identify which areas suit their needs, lifestyle, and preferences the best.
Is assisted living the best option for you? At Senior Strong, we have multiple resources discussing nursing homes, what they offer, and how much their care services cost. Check out our full article on assisted living options for seniors.