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10 Best States for Retirement (and the 5 Factors These States Were Chosen)

[5 minute read]

How do you see yourself living out your golden years? We all have our own ideas of the perfect retirement, which isn’t always sitting on a beach chair in the tropics. Depending on what’s important to you, here’s a list of states you may want to consider, from the obvious to the not-so-obvious.

Factor #1: Affordability
Let’s be honest—the idea of actually retiring can feel like an impossibility for a lot of us. Lots of people choose to work well into their 70s or older to offset financial burdens. But if that still won’t solve things, and affordability is your main concern, these two states might offer you more peace of mind.

The obvious: Mississippi
Ranked the #1 state for cheapest cost of living, there’s no getting around the fact that Mississippi will give you a lot for your money. Even though it’s been faced with lots of challenges post-Hurricane Katrina, Mississippi still has its plusses: You can easily buy a home for less than $150,000, it’s tax friendly (the state only taxes dividend and interest income), and the slow southern vibe could end up matching your lifestyle perfectly.

One to think about: Ohio
Ohio’s not the absolute least expensive state to live in overall, but home prices are well below the national average (currently $334,200), at $110,000. Plus, its college town atmosphere means there’s always something to do, from sports to performing arts, and more.

Factor #2: Good Weather
If you don’t see yourself scraping the ice off your car or shoveling your driveway into your old age, an area with consistently good weather can be the way to go.

The obvious: California
Southern and central California, especially, will spoil you with good weather that never changes—many areas rarely fluctuates outside of 60 to 85 degrees, and don’t get much rain. Just expect to pony up a bit more cash for everything from mortgage to gas to taxes.

One to think about: North Carolina
Both Cape Hatteras and Ashville are worth checking out for their even temperatures throughout the year—wintertime lows only dip into the 40s, and highs in the summer reach the mid-80s. You’ll enjoy the variety of the seasons without the uncomfortable extremes.

Factor #3: Community
Senior communities still may seem far off now, but by the time you’re ready to retire, these will be your peers. Settling down in a spot that attracts lots of other retirees could make the difference between an active social life and one that’s non-existent.

The obvious: Florida
The Sunshine State has been cliche for a while, but it’s starting to attract more folks aged 65+ once again. Check out communities like Sarasota—a nice combo of beach, cultural attractions, and other retirees with active lifestyles. Not to mention… no income tax!

One to think about: Oregon
More retirees live here than you might think, with about 10 percent of the state residents being over 65. Places like Rose Villa are growing quickly; plus the state boasts a ton of stuff to do (think golf courses, national parks, and microbreweries).

Factor #4: Culture
Retirement will leave you with lots of time on your hands, which makes cultural amenities like museums, festivals, and the performing arts much more important.

The obvious: Washington, D.C.
Consider the Penn Quarter, just a walking distance from the Smithsonian. Conveniently located near Chinatown, you’ll get away with not having a car and just hopping on the metro to explore the city’s huge number of art galleries and top-notch restaurants. Housing is not cheap (the current median listing is $449,500), but if you have to sacrifice space, you’ll make up for it with the rich quality of life this international hub has to offer.

One to think about: Tennessee
Nashville is rising on everyone’s radar as a good retirement choice. Areas like Crossville have made a name for themselves as being ideal for golf, and cities like Chattanooga and Nashville have active art and music scenes. Combined with the low cost of living, it can be appealing. The National Association of Home Builders finds that 77 percent of homes are affordable to families earning the local median income, $60,700.

Factor #5: Healthy Lifestyle
Looking for an outdoorsy lifestyle dedicated to fresh air and clean living? Either of these choices would be worth considering.

The Obvious: Washington
Sure, it’s rainy, but the Evergreen State is an obvious choice when it comes to natural scenery and an outdoorsy lifestyle. Hiking, boating, and scenic drives are a given. Plus, a ton of wineries have popped up in recent years. You’ll pay a pretty penny for it in areas like Seattle with their average home value currently at $441,500, but venture further out into cities like Spokane, and you might find it to be more affordable considering Spokane’s average home value is at a manageable $127,700.

One to think about: Montana
Parks, lakes, and rivers are an everyday enjoyment in Montana, and the cost of living is just over 6 percent lower than the national average. Plus, Montana is 1 of only 5 states in America that doesn’t impose sales tax. Bozeman has also grown into its own sophistication with trendier shops and restaurants, giving residents an alternative to the old-west lifestyle if they choose.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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