Best and worst places in the USA to retire

Are you planning to retire in the USA? Some states are more hospitable to your plans than others. Learn here which are which:

2021’s Best States to Retire ranked one to fifty

Executive summary for click avoiders:

Florida and Colorado: good

New York and New Jersey: you might want to reconsider

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One of the thing I wish these best/worst lists had was a way to change weighing to reflect my personal preferences as to what is most important to me.

Within each category healthcare/affordability/quality of life, there’d be many things I’d weight differently and it may affect where various states would rank in my tailor-made list.

Finally, some places do not rate very high because maybe the weather is really bad in one season or tax is really bad. That can be dodged a bit by simply being a snow bird. Spend 180+ days in Florida say to claim residency and thus low state tax, then spend the blistering hot months in a cooler state with good quality of life and healthcare like Minnesota?


Not a bad list and study. So many of these sort of rankings only weight by cost of living and weather…

Texas is #42

Alaska is #25

Anyone here prefer retiring to Alaska instead of Texas or the 24 other states ranked below AK?

Not I. Not saying I’d go for TX necessarily (although I wouldn’t mind San Antonio or the Austin area) but AK’s attractiveness seems off unless you factor in maybe 50 years of future global warming.

I’d be concerned about access to healthcare especially in the middle of January. Not dissing AK, but placing it 4th best healthcare in the country seems suspicious to me honestly. That makes me think that some of the weighing in that category is just not a good fit for me.

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If you live in Anchorage or Fairbanks, you’re getting better health care than a comparable sized city like Peoria or Missoula. But you’re also much, much further from the big healthcare centers that treat specialized diseases in the Tier 1 cities.


Yep. I similarly have to question their Health Care rankings. Hawaii got #1, but I know someone who retired on one of the islands and now needs to fly to another island on a regular basis to see a specialist.

And FL’s attractiveness is off IF you factor in 50 years of global warming :hot_face:

I’ve read these retirement books on desirable places to live. Arizona #17, my choice is ranking pretty close to middle. I’ve toured Arizona in winter & summer. Of course winter is great & I don’t mind the heat of summer.

I have a CA friend whose husband worked several years in Arizona & they loved it. They have a small farm here, Nor CA, & leased it out while working most of the year in AZ. When deciding to settle down, they bought a home in AZ, but let their children take care of their place here. They lasted about 2 years in AZ, sold that place & returned here. Family became more important.

But, my advice is to take a few years off & really try living in that wonderful state. Then think it all out, pack your bags, & go on your way.

There are lots of considerations to take into account before a person “hits the road”. Family is always my first consideration. You can love an area, but is that special place the most important?

With all my California complaints, I’ll stay here!


In between ATX and SAN I-35 corridor is the best-kept secret in TX IMO. Cheap housing, no income tax, and good access to health care.

California ends up being inexpensive for its long time residents due to Prop 13 and its steeply progressive income tax, which comes out to a total rate of 3.45% for $92,788 of taxable income for a married couple with Social Security not taxable. The recently passed Prop 19 adds to this… you could inherit a parent’s home’s assessed value, live in it for a couple years as your main residence, and use it as a base value for Prop 19 transfers after 55 to a much more expensive home and save thousands of dollars on property taxes for the rest of your life, including up to three transfers (from the previous one).

Nevada and Washington are cheaper due to their lack of income tax. For those who like to eat out and buy things Oregon’s lack of sales tax may also work, although their income tax is steeper at lower levels. The 3.45% rate in California listed above goes up to 8.2% in Oregon. On the other hand, a single person with $500,000 in taxable income pays 9.4% of it in California and 9.8% of it in Oregon.

Arizona has a fairly low income tax, topping out at 4.5%, and a relatively low rate - the example married couple would pay 2.9% of their $92,788 taxable income in Arizona. The sales tax is kind of high, on par with California, and it’s also a low service state. Property tax fluctuates based on tax levies and the housing market and are not capped to acquisition value like California or some mythical 1995 base year value like Oregon.

Nevada also has a fairly high sales tax but no income tax, but an economy extremely dependent on gaming and hospitality - 40% of the general fund. This is why Vegas opened relatively quickly in June, and have stayed open despite California being crushed by the virus. I’ve talked to many Californians who have gone to Vegas so they can go clubbing, eat indoors, or gamble, although most shows and large gatherings have closed.

One idea I have is move to Nevada after retirement, do 457 to Roth conversions there, then move back to California to inherit the family home, live in it for a year or two and transfer the base value to an oceanfront condo, thus locking in thousands of dollars in property tax savings for life while still having plenty of Roth money growing untaxed.


Fixed :wink:. No such benefit for renters.


My dad lived in SAT a few years, you forgot the brutal 100+ degree summer days. It gets really hot down there.


True. I was more thinking of snow birding there.

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I like your idea calwatch. You have this retirement living completely figured out.
I also like jesselivermore & TX best-kept secret.

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Living in WA on the border with OR is another option.
Zero income tax in WA and drive into OR for sales tax free shopping.

Vancouver WA is just across the river from Portland

Mild climate as long as you can suffer the constant non stop soul crushing rain


One of the things that are also hard to capture (probably because they depend on type of income streams in retirement), is how much state taxation can affect retirement income.

You have to get in the weeds a bit on income tax. Some states have income tax but exempt social security, pensions, and/or IRA/401k withdrawals. They may not look that good compared to states without any income tax but materially they may not be that different depending on what your income stream looks like. Especially when taking into account that states without income tax have to make up tax revenues elsewhere. So it’s not always clear whether these best/worst lists actually reflect cost of living there for retirees.


New Orleans is quite pleasant for retirement, assuming you’re funded well enough. The summer is brutal though, and I try to get out of town as much as possible.

Health is always the wildcard for this sort of thing, You can live more or less wherever you want and can afford, up until you start needing doctors all the time.

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Love the Roth conversion idea too. Any way to mitigate fed tax also?

I loved PorVan in the summer, but the riots lately have been crazy. Is it just DT?