Florida has been stripped of its title as the country’s leading retirement wonderland, a new analysis found, and replaced by its neighbor to the north — Georgia.
“It was a pretty close race,” Bankrate analyst Jeff Ostrowski recently shared with Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the findings. “Florida and Georgia were neck and neck in our rankings.”
It all came down to affordability, Ostrowski said.
“The cost of living and the tax burden are fairly low in Georgia and so that really propelled it to the top of our ranking system,” he said.
Following Georgia and Florida in the rankings are Tennessee (No. 3); Missouri (No. 4); Massachusetts (No. 5); Wyoming (No. 6); Arizona (No. 7); Ohio (No. 8); Indiana (No. 9), and Kentucky (No. 10).
The 50 states were ranked according to a weighted scale of affordability, wellness, culture, weather, and crime, using notable datasets from the Census Bureau and the FBI.
What thrust Georgia to the top spot was its “good value for homebuyers,” Ostrowski said. With median home prices in Atlanta’s metro area around $279,000, that’s below the national average and less than any Florida metro area.
Ostrowski also shared that Maryland came in last place for the second year in a row largely because of its “high cost of living and low-affordability reading.”
Maryland was joined by Minnesota (No. 49); Kansas (No. 48); Montana (No. 47); Alaska (No. 46); Maine and Arkansas (No. 44 tied); Alabama (No. 43); Idaho and Connecticut (No. 41 tied), and Washington (No. 40) in the lowest quintile.
But the retirement index isn’t gospel, Ostrowski said. The decision of where to spend one’s golden years is a “subjective and personal” choice and “depends a lot on where your family lives, where your friends are, and what you like,” he said.
There’s a “give-and-take” trade-off between states that have higher taxes and costs of living but also better health and wellness for residents.
“Even though we rank these states from 1 to 50, there really was no state that stood out as clearly the best choice or clearly the worst choice,” he said.
No matter where you want to live out your golden years, retirees should temporarily live in a new destination rather than moving somewhere on a whim.
“Maybe rent a place for six months or a year and get to know the area,” Ostrowski said. “See if you really like it before you commit to buying and retiring there.”