Here are the best and worst U.S. states for retirement

Dhara Singh

If you’re looking for the best place to retire in the U.S., bundle up.

Most of the top states for retirees aren’t known for warm winters, according to a ranking from Blacktower Financial Management, but perform well based on other key factors, such as crime, cost of living, and life expectancy, among others.

“You can spend a few more months in Florida or other southern states when it’s a little colder,” said Christopher Thornton, country manager at Blacktower in a recent conversation with Yahoo Finance. “But for the rest of the year, when you’ve got to worry about your expenditure and your budgeting, these [other] states are actually more cost-effective to live in.”

Graphic credit: David Foster/Yahoo Finance

Calculating the best and worst states for retirement

Blacktower sourced data from government and nonprofit sites and calculated a cumulative score based on these factors:

  • Cost of living: The median cost of living in the United States is indexed at 98.5, derived from a national survey by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center.

  • Crime: This number represents how many violent crimes were committed per 100,000 people in 2017. The crime rate in the U.S. was 394 crimes per 100,000 people. 

  • Age: Age of population data was sourced from the Census. The average share of those 60 and older among the 50 states is 21.46%.

  • Property price: Average property prices were also sourced from Census data. The average among the 50 states is $263,544.

  • Life expectancy: The average life expectancy in the 50 states ranged from 74.5 to 81.5 years, based on data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent health research center. 

Top 10 states for retirement

No. 1: Iowa 

The Hawkeye State gets the top spot on Blacktower’s list. Some experts were taken aback by the No. 1 ranking, even though the state has one of the lowest housing costs in the country. The average home price there is $173,561.

“I was surprised to see Iowa by virtue of cold weather,” said Steven Sexton, CEO of Sexton Advisory Group, a financial planning firm. “But there’s a large number of those aged 60 and older, almost 25%, [living there].” 

Another factor driving its first place spot include a lower cost of living compared with most states.

The Hawkeye State gets the top spot on Blacktower’s list, with an average home price of $173,561. (Photo: REUTERS/Joshua Lott)

No. 2: Minnesota

Trailing behind Iowa is Minnesota. Despite a lower crime rate and higher life expectancy than Iowa, it has higher cost of living and property prices versus the No. 1 state. The average home price in Minnesota is $248,037, 43% higher than Iowa’s. 

No. 3: Vermont

Vermont has one of the lowest crime rates in the nation, which helped the state to rank third on Blacktower’s list. A quarter of Vermont’s population is also 60 and over, but home prices there are a bit pricey compared with Iowa and Minnesota, averaging $266,019. 

Nearly a quarter of Vermont’s population is 60 and over,. (Photo: John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)

No. 4: Wisconsin

Wisconsin, known as “America’s Dairyland,” takes the fourth place, with a 22% of the state’s population age 60 and older. 

Despite a slightly higher crime rate of 319.9, significantly higher than No. 3 Vermont’s at 165.8, it’s still lower than the U.S. rate.

No. 5: Nebraska

Nebraska is a good choice for retirees because of its affordable home prices and lower cost of living. The average property price there is $179,168. Its crime rate also is lower than the national rate.

The average property price in Nebraska is $179,168. (Photo: Mike Siluk/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

No. 6: Idaho

Idaho, commonly known as a center of agriculture, takes sixth place for retirees. Its crime rate is the sixth-lowest in the nation, while its senior-friendly cost of living and affordable property prices – compared to more expensive nearby states – also help buoy the state.

“We’re seeing prices in states like Idaho at $210,000 [on] average,” said Sexton. “It’s $450,000 here in California.” 

No. 7: Maine

Maine’s low crime rate helped the state to break into the top 10. Among the 50 states, Maine has the lowest crime rate at 121 reported crimes per 100,000 people. 

Among the 50 states, Maine has the lowest crime rate at 121 reported crimes per 100,000 people. (Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

No. 8: New Hampshire

New Hampshire has one of the higher percentages of those 60 and over among all 50 states. The national average hovers around 21.46%, while 23.5% of New Hampshire’s population is in this age bracket. 

No. 9: Florida

Despite having a crime rate that is higher than the national rate, retirees still love the Sunshine State. About 26% of those who live there are retirees. 

About 26% of those who live in the Sunshine State are retirees. (Photo: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

No. 10: North Dakota

Key traits driving this state’s top 10 ranking include a fairly low crime rate versus the national rate and average home price of $208,697. 

Worst states for retirement

No. 1: Alaska

Besides the chilly weather, Alaska also has the highest crime rate among the 50 states, which should deter retirees. In fact, only 15.8% of its population is 60 and above. That’s why it’s considered the worst state for retirement.

Only 15.8% of Alaska's population is 60 and above. (Photo: Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)

No. 2: Hawaii

The second worst state for retirement is also the state with the highest life expectancy at 81.5 years. With a population of 1.2 million, 23% of Hawaii’s residents are 60 and above. 

Still, the state has the highest average home price at $659,823 and the highest cost of living in the nation, almost doubling the U.S. average.

“I think we’d all love to live in Hawaii, wouldn’t we?” Thornton said. “But ultimately, it comes down to how far do those retirement dollars go. If you want to live in Hawaii, you have to pay a premium.” 

No. 3: California

Another state with unaffordable housing prices is California, where you need to shell out $591,929 on average for a home.

“People have been moving away for the last 10 years, but the volume has increased for the last three years,” Sexton said. “A lot of it is because they want the ability to have a joyful retirement as opposed to one with worry.”

Retirees need to shell out $591,929 on average for a home in California. (Photo: REUTERS/Mike Blake)

No. 4: Maryland

Property prices in Maryland are also pretty steep, with the average price reaching $370,684. It also has the sixth-highest cost of living among the 50 states and high crime rate.

No. 5: Louisiana

Louisiana has one of the lowest life expectancies of 75.4, hurting its ranking. The state also has a high crime rate of 557 crimes per 100,000 people, much more than the U.S. crime rate. 

Louisiana boasts a high crime rate of 557 crimes per 100,000 people. (Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman)

No. 6: Tennessee

The sixth worst state for retirement also has the third-highest crime rate among the 50 states. With a score of 651.5 it falls significantly behind the retirement-friendly states such as Minnesota which has less than half that amount. 

No. 7: Nevada

Not only does Nevada’s crime rate of 555.9 deter potential retirees, but it also has a fairly high cost of living. 

Nevada's high cost of living deters potential retirees. (Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)

No. 8: Alabama

Despite its low cost of living, the state has a high crime rate of 524.2 and a low life expectancy of 74.9 years, the third-lowest in the nation.

No. 9: New Mexico

The state has the second-highest incidence of crime in the U.S. and fairly low life expectancy.

New Mexico has the second-highest incidence of crime in the U.S. (Photo: Steven Clevenger/Corbis via Getty Images)

No. 10: Arkansas

Arkansas round out the bottom 10 states for retirement.

It has a high crime rate and the fifth-lowest life expectancy on the list. On average, people can expect to live up to 75.4 in the state, while the best retirement states have life expectancies into the 80s on average. 

Dhara is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @dsinghx.

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