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When you think about retiring, what factors do you consider? Perhaps you dream of moving clear across the country to warmer temperatures or maybe you plan to retire close to your grandchildren. Maybe you plan to move to a place where you can indulge in your favorite hobbies and passions (golf? skiing? painting?) or maybe you have no plans to move anywhere because where you currently live is just perfect, thank you very much! RELATED: 5 Family-Friendly Road Trip Ideas From California

If you find yourself thinking about this question, you may be interested in a study just released by Bankrate. They looked at cost of living and public health statistics and also analyzed five categories across all 50 states:

1. Cost and quality of healthcare
2. Affordability
3. Overall well-being
4. Weather
5. Crime

Bankrate says that the category they weighed the heaviest was affordability, “to reflect the challenges that so many Americans face in today’s economy.” Depending on your own individual situation, you may be more concerned about some factors and less concerned with others. As the experts at Bankrate point out, “If you own a paid-off home in a high-cost area like Boston or Los Angeles, maybe affordability isn’t your priority. And, of course, not everyone likes the sweltering summers of the Sun Belt states.”

So, what states ranked as the best and worst places to retire in the United States?

Photo: Bankrate

According to Bankrate’s latest study, Iowa is the best state for retirement, followed by Delaware, West Virginia, Missouri and Mississippi. The worst? The study placed Alaska dead last due to weather and the high cost of living. The other four that ranked worst for retirement were New York, California, Washington and Massachusetts.

So, what makes Iowa so appealing? Bankrate says that “with its vast farmlands, peaceful countryside and friendly locals, Iowa offers a unique retirement experience for many Americans seeking a more relaxed and affordable lifestyle with access to the outdoors and retirement-age communities.” Iowa may be the sixth cheapest place to live in the United States, but other factors like community well-being and weather didn’t fare as well on the index so your own personal priorities will help you determine whether Iowa is your dream retirement destination.

And what puts California, New York, Washington and Massachusetts at the bottom of the list? Despite California’s mostly sunny skies, not surprisingly, they all scored poorly in terms of affordability, while Alaska’s downfall was weather and crime rates.

Photo: Bankrate

Typically, the narrative surrounding retirement is to leave cold climes and head south for more affordable living, better weather and more traditional retirement communities like Florida (whose overall ranking is 8th in 2023). But experts say that retirees should not rule out places that aren’t traditional retirement destinations.

“Don’t rule out places that seem unlikely. It’s important for people to get excited about that next chapter of life. It’s a new adventure, and you should really take the time to do the prep work financially and personally so that you make smart decisions,” says Kerry Hannon, retirement expert and author of In Control at 50+: How to Succeed in the New World of Work.

For expert tips on retirement planning, to see the full results of this study and download the data, visit

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2 Comments On "You'll Never Guess the Best State to Retire In: You Might Be Surprised Where California and New York Rank"
  1. Marlin|

    I am not surprised at all, both are liberal states which will make your taxes and cost of living be very high.

  2. Joan Connors|

    I grew up in Central NY and I loved it there, but the winters were too much for me and I moved to California years ago. I love it here, and I don’t care how expensive it is! Yes, the taxes are higher than in the south and midwest, (although, no taxes on Social Security) but we get something for those tax dollars. The people who did this survey relied on affordability, but health care is not great in many of those states, and we are talking about retirees.

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