Introduction: Review of the Top Retirement States

There are many ways to view the benefits of the best states to retire in the United States. Some people look for proximity to their families and grandkids while others look for a warmer climate and some look for a place to start over.

However, there are a few things that most retirees want in the state that they will choose to retire, and most revolve around cost. That’s why you’ll find that the most affordable states to retire are also classified as the best retirement states to live in.

best retirement states

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The following is an objective list of the top retirement states in the country, based on the cost of and access to health care as well as crime rates, taxes, and the cost of living in general.


 One of the best states to retire is Nebraska. Many people think that Nebraska is mostly filled with cornfields, but its landscapes can be quite beautiful, with beautiful plains, hills, and rainwater basins.

Omaha is a charming city with cobblestone streets that will transport retirees back to “the olden days” and is also home to the Orpheum Theater, a former vaudeville house that features acts like Ballet Nebraska. The Old Market is lined with restaurants, art galleries, and boutiques.

Lincoln, another large city in Nebraska, is known for being a big football town, which is appealing to sports-oriented retirees. For the less sports-inclined, Lincoln boasts the largest public collection of quilts on earth!

The friendliness of people in Nebraska is another main draw for seniors. People don’t often think about missing the social aspect of employment when they retire, points out Scott Darrah, an Ameriprise Financial adviser. Nebraskans help fill this void – they are known for being open, honest, and warm.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index has rated Nebraska in the top 10 for general happiness and satisfaction with its surroundings. This index is measured in five areas, including sense of purpose; positive feelings about the community; and social, financial, and physical well-being.


Besides its picturesque views, Utah also doesn’t impose estate or inheritance taxes, which is a big plus for making it one of the most affordable states to retire.

Though seniors face a five percent Social Security tax and a 6.7 percent sales tax, they benefit from Utah’s excellent health care and low insurance premiums, averaging at about $158 per month. Utah’s average apartment rent is significantly lower than the national average, even in the biggest metro area in the state – Salt Lake City.

It goes without saying that Utah offers many activities for outdoor enthusiasts, with many national parks, skiing and hiking opportunities, and canyons. According to Bankrate, about 4 in 10 Americans say the most desirable places to retire provide access to mountains, rivers, and other outdoor recreation, so Utah certainly fits the bill. The weather is also extremely mild, with low humidity and plenty of sunshine.

Utah attracts many retirees to the St. George and Park City areas, which are more religiously diverse than neighboring Salt Lake City. St. George is in southern Utah and is home to many planned retirement communities where seniors will feel right at home. Park City is the home of the 2002 Winter Olympics and offers beautiful skiing resorts.


 For those looking for big city living on a small-town budget, Iowa’s Des Moines is a great option. It is one of the most affordable states to retire since the cost of living in the city is 9.5 percent below the average according to the Council for Community and Economic Research. Des Moines also boasts numerous museums for cultured seniors, and plenty of health care facilities specializing in age-related illnesses exist in the state. Comedy shows, painting classes, and music festivals are also prevalent downtown, and the Civic Center attracts Broadway acts like “Book of Morman.”

Iowa is home to many bustling towns other than just Des Moines. Decorah, a small town in the hilly Driftless region with a population a little over 7,000, is home to potters, painters, metal workers, and other artists. The town has a strong Norwegian heritage, which is celebrated each year in July at the Nordic Festival and features Scandinavian games, dance, and art.

Like Nebraska, Iowa is also known for its friendly Midwesterners. The state is known for its hospitality, which makes it easier to get involved in community activities than in many other states.

The poverty rate for people 65 and older in Iowa is 7.4 percent, compared with a national average of 9.4 percent. This is due, in large part, to the affordability of living since housing and health care are significantly lower than the average as well. The Hawkeye State also has a low crime rate relative to other U.S. cities according to FBI statistics.


Another best retirement state, Delaware offers proximity to exciting cities like Philadelphia, New York or Washington via Amtrak, along with the low cost of living of a Midwestern state. One of the main attractions of retiring in Delaware is the absence of sales tax and the modest income taxes. Social Security benefits are also exempt from income taxes, and the average income for 65+ households is over $47,000.

For affordability, experts recommend Milford, an inland city of about 10,000 people that hugs the Mispillion River. Milford enjoys a bustling downtown with a river walk, many restaurants, and festivals that are appealing to seniors.

Though oceanfront homes in Delaware may be as expensive as those in Connecticut or Massachusetts, homes just a few miles inland could keep you close to the sea but with considerably fewer expenses for your dwelling.

The largest city in Delaware, Wilmington, offers casinos, wineries, and galleries and is just a short drive from Milford. Its health care services are plentiful and offer a joint replacement center; however, one of the challenges that Delaware has faced is a shortage of primary care physicians. Some people have to visit neighboring Maryland or New Jersey to see doctors.

best states to retire in

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South Dakota

Flat land and frigid winters may come to mind when seniors think about this state. However, South Dakota is one of the top retirement states because of its low tax burden at 7.1 percent, along with no state income tax. It also scores well for overall happiness and social well-being, particularly for seniors – and those that live here have some of the highest life expectancies in the country. It ranks in the top 20th percent for Medicare payouts but has a higher-than-average cost of living.

Though winters can be long and cold in the northern parts of South Dakota, there is plenty of sunshine in the warmer months. Younger retirees enjoy outdoor activities like Sioux Falls, which has a large population of 45 to 64-year-olds and a 25-mile walking and biking trail that loops the entire city. The city is also serviced by two large health systems: Sanford and Avera Health.

In the southern hills, temperatures are milder – so much that it’s nicknamed the “Banana Belt.” Temperatures there typically don’t reach less than 40 degrees in January, meaning that hiking is possible year-round.

Crime rates in the state are very low, and the median home value is about a third less than the national average. All these factors together mean that South Dakota is one of the

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Wyoming has a similar tax burden to South Dakota, at 7.1 percent, and scores the third lowest in the nation for crime rates.

Wyoming’s beautiful, natural scenic landscapes attract thousands of tourists every year, so it’s no secret that retirees may enjoy it as well. The Cowboy State, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone, and Devils Tower all bring in locals and tourists alike.

The cool climate, low humidity, and mild summers are also a draw for Wyoming’s outdoor life and reason for its status as a This makes it the perfect place for outdoor activities, including skiing, hiking, hunting, and bird watching.

As the least populous state in the entire country, Wyoming gives retirees ample room to breath. This is good because Wyoming’s residents are known for their individualistic values. This also extends to their culture – Old West traditions are popular with retirees in Wyoming. There are many museums and historical buildings dedicated to the Sundance Kid and Butch Cassidy.

Even the largest cities in Wyoming are small, meaning that it’s easy to get involved in the local community and meet new people. However, since driving to the nearest airport could take several hours, Wyoming may not be the best place to settle if you plan on extensive travel.

For those that don’t mind a slightly secluded lifestyle, the town of Sheridan is a great option. At the foot of the Bighill Mountains, it offers miles of ski trails without the steep price of Jackson Hole. Golf courses, hiking trails, and scenic views are also plentiful in Sheridan.


Virginia is one of the best retirement states for seniors who like coastal lifestyles mixed with a low cost of living. A Bankrate survey found that about one fourth of people prefer to live near the beach when they retire, and the median cost of a home is a little over $200,000.

For those that don’t want beach living all the time, Virginia also provides access to several large cities, like Washington, D.C. It also provides a mild climate and a varied landscape which includes the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Interestingly, Virginia is the home to “half backs” – seniors originally from the north that tried to live in Florida, decided it wasn’t the best fit for them, and came halfway back up the coast to Virginia.

However, one potential drawback for Virginia retirees is the extensive tourist population. Virginia Beach draws 5 million visitors annually while Colonial Williamsburg attracts about 1.7 million tourists each year. Retirees who don’t enjoy crowds should stay away from these areas, especially during the summer months.

Despite this, Virginia Beach is one of the most appealing cities for retirees. Since the area has five military bases, the city has one of the highest populations of veteran retirees in the country. The heart of the city includes 17 blocks of restaurants, shopping, and the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts.

During the height of tourist season, it’s easy for retirees to escape to the suburbs or to other states since the Virginia Beach airport is close by.


Most people think of Vegas when they think of Nevada – but many retirees probably think about the low tax rates, breathtaking landscapes, and affordable homes. Nevada lacks a state income tax or inheritance tax, meaning seniors’ hard-earned pensions stretch further, making it one of the most affordable states to retire. Housing prices are also attractively low in Nevada since it was one of the states that was hardest hit by the housing crisis.

Outdoorsy seniors find Nevada as one of the for many good reasons. Diverse geography ranges from the dry, beautiful Mojave Desert to snow-capped mountains in the Sierra Nevada area. Swimming pools, spas, and bocce courts are plentiful as well.

Cities that appeal to seniors in Nevada include Henderson, Mesquite, and, yes, Las Vegas. Mesquite has plentiful sun and golf courses, including Wolf Creek, which was named one of the best courses in the U.S. by Golf Digest. Mesquite has been called “a diamond in the desert” because it’s set apart from some of the main attractions of Nevada – but for those that move there for proximity to gambling, Las Vegas is only a 90-minute drive away.

However, travel lovers may not enjoy being hours away from the nearest airport. Neighboring city St. George has an airport, but for most destinations, retirees will have to travel to Las Vegas first.

No matter what retiring seniors are looking for, these locations are some of the best states to retire in the U.S. Offering affordable housing, health care, cultural activities, outdoor adventures, and good old-fashioned peace and quiet, there’s a lot to love about these beautiful, yet often overlooked, retirement destinations.

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