If you’re in your 50s and have at least something saved for retirement, congratulations: You’re in better shape than almost a third of older Americans.
Now stop celebrating. Even if you have a substantial nest egg, your savings could be quickly whittled down by a number of factors — and one of the biggest is geography.
Deciding where to retire shouldn’t be something you do based on weather or even proximity to kids — let them do the driving — they’re more mobile than you anyway. If you want to retire rich, and maintain that wealth, you should be looking at important regional factors, such as taxes, local living expenses, and the affordability and accessibility of health care.
To make the search easier, GOBankingRates investigated all 50 states on those three components. We surveyed:
- Taxes: local rates of Social Security income, estate, inheritance, property and sales taxes
- Living expenses: home values, listing prices, local deposit rates and a cost-of-living index
- Health care: average individual insurance premiums, average Medicare payment and the health of seniors who take advantage of regional health care
The result: the best and worst states for retiring rich. Read on for the 10 best — and then the 10 worst — and see where you should be moving to when you retire.
1. New Hampshire
New retirees will have a hard time finding as good a tax haven as New Hampshire, and that’s largely why it topped our list of the best states to retire rich. The Granite State boasts no sales tax, no Social Security income tax, no estate tax and no inheritance tax.
What doesn’t play in the state’s favor is its high cost of living, bolstered by higher-than-average home prices and middling deposit account rates — and the second-highest median property tax in the country.
Still, New Hampshire has one other thing going for it, and it’s a big one: excellent health care. Though residents have to face higher-than-average monthly premiums, Medicare payouts are better than average, and seniors in the state are among the healthiest in the country, according to the United Health Foundation.
Delaware is another state with low tax rates for retirees, which pushed it to second place on our list. Residents enjoy no sales tax, no Social Security tax and no inheritance tax, though, unlike New Hampshire, Delaware does have an estate tax — 16 percent. Also unlike New Hampshire, however, property taxes in Delaware remain low: At just 0.43 percent of a home's value, the state has the fourth-lowest median property tax in the nation.
In terms of health care, the average amount of Medicare paid out to Delaware residents is among the highest, though the average premium is on the pricier end. Delaware seniors are on the whole healthy — the state is ranked 15th in the country for that.
The only category for which Delaware took a hit in our study was living expenses, with higher-than-average home prices and cost-of-living scores.
Idaho’s extremely low living expenses catapulted it to third in our study, with one of the lowest cost-of-living scores in the nation — only Mississippi and Tennessee are cheaper. Retirees also have access to higher-than-average local deposit rates to grow their savings and low local tax rates; residents pay no Social Security, estate, or inheritance taxes and fairly low sales and property taxes.
Idaho was bumped out of the top two spots due to less-stellar health care scores: The state is middle of the line (24th place) when it comes to its seniors’ health, and its Medicare payouts are only average. Still, the state’s average individual insurance premiums are low — among the 10 cheapest in the nation.
Retirees in Wisconsin have access to some of the best health care in the country, with the state ranking second in senior health thanks in part to low crime and widespread health care insurance coverage. That, combined with relatively low living expenses, helped it snag fourth place.
Other plusses: Wisconsin has no Social Security, estate, or inheritance taxes, and its sales tax rate is also one of the lowest. The caveat for home-buying retirees: Wisconsin’s median property tax is fourth-worst in the nation, though home listing prices in the bottom third will help offset that cost.
The biggest draw for retirees in Wyoming? No taxes — almost. The state made it to the fifth spot on our list thanks to its favorable tax rates, including no Social Security, estate, and inheritance taxes, and low property and sales taxes. Those perks were tempered by some pretty expensive home prices, however, with the average listing price this month reported by Trulia at $415,000.
Though senior health in Wyoming is middling, the amount of Medicare paid out to retirees is far above average, which is good because the average insurance premium is high — nearly $300.
The Last Frontier is where new retirees can go to escape taxes — almost all of them. Alaska had the best tax score in our study: no Social Security, estate, or inheritance taxes, and the lowest average sales tax rate of any state that charges one (1.76 percent).
On the other hand, Alaska’s lackluster health care dragged the state down in our rankings, even with one of the highest Medicare payouts. On average, residents pay a lot in premiums — the average, $345, is fifth-highest in the nation. Meanwhile, senior health in the state is in the bottom 40th percentile.
The state is also surprisingly expensive; Alaska ranked fourth-worst on the cost-of-living index, and its home values are higher than average. The one silver lining when it comes to living expenses is Alaskan deposit rates, which are among the highest in the nation.
7. South Dakota
Like many of the states toward the top of this study, one of South Dakota’s biggest draws for retirees is its low tax rates. Unfortunately, these savings are slightly offset by a higher-than-average cost of living and abysmal deposit account rates — South Dakota is in the bottom 20th percentile for interest.
On the other hand, residents enjoy much higher-than-average Medicare payouts — in this regard, the state reaches the top 20th percentile. South Dakota seniors also made it (though barely) into the top 50th percentile for their health. The state was hampered by fewer dentists and primary care physicians. The good news, however, is that seniors in this state report having some of the highest frequencies of good physical and mental health days, and the state has little pollution.
Retirees who want to live on less will like Michigan: It’s the cheapest state in our top 10, with extremely low home costs and living expenses. Also cheap in Michigan are insurance premiums; the average is just $204, ninth-most-affordable on our list.
Several factors knocked the state down in the rankings, though, including a high median property tax rate and low average Medicare payouts. That’s OK though — Michigan seniors are still ranked relatively well for good health.
Coming in at No. 9 is Utah, which had the best health care score in our top 10 (second overall). One of the biggest reasons the state ranked so highly is its residents pay the lowest premiums in the country — $158, on average. Utah seniors are also uncommonly healthy — they ranked 12th in the nation — and they enjoy better-than-average Medicare payouts.
On the flip side, Utah’s hefty housing expenses hit it hard in our ranking. The state has one of the highest average listing prices — north of half a million dollars this month — and an average home value of $208,600.
The good news for retirees is Utah has below-average property taxes and doesn’t charge estate or inheritance taxes. It does, however, enforce a 5 percent Social Security income tax and average local sales tax rates of around 6.7 percent.
Retiring in Arkansas will allow you to take advantage of fairly low living expenses and tax rates, but you will have to pay a bit more for your health care.
Arkansas seniors are among the least healthy in the nation, prone to smoking, obesity and cardiovascular disease. There are also fewer dentists per capita. The good news is premiums are pretty inexpensive — $184 on average — and residents get decent coverage from Medicare.
The state ranks well for cost of living and has one of the lowest average home listing prices — $211,000. Residents don’t pay Social Security, estate or inheritance taxes but do have to reckon with the second-highest combined sales tax rate in the nation, which is upwards of 9 percent.
11. worst states to retire
How do you keep more of your own money? Well, for starters, don't let it be picked apart by numerous taxes and fees. That was one thing the best states for retirees had almost universally in common; they had great tax rates.
But as important as the small expenses are, it's far more important to plan for the big ones — like health care. Health care can be one of the biggest — and least expected — drains on your budget in retirement, and if you're in an expensive and unfriendly state when it comes to medical costs, you could easily find yourself up the creek without a paddle.
The following 10 states are some of the worst when it comes to expenses like these: big costs that can wreck your savings if you don't plan for them. Read on for the 10 worst states for retiring rich.
12. New York
The Big Apple might be where you go to strike it rich, but retirees should look out of state if they’re hoping to keep their money. New York came in as the No. 1 worst state for retiring wealthy, largely because of its abysmal health care score and high living costs.
Health care first: The average New Yorker pays insurance premiums of $429 a month, third-highest in the nation following New Jersey and Massachusetts. At the same time, average Medicare payouts in the Empire State are among the lowest in the country.
Meanwhile, the state is one of the most expensive in the U.S., ranking third-worst in this factor for having one of the highest costs of living and highest home listing price. Property and sales taxes in the state are also on the more expensive end, though New York doesn’t tax Social Security or inheritances.
The good news is New York has an average deposit rate that's in the top 10 — but that's only good news if you’re able to save in the first place.
13. New Jersey
Coming in second, right behind its neighbor across the Hudson, New Jersey has a lot in common with New York when it comes to retiring rich — mainly, that it will be pretty hard to do it there.
That’s because New Jersey has prohibitively expensive health care costs and high taxes. Residents pay the highest average insurance premiums in the country — $473 a month — and receive less-than-average Medicare payouts.
The state’s cost of living is slightly more manageable than New York’s, but its taxes are extensive, including some of the highest estate and inheritance taxes in our study. Your one reprieve, New Jerseyans, is no Social Security income tax.
Homes are somewhat more affordable in the Garden State than in New York, but New Jersey also has the worst median property tax in the nation, which keeps housing costs high. Turns out you’re not really dodging a bullet by moving to the suburbs as a retiree.
Read: How to Retire Before 50
Thanks to its poor health care and tax scores, Illinois comes in at No. 3 on our list of the worst states for retirees. Though the state has no Social Security or inheritance taxes, its property and sales tax rates are among the worst in the country. Meanwhile, its average insurance premiums ($247) are on the more expensive end of the spectrum, and its average Medicare payouts are low.
Though Illinois is about average when it comes to cost of living, it's not a good place for savers: The average deposit rates are sixth-worst in the nation.
Despite being one of the more affordable states for health care costs, Connecticut came in fourth on our list of the 10 worst states for retiring rich thanks to its high tax rates and living expenses.
Connecticut residents are taxed on just about everything that matters to retirees — Social Security and estate, though not inheritance — and have to pay one of the heftiest property taxes in the nation. Meanwhile, the state is the second-most expensive in the country, according to the cost-of-living index, with high housing prices to boot.
In terms of health care, Connecticut residents pay higher-than-average premiums — $291 a month — but also receive bigger Medicare payouts. The main thing the state has going for it? Its residents are healthy, ranked No. 6 in the nation.
The Golden State is only golden in one area: tax rates. Residents don't have to pay Social Security, estate or inheritance taxes, though they do have to endure a higher-than-average sales tax rate.
In every other category, however, retirees have it rough. For one, California has one of the highest cost-of-living scores in the country, along with steep home prices — including the second-most expensive average listing price in the country.
Meanwhile, in the health care arena, Californians receive some of the lowest average Medicare payouts in the U.S. but pay a lower average of $225 a month in insurance premiums. And all that sunshine can only help so much: Senior health in California is a little worse than average.
Vermont seniors are quite healthy — they're ranked ninth in the nation. That's good news because they pay some of the highest insurance premiums out there: $401 a month, on average. The good news is Vermont residents also get the highest average Medicare payouts in the nation.
That's where the good news ends: Vermont retirees are taxed on almost everything — estate, inheritance and Social Security income, for which the state has the second-highest tax rate in the nation. Property taxes in Vermont also run high and are matched by higher-than-average home prices, resulting in a headache for Vermont homeowners.
18. Rhode Island
This small state can cause huge problems for people who retire there, mostly because of its hefty tax rates. Rhode Island has the dubious honor of charging the highest Social Security income tax in the nation at 9.9 percent. Residents also pay taxes on their estates and run into fairly expensive property tax rates.
On the other hand, Rhode Island's health care scores are actually great, thanks to its seniors being among the healthiest in the country — seventh of all the states — and the third-highest average Medicare payments in the country. Still, average insurance premiums aren't cheap — roughly $328 a month — and neither is the cost of living or average home price. Retirees will have a hard time maintaining their wealth when they're being nickel-and-dimed by taxes and the high costs of living in this state.
Coming in at No. 8 on our list, Massachusetts is a perfect storm of bad conditions for keeping your money in retirement: It's an expensive state when it comes to day-to-day costs, has higher-than-average tax rates and doesn't offer much relief in health care costs.
Though the state doesn't have a Social Security or inheritance tax, its estate tax is one of the highest, and property and sales taxes are about average. The cost-of-living index puts Massachusetts as one of the more expensive states in the country, and you'll see that reflected in the state's exorbitant home prices.
The one thing Massachusetts seniors have going for them is their health — they're among the healthiest in the country — which will come in handy given that the state has the second-highest insurance premiums of all 50 states ($456 on average).
Dying in Washington will cost you. The state has the worst estate tax rate in the country — a whopping 20 percent. And though its residents don't have to pay state inheritance or Social Security income taxes, the average sales tax is also one of the worst in the U.S.
The state's health care is middling. Seniors are on the healthier side of the spectrum, but insurance premiums are higher than most, and average Medicare payouts are low. Meanwhile, the cost of living is high, local deposit rates are unimpressive and homes are pricey, making retiring in Washington an expensive endeavor.
Nebraska actually has fairly good health care and cheap living expenses but was dragged into the bottom 10 thanks to its exorbitant tax rate. It received the worst tax score of any state in our study. The state has the highest inheritance tax rate in the nation — 18 percent — along with Social Security and property taxes that are among the worst in our study. The one reprieve for Nebraskan seniors: no estate tax.
On the other hand, Nebraska residents are, on the whole, pretty healthy. They pay fairly average insurance premiums and receive a just-below-average amount in Medicare payouts. Life in the Cornhusker State is also cheap; the cost-of-living index is low, as are average home prices. Also low, unfortunately for savers, are average deposit rates. Even so, these positive factors were not enough to offset the enormous tax burden Nebraskan retirees face.
Methodology: These rankings are the result of original research and analysis by GOBankingRates of costs affecting retirees. This cost analysis was based on three types of factors affecting retirees: state taxes, living and financial costs, and healthcare costs. These three factors (determined by 12 data points) were weighted equally to rank the states according to favorable financial conditions for seniors and retirees. Five state and local taxes were considered in these rankings: (1) state sales tax rates, sourced from The Tax Foundation; (2) state tax on Social Security income, sourced from SocialSecurityChoices.com; (3) state estate taxes; (4) state inheritance taxes, sourced from The Tax Foundation; and (5) property taxes, sourced from Tax-Rates.org. Four data points were included among the living and financial costs category: (1) median listing prices, sourced from Trulia; (2) median home values, sourced from Zillow; (3) cost-of-living index, sourced from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center; and (4) GOBankingRates’ own rates for savings accounts and 1- and 2-year CDs, sourced from its database that surveys rates from more than 4,000 U.S. financial institutions. Lastly, the rankings factored health care costs based on three data points: (1) the average health insurance premium, sourced from KFF.org; (2) portion of health costs covered by Medicare, sourced from CMS.gov; and (3) state rankings on senior health outcomes from AmericasHealthRankings.org.