Retirees Are Flocking To These States — but They Shouldn’t

Take a look at the actual list of the best places to retire.

If you’re nearing or in retirement, you might be thinking about relocating to a state that has milder weather, a lower cost of living or better healthcare services. But, before you go, you may want to take into account other factors that could make these popular states for retirees less desirable in your golden years.

GOBankingRates examined the top 10 states where retirees move to and evaluated them based on several factors, including the percentage of the population ages 65 and older, violent and property crime rates, average temperature, cost of senior care and more.

Here are the most popular states to retire:

  • Arizona
  • Florida
  • Idaho
  • Maine
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • South Carolina
  • Vermont
  • Wyoming

Costs and amenities can vary greatly from one state to the next, so you should find out which states are truly the best places to retire — they might not be the ones you’d expect.

It’ll Cost You To Live Comfortably In These States

Remember that planning for a comfortable retirement involves more than just adding up the cost of housing and groceries.

“There are two distinct concepts related to the cost of living in retirement: How much money can you generate to fund your retirement, and how much money will you need to fund your retirement?” said Greg Klingler, a certified financial planner and chartered federal benefits consultant at GEBA Wealth Management. “Because the latter is directly attributed to the cost of living in your chosen retirement destination, where you plan to retire is one of the first and most important questions we, from a financial planning perspective, ask to get an accurate representation of your future budget.”

comfortable retirement costs

Many Americans consider moving to a place with a cheaper cost of living when they retire, so it may be surprising to learn that states like Florida and South Carolina aren’t as affordable as you may think. In fact, just four of the top 10 states for retirees — Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico and Wyoming — rise above the median on GOBankingRates’ list when it comes to costs for a comfortable retirement. For the best bargain, head to Wyoming and New Mexico, which rank in the top 15 for lowest cost of living among the U.S. states, and avoid Vermont, Maine and Nevada, which fall in the bottom 15.

Read More: The Most Overrated Places To Spend Your Retirement

Home Healthcare Might Set You Back

People require more healthcare as they age, and you’ll eventually need to decide whether nursing homes, assisted living facilities or aging in place is right for you.

If being able to get quality care at home is on your list of must-haves for retirement, you’ll want to avoid relocating to Vermont — which, at $5,148 a month, ranks No. 46 out of the 50 states for the cost of a home health aide — and Maine, which ranks in the bottom 10 with a monthly cost of $4,957. Instead, look to New Mexico and South Carolina, which are the most affordable states in the top 10 when it comes to home healthcare, at an average monthly cost of $3,813 in each state.

Out-of-Home Healthcare Isn’t Cheaper

Covering care costs for a nursing home can be a significant concern in retirement if you choose to go that route. The average monthly cost of a semiprivate room in a nursing home is $7,441, according to Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey 2018.

Of the 10 states that retirees flock to the most, half of them have steeper costs than the national median for a semiprivate room in a nursing home:

  • Idaho ranks No. 26 nationwide with an average monthly cost of $7,574.
  • Florida ranks No. 28 at $8,152 per month.
  • Nevada comes in at No. 29, with an average monthly cost of $8,228.
  • Maine ranks No. 38 at $9,429 per month.
  • Vermont ranks No. 39, costing $9,475 per month.

The least expensive state on GOBankingRates’ list for a semiprivate room is South Carolina, which ranks No. 13 in the country with a monthly cost of $6,418. Arizona follows right behind South Carolina at No. 14, with a cost of $6,494 per month. Montana lands at No. 21, costing $7,006 per month; Wyoming comes in at No. 23, with a monthly average cost of $7,178; and New Mexico ranks No. 24 nationwide at $7,285 per month.

Quality of Life Is a Mixed Bag

Quality of life can be difficult to measure, as it often means different things to different people. “It’s worth noting that not everything has a price tag, and though you can’t assign a financial value to things like living near your grandkids or a body of water, they may carry a great deal of weight, making it clear that all retirement decisions are extremely contextual,” Klingler said.

For GOBankingRates’ list, quality-of-life factors include the percentage of the population ages 65 and older, the average temperature, and violent and property crime rates in the top 10 states for retirees.

Arizona vs. Florida: It’s the Ultimate Retirement Showdown

At 19.36%, Florida is the state with the highest percentage of residents ages 65 and older, and it also has the warmest average temperature at 71.8 degrees Fahrenheit. However, Florida ranks in the bottom half of the country for safety, with its violent and property crime rates falling in the No. 31 and No. 28 spots, respectively.

Maine and Vermont have the second- and third-highest percentages of residents ages 65 and older, at 18.80% and 17.54%, respectively. Both states are also very safe in general, with Vermont ranking second best in the country in terms of violent and property crime rates, and Maine ranking No. 1 for low violent crime rates and No. 4 for low property crime rates.

On the other hand, Arizona, South Carolina and New Mexico all rank among the 10 worst states for safety. New Mexico ranks dead last for property crime and second worst for violent crime, so choose to retire in this state at your own risk.

Related: The Best Places To Retire In America Are All College Towns

Retirees Are Flocking To These States — but They Shouldn’t

In reality, the 10 most popular states for retirement may not be the best choices. Only one state — Wyoming — can count itself among the 10 least expensive states in America, and there are just three other states that make the top 25 in terms of cheaper costs for a comfortable retirement.

So, where are the actual 10 best places to retire? These are the most retirement-friendly states by cost, according to GOBankingRates:

StateAnnual Cost for a Comfortable RetirementMonthly Cost for a Nursing Home (Semiprivate Room)Percentage of Population Ages 65 and OlderAverage Temperature
Mississippi$53,071.87$6,69214.63%63.0 F
Oklahoma$54,558.13$4,63914.74%60.2 F
Arkansas$54,743.91$5,35315.99%60.5 F
Missouri$54,991.62$5,01915.74%55.0 F
Michigan$55,301.26$8,56215.87%45.2 F
Alabama$55,425.11$6,27915.71%60.5 F
Tennessee$55,425.11$6,38815.36%57.6 F
Kansas$55,548.97$5,41414.68%54.7 F
Indiana$55,796.68$6,85914.64%51.8 F
Wyoming$56,044.39$7,17814.44%42.8 F

Beyond costs, you should also weigh overall safety, climate and any other quality-of-life factors that are important to you, which will help you figure out the ideal state to spend your golden years.

Click through to discover where Americans actually want to retire.

More on Retirement Planning

Methodology: GOBankingRates analyzed the top 10 states where retirees are flocking to, according to a recent survey by United Van Lines, against the remaining 40 states to see how these 10 retirement states compare to the rest of the nation. GOBankingRates used 11 factors to compare the states: (1) percentage of population 65 years and older, sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey’s five-year estimates; (2) violent crime rate per 1,000 residents, sourced from Neighborhood Scout; (3) property crime rate per 1,000 residents, sourced from Neighborhood Scout; (4) the average temperature in degrees Fahrenheit, sourced from; the average monthly cost of senior care in terms of (5) homemaker services, sourced from Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey 2018; (6) home health aides, sourced from Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey 2018; (7) adult day healthcare, sourced from Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey 2018; (8) assisted living facilities, sourced from Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey 2018; (9) a semiprivate room in a nursing home, sourced from Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey 2018; (10) a private room in a nursing home, sourced from Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey 2018; and (11) the yearly cost for a comfortable retirement in every state, using the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey 2017 and the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center’s 2018 average annual cost-of-living index.

About the Author

Karen Doyle is a personal finance writer with over 20 years’ experience writing about investments, money management and financial planning. Her work has appeared on numerous news and finance
websites including GOBankingRates, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, USA Today, CNBC,, and more.