Best States for Retirement

If you’re thinking about moving in retirement, western states—Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Idaho—could be your best bets. The Sun Belt? Not so much.

Those are the primary findings in a new study by Bankrate.com: “Best and Worst States to Retire.” The report analyzes cost of living, crime rates, local weather, health-care quality, tax burden and “senior well-being.” That’s a measurement from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index that quantifies how satisfied residents 65 and older are with their surroundings.

The results: Wyoming took the top spot in the rankings. The state has low taxes, good weather, a low crime rate—and some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the country. The state is home to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.

Rounding out the top five: Colorado (“some of the best weather in the nation”); Utah (a “top-notch” health-care system); Idaho (“one of the lowest crime rates in the country”); and Virginia (a “range of outdoor activities, from sandy beaches to mountaintops”).

At the bottom of the list for retirees? Arkansas. While the state has a low cost of living and plentiful opportunities for outdoor recreation, it received below-average marks for weather, crime, health care, taxes and well-being, according to Bankrate. Indeed, the Sun Belt doesn’t fare well in the survey. Only Arizona cracks the top 10. “Warm weather may be an initial draw,” says Chris Kahn, research and statistics analyst at Bankrate. “But all the sunny days in the world won’t make you happy if you’re constantly stretching your budget or don’t have access to quality health care.”

Among the other findings in the report:

Rural areas have more staying power. Among those surveyed, people living in cities and suburbs are more likely to consider a move in retirement. But “fewer than half of those living in rural communities” said they would think about relocating after leaving the office.

Moving from the Midwest. Almost seven in 10 respondents (68%) in the Midwest said they would consider a move in later life. Not surprisingly—when asked to identify their single most important aspect of retirement—one in five Midwesterners “cited a desire for nicer weather.”

Nature, beaches—and school. Forty percent of those surveyed said living near mountains, rivers and outdoor recreation is important in deciding where to relocate. Twenty-five percent said they want access to beaches, and 18% said retiring “near a university, museum or other cultural activities” is very appealing.