Do you plan to "retire in place" and stay in your current area, or are you interested in retiring in a different state? In either case, you may want to consult an annual study by WalletHub if retirement is imminent.
The study ranked all 50 states using 41 statistical metrics that were weighted and grouped into three major categories important to retirees: affordability, quality of life, and healthcare. You may be surprised at some of the states in both the best and worst categories. Let's start with the top five.
1. Florida – You knew it had to be high on the list, didn't you? In terms of affordability, Florida came fourth, dropping from last year's second place. Florida also placed sixth in terms of quality of life, overcoming its 28th-ranked healthcare rating.
2. Colorado – Holding second place overall for the second year running, Colorado ranked fifth in healthcare while its quality of life came in sixteenth place, dropping from last year's fourth place. Affordability in the Centennial State jumped from seventeenth place last year to thirteenth in 2021.
3. Delaware – Leaping into the top three retirement destinations from its sixth-place spot in 2020, Delaware is the fifth most affordable state. It placed 29th for quality of life and 22nd for healthcare.
4. Virginia – Ranking fourth overall, Virginia re-enters the top retirement states after losing its fifth-place 2019 ranking 2019 and placing seventh in 2020. Virginia has decent rankings across the board (seventh in quality of life, eleventh in affordability, and 23rd in healthcare).
5. North Dakota – Another new entry in the five best states to retire, North Dakota wins its spot by ranking sixth for healthcare. Its quality of life and affordability are also above average (eighteenth and 24th, respectively).
The next five desirable retirement states are, in order, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Minnesota, and New Hampshire. Idaho, Utah, and New Hampshire maintain rankings in the top ten for multiple years, but Montana and Minnesota are new entries. Let the free Retirement Planner by MoneyTips help you calculate when you can retire without jeopardizing your lifestyle.
What about the five states with the worst rankings? In descending order, they are:
46. Rhode Island – The Ocean State rose two places overall thanks to its healthcare, which improved from last year's 25th ranking to 24th in 2021. Quality of life and affordability remain poor at 38th and 45th place, respectively.
47. New Mexico – The Land of Enchantment has low scores in every category, coming in 33rd for affordability, 36th for healthcare, and 47th for quality of life.
48. Mississippi – While the Magnolia State ranks above average (tenth) in affordability, its overall score is pulled down by poor healthcare (49th) quality and the worst quality of life in the country (fiftieth).
49. New York – The Big Apple ranks seventeenth in quality of life and 27th in healthcare, but is the second worst state to retire in due to its poor affordability (49th).
50. New Jersey – The Garden State ranks 33rd in healthcare, 35th in quality of life, and fiftieth in affordability, falling three spots from last year to earn WalletHub's title for the least desirable retirement state in 2021.
Was your state not mentioned? Check the full study results for further details on your state's rankings and a breakdown of all the statistical metrics and weightings.
Of course, each state has areas that don't fit the rest of the state profile. Individual cities were ranked in a 2019 WalletHub study, with the inclusion of an "Activities" ranking – and, while the results are similar, some differences emerge at the local level. For example, Louisiana fares poorly in the state rankings, but New Orleans ranks high in the city rankings (probably because, as you might expect, New Orleans ranks high for activities).
While the study is a useful baseline, it doesn't mean everyone should converge on Florida or flee New Jersey in his or her retirement years. Find an area that makes you happy and gives you a fulfilling and healthy lifestyle – just know where the strong and weak points are in your chosen retirement state.
Remember that your credit score also influences how attractive a place may be to live. Some states are more tolerable than others for consumers with bad credit. You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes by joining MoneyTips.