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Best and Worst States for Retirement in 2023

Updated: January 4, 2023
By: Lauren Hamer
Lauren Hamer
Editor
Lauren is the editor for Retirement Living focused on discussing current senior-related issues, including retirement planning, consumer protection, and health and wellness. With six years of finance and career journalism experience, Lauren has edited personal finance content for Credible, Angi, Slickdeals, Jobs for the Future, and more.
Editor
Edited by: Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith
Sr. Content Manager
As Retirement Living’s senior content manager, Jeff oversees the product and publishing of all retirement, investing, and consumer wellness content on the site. His extensive expertise in brand messaging and creating data-driven stories helps position Retirement Living as a top authority for senior content and community resources.
Sr. Content Manager
The Best and Worst States for Retirement 2023
Source: Retirement Living

If we used affordability as the sole metric for living comfortably during retirement, we could generate a list of the best and worst states for retirement pretty quickly. (No, this is not another retirement roundup that praises Florida and critiques California—one of these states is notably absent from our list this year!) Money aside, smart retirees will consider factors like access to healthcare, crime statistics, and lifestyle rankings when deciding where to settle.

To identify the 10 best and 10 worst states for retirement, we gathered and analyzed 15 data points across four categories: cost of living, quality of life, healthcare, and resident satisfaction. To gauge resident satisfaction, we surveyed our loyal readers, whose opinions are reflected in the RL Rating for each state. We identify the pros and cons of living in both the best and the worst states to provide you with a well-rounded resource for planning the next stage of your life.

We know that people prioritize different things during retirement. Abundant sunshine is not everyone’s idea of paradise. Our specific rankings for each major metric will help you make the best decision for you. But keep in mind that moving is a big financial undertaking. We recommend consulting with a financial planner before relocating to another state.

10 Best States for Retirement

Easy access to quality doctors, companionship opportunities, and lower tax burdens are just a few ways to guarantee a healthy and happy retirement. Our top 10 states for retirees shine when it comes to housing costs, state taxes, healthcare availability, and quality of living metrics. Specifically, our top states offer these advantages:

  • Higher percentage of the population over age 65
  • Greater affordability index when comparing median income and home prices
  • Reasonable population density, which is a strong indicator of rising living standards and a better quality of life
  • Higher Retirement Living (RL) approval ratings on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 representing the highest recommendation

Wyoming

States that are taxpayer-friendly can help alleviate some of the financial burden placed on retirees. The Equality State is a tax-friendly place for retirees, which helps boost Wyoming’s affordability ranking and cement its spot on our top ten list. The favorable tax climate for seniors levies zero income, estate, or inheritance taxes. Sales and property taxes are low, too.

Access to healthcare professionals can be a bit tough in such a vast state, but assisted living prices are beyond affordable. Crime is minor and a large percentage of the population is over 65, which suggests many retirees feel comfortable living in Wyoming.

Retirees searching for a slower pace and friendly faces should consider calling one of Wyoming’s many small towns their next home base. Sure, the state lacks beaches or sprawling metropolis, but it’s bursting with interesting history and room to breathe. Settle in Jackson Hole or East Yellowstone for quick access to outdoor recreation or Dubois for breathtaking views of mountains and the shore of Wind River.

Wyoming
Criteria Rank
Affordability 11
Quality of Life 13
Healthcare 2
RL Rating (From 1 to 5) 3

Colorado

Colorado is ideal for retirees who enjoy the great outdoors and four distinct weather seasons. While the winter snowstorms can bring extreme weather to the highest elevations, many parts of the state enjoy temperate, sunny days throughout the year.

What people like about living in Colorado:

  • “Available medical needs along with great community activities”
  • “Environment, politically bi-partisan, and lifestyle”
  • “Colorado has a big variety of fun things to do in nature that are inexpensive. Also, the western slope is absolutely beautiful!”

Finding affordable housing in Colorado might be tricky, especially near major cities and destination towns. Independent senior housing and assisted living facilities cost more than the national average. However, hospitals are widely available across the state, and retirees can exempt a good portion of their social security benefits, pensions, and property taxes.

Colorado
Criteria Rank
Affordability 36
Quality of Life 23
Healthcare 13
RL Rating (From 1 to 5) 4.14

Washington

Our data shows that housing costs in Washington state are relatively high. Despite the high home prices, the Evergreen State remains attractive for several reasons. There’s no tax on income (although you should review local taxes before choosing a city to settle in, as some municipalities can tack on another 2%). There is a low violent crime rate. And Washington offers better access to mental health professionals than many other states.

What people like about living in Washington:

  • “No income tax; strong support for the arts.”
  • “Natural beauty and space”
  • “It’s an expensive place to live, but beautiful.”

Washington has four seasons, but you’ll want to explore the beautiful coastlines and mountain ranges before the rainy season sets in. Expect drier weather from mid-September through May.

Washington
Criteria Rank
Affordability 43
Quality of Life 16
Healthcare 25
RL Rating (From 1 to 5) 3.75

Arizona

A mainstay on our list each year, Arizona offers affordable living and a warm, dry climate. The typical Arizona retirement community is established on a golf course and includes a gym and pool. That’s likely why a good portion of the state’s population is over age 65.

Crime in Arizona is higher than some are comfortable with, but many people are willing to overlook that metric in exchange for low property taxes and reasonable income tax rates. Retirees also benefit from the lack of Social Security or pension taxes.

What people like about living in Arizona:

  • “There are lots of recreation activities and lots of different climates”
  • “Climate. Easy access to an international airport. Great restaurants, entertainment venues, and pro sports teams.”
  • “Lots of medical personnel equipped to help older patients.”

We deem the Grand Canyon State a prime destination for active seniors. Activities include art fairs, skiing, golf, biking, hiking, and more. It’s one of the few states where you can go skiing and swim outside on the same day.

Arizona
Criteria Rank
Affordability 27
Quality of Life 21
Healthcare 46
RL Rating (From 1 to 5) 4.11

Vermont

More than 20% of Vermont’s population is over 65. The Green Mountain State’s abundant outdoor recreation opportunities and cultural activities make it easy for retirees to embrace an exciting lifestyle. With its rich history, gorgeous scenery, and bustling small towns, the state’s quality of life score reigns supreme.

Vermont also enjoys the lowest crime rating of our top states. These positives outshine the state’s subpar affordability factor. Taxes are high, which can make everyday purchases a bit harder to swallow. But if an active lifestyle and access to great healthcare are important factors for relocation, Vermont could be the place for you.

Vermont
Criteria Rank
Affordability 39
Quality of Life 3
Healthcare 17
RL Rating (From 1 to 5) 3

Iowa

Iowa offers room to breathe and space to connect with friends. With options to hike, bike, fish, or walk one weekend and then travel to Des Moines to catch a show with friends the next, recreational opportunities abound. More than 17% of Iowa’s residents are over 65.

What people like about living in Iowa:

  • “I’m a native. Quality of life is unsurpassed.”
  • “Many opportunities to do things.”

Despite its strengths, the Hawkeye State misses the mark when it comes to healthcare. Still, Iowa shines in other ways, like low crime and even lower levels of poverty. The state is known as one of the safest places to live, and you can rest easy no matter where you choose to plant your roots. Starting in 2023, all retirement income is exempt for taxpayers who are at least 55 years old, and income tax rates are set to decrease—the max rate will drop from 8.7% to 6%.

Iowa
Criteria Rank
Affordability 29
Quality of Life 18
Healthcare 40
RL Rating (From 1 to 5) 4

Virginia

Virginia’s growing population requires an increase in healthcare staffing, especially in rural areas, where access to healthcare can be challenging. Still, with low crime rates, the state remains a safe place to live. Virginia also offers many opportunities for retirees to connect with like-minded seniors. History buffs can explore Williamsburg and Fredericksburg. Creatives might enjoy Vienna or Abingdon.

What people like about living in Virginia:

  • “Taxes aren’t bad and the county I live in has good resources for seniors.”
  • “A beautiful place with people from all over the world. Everything that can be found in major cities can be found here, albeit on a slightly smaller scale.”
  • “Virginia does not tax social security.”

Taxes in the Old Dominion can be a bit hefty for some residents, though pensions and military income are eligible for a partial deduction (Social Security is fully exempt). Sales tax rates in the state will alleviate some of the burden. Virginia’s average combined state and local rate of 5.75% is the 11th-lowest in the nation.

Virginia
Criteria Rank
Affordability 38
Quality of Life 7
Healthcare 39
RL Rating (From 1 to 5) 3.36

Idaho

Idaho solidifies its ranking as a top retirement state by offering many tax breaks for seniors. A new, lower flat income tax rate will take effect in 2023. And since groceries are taxable, Idaho gives residents an annual credit to offset the fees (the credit amount is higher for seniors over 65).

These retirement-friendly tax breaks are needed to offset Idaho’s low affordability ranking. The Gem State’s median household income is a bit low compared to average home prices, but seniors can snag a deal by house hunting outside popular tourist destinations where costs are higher.

What people like about living in Idaho:

  • “Low regulation and taxes”

Crime rates and assisted living costs are also well below the national average. Pair that with stunning mountain scenery, and it’s no wonder more than 16% of the population is over 65.

Idaho
Criteria Rank
Affordability 32
Quality of Life 11
Healthcare 41
RL Rating (From 1 to 5) 4

Maine

It might cost you a bit more to call the Pine Tree State home, but one summer spent kayaking through Moosehead Lake will let you know that your retirement dream money has been well spent. Retirees could spend years exploring the state’s breathtaking landscapes and attractions. Plus, Maine has the highest population of seniors in the country.

What people like about living in Maine:

  • “Maine has four seasons, is a clean state, and is close to the ocean and lakes.”
  • “Great people here.”

Maine barely misses the top spot because it levies higher income and property taxes than our best retirement state below. Still, this northern state earns our praise for great access to healthcare professionals and low—really low!—crime rates.

Maine
Criteria Rank
Affordability 37
Quality of Life 4
Healthcare 10
RL Rating (From 1 to 5) 3.75

New Hampshire

New Hampshire is ideal for active retirees who want to live near beaches, lakes, mountains, cities and countryside. This four-season state allows residents to participate in various activities year-round. Our survey respondents say certain towns can get “touristy” and crowded, but discounts that seniors get on state park tickets, beach parking, and recreational events is a nice perk that offsets the tourist traffic.

What people like about living in New Hampshire:

  • “Lots of cultural activities and venues.”
  • “No income tax or estate tax. No sales tax. A lot more freedom than other states.”

Home prices are affordable for most people. Despite having one of the country’s highest real estate transfer taxes, New Hampshire ranks as one of our most tax-friendly states for retirement. There’s no tax on retirement income or sales taxes, which helps keep the Granite State affordable for all residents.

Seniors make up nearly 20% of the population, which helps retirees connect with peers with similar interests. Independent living communities and healthcare resources are readily available in most areas, even rural ones.

Idaho
Criteria Rank
Affordability 30
Quality of Life 1
Healthcare 37
RL Rating (From 1 to 5) 4


10 Worst States for Retirement

Common themes among the states that rank low for retirement living include high taxes, high crime rates, and inadequate healthcare facilities. Our readers’ opinions, gathered from our surveys, figure into our findings.

Alabama

If your top priority is finding an affordable place to live, Alabama is a great option during retirement. But if you’re looking for a more well-rounded location that makes it easy to connect with like-minded seniors and good doctors, you might consider another state. Alabama lacks enough medical professionals compared to its population, and the low number of seniors in the state could make forging friendships a bit tough. One RL survey respondent described their experience in Alabama as “average.”

The Yellowhammer State’s low taxes might support an argument for relocation. Alabama does not tax retirement income, and it boasts a gloriously low median property tax rate.

Still, Alabama ranks low on our list of relocation options due to an alarmingly high crime rate and an even higher percentage of residents meeting the poverty threshold—its poverty rate is the ninth-worst in the nation.

Alabama
Criteria Rank
Affordability 2
Quality of Life 47
Healthcare 31
RL Rating (From 1 to 5) 4.2

Tennessee

Tennessee is affordable. But retirees crave health and financial stability as they age. The Volunteer State lacks the medical personnel that retirees need. Offices that employ dentists and mental health professionals are understaffed, and retirees living outside major cities might have to travel greater distances to access a hospital.

Crime is also a factor in Tennessee. Retirees hunting for their dream home should research crime statistics. Small towns offer safety along with easy access to the amenities of larger cities like Memphis and Chattanooga, which have high crime rates.

Tennessee
Criteria Rank
Affordability 15
Quality of Life 47
Healthcare 31
RL Rating (From 1 to 5) 4.2

California

Despite its gorgeous stretch of beaches and consistently temperate weather, the Golden State starts to lose its appeal as you hunt for affordable homes. There’s no way around it: living in California is expensive. Home values, in-home care fees, and gas and grocery taxes are among the highest in the county. Though Social Security is exempt, California fully taxes income from retirement accounts and pensions.

Our readers’ opinions echo the data. One respondent cautioned against retiring to California, noting, “we can do better somewhere else.” Others lauded the great weather but lamented the high living costs.

Still, it’s hard to ignore the allure of such a comfortable climate. If California’s year-round sunshine is too much to pass up, consider a smaller town with housing options that fit your retirement budget. Access to quality healthcare doctors is easy across California, so there’s no reason to limit your search to major cities.

California
Criteria Rank
Affordability 50
Quality of Life 33
Healthcare 9
RL Rating (From 1 to 5) 2.78

Mississippi

There’s no shortage of small-town charm in Mississippi. Retirees searching for quaint and quiet places to settle should move the state to their shortlist. But they should also understand that country living has its challenges.

The Magnolia State has one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the country. It is also one of the rainiest states in the U.S. thanks to its humid, subtropical climate. Poverty is another concern in Mississippi: it has the second-highest poverty rate (after Louisiana).

Mississippi
Criteria Rank
Affordability 6
Quality of Life 44
Healthcare 24
RL Rating (From 1 to 5) 2.21

Texas

Cities like Dallas and Austin are experiencing an influx of residents in search of cheaper housing and no income tax, but our data suggests those two positives aren’t enough to compensate for high sales taxes and, in some areas, limited healthcare access. The percentage of doctors per capita is low, so retirees might struggle to find quality medical help.

Several survey respondents reference the Texas heat and high taxes as their reasoning for not recommending the Lonestar state as a retirement destination. In terms of quality of life, crime rates and property taxes are quite high. Texas has some of the steepest property taxes in the country, though retirees are eligible for a few moderate deductions to lessen the blow.

Texas
Criteria Rank
Affordability 12
Quality of Life 40
Healthcare 33
RL Rating (From 1 to 5) 2.68

Delaware

Taxes in Delaware can’t get much better for retirees; there is no sales tax and seniors can deduct a significant portion of their retirement income. However, the First State falls to the bottom of our list because of its healthcare statistics. It’s home to the lowest percentage of dentists per capita, and assisted living costs can become a sizable expense as residents age.

Delaware’s percentage of seniors is low, but the number of people in poverty is high. This suggests that low-wage people may struggle to live in the state. Plus, retirees living in Wilmington also incur a city tax on wages.

Delaware
Criteria Rank
Affordability 46
Quality of Life 45
Healthcare 50
RL Rating (From 1 to 5) 3.6

Arkansas

Seniors might flock to the Natural State for its natural beauty and low housing costs, but its high crime rate should be a reason to reconsider booking a moving truck; only two states have a higher violent crime rate than Arkansas.

More than 16% of the population of Arkansas lives in poverty, which suggests that retirees on a fixed income could struggle here. Arkansas has the third-highest average combined state and local sales tax rate. However, retirees can leverage several exemptions to keep more of their income.

Arkansas also boasts a mediocre healthcare ranking. This is partly due to the lack of doctors and medical professionals compared to the number of residents.

Arkansas
Criteria Rank
Affordability 14
Quality of Life 49
Healthcare 21
RL Rating (From 1 to 5) 4

West Virginia

Once a top-ten retirement destination, West Virginia slips to the bottom of our list in 2023. The Mountain State boasts one of the highest percentages of people over 65, more than 20% of its total population. While this metric indicates that seniors might easily make friends in their community, it becomes problematic if the healthcare system can’t meet the the senior population’s needs. Sadly, our data suggests that West Virginians lack access to dental and mental health professionals, despite The West Virginia University Health System having such a large presence in the state.

Our survey respondents criticize the state’s high state sales and income taxes but praise its housing affordability. West Virginia has the lowest cost of housing in America.

Most of all, retirees with eyes on West Virginia must weigh the pros and cons of rural living. Abandoning the city has its advantages, especially when considering the scenery. Residents could spend years exploring the state’s caverns, gorges, and state parks, but retirees will need to plan their excursions for the summer months before the severe winter weather poses any danger. Rural living also affects the population density, which is a strong indicator of rising living standards and a better quality of life. West Virginia ranks low for these metrics.

West Virginia
Criteria Rank
Affordability 13
Quality of Life 41
Healthcare 35
RL Rating (From 1 to 5) 2

New Mexico

New Mexico has surely earned its “Land of Enchantment” nickname. Survey respondents praise its natural beauty and recreational opportunities. New Mexico has a strong art community, abundant sunshine, and low humidity. It has incomparable landscapes: deserts, dunes, mesas, canyons, valleys, farmland, and mountains.

However, when it comes to state taxes and cost of living, New Mexico is a mixed bag for retirees. The state does offer a few senior-friendly tax breaks, but it could do more to make everyday life more affordable. The cost of long-term care could become a hefty expense should aging retirees move to an assisted living community.

Retirees who are considering a move to New Mexico should also carefully consider the state’s high crime rate and poverty levels. Its subpar performance in these categories lands it last on our “quality of life” scale.

New Mexico
Criteria Rank
Affordability 22
Quality of Life 50
Healthcare 5
RL Rating (From 1 to 5) 4

Louisiana

Louisiana’s tax incentives for retirees and affordable housing costs may attract plenty of residents, but it’s not all beignets and football in the Pelican State. Louisiana ranks as one of the worst states in the country for healthcare access. The number of hospitals and doctors compared to the number of residents suggest that the healthcare system needs a serious upgrade.

Louisiana is considered “homeowner-friendly,” thanks to its low property tax rate and several exemptions available for residents 65 or older. While relocation could earn seniors exemptions on Social Security and pension plans, local sales taxes are fairly high in the state. Budget-conscious retirees should pay attention to local rates when choosing a community to settle in; some localities can add as much as 7% to the state sales tax rate, which could mean that a resident ends up paying some of the highest sales tax in the country.

Our survey respondents describe displeasure with Louisiana’s weather and crime, noting that the state offers “nothing special” when it comes to reasons to retire there.

Louisiana
Criteria Rank
Affordability 5
Quality of Life 50
Healthcare 7
RL Rating (From 1 to 5) 3

Methodology

In our search to identify the best and worst states for retirement, we studied various metrics across four categories specific to retirees: cost of living, quality of life, healthcare, and Retirement Living (RL) score. More specifically, we evaluated each state by considering these factors:

  • State income tax and sales taxes
  • Average home prices
  • Median household income
  • Assisted living costs
  • The percentage of the population over 65
  • The percentage of the people in poverty
  • Violent and property crime rates
  • Population density
  • Number of hospitals per state
  • Number of primary care doctors, dentists, and mental health professionals per capita
  • Retirement Living survey responses

Cost of Living: To evaluate the cost of living, we considered household income, home prices, and tax data. We standardized median household incomes from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), average home prices from U.S. Census data, state tax rates from The Tax Foundation, and the cost of assisted living care from Genworth to generate an affordability score. Each of the six data points adds up to 35% of the state’s final score.

Quality of Life: To evaluate the quality of life, we considered poverty, crime, and population density. We leveraged U.S. Census data to standardize the percentage of the population over 65 and the percentage of people in poverty. We analyzed crime statistics using FBI National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) data from 2022. This category amounts to 25% of the state’s overall score.

Healthcare: To evaluate healthcare, we considered typical healthcare costs for retirees as well as access to hospitals, doctors, and other healthcare workers in the area. To generate monthly assisted living costs, we analyzed Genworth’s median long-term care costs by state. To compare the healthcare environments within each state, we standardized the number of hospitals, primary care doctors, dentists, and mental health professionals per 100,000 residents using data from the United Health Foundation’s 2021 America’s Health Rankings. Each of the four data points is worth 3.25%, amounting to 15% of the state’s final score.

Retirement Living Score: We surveyed our readers and received more than 300 responses. We asked our readers to rate their state for retirement. The scores and responses from our readers were in line with our statistical analysis but gave us anecdotal evidence of what it is like to actually retire in a particular state. This information amounted to 25% of the state’s overall score.