Many of us view retirement as a time to relax, enjoy our hobbies and passions, pursue additional interests, and spend more time with family and friends. For some, retirement may even be a time to begin a new career path or start a new business.
After retiring, many people will continue to live where they are, but others may consider relocating. A move to a new state due to housing costs, climate considerations, or tax rates could be a great decision.
When choosing where to live, it is important to consider several factors: cost of living, quality of life, and legal protections.
A move to a new area can be an exciting new adventure that opens up many possibilities. But for seniors in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) community, there are important additional considerations. Some cities and states are more friendly or progressive towards LGBTQ+ residents than others.
In fact, according to SAGE, the country’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTQ+ elders, “with no federal level protections, half of all LGBTQ+ older adults in the US live in a state where they can be legally denied access to housing and public accommodations.” A study done by UCLA’s Williams Institute School of Law reports that of the more than 11 million LGBTQ+ adults in the U.S., “over 5.4 million live in states without statutory protections against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in housing and 7.7 million lack such protections in credit.”
Awareness of the local laws regarding the LGBTQ+ population is essential for making the best decision about where to retire.
Recently, Retirement Living embarked on a study to find the best states in the U.S. for LGBTQ+ retirees to live. In this study, in addition to examining the local laws, we considered the percentage of the population over 65, the percentage of the population identified as LGBTQ+, the average home price, and the cost of living.
Here, in ascending order, are the best states for LGBTQ+ retirees to live.
New Hampshire’s LGBTQ+ population is 51,000 people, about 3.7% of the state’s total residents.
The Granite State is not only beautiful but has some of the lowest rates of reported hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community and was considered very LGBTQ+-friendly according to a 2020 survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI).
New Hampshire has enacted many state laws to help protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. These laws exist in the areas of discrimination, parenting, health care, HIV/AIDS, transgender issues, and additional laws focused on LGBTQ+ youth.
Discrimination in health care on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression is prohibited in New Hampshire. Although there is no state-specific bulletin about transition-related health care, most insurers must cover it. Medical decision-making rights are granted for married same-sex couples.
Discrimination in employment, credit, housing and public accommodations like restaurants or stores on on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression is also prohibited. However, non-discrimination laws surrounding credit and lending for the LGBTQ+ population are not listed.
There are several financial advantages to living in New Hampshire. There is no state income tax or sales tax, no tax on social security, and no taxes on withdrawals from retirement accounts. Public and private pension income are not taxed.
New Hampshire is also listed as one of the states in the nation with low crime and poverty rates. They have one of the lowest burglary rates in the country, the second lowest rates of property crime and violent crime, and the fourth lowest rate of larceny theft. They are also ranked second lowest rate for senior poverty.
Oregon, located in the Pacific Northwest, is known for its abundance of green spaces and beautiful beaches, a thriving arts and culture scene, low cost of living and lack of sales-tax. There is also no tax on social security benefits. Thus, Oregon attracts retirees from all over the country.
The Beaver State is at the top of the list for states with the highest percentage of LGBTQ+ residents. Approximately 3.4% of Oregonians aged 55 and older identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB).
In the past decade, Oregon has accomplished much by passing more than 27 laws LGBTQ+ -friendly laws in the areas of employment, housing, education and more. It still does not have a credit and lending non-discrimination law protecting the LGBTQ+ community.
In 2018, Oregon reported 31 hate crimes that were motivated by gender identity or sexual orientation, one of the highest hate crime rates among states. However, Oregon is working towards creating a better environment for their LGBTQ+ population. A September, 2021 study called the Oregon LGBTQ Older Adult Survey Report identified key findings about LGBTQ+ elders’ service needs. They concluded their 71 page report by stating that “moving forward, it will be critical to further extend the initial work and advocacy of LGBTQ+ organizations to promote partnerships between these communities, aging agencies, and state and local policy makers to develop a comprehensive approach to addressing aging and health needs of LGBTQ+ older adults.”
Rainbow Vista, an LGBTQ+ senior community (55+), is located in Gresham, about 15 miles from downtown Portland.
Washington, another Pacific Northwest state, is known for its abundance of greenery, mild climate, beautiful ocean and bay views, thriving cultural scene, and of course, gourmet coffee. With a variety of recreational and hiking areas, Seattle made Kiplinger’s list of the Top 12 Cities to Retire For Good Health.
The eastern part of The Evergreen State boasts an amazing wine growing region in Walla Walla that produces world-class wines. The western part of the state is known for its temperate climate.
21.8% of Washington’s population are seniors and 3.9% of its population identify as LGBTQ+. Washington has worked hard to enact laws for LGBTQ+ equality.
A new 118-unit affordable housing development offered by GenPride and Community Roots Housing broke ground in September 2021 on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. It will have seven stories of affordable apartments, a 4,400-square-foot senior community and health services center on the ground floor, and additional commercial storefront spaces.
Washington is also home to The Northwest LGBT Senior Care Providers Network. This is an informal coalition of Senior Care Providers working together to provide advocacy and quality of care for the LGBT seniors of Washington State. It’s not just for healthcare. Members of the network include attorneys, community services and senior centers, financial planners, housing providers, insurance providers, moving services, and information services. Service providers who join this network sign a non-discrimination agreement.
Long considered a leader in LGBTQ+ rights, Iowa has had non-discrimination laws for LGBTQ+ people in education, employment, public accommodations, housing, credit, and more than 15 years. The Hawkeye State was the fourth state in the country to recognize marriage equality.
Iowa ranks 17th in the nation in population of adults over 65. Almost 18%, of Iowans are seniors, and 2.7% of the population identify as LGBTQ+. States, like Iowa, that have larger populations of older adults are likely to also have plenty of retirement homes, communities, and services.
One service that Iowa offers through their One Iowa program is the LGBTQ+ Older Adults Friendly Caller Program. The One Iowa Friendly Caller Program connects older LGBTQ+ Iowans with other members of the LGBTQ+ community through weekly phone calls. These weekly check-ins are aimed at reducing stress and improving health among LGBTQ+ older adults by providing communication, connections, and support.
Iowa is moderately tax-friendly toward retirees. While Social Security income is not taxed, withdrawals from retirement accounts are partially taxed. Iowa’s state tax rate is 5.90% and the mean housing cost was $164,000 at the time this article was written.
While New York is not the most affordable place to live, New York, and specifically New York City, has become recognized as one of the most LGBTQ+-friendly places in the United States.
In 2003, New York passed the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA). SONDA “prohibits discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, credit, and the exercise of civil rights”.
The Hoylman Bill to Assist Older LGBTQ New Yorkers was passed on March 17 of 2021. This bill adds older LGBTQ+ persons and those persons living with HIV/AIDS to the definition of populations that have the “greatest social need’ within the state-funded services and programs for the aging. The Holyman Bill can help to keep LGBTQ+ elders living independently.
Additionally, in June 2021, New York State’s Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) announced the creation of an Advisory Council for older LGBTQ+ New Yorkers. The Advisory Council will include AARP New York, the Association on Aging in New York state, and key people representing the LGBTQ+ community. The Council plans to fill identified gaps by improving the LGBTQ+ community’s access to services and enhancing the cultural competency of the senior care workforce”.
New York City has also recently completed state-supported LGBT/age-friendly affordable housing in downtown Bay Shore and other sites in New York City.
In New York, Social Security monies, federal and New York government pensions, and military retirement pay will not be taxed. However, anything over $20,000 from a private retirement plan (including pensions, IRAs and 401(k) plans) or an out-of-state government plan will not be exempt from taxation.
Located in the heartland of America, Illinois is one of the most progressive states when it comes to equality for the LGBTQ+ community. The Illinois Human Rights Act, passed in 1979, prohibits unfair treatment based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Illinois law protects same-sex marriage. Additional laws that protect the LGBTQ+ community have been passed. Housing providers, including landlords, cannot discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community or deny housing to people living with HIV/AIDS. Lenders cannot deny federally-insured mortgages to those wishing to purchase a home.
Illinois is one of three states that also recently passed a law that designates that all public single-occupancy restrooms are to be treated as gender neutral. Illinois is also one of the eight states to ban LGBTQ “panic” defenses, which they believe will help to end legitimization of violence towards LGBTQ people.
In Illinois, the population of LGBTQ+ is 3.3%, the population of seniors make up 16.6% of the state’s total population. The average home price is approximately $214,300.00 at the time of this writing.
While Illinois law is very LGBTQ+ friendly, the state did not rank well among our readers, for best and worst states for retirement. If you are considering retirement in Illinois, be prepared for high property and high fuel taxes.
Located in the northeast United States, Massachusetts, known as the Bay State, has a wide range of beautiful scenery including ocean beaches, off-shore islands, farmlands, and mountains. Massachusetts is known as being beautiful in the fall.
This is a state that is rich with arts and culture. It is home to the Tanglewood Music Festival, the Williamstown Theatre Festival, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and several museums in Boston. If you love history, Massachusetts has a wealth of information about the founding of our country.
This New England state is also widely known for its world-renowned health care facilities and, of course, its amazing seafood.
Massachusetts was the first state to recognize same-sex couples marriage. State laws prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation and/or HIV/AIDS status.
Massachusetts state law also bans discrimination in employment, housing, credit, and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
Health care discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited by state law and insurers are prohibited from excluding transgender transition-related health care from coverage.
Massachusetts’ seniors make up approximately 17.5% of the population, and the LGBTQ+ population makes up 4.2% of Massachusetts’ total population. This is the the second highest percentage of LGBTQ+ residents in all states.
With a median housing cost of $439,800.00, Massachusetts may not be the most affordable of the states to live. However, this state is relatively tax-friendly to seniors. Social security benefits and public pensions are not taxed, but other types of retirement payouts are.
Nevada is a great state for retirees who want to continue to lead an active lifestyle. Pleasant temperatures in most areas and lots of available outdoor activities such as hiking, boating and golfing make it a great state for retirees. Seniors make up 16.6% of the population.
While nearly three-quarters of the people living in Nevada are in the Las Vegas area, there are many other cities in which to live, some more remote than others. The mean housing cost is $333,000.00.
Nevada is also very tax-friendly to retirees. There are no state taxes. There is no tax on social security and public pensions. There is also no tax on withdrawals from retirement accounts or private pensions, which is generally not the case in other states.
Nevada has a relatively low share of hate crimes and is considered one of the most LGBTQ+-friendly states in the mountain west. 4.1% of its population identify as LGBTQ+. State laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations. In addition, conversion therapy on minors is prohibited in the state.
Between the years of 2009 to 2019, Nevada passed 34 laws protecting the rights and safety of its LGBTQ+ population. It was the first state to recognize gay marriage in its state constitution and has legally recognized same sex marriage since 2014.
Vermont is a gorgeous state in the northwest part of the United States. Driving, biking or walking almost anywhere in Vermont leads to beautiful views. There are many options for outdoor activities to keep seniors active in their retirement years including golfing and boating in the summer, skiing in the winter, and colorful leaf viewing in the fall.
Vermont has a large senior population – almost 21% of the state’s population is over 65. We found Vermont to be one of the friendliest states to the LGBTQ+ population, too. It offers better access to CenterLink pride centers than any other state. Vermont has an estimated 26,000 LGBTQ+ residents who make up 4% of the population. It has three pride centers.
Vermont has anti-discrimination laws focused on both sexual orientation and gender identification. Same-sex marriage has been recognized in Vermont since September 1, 2009. It was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage through the actions of the legislature rather than as a result of a court decision.
Vermont also has some of the most comprehensive laws to protect LGBTQ+ people’s health and safety. The state continues to collect data on the health and wellness of LGBTQ+ youth and adults so that they can add new programs and laws as needed.
The median home price in Vermont is $235,000.
Coming in at number one for LGBTQ+ retirement locations, Maine is another beautiful northeastern state where there is so much to do and see in your leisure time. The cost of living is relatively low and housing is affordable, with the average home price at $211,000. The average cost of rent is also less expensive in Maine than in other states. And if you love lobster, Maine is the place to be!
Maine regularly ranks as one of the best states for good healthcare. It has some of the highest ranked healthcare providers and hospitals available.
Maine is also ranked as the safest state in the United States and has some of the lowest violent crime and property crime rates in the nation.
Maine has done much in the last few years to become more equitable and safe for the LGBTQ+ population. In 2019, the legislature passed five bills to help protect the rights and health of its LGBTQ+ residents. It has some of the strongest anti-hate crimes laws, which includes eliminating “panic” defenses and making the reporting of such crimes mandatory.
LGBTQ+ residents are 3.9% of Maine’s total population. The elder population is about 21.8% of all residents.
Their SAGE National Resource Center for LGBTQ+ Aging (Advocacy and Services for LGBTQ+ elders) provides the SAGEConnect program which aims to pull isolated, home-bound or lonely LGBTQ+ older people “tighter into their community and make sure they feel safe, loved, and visible.” This resource center also works to educate by conducting LGBTQ+ culture competency trainings.
California is an expensive place to retire. The average housing price is well over $600,000, rents are high and so is the cost of living.
Social Security retirement benefits are exempt from taxation. Additionally, most military disability payments are taxed. And if you plan to continue working, there is plenty of opportunity and the wages are higher. The median household income in California is $8,000 per year higher than the national average.
California has some of the highest sales taxes in the United States, but its mild climate, laid-back lifestyle, emphasis on health and well-being, beautiful beaches and lively cultural scene make it an attractive place for retirees who can afford it.
For the LGBTQ+ population, California has a robust set of laws in place to protect their health, safety and well-being. Their laws cover nondiscrimination, health and safety, housing, credit, parenting, youth, and religious laws and policies and hate crimes. All include sexual orientation as well as gender identity. Additionally, laws have been enacted banning the use of the LGBTQ “panic” defense.
There are several CenterLink pride centers (2 per every 100,000 LGBTQ people) which help to strengthen, support and connect the LGBTQ+ community.
According to the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), 77% of LGBTQ+ adults living in the Pacific states live in California, with California’s total LGBTQ+ population being 4.1%. The population of seniors is a bit low at 15.2%
We have included Florida because the state is very attractive to retirees and has a 21.6% senior population. Its mild climate, beautiful beaches, huge retirement community called The Villages and, of course, Disney, are all major draws for retirees.
It is estimated that by 2030, the population of Florida will grow to 23.9 million, with 6 million of these residents being seniors 65 and older – that’s almost twice the size of their current 3.5 million seniors. Much of what goes on in Florida is geared towards retirees and the aging population. For example, there are lots of commercials about walk-in bathtubs, insurance and fall alarms. Due to its lack of state income tax, Florida was voted by Kiplinger as one of the top ten most tax-friendly states for retirees. There are no state taxes on Social Security benefits or public pensions and also no state taxes on IRAs, 401(k)s and other sources of retirement income.
Florida is generally known for having one of the lower rates of hate crimes motivated by gender identity or sexual orientation. However, in 2016, the mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse, a gay nightclub, resulted in a gunman killing 29 people and injured many. It is considered the deadliest attack on LGBTQ+ people in American history.
Despite the recent “Don’t say Gay Bill,” Florida has a fair amount of nondiscrimination laws on its books in regards to same-sex marriage, employment, housing and public accommodations. Several cities and counties, but not all of them, have enacted anti-discrimination laws protecting the LGBTQ+ population but Florida does not have a nondiscrimination law covering credit and lending. The state has also not repealed its laws forbidding certain sexual practices, even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled those laws unconstitutional in 2003.
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