Best states to retire: a full breakdown

1 min readLast updated June 18, 2024by Kate Morgan

From affordability and quality of life to healthcare, we've taken a look at the best states and worst states to retire in to help you choose your retirement location.

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Summary

  • Virginia tops the list of the best states for retirement with excellent scores across affordability, quality of life, and healthcare.

  • Florida is second on the list of best states to retire in, which is unsurprising due to its low costs, generous tax laws, and high quality of life.

  • Kentucky is deemed the worst state to retire in due to its low quality of life and healthcare scores.

  • The best state to retire on a fixed income is Alabama.

  • A financial advisor can help you ensure you’re saving the right amount for retirement so you can achieve your goals.

Best states to retire in 2024

Below are some states that stand out for their affordability, quality of life, and healthcare, making them top destinations for a fulfilling and budget-friendly retirement.

You can see our full scoring and methodology further down the page.

1. Virginia - Virginia tops the list with excellent scores in affordability (rank 16), quality of life (rank 11), and Healthcare (rank 11). It offers a high standard of living, affordable living costs, high-quality healthcare, and a rich historical heritage.

2. Florida - Florida secures the second spot with its impressive affordability (rank 9) and quality of life (rank 4). With its beautiful weather, diverse culture, abundant recreational opportunities, and stunning beaches, Florida attracts residents and visitors alike.

3. Colorado - Colorado ranks third overall, excelling in quality of life (rank 5) and offering breathtaking landscapes, outdoor activities, a healthy lifestyle, and a thriving arts and cultural scene.

4. Wyoming - Wyoming secures the fourth position with an overall score of 55.60, driven by its high affordability (rank 5) and appealing quality of life (rank 9) for retirees. Known for its serene natural beauty, low population density, and welcoming communities, Wyoming offers an attractive retirement destination for those seeking a peaceful and picturesque lifestyle.

5. Delaware - Delaware ranks fifth with an overall score of 55.49. With its strong affordability (rank 6) and moderate quality of life (rank 33), Delaware offers retirees a balance between accessible living costs and various amenities. Its charming coastal charm, historical significance, and friendly communities create a welcoming environment for retirees looking to enjoy a relaxing and culturally rich retirement experience.

Get expert retirement advice

If you plan on moving for retirement, it’s wise to seek out expert advice before you make the move.

A financial advisor can review your retirement accounts and help you find the best location for your retirement.

Find your best financial advisor and get a free first consultation by completing the questions below:

Worst states to retire in 2024

While there are many excellent places to retire to in the US, some options might be less appealing than others.

Here is a breakdown of the five “worst” states to retire:

1. Kentucky - Kentucky ranks last at 50th place with an overall score of 38.80. While it has decent affordability (rank 33), its quality of life rank 41) and healthcare (rank 46) scores may not fully meet retirees' expectations.

2. New Jersey - With an overall rank of 49 and a total score of 40.23, New Jersey might not be the most attractive choice for retirees due to its high cost of living and relatively lower quality of life (rank 34).

3. Mississippi - Mississippi ranks 48th with an overall score of 40.80, offering a lower quality of life experience for retirees. It ranks 10th in affordability, but its 50th place in quality of life and 48th in healthcare might not meet the expectations of retirees looking for a comfortable and enriching retirement.

4. Oklahoma - Oklahoma ranks 47th with an overall score of 43.61, making it a less preferable option for retirees, particularly those who prioritize healthcare quality. While it offers reasonable affordability (rank 19), its quality of life rank is 47th, indicating potential limitations for retirees seeking an enhanced retirement experience.

5. New York - New York holds an overall rank of 46 with a total score of 43.69. While it provides diverse cultural experiences and opportunities, it may not be the most budget-friendly choice for retirees. With a high cost of living and a low affordability rank (50th), retirees on fixed incomes might face challenges here.

Full results: see how we've ranked all US states

Discover the full results below, which rank states for retirement based on affordability, considering the cost of living and taxation, quality of life with a focus on elder abuse protections and crime rates, and healthcare, including the number of health professionals per capita and life expectancy.

Overall Rank StateTotal Score Affordability Quality of Life Health Care
1 Virginia 57.55 16 11 11
2 Florida 57.43 9 4 28
3 Colorado 57.41 14 27 5
4 Wyoming 55.60 5 9 38
5 Delaware 55.49 6 33 18
6 New Hampshire 55.00 31 5 7
7 South Dakota 53.61 25 30 9
8 Minnesota 53.50 40 2 1
9 Idaho 53.20 15 17 31
10 North Dakota 53.03 22 25 20
11 Utah 52.73 20 24 26
12 North Carolina 52.60 12 23 35
13 Missouri 52.37 17 28 32
14 Pennsylvania 52.27 36 3 12
15 Montana 52.07 24 15 29
16 South Carolina 52.06 4 38 39
17 Massachusetts 51.88 47 1 2
18 California 51.64 32 19 10
19 Alaska 51.27 26 36 8
20 Arizona 51.07 18 35 25
21 Wisconsin 50.90 34 14 17
22 Alabama 50.65 1 44 50
23 Ohio 49.81 27 8 37
24 Hawaii 49.73 38 29 4
25 Nebraska 49.30 37 16 15
26 Iowa 48.92 35 12 24
27 Georgia 48.58 7 40 42
28 Michigan 48.03 29 18 36
29 Maine 47.50 43 6 13
30 New Mexico 47.47 21 46 30
31 Indiana 47.32 23 31 40
32 Nevada 47.23 11 42 41
33 Tennessee 47.16 2 48 45
34 Vermont 47.12 48 7 6
35 Connecticut 47.11 44 26 3
36 Kansas 46.76 30 32 33
37 West Virginia 46.44 3 43 49
38 Oregon 46.10 41 21 21
39 Texas 45.90 28 37 34
40 Rhode Island 44.95 39 39 14
41 Arkansas 44.73 8 49 44
42 Maryland 44.55 46 20 19
43 Washington 44.46 45 13 23
44 Illinois 44.30 42 22 27
45 Louisiana 43.90 13 45 47
46 New York 43.69 50 10 16
47 Oklahoma 43.61 19 47 43
48 Mississippi 40.80 10 50 48
49 New Jersey 40.23 49 34 22
50 Kentucky 38.80 33 41 46

Source: Wallethub, 2023’s Best States to Retire

Best state to retire on a fixed income

The best state to retire in on a fixed income is Alabama.

A fixed income from pension/inheritance/Social Security offers little to no flexibility regarding the amount you get each month.

Therefore, you need a state where housing markets aren't volatile, and the cost of living isn't too high (so you can still cover unexpected expenses). Alabama homes are affordable and increase in value by about 4.84% percent annually.

Delaware is also a good choice for tax reasons. There is no sales tax, no death tax, and very low property taxes.

This means retirees will have more disposable income in their golden years and pay zero state or local sales tax on their in-state purchases.

Virginia might be the best state for veterans to retire to. It offers many advantages to veterans, including health care options and tax exemptions, through 25 benefit services offices.

For those focused on quality of life considerations beyond the financial, the most common questions are, "What's the weather like?" and "What lifestyle can I live there?"

For retirees seeking sunshine, Florida is hard to beat. The sun shines in the Sunshine State 76% of the time, and the weather stays warm throughout the year.

For retirees looking for colder winters, outdoor activity opportunities, and lower living costs, Michigan and Ohio are great choices.

Best state to retire on Social Security

Social Security recipients should consider retiring in a state that offers deductions or exemptions based on income and age.

The best states to retire on Social Security, which don't tax Social Security income, include:

Florida
Nevada
New Hampshire
Tennessee
Washington

How to find the best state for retirement

Over 200,000 people move for retirement each year in the US. Will you be one of them?  

With lifestyle, housing, and tax varying from state to state, where you live during retirement will significantly impact how you spend this next chapter in your life.  

Unbiased empowers you to make confident financial choices by helping you find a financial advisor perfectly suited to meet your needs. To speak to your financial expert, simply answer a few questions, and our dynamic search feature will pair you with your perfect finance professional. Find your financial advisor here.

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Content writer

Kate Morgan

Kate has written for leading publications and blue chip companies over the last 20 years.

Need help planning for retirement?

We'll match you with a financial advisor who will help you, no matter what state you're in