Best States for Retirement 2011
Also see the latest Best States to Retire feature
The MoneyRates.com ranking of the best--and worst--states for retirement is back.
Your best place to retire depends on highly personal factors. You care about proximity of friends and family, cultural and natural attractions or maybe the presence of a favorite professional sports team. While no single set of factors can capture the diversity of individual preferences, MoneyRates.com's data-based ranking can give you a place to start.
This year, we took input from our readers to determine how different ranking factors should be weighted. MoneyRates.com ran a poll asking readers how important four major factors--economic indicators, climate, life expectancy and crime rates--should be in the retirement location decision. The results of that poll formed the basis for this year's rankings.
Based on reader responses, economics determined 47 percent of a state's final score, climate accounted for 33 percent, life expectancy determined 12 percent and crime accounted for 8 percent. Here are the 10 states that came out on top.
No. 10: Kansas
Why it's in the top 10: Kansas is pretty average in three of four categories, but by scoring well in the category readers felt was most important--economics--it earned a place in the top 10.
Economic factors: Kansas tied for the 10th highest score in this category. The cost of living and unemployment in the state are both very low, which was enough to overcome a high tax burden.
Climate: Fittingly for a state near the middle of the country, Kansas had a climate score that was near the middle of the pack.
Life expectancy: The life expectancy of 77.3 years in Kansas is close to the median.
Crime: Kansas scored a little worse than average on crime, because both violent and property crime rates are slightly higher than in most states.
No. 9: Tennessee
Why it's in the top 10: After ranking in the bottom 10 in last year's study, Tennessee was a huge beneficiary of the new reader-weighted preferences. The state came out strong for economic factors and climate, which was enough to overcome a high crime rate and low life expectancy.
Economic factors: Tennessee had the eighth-best score for economic factors, largely on the strength of having the nation's lowest cost of living.
Climate: Tennessee's climate score is above-average.
Life expectancy: Tennessee's life expectancy of 75.1 years is one of the lowest in the nation.
Crime: The state has the third-highest violent crime rate in the U.S.
No. 8: South Dakota
Why it's in the top 10: A top score for low crime and the second-best score for economics placed South Dakota in the top 10 for the second consecutive year. The state ranked third last year.
Economic factors: South Dakota received an excellent score because of very low unemployment and tax rates.
Climate: This was the state's lone weak point--its climate was rated 10th-worst in the nation.
Life expectancy: At 77.7 years, life expectancy in South Dakota is slightly above median.
Crime: South Dakota got the best score out of all 50 states for its low crime rates.
No. 7: Mississippi
Why it's in the top 10: Mississippi had high marks for its economic factors and climate.
Economic factors: Mississippi scored well with its low cost of living and the lowest tax burden in the nation. These factors offset the state's high unemployment.
Climate: Mississippi received a top-10 score for climate.
Life expectancy: This factor was a significant drag on the state's rankings: Its life expectancy of 73.6 is the lowest in the nation.
Crime: Mississippi's crime score was about average among the 50 states.
No. 6: Virginia
Why it's in the top 10: By scoring well in three out of four categories, Virginia repeats its No. 6 showing from last year.
Economic factors: Virgina scored well on economic factors, primarily its low unemployment rate.
Climate: Virginia's moderate climate earned it an above-average score in this category.
Life expectancy: Virginia's life expectancy of 76.8 years is about average.
Crime: Virginia enjoys some of the nation's lowest crime rates.
No. 5: Louisiana
Why it's in the top 10: Strong scores in the heavily weighted categories of economics and climate overcame dismal scores in life expectancy and crime.
Economic factors: Louisiana scored well because cost of living, unemployment and taxes are all below those of most states.
Climate: Louisiana's climate earned the third highest rating in the nation.
Life expectancy: Louisiana's weakest category: At 74.2 years, this is the second-lowest of any state.
Crime: This could be a red flag for some retirees, as Louisiana's violent and property crime rates are among the worst in the U.S.
No. 4: Iowa
Why it's in the top 10: Excellent scores in three out of four categories, including strong economic health, helped Iowa improve by one place from last year's No. 5 ranking.
Economic factors: Iowa tied for the third-best economic score among all states, thanks primarily to one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.
Climate: This was the only category in which Iowa was below average.
Life expectancy: Iowa's life expectancy of 78.3 years is one of the nation's best.
Crime: This was another standout area for Iowa, which has crime rates rated among the 10 lowest overall.
No. 3: Oklahoma
Why it's in the top 10: By knocking the cover off the ball in economic factors, Oklahoma was able to overcome poor performance in the areas of life expectancy and crime.
Economic factors: Oklahoma got the best overall score for economics, because its cost of living, unemployment and tax burdens are all among the 10 lowest in the nation.
Climate: Oklahoma's score for climate was not spectacular but well above average.
Life expectancy: Oklahoma's life expectancy of 75.2 years is in the bottom 10.
Crime: Oklahoma scored well below average in this category, because of high violent and property crime rates.
No. 2: Kentucky
Why it's in the top 10: Though life expectancy is low, Kentucky scored above-average in all other categories. The Bluegrass State's economic factors make it attractive to seniors with fixed incomes.
Economic factors: Kentucky tied with Iowa for the third-best score in this category. Unemployment is a bit high, but cost of living and tax burdens are among the lowest in the U.S.
Climate: Kentucky enjoys a moderate climate, which helped it to an above-average score in this category.
Life expectancy: At 75.2, this is one of America's lowest, making life expectancy Kentucky's only below-average category.
Crime: Violent and property crime rates are both below average in Kentucky.
No. 1: Texas
Why it's the best state for retirement: Despite a high property crime rate, Texas outranked all other states with its outstanding scores for economic factors and climate.
Economic factors: Texas scored very well for economics, thanks to a low cost of living and low tax burden.
Climate: The climate for such a big state varies, but overall Texas received strong scores for its generally warm climate.
Life expectancy: At 76.7 years, life expectancy for Texans is a little below median.
Crime: The only real blemish for Texas, the high crime rate--especially the nation's highest rate of property crime--might scare off some retirees.
About the rankings
MoneyRates.com evaluated states based on four major categories:
- Economics. This category included several factors. The state's cost of living is a key consideration for retirees who often have their wealth in conservative investments and savings accounts. Tax rates were also part of this ranking--both general income and retirement income tax rates, since many retirees have both. Unemployment was also included as an important indicator of the overall economic health of an area. With more and more seniors continuing to work at least part-time, this factor is a relevant consideration even when choosing a retirement destination.
- Climate. There are warm-weather people and there are cold-weather people, but most seem to like moderation. A state's climate score was based on the deviation of monthly temperatures from 68 degrees. The lower the deviation, the higher the ranking for the state.
- Life expectancy. While a number of factors, from genetics to lifelong habits, go into determining life expectancy, it is also an indicator of the health of an area's environment and the quality of the medical care available.
- Crime. Both violent and property crimes were measured and ranked, and then those rankings were combined to come up with an overall crime rating.
In contrast to the best states for retirement, what are the states you might want to avoid? See our 10 worst states for retirement. Don't see your state among the best or worst? Find out where your state ranks in the full 50-state list of the MoneyRates.com Best States for Retirement.
You can also compare this list with the 2010 rankings.