Best States for Retirement in 2023

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Retirees have many options when they decide whether and where to relocate. Some decide to remain in their family home. Some cash in their home equity by downsizing while remaining in the same community. Some move closer to their adult children. Some move to a retirement community. Retirees who need care might opt for an assisted-living facility.

Based on several sources, SeniorCareAdvice compiled a list of cities and towns that have been rated as attractive retirement destinations. Several of those cities, including destinations recommended by WalletHub, were in Florida.

While Florida topped the list of retirement destinations in 2022, the state dropped to second place in 2023. WalletHub’s new analysis of the best places to retire elevates Virginia to the top of the list.

What Retirement Destination Is Best for You?

“Best” is in the eye of the beholder. Different retirees have different reasons for selecting their retirement destinations. Setting aside reasons that are unique to each retiree, including a desire to live near family and friends, WalletHub measures “best” by reference to certain objective criteria. How retirees weigh the importance of each factor is a matter of personal preference.

WalletHub identified 47 factors relevant to the quality of a retiree’s life. It assigned a relative weight to each factor. The factors fall within three categories: affordability, quality of life, and healthcare. Affordability factors determined 40% of a state’s final score. The other categories each accounted for 30% of the total.

WalletHub assigned the greatest weight in the affordability category to the state’s cost of living. Other factors included tax policies (including tax breaks for seniors), the cost of in-home services, and the cost of adult day care.

The two factors most significant to the quality-of-life score were the share of the population over the age of 65 and the mildness of the state’s weather. Other factors included the friendliness of the labor market to older workers, the state’s poverty rate and food insecurity rate, access to public transportation, crime rates, access to volunteer opportunities, air and water quality, and the per capita number of theaters, museums, golf courses, and bingo halls.

The most important health care metrics include whether the state has enough geriatricians to meet demand, the number of highly rated geriatric hospitals, the number of doctors per capita, and the percentage of the population vaccinated against COVID. Other factors include the overall quality of health of older residents, how older residents rate on a well-being index, the availability of home health aides, the percentage of older adults who are physically active or obese, and senior death rates.

Not every metric that WalletHub used will be of equal importance to every senior. Not every retiree will care about museums or bingo halls. Healthy and active retirees might not have a need for in-home care or adult daycare facilities, although needs can change over time. If most of the metrics strike a senior as being irrelevant to their decision about the best place to retire, the WalletHub analysis should be taken with a grain of salt. If some factors seem of particular importance to a retiree’s decision, the retiree might want to dig more deeply into the data that underlies those factors.

WalletHub’s Best Retirement States

According to WalletHub, the five states with the highest and lowest overall scores are:

1. Virginia
2. Florida
3. Colorado
4. Wyoming 
5. Delaware

46. New York
47. Oklahoma
48. Mississippi
49. New Jersey
50. Kentucky

The five states with the best and worse affordability scores are:

1. Alabama
2. Tennessee
3. West Virginia
4. South Carolina
5. Wyoming

46. Maryland
47. Massachusetts
48. Vermont
49. New Jersey
50. New York

The five states with the best and worst quality of life scores are:

1. Massachusetts
2. Minnesota
3. Pennsylvania
4. Florida
5. New Hampshire

46. New Mexico
47. Oklahoma
48. Tennessee
49. Arkansas
50. Mississippi

The five states with the best and worst healthcare scores are:

1. Minnesota
2. Massachusetts
3. Connecticut
4. Hawaii
5. Colorado

46. Kentucky
47. Louisiana
48. Mississippi
49. West Virginia
50. Alabama

Perhaps it isn’t surprising that the most affordable states tend to have a lower ranking for quality of life and healthcare. Life is full of tradeoffs. Retiring seniors should consider how to balance the cost of living in a new location with their desire to live a good life and their need for quality healthcare.

Retirees with specific needs should dig into the data more deeply. For example, while Minnesota has high ratings for quality of life and healthcare, its winters are harsh and it is the most expensive state for in-home services. Lists like these are only rough guides. Retirees may want to compile their own top five destinations after assigning greater weight to the factors that are most important to their lives.

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