Let’s just get this out of the way: Yes, Florida boasts gloriously warm weather, year-round. The cost of living and home prices are generally much lower than on the Northeastern and Western coasts. But get ready for a shocker: Florida is not the best state for retirees.
Instead, that honor goes to South Dakota, according to a recent report from the personal finance website Bankrate.com. That’s because prices are low, happiness and a sense of well-being are high, and South Dakotans have no income tax to contend with.
To come up with its rankings, Bankrate.com looked at each state’s cost of living; taxes; health care quality; weather; crime; cultural and creative opportunities and offerings; and well-being, using a variety of metrics.
Another big selling point: low home prices. In South Dakota, the median price tag is just $239,000, according to realtor.com® data. That’s well under the national median of $299,000. “When you think about what makes for a good retirement destination, you think about beaches, sunshine, and drinks with little umbrellas in them. But that’s not what necessarily makes for a happy retirement,” says Taylor Tepper, an analyst at Bankrate.com.
“When you look at what makes people happy in retirement, it’s having meaningful relationships,” he adds. (South Dakota scored highest in the nation in well-being, which includes this metric.) “[And] seniors who lived on a fixed income have a little more leeway in their budget, because they’re taxed less.”
The worst states for retirees
New York, not surprisingly, topped the list, because it costs so much to live there. Home prices were well above the national median, at $426,800, according to the most recent realtor.com data. That made the state the sixth most expensive in which to purchase a home.
“It finished dead last, because the cost of living was the worst among all the states,” Tepper says. “Taxes are very high. It just stretches your budget, if you’re a senior living on a fixed income.” One more thing: It’s pretty darn cold in the winter.