Do you plan to "retire in place" and stay in your current area, or are you interested in retiring in a different state? In either case, you may want to consult a recent study by WalletHub if retirement is imminent.
The study ranked all 50 states using 41 statistical metrics that were weighted and grouped into three major categories important to retirees: affordability, quality of life, and healthcare. You may be surprised at some of the states in both the best and worst categories. Let's start with the top five.
1. Florida – You knew it had to be high on the list, didn't you? In terms of affordability, Florida topped the list while it placed fifth in terms of quality of life, overcoming its 20th-ranked healthcare rating.
2. Colorado – Ranked second in healthcare while quality of life came in 8th place, Colorado is constrained by its 23rd-place ranking in affordability.
3. South Dakota – The home of Mount Rushmore is the second most affordable state and ranked sixth when it came to healthcare, but can't break the top half in quality of life (ranked 32nd).
4. Iowa – Not typically thought of as a retirement destination, Iowa has decent rankings across the board (9th in healthcare, 11th in quality of life and 26th in affordability).
5. Virginia – Quality of life ranks well in Virginia (9th) while affordability and healthcare rankings are above average (18th and 21st respectively).
The next five desirable retirement states are, in order, Wyoming, New Hampshire, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona. Minnesota barely missed the top ten despite having number one rankings in both quality of life and healthcare, due to a dismal affordability ranking (42nd). Massachusetts also ranked high in quality of life and healthcare (second and fifth, respectively) and poorly in affordability (43rd).
What about the five states with the worst rankings? In descending order, they are:
46. Arkansas – Dead last in quality of life and 45th in healthcare, Arkansas is pulled up by its 20th-place showing in affordability.
47. Mississippi – The same principle applies to Mississippi, but even more so. The state is 49th in quality of life and last in healthcare, but it ranks 10th in affordability.
48. Rhode Island – Healthcare is above average (22nd), but quality of life and affordability are poor at 46th and 48th place, respectively.
49. New Jersey – The least affordable state in the union also has below average rankings in quality of life (28th) and healthcare (33rd).
50. Kentucky – Kentucky ranks 47th in both quality of life and healthcare and only 38th in affordability, earning the Bluegrass State WalletHub's least desirable retirement state ranking for 2018.
Was your state not mentioned? Check the full study results for further details on your state's rankings and a breakdown of all the statistical metrics and weightings.
Of course, each state has areas that don't fit the rest of the state profile. Individual cities were ranked in a 2017 WalletHub survey, with the inclusion of an "Activities" ranking – and, while the results are similar, some differences emerge at the local level. For example, Louisiana fares poorly in the state rankings, but New Orleans ranks high in the city rankings (probably because, as you might expect, New Orleans ranks high for activities).
While the study is a useful baseline, it doesn't mean everyone should converge on Florida or flee Kentucky in his or her retirement years. Find an area that makes you happy and gives you a fulfilling and healthy lifestyle – just know where the strong and weak points are in your chosen retirement state.
Regardless of where you plan to retire, the number one factor in ensuring that you can retire on your terms is your 401(k). Make sure that your 401(k) is maximizing its potential with this free analysis that checks your fees, fund mix, and other factors to help you hit your retirement goals.