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The 10 best -- and worst -- U.S. states for retirement


When a person's working years are done and the cold weather becomes intolerable, many retirees head for Florida and other balmy states in the southeast. But those states aren't the best places for retirees, a new study finds. In fact, they aren't even in the top 10.

Researchers from set out to find the best and worst states for retirees, ranked by the factors that were adjudged most important to people aged 65 and over. Here's what that group said was most important to them:

  • Local weather
  • Cost of living
  • Low crime rate
  • Quality of health care
  • Tax burden
  • Senior well-being

"There are many factors retirees should consider before deciding where to put down their roots," said research and statistics analyst Chris Kahn. "Warm weather may be an initial draw, but all the sunny days in the world won't make you happy if you're constantly stretching your budget or don't have access to quality health care."

Click ahead to see the 10 best and 10 worst states for retirement, starting with the best.

Best - 10: Nebraska


Population: 1.84 million

Median age: 36.5

Personal median income: $26,584

Demographic data from

Forbes magazine recently zeroed in on Nebraska as a top state for seniors, naming Lincoln as one of the 25 best places to retire in 2015. Air quality is above average, and there are a high number of doctors for the population size. On the other hand, the winters are cold, the summers are hot and the tax climate is poor.

Best - 9: Arizona


Population: 6.48 million

Median age: 36.3

Personal median income: $24,805

Hordes of retirees have already picked Arizona as an ideal place to spend the golden years. The mild winters are easy to handle, and even the scorching summers are tolerable as long as an air conditioner is nearby. The dry heat has been known to help ease arthritis pain.

Best - 8: South Dakota


Population: 825,198

Median age: 37.1

Personal median income: $25,971

South Dakota isn't exactly ideal weather-wise, at least for several months out of the year, but retirees love the state's slower pace, MarketWatch reports. It also helps that there is no state income or inheritance tax.

Best - 7: Montana

John Alves/iStockphoto

Population: 998,554

Median age: 39.9

Personal median income: $24,035

Montana's appeal to retirees is easy to see. Its cities exude small-town charm, and its mild summers -- combined with countless fishing holes -- offer plenty of activities. The harsh winters can be tough to deal with, though.

Best - 6: Iowa


Population: 3.06 million

Median age: 38.2

Personal median income: $27,116

Iowa is taking steps to become even more attractive to retirees. Last year, it moved from partially taxing military pensions to not taxing them at all. The idea, according to Gov. Terry Branstad, was to attract veterans in their 40s and 50s, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Iowa's policy is causing some grumbling from surrounding states. In Minnesota, for example, one lawmaker said his state is now at a competitive disadvantage.

Best - 5: Virginia


Population: 8.1 million

Median age: 37.6

Personal median income: $30,917

Virginia stands out because it's the only state in the eastern part of the country to make it into the top 10. The state has a four-season climate with winters that are generally mild, according to Where to Retire magazine. Cities such as Williamsburg have an attractive blend of historic and contemporary culture.

Best - 4: Idaho

Charles Knowles/iStockphoto

Population: 1.58 million

Median age: 35.2

Personal median income: $22,862

If you're looking for a vibrant state with a low cost of living, it's hard to beat Idaho. The state's median home sale price is just $176,010, which is slightly lower than the national median. Idaho's unemployment rate is slightly lower than the national average.

Best - 3: Utah


Population: 2.81 million

Median age: 29.7

Personal median income: $25,510

Utah is home to plenty of young families, which is one reason why its median age is lower than average for the U.S. It's also stunningly beautiful. According to Bankrate's survey, 4 in 10 Americans say states with access to mountains, rivers and other outdoor recreation would be very appealing.

Best - 2: Colorado

Marek Uliasz/iStockphoto

Population: 5.12 million

Median age: 36.3

Personal median income: $28,710

Colorado has several things going for it lately. It's unemployment rate is lower and its population is more educated than the national average. And all those mountains, rivers and recreational activities that Americans value? Oh yeah, it's got that in spades.

Best - 1 : Wyoming


Population: 570,134

Median age: 36.8

Personal median income: $28,747 a year

Researchers said Wyoming topped the list because of its low cost of living, low crime rate and light tax burden. The state also gives its residents plenty of open space -- it's the second least-populated state in the country, after Alaska.

People aren't exactly clamoring to move to Wyoming, however. More people moved out of the state than into it in 2011 (the last year for which data is available), according to the U.S. Census.

Worst -10: Oregon


Population: 3.87 million

Median age: 38.9

Personal median income: $24,456

Oregon depends on federal funds to finance its retirement programs more than any other state, according to GoLocalPDX. The state's funds are prioritized for education and young adults more than for retirement, the outreach director for Oregon AARP told the news site.

Worst - 9: Missouri


Population: 6.01 million

Median age: 38

Personal median income: $24,791

Missouri taxes Social Security benefits when a taxpayer's income rises above certain thresholds, according to Kiplinger, but its cost of living is lower than average. The state has no inheritance tax.

Worst - 8: Kentucky

Alexey Stiop/iStockphoto

Population: 4.36 million

Median age: 38.2

Personal median income: $22,585

Kentucky could soon be running into trouble with its retirement funding. One employee retirement system fund has only 21 percent of the money it needs for future expenses, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader, and that's expected to drop as low as 15 percent. The average state retirement plan in the U.S. has 80 percent of the money needed for the future.

Now the state is cashing out investments to shore up the money it needs for its retirement programs.

Worst - 7: Hawaii


Population: 1.38 million

Median age: 38.4

Personal median income: $30,814

Hawaii might be the closest thing to paradise in the U.S., but its residents pay dearly to live there. On Oahu, for example, the median family income after taxes is $78,403 a year.

That would sound great in many other parts of the country. But prices are so high in Hawaii that when you total the costs of a mortgage on a median-priced home, child care, food, health care, utilities, car expenses and property taxes, those basic expenses come to a steep $79,056 a year, reports the Honolulu Civil Beat.

Worst - 6: New Jersey


Population: 8.83 million

Median age: 39.1

Personal median income: $32,293

New Jersey hits some retirees with a tax double-whammy: It's one of only two states that imposes both an estate tax and an inheritance tax, according to Kiplinger. Estates larger than $675,000 were subject to the state estate tax last year.

Worst - 5: Louisiana


Population: 4.57 million

Median age: 36

Personal median income: $23,327

Louisiana is an affordable state for many retirees, but it fell in the rankings because of its fairly high rates for property and violent crimes. The humid summers can also be a turnoff.

Worst - 4: West Virginia


Population: 1.85 million

Median age: 41.4

Personal median income: $21,786

West Virginia's population skews older, with a median age of 41.4, but that doesn't make it a welcoming state for retirees. The state has the lowest well-being of any in the U.S., according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The research shows that high rates of well-being can improve a population's health and workplace performance.

West Virginia's population also has some serious health care issues. It has some of the highest obesity and smoking rates in the country. In some of the state's rural areas, residents don't have enough access to medical care.

Worst - 3: Alaska

Oksana Perkins/iStockphoto

Population: 720,316

Median age: 33.9

Personal median income: $30,061

Alaska has some of the highest living costs in the country. Gasoline, for example, costs Alaskan drivers about 45 cents more per gallon than the national average. Some of those costs are offset by a favorable tax structure, however. The state does not have an individual income tax.

Worst - 2: New York


Population: 19.5 million

Median age: 38

Personal median income: $29,423

A high tax rate combined with a high cost of living make New York one of the least welcoming states for retirees. AARP released a study last year that said more than half of New Yorkers age 50-64 were considering leaving the city after retirement because living there was just too expensive.

There are also livability issues, such as traffic lights that are timed too fast and aggressive drivers that don't yield to pedestrians, New York's AARP state director told The Daily News.

Worst - 1: Arkansas


Population: 2.93 million

Median age: 37.5

Personal median income: $21,746

What makes Arkansas the worst state for retirement? The state's cost of living is low and it has the outdoor recreational activities that seniors crave. But it ranks below average in a number of other areas, according to the Bankrate study, with poor weather, high crime rates, low-quality health care, high taxes and an overall low sense of well-being in the population.

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