Editors' pick: Originally published July 8.
Let the debate get loud. When it comes to the question of where to retire to, what retirees want is - generally - agreed upon without dispute. WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez elaborated: "The best states for retirement should not tax pensions, these should offer entertainment activities for retirees, as well as affordable and quality health care."
But where retirees want to - and should -- move to is a more contentious issue. The winners and losers are called out below.
Know also: data suggest that retirees talk more about relocating than they actually do it. Research from Voya Financial, which focuses on retirees, showed that exactly half of retirees said they wanted to move to a more desirable location.
But data out of the think tank Brookings Institution said that around 5% of retirees in fact relocate.
Why the disconnect? It's easier to stay put, not move. There also are ties to family, friends, places, medical services.
But Brookings also has said that retiree relocations are increasing.
So where should those retirees who really want to relocate move to? Second question: where do they move to in actual fact?
WalletHub's Gonzalez ticked off her top five relocation states:"The top five states to retire are: Florida, Wyoming, South Dakota, South Carolina and Colorado." She explained why: "These states are quite affordable and offer a fairly high quality of life, as well as good health care. Take for example Florida, the state does not apply any taxes for Social Security or pensions."
South Dakota and Wyoming do not tax income, neither does Florida, and that's a big plus in relocating in retirement.
Gonzalez's list is not necessarily the last word in retiree relocation. And where we go is not exactly where we should go.
Brookings Institution demographer William Frey has blogged that the states with the biggest in-migration nowadays tend to be in the Sun Belt. He listed them: Florida, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, South Carolina, North Carolina, Oregon, and Georgia. That list is for all age groups.
A few years earlier, looking specifically at where seniors moved, Frey pointed to these places: Phoenix; Riverside, Calif.; Tampa, Fla.; Atlanta; and Denver. He added: "In short, an emerging senior boom is boosting not only traditional retirement destinations but also emerging ones in the Southeast, Mountain West and Texas."
Sift through the data and probably - although they may offer favorable tax policies and cost of living - Wyoming and South Dakota would get struck from the top places to retire list by many retirees. Winter weather alone would win a hex from a lot of seniors.
In their place, from Frey's list, would be Arizona and Georgia, plus - from Gonzalez's list - Florida, South Carolina and Colorado. Texas might make the list too. That's six and, among them, they are winning most relocating retirees. Those states also add up to lots of sun and, with the exception of Denver, snow free lives.
There are other top retirement states lists. Mike Minter of advisory firm Mintco Financial offered another, but similar list: "Florida and Arizona are considered heaven for many retirees because of tax advantages and weather. Real estate is affordable and [there's] low cost living." He added: "North and South Carolina are also drawing their share of retirees."
That gives retirees plenty of places to shop for housing.
As for where not to retire, that's easy. Think high taxes and high cost of living. Gonzalez offered her five: "The worst states to retire are: Vermont, Connecticut, Hawaii, the District of Columbia and Rhode Island. The low ranking states have a high cost of living and tend to tax pensions. These also don't offer a high number of retirees friendly activities. However, most do offer quality health care, but this is not enough when the costs are so high."
They also, with the exception of Hawaii, have cold winters.
Other states that appear on many experts' must flee lists for retirees include New York and New Jersey, mainly because of cost of living, taxes and winter.
But, of course, many hundreds of thousands of retirees will likely stay put in New York and New Jersey and probably also in Gonzalez's five no-go states too.
Get the picture? Where to retire very much is a personal choice and it can't be one size fits all.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held TK positions in the stocks mentioned.