What will you want out of your retirement?
It's really never too soon to start asking that question or to start figuring out where you'll make those dreams come true. As Americans live longer -- and some even take on part-time jobs in their golden years -- they're forced to navigate an increasingly complicated landscape of challenges to financial preparedness while planning to find an ideal place to enjoy a relaxing and fulfilling retirement.
For most Americans, eight key factors combine to make up the perfect retirement destination. First and foremost, they want a place with low costs of living so that their savings and Social Security will go further. (Sorry Manhattanites... you may not be bringing them in by droves.)
Retirees also worry about the local costs of health care and the crime rates, as well as just the overall well-being of senior citizens in the area.
They'd like to know how much there will be to do once they arrive, how nice the weather is and whether their taxes will go up. Finally, looking for a sense of community, an increasing number of people would like to know how many other retirees will live nearby.
To figure out the states which solve these problems best, Bankrate crunched the numbers on these eight factors and came up with a list: the states ranked from first to worst in terms of retirement.
So, what's the best place in America in which to retire? Where should seniors flee?
Editors' pick: Originally published May 3.
The Granite State is officially the best place in America to retire.
Now, oddly enough for taking first place, New Hampshire is actually among the worst for two important factors. The cost of living is not great (ranked 40th), and the weather is kind of lousy too.
Of course anyone who is surprised about New Hampshire's winters probably deserves what they get…
The state makes up for this by taking high marks in just about every other area. Health care is great, crime is low, so are the taxes, and people report lots of stuff to do. So retirees looking for a home, you may have found it.
Few of the best places on this list would fit the traditional retirement model of fun in the sun and golden, relaxed days.
Second place Colorado does. With winters that average a relatively balmy 45 degrees and forgiving snow- and rainfall, the state largely stays open all year round. This makes a nice change from many of Colorado's northern colleagues on this list, which shut up tight four to six months out of the year.
Throw in a great culture and high well-being, and you have an excellent place to retire.
Maine doesn't entirely deserve its reputation as a trackless wilderness. Certainly the farther north you go, the less interested this state gets in the trappings of civilization, but places like Bangor, Augusta and Portland are positively bustling.
For those who can afford it, Kennebunkport is practically one big seaside villa, all of which contributes to Maine's third place on this list.
What really clinched it though were three factors: according to Bankrate's findings, Maine has some of the best health care quality in the entire country and the second best numbers for crime and senior citizen populations.
All that means moving to Maine might be in the cards.
Why not move to Iowa?
It's not the best sales pitch, but the numbers in this Midwestern farm-belt state speak for themselves.
With a great cost of living, as well as outstanding health care quality and overall well-being, not to mention the most crooked street in the world, Iowa takes a very solid fourth place on this list.
Two things launch Minnesota to the Top 10 of this list, and neither is the weather. This northern Midwestern state both borders Lake Superior and holds more than 10,000 individual lakes inside its borders.
The result is a paradise for outdoors types, or those who've always wanted that waterfront cottage, but for everyone else the winters might get very, very long.
The Twin Cities state makes up for it, though, with outstanding health care and a lot of culture and activities for seniors. Those winters might get cold, but who can notice it when they have a full dance card and the knees to keep up with it?
A solid member of the Top 10, Virginia doesn't do anything outstandingly, but it does everything pretty darn well. A good cost of living meets weather that's fine. Taxes are low but not rock bottom; well-being is best described as "content."
Really the only thing that stands out about Virginia's ranking is its crime, fifth from the best in the country. At the same time though, keep in mind that they also have one of the lowest populations of other seniors in the country.
Not great news for people looking for other retirees to hang out with, although it might be just the ticket for someone who wants to stay surrounded with youthful energy!
Taxachusetts earns its nickname in Bankrate's findings. With some of the highest costs of living and the highest local tax rates, this is not a destination for seniors looking to stretch their savings.
For those with a bit of extra money though, Massachusetts might be just the place!
Boasting great health care, great well-being and just a ton of culture and generally "fun" things to do, Massachusetts is a fantastic place to really enjoy your retirement… as long as you can afford it.
Not many people would have picked South Dakota, by some measures the scientifically official "middle of nowhere," as a retirement destination.
Those people would be wrong, but that's okay. That just leaves more South Dakota for the rest of us.
Already featuring state parks galore, not to mention an increasingly booming city in Sioux Falls, South Dakota decided to double down on all that with one of the best local tax rates in the country.
One surprise though? The state ranks 26 in cost of living.
Like Maine, Wisconsin's place in the top ten is anchored by its quality of health care. The second best ranking in the country meets a middling cost of living and great well-being to create one of the most attractive states in the country for retirement.
All isn't entirely roses, they have one of the worst rankings for local taxes, but seniors who don't mind the winters may well want to consider a future in Madison.
After all, who wouldn't want to cheer on the Badgers in their golden years?
The potato state has two big things going for it when it comes to retirement: one of the best costs of living in the country and a next-to-nothing crime rate.
Making retirement dollars stretch farther is becoming increasingly important for senior citizens, and is going to be absolutely critical for the coming generation. States that can help make that happen should be on absolutely everybody's radar.
One step away from the top ten, Utah mirror's Virginia's performance almost exactly (as you will see...).
With solid rankings in just about every category, the Jell-O capital of the world performs well. It isn't the best at anything, but it isn't the worst.
This is except for the population of seniors. In this category Utah comes in second to last. So, like Virginia, this is a good state for people who don't need anything specific and would like to spend their retirement shouting at those kids on their lawn.
Hey, everybody needs a hobby.
The Grand Canyon State has great weather. Like, really, really, really great weather. The weather here is so nice that this factor alone has boosted the state nearly to the top ten on our rankings.
In every other respect Arizona performs middlingly well, but with an annual low of 63 degrees, this is a state for anyone who'd like to leave the windows open and spend some time in the yard.
Here's something you may not have known about Nebraska. Although today it is one of the most productive farming areas in the world, the explorers who first came there thought that it was a barren land.
In fact, these European explorers originally called it "the Great American Desert" along with much of the Midwestern plains.
Now, this would of course prove to be anything but the truth, but it's understandable how explorers accustomed to the terrain of Europe would react to the vast, seemingly endless flatness.
Today, far from a desert, this is the 13th best place to retire in America.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly what New Hampshire is doing that Vermont does not.
Cost of living here is high, but it's not great in Vermont's neighbor either. Bankrate found that people absolutely hate the weather, but what else is new? Crime is at a nationwide low (it is officially ranked Number 1 for crime statistics).
It certainly doesn't help, though, that where New Hampshire has low taxes, Vermont is ranked 22 on this scale.
So, perhaps for that reason, Vermont is at number 14 compared to its more highly ranked neighbor.
Ah, the Keystone state, home to a vast northern stretch known simply as "The Wilds."
Most notable for its senior population, Pennsylvania has one of the highest numbers of retirees of any state on this list. This means that those who come here looking for a community should have absolutely no trouble finding one.
Add in Philadelphia's renaissance over the past 15 years, and the city's well-deserved reputation for an outstanding new food scene, and this state might warrant serious consideration.
People really hate the weather in North Dakota. In fact, the only two places where it is more loathed are Vermont and sunny Alaska. Still, that's not enough to push North Dakota down past number 16 on our list.
You see, otherwise the state has a lot going for it. Low crime, relatively low taxes, and a fantastic overall sense of well-being all mean that North Dakota remains very competitive as a retirement destination.
Just, make sure to keep your car in good condition. It's a long drive to run errands in those parts.
It seems weird that Florida, the retirement utopia of America and home of the snowbirds, should do no better than number 17 on our list.
One would have expected them to at least break into the top 10, but here we are.
So what does the state in? It has a lot to do with crime, which is relatively high on these rankings, as well as health care, which is fairly poor.
That said, when you really think about it, 17 is probably still fairly generous for a state in which the weather ranges from hot to muggy and which considers prehistoric death machines a neighborhood pest.
Delaware has one of the best health care systems on this list, coming in at number 6 on that metric, which is a pretty huge deal.
According to Bell, health care is "key for seniors, since they'll need to access those systems more than people in other walks of life."
Surprising? Not even a little bit, and definitely enough to boost Delaware right up on this list.
It's expensive to live in Rhode Island, with one of the highest costs of living in the country and a high local tax rating.
Yet many seniors might well consider this tiny state worth the expense. With great ratings for well-being and culture, this is a state where retirees can have a lot of fun, even if they'll end up paying for it (literally).
At Chapel Hill the University of North Carolina runs the oldest state university in the United States.
This is important for two reasons. The first is that education is important, and we should all know a little more about the state university systems.
The second reason is that college towns, like Chapel Hill, are very popular destinations for retirees, especially in a relatively popular state for retirement like North Carolina. Although the 20s aren't exactly a prize winning spot, with nice weather and a moderate cost of living North Carolina is still worth a look.
This is a state for people who hate neighbors. Not just their current neighbors, any neighbors. The idea of neighbors.
What we're saying is, not a lot of people live in Wyoming these days. The entire state population hovers a bit above half a million people, making it ideal for those who want to spend their retirement in peace and quiet.
It is also ideal for those who want to spend their retirement avoiding their accountant, since it has the second lowest local tax ranking in the country.
Ah, the Wolverine State.
It's not a great state to retire.
With lousy rankings for weather, crime, taxes and culture, Michigan does not represent itself very well on this list. Although it has a relatively low cost of living, that is increasingly true only if you move to the least desirable parts of the state.
Those who live in the upper peninsula certainly can live on dollars per day. Anyone who wants to take advantage of the more bustling communities of Lansing, Kalamazoo or Ann Arbor, though, had better prepare to pay.
Everything is bigger in Texas, except the senior population. The state is ranked 48 out of 50 in terms of the size of its retiree community.
Otherwise, Texas well earns its place in the middle of this list. It boasts a low cost of living (11th on the whole ranking) and nice weather, but somewhat dismal health care, crime and culture ratings.
The result? You could do better than retiring to Texas, but you could certainly do a whole lot worse.
The one warning about Kansas is that the state's budget and politics are currently in free-fall. Both state and municipal systems are struggling to compensate for the governor's massive tax cuts. This is a particular concern for retirees and seniors, who often rely on these services more than most.
Other than that, Kansas is a solid, middle of the road pick. Anyone who likes the Plains States could certainly consider moving here as long as they are confident that they won't have to depend on state services down the road.
Ironically? For all of its budget drama, Kansas still only gets a 29 out of 50 on local tax rates.
As will become clear, South Carolina is not quite as beloved as its sibling to the north, but the difference is small.
And this is still a state with some things going for it.
Warm weather and a solid health care system make South Carolina attractive, even while a fairly high crime rate pulls its position on this list down. Perhaps its biggest drawback, however, is that there's just not much to do in this state, with a very low ranking on culture.
If it could add a bit of fun, South Carolina might jump up quite a bit.
Oregon has both the deepest lake (Crater Lake) and the deepest river gorge (Hells Canyon) in the United States.
It and New Jersey are the only two states to have laws restricting self-serve gas pumps, although recently Oregon has begun rolling that back for rural areas.
With its nomination of the filbert nut, Oregon became the only state to have a state nut.
Why are we diving into interesting trivia about Oregon? Because there's little of interest about its place on this list. Smack in the middle, with comparable scores on virtually every category, this is a state where retirement planning meets "meh."
Here are three reasons to retire to Tennessee:
It has one of the ten best costs of living in this entire list. It also has one of the five best tax rates, and with a highly rated culture you'll have lots of fun things to spend that saved money on.
So why isn't it higher? In a word, crime. Tennessee has one of the five highest crime rates on this entire list.
It's tough to enjoy your retirement when you spend the whole time afraid of a robbery.
Missouri has a problem with crime. It also has a problem with general well-being. The state is among the worst offenders on this list for both factors.
They're not small issues. In fact, together they're enough to push Missouri to the high-20's despite a low cost of living and fairly vibrant senior citizen community.
Montana is a state for the outdoorsy types.
With vast wilderness and national parks that would appeal to anyone who likes a walk in the woods (or, indeed, A Walk in the Woods), there's much to be said about a life in Big Sky Country.
The wrinkle is health care… In Montana it's just not great. While not the worst in the United States, it's bad enough to help drag Montana well down on our list.
Still the right kind of retiree should keep this on their radar.
Alabama is cheap. With one of the ten best costs of living and a highly competitive tax rate, you'll save plenty of money by moving here.
This ends the good news.
Alabama has middling health care, high crime, poor culture and poor well-being, all of which lead it to place number 30 on our list.
Here is one of the best facts that you'll read today: the Washington state vegetable (they have one) is called the Walla Walla Sweet Onion.
This is simply marvelous. One day a group of legislators, serious people of serious intent one and all, sat down and not only decided to nominate what you should best order with a side of croutons, but settled on a vegetable that sounds like a Loony Toon.
For that alone, they should probably have a higher placement on this list. Nevertheless, thanks to middling scores across the board, we arrive at a mediocre placement.
The Nutmeg Constitution State, which presumably has to do with the separation of powers while spicing a pie, sports fans will know Connecticut as the state school with the world's worst rivalry.
Would-be retirees may know it better as the state that might well be hardest on their wallets. With costs of living at a 47 out of 50 and local taxes at a 49, it's kind of a wonder Connecticut managed to cling to the 30s.
What is there to say about Ohio? In both Columbus and Cleveland the state has built cities that get increasing amounts of praise as communities that just work.
In fact, that might be Ohio's biggest accomplishment: it's kind of boring in all the best ways. The towns work, and it doesn't have the budget crises that so many other states are currently sweating through.
Its place on this list reflects all that. Neither the best nor the worst, number 33 is boringly functional.
Don't go to Illinois if you don't like taxes, because they have one of the worst rankings for local tax rates on this entire list.
Otherwise, Illinois is a straightforward, middle of the road contender.
The real question for this state is whether you're a city or a country person. Relatively few states have such a vast difference in the experience of day to day life between in the city and out. Folks who head to Chicago will get one of America's biggest metropolises. Those who avoid the cities will quickly find vast, rural farm country.
Take your pick.
Founded by James Oglethorpe, according to the state's website Georgia was the last of the 13 colonies to be founded. For a mid-sized state it has the second most counties in the United States.
Unfortunately it also has some of the most unhappy senior citizens in the country… Coming in at 47 out of 50 for retiree population, it also is among the bottom 10 for senior citizen well-being and is 37 out of 50 for fun and culture.
How in the world is Hawaii so low on this list? A tropical island paradise set in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a chance to take up surfing at age 65? What could possibly go wrong?
Cost of living, that's what.
Hawaii is the most expensive state on this entire list, and not really by a small margin. Taxes are among the top 10 as well, and crime is a problem to boot.
On the other hand, for people to whom well-being is important, Hawaii takes number 1.
Congratulations, New York! You have the worst local taxes on this entire list!
High costs of living don't make this any easier, but what's kind of surprising is how poorly the state's health care system ranks.
Where they win is on culture. According to Bankrate's findings this is the number one rated state for fun and culture. For the home of New York City, that's probably not too much of a surprise.
New Jersey… home of high taxes, Atlantic City and (we're told) a vibrant culture.
Not a great place to retire, primarily because its associated costs simply don't have any strong benefits to offset them.
While crime is rated as fairly low, no other ratings do particularly well, and so we lock it in at number 38.
Let's be honest, Parks and Recreation makes life in Indiana look pretty great.
Who wouldn't want to live in a community of wacky but loveable misfits who get fired up over even the smallest issue?
Sadly, statistics tell a different tale. Despite Indiana's low costs of living, its desirability as a retirement destination is crippled by weaknesses in virtually every other area. It might be cheap to live there, but that doesn't help when nothing else works very well.
And so we wrap up the Top Ten with the Terrapin State!
Sorry, Maryland. We will look fondly back at you as we head into better destinations and stronger territory.
The one thing Maryland has going for it is fun and culture, but even that doesn't even really come in strong. Ranked 13 out of 50, it's just not enough to overcome weaknesses in every other area.
A surprising theme among the bottom contenders on this list is that they are some of the cheapest places to live.
Mississippi takes the prize on that one, being number one on this list for costs of living.
Unfortunately, as important as that is, it's not enough to overcome the second worst health care system in the country (according to Bankrate's findings) and the absolute worst environment for fun and culture.
But that number one is enough to float Mississippi to at least the best of the worst.
People who live in California tend to love it. For everyone else, maybe don't drink the Kool Aid. Crippled by high costs of living and health care quality ranked 42 out of 50, California simply can't compete when it comes time for retirement.
Although the state's strong fun and culture rating (number two of 50) is no surprise, it's just not good enough to boost it out of the bottom 10.
Ah, Oklahoma! Setting of a jaunty musical and a low cost of living -- what could put it this low on our list?
Health care and well-being, that's what.
Both of those metrics are among the lowest in the country, settling this state in for a solid space at the bottom.
What does Nevada bring to the table to settle in at 44?
The absolute worst rating for health care quality, that's what.
Even if Nevada didn't rate poorly on crime, having the worst health care results on this entire list would sink this state like a stone. For retirees this is a critical element, one which dominates over every other factor except costs of living and (somewhat) the weather.
Even living within driving distance of Vegas can't compete with that.
Kentucky is cheap, so it has that going for it. And according to Bankrate, crime isn't too big of an issue, so that's something too.
Unfortunately where they've invested in cops, they seem to have neglected the artists and doctors. Kentucky suffers in health care, culture and fun and overall well-being.
What's the upshot? Retirees in Kentucky report being sick, bored and unhappy. It's not exactly a strong recommendation.
Louisiana consistently struggles when it comes to quality of life rankings for people of every age and demographic, so it's no wonder to see them so low on a list of retirement destinations.
Low local taxes are nice for retirees who have to live there, but that's about as strong a recommendation as this state gets. Otherwise on issues ranging from health care to crime and culture this state just doesn't seem to get out of the gate.
It's better here than in Alaska or West Virginia, but talk about damning with faint praise.
New Mexico is a surprise.
The classic image of retirement is fun in the sun, golden years spent in warmth and sprawling communities, maybe in a modern condo purchased after selling off the family house.
And New Mexico does deliver when it comes to that nice weather. It's just that they can't seem to step up on anything else.
With the worst crime problem on this list, along with issues on every other metric, New Mexico simply doesn't deliver.
High crime and low well-being did Arkansas in, according to Bell.
Along with weak culture and fun, there's not a whole lot else to say about this last of the worst three, except this: don't retire to Arkansas.
There are a lot of factors that go into retirement destinations (well, eight specifically), but of them it's probably worth paying a lot of attention to "well-being."
This X factor is basically the combination of everything on this list plus anything left off it. It's how senior citizens feel overall and whether they are simply happy.
In West Virginia they are not. Ranked dead last on this metric, there's probably no better reason to sink this state like a stone.
"Each of these states had individual factors that pushed them down the list," said Bankrate analyst Claes Bell, "but there was one common thread - low-rated health care systems."
In addition to that, Bell continued, "for Alaska, their high cost of living and crime rates were contributing factors to their low rankings."
There's just too much to not put Alaska here, even despite its number one place for local taxes. High costs of living, weak health care, high crime, even the worst weather on this list… it all leaves Alaska as the unavoidable worst state to retire to.