10 Best States To Retire 2012

This year's MoneyRates.com Best States to Retire list includes some traditional warm-weather havens, such as Hawaii, California and Florida. But you may be surprised to see a few off-the-beaten-path locales in the top 10 too. For instance, have you considered South Dakota for your retirement?

While MoneyRates.com recognizes that much of what marks a good place for retirement is subjective -- family and friends, cultural attractions, natural beauty -- there are plenty of objective, quantifiable factors to examine too. Knowing how a state performs in certain measures is important before you choose it for your retirement, and that's precisely what these rankings are about.

What matters to retirees

Here are the factors MoneyRates.com used to determine its third-annual lists of best and worst states to retire:
  • Senior population growth. This is a new factor in the study this year. MoneyRates.com measured which states had the fastest growth rate in their 65-and-over populations between the 2000 and 2010 census reports. People tend to vote with their feet, and states that are rapidly attracting seniors must have some appealing retirement characteristics. Conversely, those that have seen little or no growth in their senior populations may be lacking in this respect.
  • Economic conditions. Seniors are greatly impacted by issues such as property taxes and the cost of living, and with more seniors choosing to work part-time, even unemployment is an important issue. MoneyRates.com included a combination of these economic factors in its study.
  • Crime rate. Personal security is a vital issue for seniors, so MoneyRates.com factored in both violent and property crime rates.
  • Climate. MoneyRates.com looked at which states had the least monthly variations from a moderate 68 degree temperature.
  • Life expectancy. Life expectancy captures a number of issues of interest to seniors, from quality of health care to environmental conditions. To make this factor especially relevant to seniors, MoneyRates.com used each state's life expectancy for people at age 65 today.

Best states for retirement in 2012

Based on equally weighted rankings of those factors, the following is a list of the top 10 states for retirement. As a bonus, there are 11 states listed, due to a tie for 10th place.

1. Hawaii

Seniors in Hawaii live longer past the age of 65 than in any other state in the nation. This might have something to do with the pleasant climate, which ranked second in our calculation of consistently moderate temperatures. One warning, though: Make sure you have a well-funded retirement plan, because Hawaii also has the highest cost of living in the U.S.

2. Idaho

This may be one of the surprises on the list, but Idaho combines a low crime rate with a good economy. There must be something to it -- only two states boast faster-growing senior populations than Idaho.

3. Utah

Like Idaho, this is not the place to go if you want a tropical climate, but Utah was one of the top states overall for economic factors. It is also similar to Idaho in that it has a fast-growing senior population.

4. Arizona

This warm-weather state has long attracted retirees, and people seem to thrive there -- life expectancy for 65-year-olds is third-highest in the nation. Be careful about the neighborhood you choose, though, because crime in the state is on the high side.

5. Virginia

Looking for something east of the Mississippi River? Virginia is one of two possibilities on this list. This state scored very well for its low crime rate, and reasonably well on every other criterion except life expectancy.

6. Colorado

While this might be a bit of a cold-weather state for some, Colorado's other attractions for seniors more than offset that. Only three states have seen faster growth in their senior populations, which is helped by the fact that seniors in Colorado tend to live for a long time.

7. (tie) Florida

Perhaps the state best-known for attracting retirees, Florida ranks first for climate and second for life expectancy among seniors. Still, this is another state where it matters very much where you live. The overall crime rate is among the highest in the nation.

7. (tie) New Mexico

This southwestern state has been attracting seniors at a rapid rate, but as with Florida, you'll want to pick your location with care. New Mexico's overall crime rate is one of the 10 worst in the nation.

9. South Dakota

The cold climate in this state probably explains why it hasn't traditionally attracted seniors in large numbers, but those seniors that do live there have one of the highest average life expectancies in the nation. The crime rate is also one of the lowest in the U.S.

10. (tie) California

Its economic woes are well-known, and worth considering, but California's climate goes a long way toward explaining why it has been attractive to seniors. Life expectancies are also among the best in the nation.

10. (tie) Texas

Warm weather and a solid economy have helped make Texas attractive to seniors. However, it's a big state that's not without its trouble spots: The overall crime rate is another one of the nation's 10 worst.

Perhaps the greatest strength of the above list is its variety: East Coast, West Coast, North, and South are all represented. So whatever regional connections and preferences you have, this list should give you at least one retirement possibility to consider.