Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Worst States for Retirement per Moneywise

The vast majority of Americans retire in the same state and home where they lived in the years prior to retirement. Usually, they are happy there and wish to remain. However, some retirees yearn to live somewhere fresh and new during the last few decades of their life.  Before they do something rash, they need to carefully research that decision.  They will almost certainly want to avoid ending up in one of the worst states for retirement. Fortunately, Moneywise looked at the cost of living, taxes, climate and crime rates in all fifty states and came up with their list of the 25 worst states for retirement.

What if you already live in one of the states listed below?  If you are comfortable where you are, can afford the cost-of-living, enjoy the weather and you are not affected by a high crime rate in your specific community, you may decide to stay where you are.  After all, you have managed to survive there for most of your life, and enjoyed it.  There is no reason to leave. However, if you are struggling to survive financially or you are fearful because of the crime, you may want to leave your current state in favor of one with a lower cost-of-living and less crime.  

Below, you will find the states which Moneywise listed as the worst places for retirement. The summaries below give details about the twelve worst states based on the Moneywise research, followed by a list of thirteen more which are not as bad, but still fall in the bottom half of the states for retirement locations.

You may also be interested in reading about the "Best States for Retirement per Moneywise."

Twelve Worst States for Retirement

Louisiana - This state was rated as the very worst one for retirement.  It is a pretty state and the people are friendly, but it has high heat and humidity, and you are very likely to have to deal with an occasional Category 4 or 5 hurricane if you live there very long.  You may even meet an unwelcome alligator if you live near a lake or river. The sales tax rate is 9.88%, the nation's highest.  The state also has the second-highest crime rate in the country, although there are some communities like Inniswold and Belle Chase with lower than average crime rates for the state.  In addition to the other problems, the healthcare system is rated low in quality

New Jersey - Although this state has wonderful beaches and multiple golf courses, it also has high taxes and an extremely high cost for housing, whether you are purchasing a home or renting.  As a result, it was rated the second worst state for retirees.  The combined state and local taxes are also the second highest in the United States.  The state sales tax is almost 7% and is charged on restaurant meals, furniture, and car repairs in addition to most consumer goods. The state cost of living is 22 percent above the national average!

West Virginia - This state is beautiful and the cost of living is approximately 3 percent below the national average.  However, the residents of this state are also the most obese and healthcare is expensive compared to other places. Because of the demise of the coal industry, many small towns are in decline and the rate of property crimes is high.

Hawaii - This state sounds like a dream come true for many retirees.  However, the high cost of living is too much for the majority of retirees.  Both the cost of purchasing a home and the rents are exceptionally high.  Many people end up living in expensive high-rises in busy cities on the islands.  Basic items can be expensive and gasoline prices are the highest in the US.  In addition, if you want to visit family and friends on the mainland, the travel can be very costly.

New York State - Outside of New York City, this state has many charming small towns and wineries.  We know, because one of our daughters lives in an adorable town a few miles outside of New York City. Unfortunately, the cost of living is about 29 percent higher than the national average, no matter where you settle in the state.  Healthcare costs are also quite high.  It can be a difficult place to live for retirees on a fixed income.

Arkansas - This state has spectacular scenery and could be a nature lovers paradise.  Sadly, the state also has one of the highest crime rates in the U.S., as well as one of the lowest scores for healthcare.  According it WalletHub, it is ranked last for quality of life.  It gets very hot in summer, with high humidity and lots of mosquitoes. On the other hand, if you don't mind those problems, it is a very affordable place to live.

Kentucky - Hunting and watching football are popular activities in this state.  Sadly, 11 percent of senior citizens in Kentucky live in poverty, and healthcare costs are unusually high. The typical senior is in poor health compared to comparable seniors in other states, often because the number of people who smoke is quite high and the people tend to be more sedentary than average. On the bright side, the cost of living is also very low. 

Rhode Island - It gets extremely cold in this little state.  Although healthcare is good, the state has high taxes, a high cost-of-living and the worst transportation infrastructure in the U.S.  Unless you grew up there and feel connected to the state, it may not be a good choice for most retirees.

New Mexico - This state was on the list because the cost of housing is above average in desirable cities such as Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and the crime rate is very high in other cities, such as Las Cruces. In addition, there are severe weather extremes, ranging from high summer temperatures in the lower elevations, to snow and ice during the winter in the more mountainous areas.

Alaska - Many people who decide to "get away from it all" think of moving to Alaska.  However, the lifestyle can be harsh for someone who is not accustomed to living in a state which is subject to earthquakes, volcanoes, harsh temperatures, and other potential natural hazards, in addition to going months at a time in almost total darkness.  Although state, city and real estate taxes are low, the overall cost-of-living is high because so many products must be flown in from outside Alaska.  The cost of healthcare is the highest in the U.S.  Some people even go to hospitals in the lower 48 states for some of the more expensive procedures.

California - My husband and I have retired to California, and we appreciate our ability to live near some of our children and grandchildren, but we recognize that it can be a difficult state for retirement, despite the generally mild climate and beautiful coastal views, including the one in the photo at the top of this article.  Unfortunately, it also has the second highest cost-of-living, the fifth worst tax burdens, and the seventh-worst healthcare in the U.S.  The state's sales tax is 7.25 percent, plus there are often local taxes.  Roads in some areas are in disrepair. About 15 percent of California retirees end up moving to the neighboring states of Arizona, Nevada or Oregon, where their retirement dollars stretch much further.  My husband and I have benefited by living in one of the more affordable retirement communities in the state, Laguna Woods Village, and we have been pleased by the care we have received from our Medicare Advantage HMO, Kaiser Permanente. However, not everyone can take advantage of these resources, so we understand why this is definitely not the right retirement state for everyone.

Oklahoma - This state is popular for those who love country music and are seeking an enthusiastic group of sports and rodeo fans. However, it is also in the middle of "tornado alley" and residents can expect to be exposed to frequent violent storms on an annual basis.  As a result, many of the roads and bridges are in need of major repairs.  There is a lower than average number of doctors per capita, and a higher than average rate of crime in the cities, as well.

Other States with Below Average Retirement Appeal

The states below were also ranked by Moneywise to be in the bottom half for retirement, either because of their climate, taxes, cost-of-living or crime rates.  However, these states are at least closer to average than the states listed above.  Any state which is not mentioned in this article are considered more desirable for retirees:

South Carolina

If your state was not mentioned in this article, you have probably retired in a great place.  If you are considering a move from a state not on this list to one which is, you may want to do more research before making a final decision.  Just make sure you can afford to live comfortably and safely in your new state, pay the taxes, and get the quality of healthcare you need.  If you are happy, that is more important than any list of best or worst places to live!

If you still have not decided where yo wish to live after retirement, you may want to check out the article "Best States for Retirement."

If you are interested in more information about where to retire in the U.S. or overseas, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, common medical issues and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

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Photo credit:  Photo of the Laguna Beach coast courtesy of the author.


  1. I guess I lucked out moving to North Carolina.

    1. Yes, North Carolina has become a very popular place to retire. Good job with you choice!


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