Elderly couple embracing each other

Home Sweet Home: The 10 Best States To Retire To In The U.S.

Carey Chesney7-Minute Read
December 27, 2021

For many young Americans, retirement is so far off it seems almost like a dream. For older Americans, it might be top of mind as they wind down their career. Wherever you are in your retirement planning, it’s never too early to ponder where you might want to spend the latter years of your life.

A happy retirement locale is different for everyone. If you are into warm weather and oceanfront views, the pacific coast might be just right for you. If you prefer the changing of the seasons, the Midwest might work better. To each their own, as they say.

That said, some key factors like cost of living, life expectancy and more can be good measures for how retirement friendly specific areas of the country are. Here, we will look at the top 10 states to retire using these and other pertinent factors.

Our Methodology

Again, everyone has different needs and preferences when looking for a place to retire, but here we analyze cost of living, weather and average life expectancy to determine rankings. Let’s take an in-depth look at each factor.

Cost Of Living

Here we focus on how much you need to spend each year to live a comfortable life. Instead of listing property taxes, this is a more accurate view when it comes to determining what the cost of living in a particular state may be.

Weather

Instead of just giving you the average temperature in each state, we went based on how consistent the weather is in each particular location. After all, no matter which climate you prefer, it’s nice to know it’s going to be that way most of the time.

Average Life Expectancy

Finally, we used the average life expectancy of each state to obtain a better understanding of what quality of life looks like in each part of the country and – frankly – how long it may last.

10. Missouri

Retired Couple Walking Through Green Fields In Missouri

With over 200 days of sunshine, Missouri will have you retiring on the sunny side of life. In addition, you can enjoy that great weather with a plethora of activities available for retirees like fishing and touring local wineries.

You don't have to break the bank living in Missouri, either, as it costs less than $55,000 per year to live there comfortably and houses only cost $164,000 on average.

Most of those houses offer the serenity of country living, combined with the convenience of being close to big cities. If you’d like to have a little peace and quiet with a country view, but not be in the middle of nowhere, Missouri might be just the spot.

One downside to living in Missouri is that they will tax your Social Security, so if a majority of your income is dependent on that, Missouri might not be the state for you to move to in retirement.

9. Nebraska

Sunrise at Toadstool Geologic Park Nebraska

With acres upon acres of wild natural landscape, Nebraska is a nature lover's dream state to live in during retirement. In addition, the average person lives to be 79.2 years old in Nebraska, so chances are you’ll be enjoying the scenery for years to come.

All that beautiful nature doesn't cost much either, as the cost to live comfortably in Nebraska is less than $60,000 per year and buying a house will run you less than $170,000 on average.

Nebraska isn't the most tax-friendly state, but they make up for it by being 12% below the average cost of living nationally and having below-average health care costs.

When it comes to the climate, Nebraska has a constant temperature of just under 50 degrees, so if you like your weather that is consistent and not too hot, this might be a great place to retire.

8. South Dakota

Lovely park in Sioux City South Dakota

With an average cost of living at 4% below the national average, it's easy to see why South Dakota makes our list of the best states to retire in.

It's only going to cost you a reasonable $60,000 per year to live there comfortably, they have no state tax, they don't tax your Social Security, and the average home costs less than $200,000.

Along with some of the best fishing and hiking, the quiet lifestyle in South Dakota helps people live to be 78.2 years old on average. They also boast the second-highest number of entertainment and recreation businesses per capita, so there's no shortage of activities during your retirement in South Dakota.

7. New Hampshire

New Hampshire Bay View

The “Granite State” is known for its peaceful lifestyle and amazing natural surroundings and can provide a lovely retirement destination. In fact, New Hampshire can be a great state to live in at any age, as it’s considered to be one of the best places to live in the U.S. Perhaps this contributes to the average life expectancy of people who live there, which is 79.1 years old.

It does, however, have a higher than average cost of living, but it’s not the most expensive place to consider. It's going to cost you about $68,000 per year to live there comfortably, but the fact that there is absolutely no sales tax is a nice plus. In addition, New Hampshire doesn’t tax your Social Security.

The average cost to buy a home in New Hampshire is $280,000, so while it’s not the cheapest place to look for your retirement abode, it certainly isn't the most costly either. 

6. Wyoming

Grand Tetons Wyoming View From Water

If you love the outdoors, then Wyoming should be near the top of the list when you start thinking about where to live for retirement. In fact, most of the Yellowstone National Park is located there, along with the Old Faithful geyser.

Beyond the physical beauty, Wyoming provides an environment for retirement that has low crime and absolutely no taxes on Social Security.

You’re only going to need to spend about $56,000 a year to live there comfortably, roughly $250,000 on a home, and can expect to live until you reach 78 years old on average.

5. Iowa

Iowa Neighborhood Aerial Image

A longer-than-average life expectancy of 79.4 puts Iowa in the top 5 for this retirement destination ranking. This has a lot to do with how well Iowa does in the health care field. In fact, Iowa’s health care system ranked eighth nationally in WalletHub’s Aug. 2, 2021 report.

Some of the best places to live in Iowa are full of culture and include great theatre, a growing art scene, and plenty of local farmers' markets that you can't find anywhere else.

Best of all, Iowa doesn't tax your Social Security, and the cost of living comfortably is only $57,000 per year. That cost of living is 12% below the national average, and it only costs an average of $150,000 to buy a home. The state also offers several assistance programs for Iowa home buyers, making it a worthwhile option.

4. Virginia

Richmond, Virginia, USA Downtown Drone Skyline Aerial

“Virginia is for lovers” is this state's tourism and travel slogan and – believe us – Virginia is for retirees, too! If you enjoy vineyards, great cooking, and well-balanced weather patterns, then you might be calling Virginia home when you retire.

American history buffs rejoice as well, because Virginia was the site of the first permanent English settlement, making it commonly known as “the birthplace of a nation.”

These days, the average Virginian lives to be 79.1 years old, so you will have plenty of time to enjoy everything the state has to offer.

Virginia won’t beat up your wallet too badly, either. It only costs you about $63,000 per year to live comfortably, and buying a home is only going to run you around $264,000.

All of these features, along with significant tax incentives, including no tax on Social Security, make Virginia one of the best retirement states to consider. It also makes it one of the best places to live in the U.S. no matter what stage of life you are in.

3. Colorado

Sunrise At Garden Of The Gods Colorado

Colorado is known for its local breweries and gorgeous mountains, and it has a fantastic quality of life, with the average person living to be 80 years old. Perhaps all the skiing, hiking and other outdoor activities keeps Coloradoans young at heart.

Majestic natural scenery and endless activities aren't cheap though, as it will cost you about $65,000 a year to live there comfortably and the average cost of a home is a whopping $400,000.

If you are thinking about retiring in Colorado, make sure your budget can afford it. Or, you can move there now if you have the means and be right where you need to be when you retire. After all, Colorado is another one of the best places to live in the U.S. no matter what age you are.

2. Florida

Florida Neighborhood

You’d be hard-pressed to find a list of retirement destinations that doesn't place Florida near the top. Afterall, perhaps the best measure is where most people choose to go for their later years in life and Florida has the highest proportion of people aged 65 or older than any other state, with the average person living to be 79.2 years old.

The violent crime rate in Florida is a little higher than in most states; however, it doesn't seem that way when you're looking at the waterfront beaches, experiencing consistently great weather, or eating some of that great seafood. In addition, Florida has a plethora of senior living communities that offer additional security and are geared toward retirees.

Florida has absolutely no income tax or Social Security tax, and it costs less than $62,000 per year to live there comfortably. Buying a house in Florida won't be too expensive either, because the average home only costs around $238,000.

If your desire is to find a retirement utopia where you can socialize with other people your age in the sun, there aren't many choices better than the Sunshine State.

1. Hawaii

Aerial View Of Oceanfront Hawaii Homes

Aloha! What better way to enter retirement than with a word that means both hello and goodbye at the same time. There might not be a more beautiful place to retire, as Hawaii offers gorgeous ocean views and activities combined with lush mountain landscapes.

Unfortunately, the aloha spirit is not cheap though. To live a comfortable life in Hawaii, you would need to spend around $117,000 per year and be ready to shell out over $600,000 on average to purchase a home. Yikes!

If you do buy a home in Hawaii, your property taxes are going to be lower than the national average, you won't be taxed on Social Security, and you are likely to live until you are 81.5 years old.

With the warm temperatures, beautiful scenery, great food and no taxes on Social Security, it's easy to see why Hawaii would be a great place to retire … If you can afford it!

The Bottom Line: How To Pick Your Best State For Retirement

Like the American dream, the retirement dream means different things to different people. Maybe being near loved ones is the only thing you care about and so the decision is already made. Maybe cold weather makes you … well … shiver and you only want to consider warm retirement destinations. Or perhaps a quiet, inexpensive life in the country sounds like a little slice of heaven to you.

We think Hawaii is just about the perfect state to retire in if you can afford it, Florida is the best if you want to be around other retirees, and Colorado takes the cake if you’re an outdoor activity enthusiast.

However, while the aforementioned states are often widely considered the best places to retire, a happy retirement means different things to different people. Each individual and couple needs to consider the factors most important to them when deciding where to retire. Once you decide that, narrow down the choices and start saving toward that retirement dream!

You know your dream home.

We’ll help you find it.

Carey Chesney

Carey Chesney brings a wealth of residential and commercial real estate experience to readers as a Realtor® and as a former Marketing Executive in the fields of Health Care, Finance and Wellness. Carey is based in Ann Arbor and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he majored in English, and Eastern Michigan University, where he recieved his Masters in Integrated Marketing & Communications.