Think Outside Florida

By Christopher Crown

January 12, 2018 5 min read

When it comes to strategic retirement, not all states are created equal. With the oldest baby boomers reaching retirement age and the oldest generations living longer, counties all across America are graying. In fact, a Pew Research Center analysis of 2014 Census Bureau data shows 97 percent of counties have seen an increase in their 65-and-older population since 2010. This disparity has caused some crowding in traditional retirement locales and created a desire among seniors to explore lesser-known retirement states. Of course, many long to settle down somewhere where they feel forever on vacation -- and that can happen -- but you must evaluate the necessities that will make a location not only enjoyable but also sustainable.

Florida and Arizona have long been the meccas for retirees. At 19.1 percent, the Sunshine State has a larger concentration of people 65 and older than any other state, due mostly to its low taxes and warm weather. Dry-weather lovers are also taken by the financial benefits of Arizona's extremely low sales tax, nonexistent estate tax and low taxes on retirement income and Social Security benefits. However, in the personal finance website Bankrate's ranking of the best and worst states in which to retire, neither state even makes the top 10, says writer Claes Bell. Rankings were determined based on a number of factors including cost of living, weather, health care, crime, tax, culture and well-being. Though both states rank well in cost of living and weather, crime and culture were the sticking points. So before jumping the gun, consider the bigger picture and other locales that might fit your lifestyle and comfort.

Retirees must create financial security by finding a place where they are able to maximize their retirement money. Most retirees either depend upon or utilize fixed income like Social Security to help with the cost of living. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute's 2017 Retirement Confidence Survey, only 6 in 10 workers feel somewhat confident that they'll have enough finances to retire comfortably, and nearly 4 in 10 have little or no savings at all. Nari Rhee, director of the Retirement Security Program at the University of California, Berkeley, Center for Labor Research and Education, says retirees must evaluate the whole financial picture of a city. "They think the state has low taxes, ergo I can stretch my dollars further," Rhee says. "But if that also means they're going to be paying more for out-of-pocket costs for their health care or long-term care, then that's going to make a difference." WalletHub, an online financial resource, conducted a review of each state's financial environment for seniors to find the best and worst states to retire. Some of the main findings, as shared by WalletHub senior writer Richie Bernardo, include the following: Texas, Tennessee, Ohio and Oklahoma dominated the charts for lowest adjusted cost of living. Texas, Florida, Alabama and Tennessee hold the top 10 spots for affordability.

Though each couple will have a unique set of retirement priorities and needs, the top 3 cities in Bankrate's list offer amenities that are sure to please all. In the No. 1 spot is New Hampshire, which isn't the sunniest of states but offers beautiful nature, low crime rates, no state income tax and good-quality health care. The beautiful Rocky Mountain vistas of Colorado could be enough to garner the state second place, but other attractions for retirees are plentiful: cultural activities, culinary adventures and a climate that offers both snowy ski resorts and sunny skies. A social network and support network is vital to happiness at all ages. In third place, Maine has a high cultural vitality score, Bankrate's measurement of consumer and state arts spending. "When you're retired, you'll have time to enjoy those things, and Maine does well on that," Bell said. Evaluate what's most important on your list so you can find your perfect match.

When it comes to retirement, it's not just the "when" that's important; it's the "where." With careful thought and planning, you can make a confident and informed choice that will leave you waking up every day in your paradise.

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