Just about everybody likes the idea of retirement, but exactly what they like about it differs greatly. When it comes to deciding where to live in retirement, you'll get countless opinions. Places that seem ideal to one person might look completely unacceptable to another. That makes it tough to come up with a list of top states to retire, because no one will agree on everything that's important in making that key decision.
Below, though, you'll find five states that score highly on a number of key areas, including taxes, healthcare, attractions and amenities, and overall affordability. They won't necessarily appeal to everyone, but what they have going for them explains why so many people choose them when it comes time to make good on their retirement plans.
Tennessee has a quality of life that's especially attractive to those with musical tastes, as the key cultural center of Nashville attracts millions of visitors every year. Between the Grand Ole Opry and other country music attractions, the state's capital has global appeal, but many also like what smaller cities like Knoxville and Chattanooga have done to ramp up their reputations. From a tax standpoint, Tennessee has a state income tax that applies only on interest and dividend income, and even that tax is set to disappear within the next couple of years. That'll make it easier for those who live on investment income to make ends meet, and modest property taxes also make Tennessee more affordable.
4. North Carolina
North Carolina has a diverse set of locations for retirees to consider. In the western mountains, Asheville is a cultural mecca, with its quirkiness giving it broad appeal to those of all ages. Asheville's proximity to recreational opportunities is also a big draw. Elsewhere, urban communities like Winston-Salem have extensive medical facilities, while the beaches of the Outer Banks are a lifelong dream for many. Mild weather and a generally affordable lifestyle also put North Carolina near the top of the list, although some will find its state income tax less than ideal.
Like North Carolina, Iowa is also known for its quality of life and access to healthcare facilities. Many retirees won't find its weather to be nearly as attractive as states further south, and from a taxation standpoint, Iowa's fairly high levies on income, property, and sales keep it from showing up higher on this list. Yet when you look beyond taxes at overall costs of living, Iowa fares quite well. Cultural centers like Iowa City and Des Moines give retirees access to entertainment and other activities as well.
2. South Dakota
South Dakota is known well for not having a state income tax, and its overall tax structure is also quite attractive. Low costs of living make South Dakota particularly affordable. For retirees, attractions like Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills in the western part of the state appeal to those who like the outdoors, while further east, economic centers like Sioux Falls have attracted many large financial institutions to the state, providing a key support to its economy. With positive sentiment about community and social life, many retirees are willing to weather cold winters in order to reap the other benefits of living in South Dakota.
It's easy to understand why Florida shows up on so many people's lists of top retirement destinations. For those who like beaches, warm and sunny weather, no state income tax, and countless facilities tailor-made for retirees, Florida is hard to top. Sales taxes aren't as friendly, and you'll have to put up with the occasional hurricane. But even though some metropolitan areas have gotten expensive, there are numerous lesser-known communities that are more affordable. So many retirees end up calling Florida home that almost a fifth of its population is 65 or older. For those who like the idea of being social with people their own age, that aspect also makes Florida a place to consider.
Go your own way
It's impossible to take raw data and translate it into what's going to appeal most to everyone. Lists like these are a good place to start your research on where you'd like to retire, but personal considerations will always play a key role in helping you make a final decision. As long as you keep some practical considerations in mind, including financial responsibilities and access to key services, then you'll likely find many places where you could be happy spending your golden years.