Here's something amazing about the state of Nebraska. Their official tourism slogan is: "Honestly, it's not for everyone."

This is an amazingly honest advertising slogan, and I salute the state for its candor.

But honestly, it's probably not for me--despite the fact that a new study says it's a truly great state to retire in.

Based on data compiled by the  Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies (funded by the Transamerica Life Insurance Company), Bankrate came up with a ranking of all 50 states in terms of how attractive they are for retirees.

If you're expecting to see Florida and Arizona at the top of the list: nope.

Nebraska is No. 1. 

Here's where all 50 states fared on the list. I guarantee you'll be surprised.

The top tier (1-4): Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, South Dakota

All four of these are big surprises, at least from an anecdotal point of view. Ask most people to name an older person living in No. 1 Nebraska, and they'd possibly answer Warren Buffett, who is anything but retired. 

Individual state superlatives here include Missouri, which comes in as the No. 1 most affordable state in which to retire, plus Nebraska and South Dakota, which come in at 8th and 10th, respectively, for wellness. 

Giant drawback: If your goal is to make money, retire, and kick back on a beach, there ain't no beach in these states.

The rest of the top 10 (5-10): Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, Montana, Hawaii

The scandal of this entire ranking is that somehow Hawaii isn't No. 1. It's where I plan to retire, for sure. (This is how we learn if my wife reads my articles, by the way.) However, despite being No. 1 for weather, No. 9 for wellness, and No. 9 for culture, it's No. 45 for affordability. So maybe that's an issue.

Florida is No. 5 overall, which is not a big surprise to anyone who has spent time in Florida, even though it's actually right in the middle of the country for affordability, at No. 25. 

The B+'s (11-19): Arkansas, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Vermont, New Hampshire, Alabama, Texas, Idaho, Mississippi

These states all have strong quantifiable characteristics. 

Vermont and New Hampshire are tied for the least amount of crime; rank No. 1 and No. 3 for wellness; and rank No. 3 and No. 4 for culture. But as someone who spends a lot of time in New Hampshire, I can tell you: They get very cold.

As for Southern states, like Alabama and Arkansas, I can see the appeal from a weather and cost of living standpoint. Texas is probably insulted to be included in a category with any other state.

The "Oh, do you have family there?" states (20-30): Wyoming, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Michigan, West Virginia, Ohio, Rhode Island, Georgia, Indiana, Connecticut

This is the middle of the pack, and again, some surprises. I actually grew up in two of these states (Rhode Island and Massachusetts) and lived in a third (Connecticut), so I feel like a bit of an expert. I will say, Rhode Island does sure seem to have a lot of retired people.

Superlatives include Michigan somehow winding up as the No. 1 most affordable state in the U.S. for retirees according to Bankrate. Indiana is ranked third, and Ohio is fifth. 

Also, Massachusetts is ranked fourth for wellness and ninth for culture. 

Overall, however, I suspect people who pick these states to retire in likely have ties already. It's just that they don't choose to leave.

The "Thank God for Maryland states" (31 to 40): Maine, Delaware, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Utah, Louisiana, New Mexico, Arizona, Virginia, Minnesota

What's fascinating about this is that so often when we look at lists of the happiest or healthiest states, we also find states that are toward the end of the list for retirees.

Minnesota, especially, and Colorado. 

Maine ranks first for culture and third for lowest crime. Arizona ranks 10th for weather. (But it's a dry heat, they say.)  

The bottom quint (41 to 50): South Carolina, New Jersey, California, Oregon, Nevada, Washington, Illinois, Alaska, New York, Maryland

Cost of living just kills several of these states at the end of the list, which makes it challenging for many retirees.

Anyway, that's why people apparently might want to avoid retiring in New Jersey (48th least affordable), California (49th least affordable), or New York (the least affordable state for retirement among the 50 states).

Also interesting is the inclusion of states that many people might like to visit in retirement, which apparently don't make great candidates for places to actually live in duing retirement: Alaska and Nevada, plus Oregon, especially.

And Maryland, poor Maryland, ranks dead last out of the 50 states as a retirement destination. Blame it on the poor rankings for affordability (47), culture (42), crime (33), or wellness (37). 

But don't discount the fact that retirees might be reluctant to take on new, weird habits just to fit in: like pretending they actually like crabs.

Published on: Jul 15, 2019
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