What are the Best US States to Retire in?

Deciding Where to Live in Retirement: The 10 States Retirees are Really Moving to.

Like many retirees I have considered making a retirement move to somewhere with a little less winter and a little more summer. My wish list aside, doing a search on the best US States to Retire in comes up with as many variations as there are opinions and wish list attributes. With all the different search outcomes I find it to be an interesting twist to see a list of the best US States for retirement based on where retirees are actually moving to.

I always believed that what people really do and how/why they do it is a good indicator of what makes the grade or to be one of the best States to relocate to in retirement. To me it’s no different from checking personal product reviews before buying something. I think it has a value that is different from results based on theory or survey answers as to what makes a good retirement relocation consideration.

The key word of course here is “consideration“.

There are a lot of factors that must come into any retirement moving decision. The study I latched on to is one where United Van Lines used actual retiree move data to come up with the list of 10 best US States to Retire in.

What are the Best US States to Retire in?

Since United Van Lines is in the moving business it makes sense that this data shows what retirees on the move value today in where they want to live. It does give a glimpse at why these states came into the top 10. Knowing what these states share allows us to open our own thinking to what factors make for a smart retirement move. Or at least what retirees on the move are valuing. Any of us that are interested in making a retirement move can then see if we are on the right track.

There are a couple of surprises in their study results.

It’s not all sunshine and recreation although that still appears to be a popular factor. That is if it meets the other details that seems to be prevalent.

I have actually spent time in 6 of the 10 best states that the United Van Line’s study shows retirees moving to. I can agree that they could be an attractive destination based on my limited experience. Or at least worth consideration and more research if I had no set ideas on where I wanted to land.

The 10 Best US States to Retire in: Where Retirees are Moving to

The United Van Lines’ 40th Annual National Movers Study for the most part shows that retirees are moving to states that offer what is seen as a financial bump. That being a little help by way of friendly retirement tax policies. I’m not too surprised since many of today’s retiree’s need to be concerned with their long-term retirement financing. Lower taxes would certainly help to smooth out rising “living” costs. Especially when considering the ever climbing cost of health care. What was a surprise is that some of the retiree destinations are snowy winter-prone states. It just goes to show – different strokes for different folks.

Here are the 10 Best US States to Retire in:

1. Delaware

Delaware comes in as number 1 and it seems that this is where retirees move who want a lower cost east coast retirement. All that and proximity to several major cities and the Atlantic coastline. Delaware evidently offers both the east coast lifestyle many retirees want and some attractive state tax benefits.

  • Delaware doesn’t tax Social Security benefits.
  • It has significant pension deductions.
  • Delaware income taxes are capped at 6.6%.
 2. Florida

It was no surprise that Florida is in the top of this list. When you think about retirement locations it’s the first thought-of destination. Florida has a lot of affordable living and recreation to offer. Having 1,250 golf courses and 663 miles of beachfront is an attractive retirement draw. And then their income taxes, oh wait, what income taxes?

  • Florida doesn’t tax Social Security benefits.
  • There is no state income tax.
  • Retirement income isn’t taxed.
3. Nevada

Nevada is certainly a well-known low-tax haven for retirees. That and if you are into it, gambling, golf, and entertainment easily comes to mind as why retirees are moving to Nevada.

  • There is no state income tax.
  • Broad Social Security and pension exemptions.
  • Nevada has no state inheritance or estate taxes.
4. South Carolina

At #4 South Carolina wasn’t a big surprise to me. I think warm weather, recreation and laid back southern living when I think about South Carolina. But I didn’t know about their retiree attracting low taxes.

  • South Carolina has one of the lowest state tax rates in the US.
  • South Carolina doesn’t tax Social Security benefits.
  • Retirement income has many money-saving tax exemptions.
5. Arizona

Along with Florida, Arizona is always recognized as a place retirees love to move to. More summer (a lot more) and little if no cold winters in most of it. You certainly can still find snow if you want it (think Flagstaff). Recreation is something that is a huge draw but there appears to also be a financial factor.

  • Arizona doesn’t tax Social Security benefits.
  • Seniors enjoy property tax breaks.
  • Arizona has no state inheritance or estate taxes.
6. New Mexico

New Mexico is known as the “Land of Enchantment”. Recreation is again something that draws retirees there. From hiking and mountain-biking to winter sports like skiing and snowboarding to summer time water sports.

  • New Mexico has lower state sales tax rates.
  • New Mexico retirees enjoy an $8,000 exemption on their retirement income taxes.
  • For those age 65 and older there are also tax rebates.
7. Idaho

Idaho making the list was a surprise to me. I always considered it a best kept secret for what it has to offer. Known for its spuds, Idaho happens to offer a very scenic state with plenty of recreation and if city life is what you want Boise offers all that retirees want. Once homeowners reach age 65 they can apply for an Idaho state offered temporary property tax deferral program.

  • Idaho doesn’t tax Social Security benefits.
  • No state sales tax for prescription drugs.
  • Qualifying people enjoy retirement benefits deductions.
8. Montana

When I think about Montana I think wide blue skies. I also think about its vast unspoiled areas and it’s beauty. If getting away from the crowd is your thing then Montana fits the bill. Montana does tax Social Security payments and your other retirement income

  • Montana has no state sales tax.
  • There are some retirement income exemptions offered.
  • Montana does have some tax breaks and property tax assistance for seniors.
9. Maine

Maine makes the list even with all of its snowy winters. Maybe because it also has over 200 miles of coastline to make up for it (I kid). Retirees who want 4 real seasons can enjoy warm summers and cold winters. New England’s northernmost state is a scenic retirement destination.  

  • Maine doesn’t tax Social Security benefits.
  • There are some pension-income exemptions available.
  • No state sales tax for prescription drugs and food.
10. New Hampshire

Known as the “Granite State”, New Hampshire is where you can see plenty of picturesque barns and farmhouses. It definitely offers a certain kind of New England retiree lifestyle. New Hampshire does have highish property taxes and it does tax your interest and dividends, but…..

  • New Hampshire has no income tax.
  • There is no state sales tax.
  • Retirement income is not taxed in New Hampshire.

Final Words on the best US States to Retire in

As I said, you can get a lot of different answers when searching for the best US States to retire in. Everyone has a different wish list and value different perks to make a place attractive for retirement. Fact is, for many retirees none of the above matters if the primary desire is to be close to family. But I thought I would share these results. I had posted a few weeks ago 8 money-saving places to retire abroad and thought this would be an appropriate companion article.

This list provided by actual retiree move data is interesting. However, it is at a “state” level and each of these states offer entirely different lifestyle options depending on where in the state you target. Some even have different weather within the state’s footprint (less winter more summer, vise versa). More research would be needed to get to that perfect retirement location and there is a lot to consider other than financial

From what I see, what sticks out is that many retirees are interested in state tax relief and recreation opportunities. Even when snow is involved. I hope you find this study’s results interesting. It is obviously limited to retirees who have hired a moving service and may not represent all retirees. But I still think it is interesting and has value.

As far as my retirement relocation thoughts: My wife and I have already decided to stay put in Colorado and living with our 4 seasons. Seasons that includes snowy winters. All because we value staying close to our kids and grand-kids above all else. But if I were to make a retirement move…..

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6 thoughts on “What are the Best US States to Retire in?

  1. I live in Phoenix and can attest that it is a fantastic location. “It’s a dry heat” actually means something since I came from Chicago and now live here. I can tell you 100 in Chicago is more miserable than 110 in Phoenix. The only weird thing I’ve experienced is walking on grass in the summer at 10 PM and finding that it is hotter near my ankles than my shoulders.

    1. Thanks Duncan’s Dividends for the comment. I have spent many weeks working in Phoenix during all times of the year in my first career. I recall getting off work one summer day and wasn’t smart enough to have thrown a towel over my steering wheel. I couldn’t drive back to the hotel until I could cool it off with a bunch of wet paper towels. It took a while too. After that the hotel ended up missing a towel until I finally checked out. I have often thought about Phoenix and surrounding areas (Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, etc.) as a really nice retirement location and then RV it in Flagstaff during the summer. Amazingly close for the huge temperature differences.

  2. I live in Delaware. I can attest the tax rates are low. There also is no sales tax/property tax is practically nothing compared to it’s neighbors. Homes are also on the lower end of the cost range compared to the rest of the east coast…

    But… Frankly there is nothing to do in Delaware except drive to another location. It’s close to cities, the beach, ect but there is nothing actually there.
    Full Time Finance recently posted…Should I use Credit Cards?My Profile

    1. Thanks Full Time Finance for the comment. I have never been to Delaware, but like anyplace else there are things to love and things not so much. I had to chuckle at your remark- nothing to do but drive somewhere else. I have stayed in a few places like that, but then a low cost boring location but being close enough to somewhere else I liked to go might be ok. Thanks for the share.

  3. These are some very interesting results. There are some states on here I would’ve never guessed, but it sure makes me want to see them for myself. I’m a little surprised that Colorado didn’t make it on this list. Having been there for a while it’s everything I could ever want in a place to retire. Anyway, interesting article, thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for the comment Hayden. I live in CO and it’s certainly a worthy State to consider for retiring to. I think there are people from all states that would say the same thing about their state being left off the results. The results were based on actual retiree move data. My initial thought was NM and NV won out against CO in the west due to the higher cost of living but that was just my theory.

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