Retirement evokes images of the sweet life — sipping coffee on the veranda, enjoying long lunches with friends, going to see a movie whenever you feel like it, or inviting neighbors over for a margarita to watch the sunset from your beach house. But where is that beach house exactly? And can you enjoy that veranda year-round? 

As you think about shifting from work to play, you may be wondering what states rank as the best states for retirement. It’s only natural — this is an important time in your life you’ve fantasized about for years, you want to get it right. Now is an ideal time to start planning retirement, and part of that process is to potentially relocate to a state where the weather meets your needs, you can afford a perfectly sized house, and recreational activities, healthcare, and other costs are in line with your overall retirement budget. 

A couple sightseeing to decide where they want to retire

What are the 10 best states to retire to?

If you’re ready to enjoy that sweet retiree life and you want to get a move on, here are the top 10 states retirees are moving to according to U.S. Census Bureau survey data studied by SmartAsset

  1. Florida
  2. Arizona
  3. North Carolina
  4. South Carolina
  5. Texas
  6. Tennessee
  7. Idaho
  8. Oregon
  9. Nevada
  10. Alabama

We’re going to take a deeper look at each of these top 10 states, but first let’s answer a few other questions that may be on your mind. 

WHAT ARE THE BEST STATES TO RETIRE IN FINANCIALLY?

“Cost of living” is used to determine the affordability of a region. It takes into account healthcare, groceries & food, housing, transportation, etc. Now, there’s a lot to consider when choosing your retirement home — from weather and quality of life to taxes and cost of living* — but if we’re looking at cost of living alone, these 10 states rank the best.

  1. West Virginia (78)
  2. Arkansas (79)
  3. Mississippi (81)
  4. Indiana (82)
  5. Alabama (82)
  6. Ohio (83)
  7. Kansas (83)
  8. Kentucky (84)
  9. Iowa (84)
  10. Oklahoma (84) 

*The overall cost of living for a state is based on 100 representing the national average. 

WHAT ARE THE MOST TAX-FRIENDLY STATES FOR RETIREES?

Kiplinger magazine rates the best states for retirement for taxes, specifically, as those that put a smaller burden on its residents in terms of state and local taxes. These states are: 

  1. Tennessee
  2. Arkansas
  3. Arizona
  4. South Carolina
  5. Colorado
  6. Nevada
  7. Wyoming
  8. District of Columbia
  9. Hawaii  
  10. Delaware

WHAT STATES DO NOT TAX PENSIONS AND SOCIAL SECURITY?

This one’s a big one for retirees when it comes to where to retire. Most states — about 37 of them, in fact — do not tax Social Security Benefits. And the 14 states listed below do not tax pension income at all: 

  1. Alaska
  2. Florida
  3. Nevada
  4. South Dakota
  5. Tennessee
  6. Texas
  7. Washington
  8. Wyoming
  9. New Hampshire
  10. Alabama
  11. Illinois
  12. Hawaii
  13. Mississippi
  14. Pennsylvania 

Ready to learn more about those top 10 best states for retirement? Let’s dive in!

A couple holding hands on a beach

1. Florida

  • Typical Home Value: $313,217
  • Average Monthly Rent: $1,357
  • State Income Tax: No income tax
  • Cost of Living: 103
  • Population 65+ years: 20.9%

Almost to be expected, Florida leads our list of best states to retire, as it is one of the most affordable places for retirees. Why? Florida is a “very tax-friendly state” with no state income tax and no tax on retirement income like Social Security — hence why it’s considered a friendly state for people who want to enjoy their retirement fund to its fullest potential. The cost of living is 3% more than the national average, but the state doesn’t have estate or inheritance taxes. And as a bonus, the average healthcare costs in the state are also below the national average spending per capita.

Florida also has plenty of recreation for retirees, including fantastic beaches, beautiful natural spaces like springs, and some of the best golf courses in the country. 

However, you also have to consider its weather. Although Florida is known as The Sunshine State, it also has a lot of severe storms, hurricanes, and tornadoes. If you’re looking for something with mild, temperate weather, you may want to read further on our list.

2. Arizona

  • Typical Home Value: $376,369
  • Average Monthly Rent: $1,318
  • State Income Tax: 2.59%–8%
  • Cost of Living: 102
  • Population 65+ years: 18%

Besides the warm temperatures with relatively low humidity, there are a lot of other reasons to set up your retirement home in Arizona. There is no estate or inheritance tax, and Arizona exempts Social Security benefits from state income taxes. According to Kiplinger magazine, military retirement is also tax-free. Standard of living in terms of great weather also ranks high for Arizona, given it has an average of 286 sunny days annually — the highest number in the U.S., which has an average of 205 sunny days per year overall. This gives people who live in Arizona more time outside and a good chance to see all the beautiful nature the state has to offer, including the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. One of the nicest things about Arizona? The wide open spaces. Plenty of room to find that perfect place to settle down and stretch your legs in retirement!

A man hiking in North Carolina

3. North Carolina 

  • Typical Home Value: $260,597
  • Average Monthly Rent: $1,020
  • State Income Tax: 5.25%
  • Cost of Living: 91
  • Population 65+ years: 16.7%

If you love a temperate climate with equal access to the beach and the mountains, North Carolina is a great state to consider for retirement. SmartAsset considers the state moderately tax-friendly for retirees because it does not tax Social Security retirement benefits, has low property taxes, and has fairly average sales taxes. 

With finances in check, you can revel in the diverse lifestyle North Carolina has to offer. From big-city living in Charlotte to small towns full of Southern charm, there’s a place for everyone in the Tar Heel state. The state’s recreation is top-notch, too. You can go white water rafting on the Watauga during summer, then in the winter, retreat to a cabin in the mountains for a white Christmas.

For those who would like to do some consulting work in retirement, there are some impressive employers in the “Research Triangle” area of Raleigh-Durham, from tech giants like Microsoft to life science startups.

4. South Carolina

  • Typical Home Value: $236,344
  • Average Monthly Rent: $1,024
  • State Income Tax: 0%–7%
  • Cost of Living: 89
  • Population 65+ years: 18.2%

The weather is temperate, outdoor activities are plentiful, and the cost of living is affordable — you truly can have it all in South Carolina. With an overall population of 4.8 million, about 16% of the population are 65 years old or older. The cost of living is about 11% below the U.S. average. The state is considered tax-friendly (even more so than its northern neighbor), and its healthcare costs per capita are below the national average. Property taxes are also lower than most states, and South Carolina doesn’t have an inheritance or estate tax. 

One downside? Traffic congestion in some of the state’s smaller towns is worth considering if you don’t want to spend most of your retirement stuck on the road behind a truck or fleet of commuters. 

A Texas store owner talking to his customers

5. Texas

  • Typical Home Value: $257,628
  • Average Monthly Rent: $1,084
  • State Income Tax: No income tax
  • Cost of Living: 94
  • Population 65+ years: 12.9%

If you’ve ever watched HGTV shows like “Fixer Upper,” “No Demo Reno,” or “House Hunters,” you already know Texas is an affordable state because its housing is relatively low compared to other areas. Its low cost of living makes the Lone Star State a star in terms of helping people in retirement stretch their dollars further. This state is also appealing to some retirees because it doesn’t tax military retirement pay. There are many major cultural institutions inside the state’s largest cities, such as Houston and Dallas, as well. Air conditioning costs may be a consideration for some people, but if you like it hot, then you’re really going to enjoy living your retirement in Texas. 

6. Tennessee

  • Typical Home Value: $241,626
  • Average Monthly Rent: $988
  • State Income Tax: No income tax
  • Cost of Living: 88
  • Population 65+ years: 16.7%

The number of cities that are available to seniors who want an affordable lifestyle is plentiful in Tennessee. The state population is around 6.8 million, and residents who are 65 or older make up about 17%. The cost of living is a nice 12% below the national average. Healthcare costs are also considerably low compared to the national average, and the state is generally considered tax-friendly because Tennessee does not levy state income taxes. Bonus: There are also no estate or inheritance taxes in Tennessee. Add in the terrific weather and Tennessee makes a lot of sense for a lot of seniors. 

A retired man in a canoe on a lake

7. Idaho

  • Typical Home Value: $427,410
  • Average Monthly Rent: $965
  • State Income Tax: 1.125%–6.925%
  • Cost of Living: 98
  • Population 65+ years: 16.3%

You’ll have room to spread out and enjoy roaming the landscape in Idaho, one of the most affordable states to live in as a retiree. The population of this naturally gorgeous state is about 1.8 million, and the population that is 65 or older is about 16%. The cost of living is an estimated 2% lower than the U.S. average. When it comes to taxes, Idaho shines — it doesn’t have an inheritance or estate tax, and Social Security benefits are not subject to state taxes. 

Major population hubs are more spread out here than other states on our list, so if you’re looking for something close to a city, consider its close neighbor Oregon.

8. Oregon

  • Typical Home Value: $468,953
  • Average Monthly Rent: $1,213
  • State Income Tax: 4.75%–9.9%
  • Cost of Living: 113
  • Population 65+ years: 18.2%

SmartAsset ranks Oregon as a moderately tax-friendly state for retirees. This state is one of four in the country that has no state or local sales taxes. (The others are New Hampshire, Montana, and Delaware.) It also exempts Social Security from the state income tax. Oregon is known across the U.S. for its coastal beauty along with access to large mountains for great hiking, snowshoeing, and skiing. If you want to live near Mt. Hood or one of the beautiful cities in Oregon like Portland, you’ll also be happy to know that the state has property taxes that are slightly below average — helping you stretch your budget a bit more. 

An older woman hiking in Nevada
Hiking in Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, NV

9. Nevada

  • Typical Home Value: $389,397
  • Average Monthly Rent: $1,297
  • State Income Tax: No income tax
  • Cost of Living: 111
  • Population 65+ years: 16.1%

If you want to hit the jackpot on a great retirement state, Nevada welcomes seniors with open arms. With about three million residents, the population aged 65 and older is about 16%, according to the U.S. Census data. There is no state income tax, no estate taxes, and no inheritance taxes there. And if you’re planning to set up a new single-family home, Nevada is also great because Kiplinger reports it has the fourth lowest median property tax rates in states nationwide. What’s not to love about being able to invest or spend more of your income or benefits on the things you enjoy rather than on your home taxes? 

10. Alabama

  • Typical Home Value: $175,586
  • Average Monthly Rent: $937
  • State Income Tax: 2%–5%
  • Cost of Living: 82
  • Population 65+ years: 17.3%

If you want a state that’s constantly evolving and serves as a great spot for golfers, boaters, and outdoor lovers, Alabama is for you. The population is around 4.9 million people, and about 17% of those residents are aged 65 or older. The cost of living is an impressive 18% lower than the national average. And its average healthcare costs per capita are below the national average. What’s more, it’s considered tax-friendly for this age group — income taxes are relatively low and Social Security benefits are exempt. 

A retired couple looking at their new home
House hunting in an Atlanta suburb

Other popular retirement states

There are as many opinions on retirement as there are places to retire, especially in a country as large and diverse as the United States. For example, Bankrate.com put Georgia as the best state to retire in its 2021 study, followed by Florida, Tennessee, Missouri, and Massachusetts. Why Georgia? Bankrate.com said the state’s low cost of living and lighter-than-normal tax burdens place it 3rd in affordability. Moreover, Georgia has great weather and a beautiful coast for those who want to live along its smaller waterfront. 

Worst states for retirement

Unsurprisingly, the so-called “worst” states for retirement tend to focus on geography — the weather just isn’t warm or the cost of living is too high. Other issues may be higher-than-average crime rates or concerns about the economic viability of certain areas, depending on current events or other related concerns. For example, Alaska only has 12.5% of residents over the age of 65, most likely because of the constant snow and cooler temperatures. Other states, such as Colorado, don’t rank high in terms of seniors moving there because of the high cost of homes and other amenities.

State of mind

Of course, there are plenty of reasons to pick a certain state for affordability, tax burden, and weather. But there are always many other factors to consider, as well, such as where your grandkids are living. And, say you end up in Michigan half of the year. You could always become a snowbird and travel to Georgia or Florida for the other half of the year. 

There are also plenty of ways to save money throughout the time you’re retired, such as working part time or finding new hobbies that may turn into asset-building activities. After all, it may be fun to go shopping or stroll the beach, but you’ll probably want another hobby or pastime to keep you busy after a while. Many states are excited to have the vast wealth of experience that retirees have, including industries such as automotive, healthcare, and others where being a veteran comes in handy. 

An older man loading a PODS container

Retirement ready

Regardless of where you decide to move, you’ll inevitably need to figure out the logistics of how you’ll get there. If you want to take some of the headaches and stress away, consider using portable moving and storage containers. In fact, they’re so easy that PODS can literally deliver a container straight to your driveway, and you can take all the time you need to pack your things up. The best part? If you need help with the loading aspect, a local PODS consultant can help you find someone to help load it up safely and properly. Once everything is loaded and ready to roll, PODS can even take care of the driving, so you can actually enjoy the trip to your new retirement dream state and dream home. You deserve it!

While you’re determining the best place to live out your golden years, check out the PODS blog for advice on everything moving and storage, from packing tips and neighborhood guides to decluttering and downsizing.

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Karen Dybis is a freelance journalist and a frequent contributor to the PODS blog. Her work has appeared in Time magazine, U.S. News & World Report, The Detroit News, and more.