The 10 Best States for Retirement

Retirement Planning

The Sun Belt has long held a natural allure for retiring Americans. Yet, in many cases, you can make a strong argument that the best states to retire are actually located farther north.

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Bankrate ranked all 50 states according to a variety of factors that are important to seniors. Surprisingly, most of the top picks see a healthy dose of snow and swap ocean views for mountain landscapes. The highest-scoring spots were in the Midwest and West, with only one of the top states on the East Coast.

Instead of dependably warm temperatures, these states offer plenty of other perks for the 65-and-older set. The best states on our list typically have low costs of living, strong health care systems, low crime and tax rates, comfortable temperatures, low humidity and lots of sun.

Bankrate's 2015 ranking also included a specialized "well-being" score that considers residents' general happiness and satisfaction with their surroundings. The score is based on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being index, which asked questions such as, "Were you treated with respect yesterday?" "Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday?" "Is the city or area where you live getting better or worse?"

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Finally, we allowed popular opinion to weigh in, using the results of a Bankrate national survey to fine-tune the scoring system.

Here are the best states to retire in the U.S.

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No. 10: Nebraska
Strengths: Low cost of living, strong health care system

In 2014, the Nebraska Tourism Commission announced a branding campaign with the message, "Visit Nebraska. Visit Nice."

So it comes as no surprise that this friendly state ranks above the national average for "well-being" based on scores from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being index.

Retirees will also be drawn to the Cornhusker State's quality health care and low cost of living. And despite its reputation for snow, Bankrate found a lot to like about Nebraska's weather. Valentine, Nebraska, for example, gets nearly as much sunshine as Tampa, Florida, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Overall, Nebraska's weather ranked as the 21st best in the country, with good marks for sunshine and relatively mild summers.

No. 9: Arizona
Strengths: Great weather, personal well-being

Retirees who want to relax in a warm climate will be drawn to Arizona's desert land. The state scored among the highest in the country for pleasant weather, and it comes as no surprise that there's rarely a cloud in the sky. On average, Yuma sees sunshine 90% of the year, while Phoenix and Tucson see rays 85% of the time.

This sunny outlook could explain why people who live here report a fairly high level of happiness. Arizona ranked in the top 10 in the Gallup-Healthways Index for overall wellness.

Arizona also places a fairly low tax burden on its residents: 8.8% compared with a national average of 9.9% of income as of 2012, according to data released this year by the Tax Foundation. A state's tax burden is the amount of residents' income that goes to state and local taxes.

Crime is a bit of an issue in Arizona, however.

One downside: The Grand Canyon State is the only one in Bankrate's top 10 that has a higher-than-average crime rate compared with other states.

No. 8: South Dakota
Strengths: Low taxes, low crime rate

Although temperatures in South Dakota can get downright frosty, retirees may warm up to the idea of living here based on the money they can save. South Dakota boasts the third-lowest tax burden in the country -- a big draw for penny-pinchers.

The state also has an impressive health care system and minimal crime. According to FBI crime statistics, South Dakota's property and violent crime rates both fell by nearly 8 percent from 2012 to 2013, and its property crime rate ranked as the fourth-lowest in the country in 2013.

As if that weren't enough to lure retirees, there's never a shortage of places to explore in South Dakota, such as Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the Black Hills and Badlands National Park, which spans 244,000 acres and is home to fossils of extinct mammals like the saber-toothed cat. 

No. 7: Montana
Strengths: Personal well-being, low taxes

Nature-loving retirees will find many scenic beauties in Montana, like Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, waterfalls and lakes, and a variety of wildlife. Overall, Montana residents say they are satisfied with their surroundings. They enjoy nice weather, a low cost of living and reasonable taxes.

According to the Tax Foundation, the state has an estimated combined state/local tax burden of 8.6 percent, well below the national average. The Tax Foundation's analysis included income, sales, property and other taxes levied in 2011.

The relatively low crime rate in Montana is another perk. Retirees can rest easy knowing that the FBI reported only 2,444 incidences of violent crime in the state in 2013, a 12.8 percent decrease from just one year before.

No. 6: Iowa
Strengths: Personal well-being, health care system

When one thinks of where to live out their post-working years, Midwestern farmland may not be the obvious choice. After all, winters in Iowa can be frigid, summers humid and the state is smack in the middle of the country.

But Iowa more than redeems itself for its low cost of living, low crime rate and quality health care.

Iowa's health care system ranked as the fifth-best in the country, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The agency, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, measures more than 160 different aspects of a state's health care system. Its latest report showed, for example, that Iowa's doctors and hospitals are doing a relatively good job on flu immunizations for the elderly.

Iowa's well-being scores also ranked as the fourth-highest in the nation, proving that it's not always about location, location, location.

No. 5: Virginia
Strengths: Low crime rate, good health care system

This coastal state for lovers has much to keep residents happy. It has a low cost of living and low crime rate. It has the third-lowest violent crime rate in the country and the eighth-lowest property crime rate.

Its health care system also is ranked by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality as above average.

Virginia's weather is often described as a "Goldilocks climate" -- not too hot and not too cold -- which is why Bankrate found the state's weather to be a big draw for living here in retirement. Although the mountainous areas naturally receive more snowfall, coastal cities like Norfolk receive on average only 7 inches of snow per year, according to the NOAA. Because of Virginia's varied landscape, retirees can find a range of outdoor activities here, from the sandy beaches to the mountaintops.

No. 4: Idaho
Strengths: Low crime rate, good weather

Bankrate found much to offer retirees in the Gem State. For starters, Idaho has one of the lowest crime rates in the country, second only to Vermont.

A low cost of living also makes it easy to stretch those retirement dollars, especially when it comes to groceries. In Boise, Idaho, a dozen eggs will cost you only $1.35, compared with the national average of $1.99. Likewise, a half-gallon of milk is $1.72, while the U.S. average is $2.40. Not surprisingly, spuds are a steal in the home of the potato -- 27 percent below the nation's average. Rent is also on the cheaper side, costing about $729.57, 20.5 percent below norm.

And there's no shortage of ways to be one with nature in Idaho -- nearly 70 percent of the state is public land, filled with parks, monuments and preserves.

No. 3: Colorado
Strengths: Great weather, personal well-being

It's no shock that Colorado has some of the best weather in the country -- the third best, in fact, according to the NOAA data we analyzed. The state sees ample sunshine and little humidity, particularly in cities such as Denver, which enjoys more than 300 days of sun a year. In January, the average high in the city is 47 degrees and the low is 16. By March, the average high increases to 56 degrees and the low reaches 25.

There's plenty to do in Colorado, including golfing, skiing and visiting museums, but retirees might just be content taking in the spectacular scenery. Whether it's the Great Sand Dunes in southern Colorado, Pikes Peak or the Black Canyon, this state is certainly postcard-worthy.

Colorado also scores high for well-being in the Gallup-Healthways index, particularly in the social category. It ranked 4 th out of U.S. states overall.

As if all this weren't enough, residents of the Centennial State have a relatively low tax burden of 8.9%.

No. 2: Colorado
Strengths: Good weather, personal well-being

Offering scenic views as far as the eye can see, as well as some of the best weather in the nation, what's not to love about Colorado? This Centennial State ranks in the top three for best weather in the U.S., behind only California and New Mexico, thanks to its relatively mild summers, dry air and sunny skies.

In Colorado Springs, the 30-year average for summer temperatures was a moderate 68.8 degrees, and the winter temperatures were not as frigid as one might expect in a state known for snowfall -- 30.8 degrees.

Colorado residents love their state. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being index, which analyzes happiness and personal satisfaction, ranks Colorado as the sixth-highest in the nation for satisfaction levels among people who are retirement age.

One reason for that may be that the cost of living and crime rates remain below the national average. And residents also receive better-than-average health care.

No. 1: Wyoming
Strengths: Low taxes, good weather, low crime rate

And the winner is: Wyoming!

Retirees looking for out-of-this-world mountain views will find their happy place in Bankrate's No. 1 place to retire in 2015. The state is home to famous national parks like Yellowstone and Grand Teton, as well as ample hot springs and wildlife.

Wyoming has many practical perks for those looking to live out their golden years here, including low cost of living and minimal crime. Although apartment rental prices are on par with the national average, residents can find bargains in areas like entertainment and car maintenance.

In Laramie, for example, a movie ticket will cost you only $9.02, 7 percent below the national average. A trip to the beauty salon also won't break the bank, coming in at $28.43 (17 percent below average), and an auto service, like tire balancing, is $9.41, a whopping 20 percent below average.

As far as tax rates, it doesn't get better than here. According to the latest tax burden ranking, residents of Wyoming paid the lowest percentage of income tax at just 6.9 percent, edging out Alaska at 7 percent.

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