The 10 Worst States For Retirement

Most of us won’t be retiring anytime soon. But for those few who will be saying goodbye to the workforce forever in the next few years, the people at have put together their list of the worst states in which to live out your golden years.

Here is TopRetirment’s list of the bottom of the barrel:
1. Illinois: IL’s fiscal health could be the worst of any state. It even borrowed money to fund its pension obligations!
2. California: The Golden State is expensive and its finances are in disarray. Has paid bills with vouchers. Does have a warm climate.
3. New York: Very high taxes, including property taxes. Second highest tax burden and 5th highest per-capita property taxes. Dysfunctional state legislature. Very expensive to live here. Most pensions are exempt, however.
4. Rhode Island: Probably the worst off state in the Northeast from a financial viewpoint. High taxes. Does have some great places to live.
5. New Jersey: The highest property taxes in the U.S. as well as the highest tax burden (as reported by the Tax Foundation) Has serious pension funding issues.
6. Ohio: High taxes (7th highest tax burden) and unemployment. Cold winters.
7. Wisconsin: A high tax state (9th highest tax burden) with cold weather. High property taxes. But it does not tax military pensions.
8. Massachusetts: High taxes including high property taxes. Very high cost of living.
9. Connecticut: CT has the 3rd highest tax burden of any state, taxes social security, and has very high property taxes. It has some terrific places to live, but the cost of living is very high.
10. Nevada: The foreclosure capital of the world. State is having financial problems. But it does not have an income tax (yet).

The site does add the caveat that its list might be “totally irrelevant” to some people:

Folks for whom money or taxes are not important will find our worst 10 list of little value, because they have other considerations that are far more important. For example, those who want to retire near their family members have such an important driver that the “worst” state on this list could be their “best.”

Our Worst States to Retire List []


Edit Your Comment

  1. Reading_Comprehension says:

    Nevada doesn’t have an income tax? I’ve known localities to do this (cities in Virginia for example) but not entire states.

    • phil says:

      7 states have no income tax; 2 more limit it to dividend and interest income only:

    • Jevia says:

      Decades of legalized gambling instead of taxes.

    • Zowzers says:

      Taxes on gaming cover that. Though our property taxes are on par with California.

      • coffeeculture says:

        are property taxes in TX changed each year to reflect market conditions? once you buy in CA the value you’re taxed on goes up only 2%/yr. this is how we have million dollar beach homes with the tax bill equal to that of a $100k house.

        • Kat@Work says:

          Yes, they can change your tax annually to reflect market price, but if you file a protest with the county, it’s usually repealed if you have any evidence.

          Example: we bought our current house from people who just wanted out of it (they owed money to EVERYONE) for $59,900.

          Next year, our county tried to raise the value of the home (taxes are based on this value) to over $90K.

          We filed a protest, showed paperwork that we bought the home for $59.9K & they adjusted its value to match that.

        • AustinTXProgrammer says:

          Market, with a 10% cap on your homestead. Although 10% is a lot more than 2.

        • gman863 says:

          Property tax valuation in Texas is like haggling at a flea market.

          The tax assessor (at least the one in Fort Bend County) mails you your home’s assessed value around March. Although my first assessment was based on the actual purchase price of the house, subsequent ones always had a 10-15% bump in the assessed value – even after the real estate market tanked.

          In April, the property tax attorneys and professional protestors start soliciting in mass media. For a 50% contingency (example: Their appeal saves you $300 on property tax and you get a bill for $150), these companies research comp. sales in your area and appear at a tax appeal hearing on your behalf.

          In my case it’s been worth it: Last year the assessor claimed my house was worth almost $100K, the protest process cut the value (and property tax) by almost 25%.

        • cowboyesfan says:

          Over 65s and those that are disabled in Texas have certain parts of their property tax frozen as well ( I believe the school portion ) as well as a discount on the other parts.

    • Bativac says:

      Florida also has no income tax.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        yep, florida and nevada pretty much make up the difference the same way: hospitality taxes. like florida, when i last lived there, had a 3% per person bed tax on hotels. FL and NV race each other every year to sell more hotel rooms and there’s a lot of revenue in tiny percentages of each sleeping person

    • FuzzyWillow says:

      New Hampshire has no state income tax OR state sales tax.

      • wrjohnston91283 says:

        They don’t have an income tax on wages and no general sales tax, but New Hampshire DOES have a 9% meals tax. They also have a 5% tax on interest and dividends (which may hit retires with investment income harder than younger wage earners). Property tax statewide averages roughly 1.75%.

        • FuzzyWillow says:

          Fine, then don’t retire there then.

        • Big Mama Pain says:

          Yes….it’s not like NH magically makes money; every other state that has a state income and sales tax also has room/meals/prepared food tax. They were merely answering the original question of Reading-Comprehension…

        • DarkElf1114 says:

          I could be wrong, but aren’t they protected from that tax in tax advantaged accounts, and just counted as income? Most people I know can’t save more than the max allowed in a 401k plus an IRA (per person if you’re married and both work), so it’s more of a tax on higher earners. Regardless, many towns in NH reduce property taxes the older you get in retirement. ie here is the first one I came across which is for Hanover:


          Each town sets its own guidelines and so depending on the town and your specific property you could pay $0 property taxes, I’m pretty sure my grandmother never paid any property tax. It’s cold, but heck, if you plan right you can pay no income, property or sales tax.

    • econobiker says:

      No state income tax in TN.

      Thanks to the great sales tax on everything which usually equates to 9.75% when local governments add their %. A little boost though if you are a waiter or waitress in TN and people tip (correctly at 15%) on the entire bill…

    • Eyeheartpie says:

      Texas has no state income tax.

    • pearlysweetcake says:

      Alaska doesn’t have any income tax and only some municipalities have a sales tax (mine only taxes booze/cigarettes). Some areas don’t even have a property tax!

    • Sian says:

      Florida and Oregon too

    • tooluser says:

      This is what you want to read and know:

    • rihan says:

      Montana has no sales tax.

    • bcsus83 says:

      WA and SD don’t, either.

  2. chiieddy says:

    High property taxes in MA? REALLY? It totally depends on where you live. I pay $9.13 per $1000 of property value in my town. Income tax is set at 5.25%. Sales tax is fairly low at 6.25% only just recently raised from 5%. Due to Prop 2.5, property taxes can not be raised more than 2.5% each year unless voted on in special election (they rarely pass).

    • evnmorlo says:

      Tax rate is irrelevant in a discussion of what the average tax bill actually is. And if you consider a 25% increase in a regressive tax “low”, you clearly deserve to live in your backwoods hamlet. A quick glance at your tax bill–which no doubt has been increasing well over the too modest 2.5% for years–can only strengthen your feeling elitism.

    • zzyzzx says:

      I personally don’t consider 6.25% sales tax to be low, unless there is no income tax, or something.

    • TasteyCat says:

      $9.13 may be cheap compared to the rest of MA, but it’s not so cheap when considering it against the rest of the country. Perhaps more importantly than the rates is the fact that the houses also cost double or triple what they would elsewhere, thereby doubling or tripling the taxes.

      That $3000 tax bill in MA could easily be 1/4th that in TN, where you could get a decent house for $100k, and they also don’t pay state income taxes.

      Is Massachusetts better off for all these taxes? Arguably yes. But at some point the returns diminish as the government wastes the money.

  3. knackeredmom says:

    Who has a pension any more? Aren’t they like the Amex Black card, rumored to exist but seldom seen?

    • mbnovik says:


    • rbb says:

      If you volunteer to give the government the option (for at least 20 years) to tell you to go die for your country, you will receive a pension ;^)

      • jake.valentine says:

        Join the Navy or Air Force rather than the Marines or Army and your chance of getting a bruise, much less dying, is drastically reduced.

    • rorschachex says:

      Both of my parents retired with pensions and, at the age of 24, I have only 1 more year until I’m vested in my private company’s pension plan. They exist, but are few and far apart indeed.

    • TheRedSeven says:

      Hilarious video. But it answers your question too…

    • Press1forDialTone says:

      I have a state employees pension that is fully funded that
      is coupled with an annuity that helps keep my after retirements
      stable and high.

      I work for one of the great public universities, Indiana University.
      There is a state, private or community college within 50 miles of
      -any- person living in the state of Indiana.

      IU was voted on one of the best values in higher education today,
      in-state or out-of-state fees.

      Back home again in Indiana….

    • Lendon85 says:

      My company has an excellent pension plan (in addition to 401k). I am 43 and have been working there 7 years. I’m not going anywhere unless they make me. Benefits for those hired in 08 later have been reduced, but at least they will still get something if they retire from here.

  4. RubyRedJess says:

    “The site does add the caveat that its list might be “totally irrelevant” to some people”

    Awesome. I like posting stuff that no one cares about too….LIKE THIS COMMENT! =D

  5. billybob9280 says:

    Wow, liberal states (except Ohio and now Wisconsin) are the worst to retire in? What a strange coincidence! I am sure the two are definitely not related!

    • mythago says:

      Meh. Good form on the enthusiasm, but the screen name is lame and the logic-fail is a tad obvious. I’d give this trolling attempt a 3.1 out of 5.

    • Poisson Process says:

      Perhaps. But conservative states like Texas and Florida have the highest disparity between rich and poor. I’d rather retire in California than be born to a less-than-wealthy family in Texas.

      • TuxthePenguin says:

        You’re comparing apples and oranges…

        “I’d rather retire…” which means you’re near the end of your life “than be born…” which implies at the beginning of your life.

      • OutPastPluto says:

        > But conservative states like Texas and Florida have
        > the highest disparity between rich and poor.

        Considering what it costs to buy a run down old shack in a
        well populated area of California, I find that rather hard to
        believe. Someone from a “less than wealthy” family is far
        more likely to be able to just afford to live in Texas, nevermind
        about owning property without accounting shenanigans.

        Everything about the overpriced coastal states puts the working
        classes at a disadvantage.

        • Stephen Colon says:

          The worst neighborhood in my city, where drugs are a serious problem and gangs run rampant, is full of homes that cost upward of $300… We’re in a neighboring city to Los Angeles. And, to those who say that the poor can live elsewhere, there are no jobs elsewhere. The economy that the “rich” in California (making more than $250k/yr. Less than $250k is middle class here, and less than $70k is dirt poor) create is what provides for middle and lower class jobs.

          And, at the same time, because this rich population is of people that get wealthy then move here, or got lucky growing up in the right circles, bring the prices of everything WAY up in a market full of big spenders who aren’t killed by the prices, the disparity between the rich and the poor is MASSIVE.

          Yes, California is a liberal state. No, that does not really help solve the gap between upper and lower classes. The wealthy will almost always find ways to hang on to their money, or (often in the case of Los Angeles) they already have the bulk of their money, and don’t need to worry about high income taxes because most of their money is not in income. All they worry about is property and sales taxes which, while high, are not as much as income taxes and not even close to funding say, the budget of the world’s 7th largest economy.

          Really, economies are much, much more complicated than liberal vs. conservative. Our budget problems cannot be blamed on one economic belief, but rather on a series of really poor decisions all around… voters, politicians, all of it.

    • fsnuffer says:

      The key to living in the liberal states is not to work and retire there but to never hold gainful employment there ever. Then the state will esure you have free medical and entitlements.

      • sonneillon says:

        In some states yes. It still costs 2k a month just to have an apartment in many of those states, and while not working has entitlements working at most of those positions will pay you more than their equivalent in most republican states.

    • sonneillon says:

      If you look at the criteria then it is obvious. The liberal states are cold and have high taxes. That is what they consider a bad place to retire. Only 2 states in the list are anywhere warm, and one of them is a desert.

      • mythago says:

        California is cold?

        • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

          Only 2 states in the list are anywhere warm, and one of them is a desert.

          Yes. California is one of the two states listed as “Anywhere warm”. The desert is Nevada. Comprehension FTW.

          • jake.valentine says:

            Most people don’t realize that southern California is almost entirely desert as well. I live in San Diego and it is coastal desert. You only go about 5 miles inland and it is similar to Nevada and Arizona. Everybody envisions the beach when they think of Cali, but that is a very small fraction of the state. Northern Cali is colder than most people assume as well. It is impossible to generalize the weather here because it can be 75 degrees in downtown San Diego in August while just 5-10 miles away it is about 100 degrees. The nights can be cold in the desert as well.

    • SexCpotatoes says:

      What kind of ignorant world do you live in where Ohio is considered ‘liberal?’

      We have concealed carry gun permits.

      Republicans had complete stranglehold on statewide elected office for 14 years or so (check wikipedia).

      With the just elected governor and many more Republicans going into the statehouses after this past election we can kiss any sort of education funding or environmental protections goodbye because of Ohio’s looming $7-8 Billion deficit. Not to mention that with the new Census figures, they get to further gerry-mander districts to try to gain more of an upper-hand.

      Oh, and don’t blame spending on “Democrats” as they only had Governorship and House (never had the Senate) majority since 2006 or so.

    • soj4life says:

      It has to due with them getting less federal back then what they send out. Also, liberal states have higher cost of livings and larger state unions that have pensions.

      Look at NJ. In 2005 NJ Taxpayers sent $86 billion in taxes to the fed and only got $58.6 billion back in spending. That train tunnel to help job growth in New York could have been paid for in 2 months if NJ got their fair share. The state pension would be funded properly if the state was not donating money to the south for more than the last 3 decades.

  6. Chmeeee says:

    So… this is pretty much just a list of expensive states to live in.

  7. mythago says: seems to be one of those sites with minimal content and maximum advertisement. Why is Consumerist linking to it, particularly when the content is so incredibly stupid and unhelpful?

  8. SexCpotatoes says:

    Not to defend Ohio or anything but Cost-of-Living around where I live is one of the lowest in the nation. Think $450 for apt. rent in a nicer area as opposed to $1250+/month anywhere near a big city.

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      And I’m sure wages are similarly comparatively low.

      Plus, then you have to LIVE there. Uck.

      • Powerlurker says:

        If you’re retired, you’re probably not working for a wage or salary anymore.

        • OutPastPluto says:

          Actually, most of these states are pretty well settled so you could try to find the remotest part of the state to minimize your cost of living and still be pretty close to a decent sized city. You could be in the middle of Ohio or Illinois or New York and you wouldn’t be all alone by yourself in the middle of the dessert (like the same thing in Nevada would be like).

          Those states would be much worse to live in if you were NOT retired.

          Then you would probably need to be in the high cost-of-living areas in order to be close to a job.

  9. wimom says:

    As someone who moved to WI, I can attest to how much this state sucks. No sane person would move here. It is cold, cold, cold, and the taxes are crazy. I can’t wait to leave.

  10. JonStewartMill says:

    Their assumption appears to be that when you retire, your sole concerns will be weather and taxes. I think quality of life depends on a lot more than that. Florida has low taxes but I wouldn’t live there if it had NO taxes. Ohio isn’t paradise but it’s definitely an improvement over the Sunburn State.

    • JonStewartMill says:

      Sorry, that should read “I wouldn’t live there *again*”. I spent 20+ years there before I escaped.

    • jake.valentine says:

      I live in California now, but if forced to make a choice between Ohio or Florida…..there is absolutely zero chance of choosing Ohio. Florida has its problems, but it isn’t Ohio and that is good enough. I have never met anybody who voiced a desire to more to Ohio, but I have heard plenty of people who wanted to move to Florida. To each his own I guess….

  11. FoxCreek9 says:

    Illinois is a basket case but retirees come out pretty well. No income tax on pensions, iras, 401ks, or SS, your property assessments are frozen (depending on your income). Property taxes are very high but you can control that by just downsizing your home. This state would be low on my list to move to but being #1 on this list is a little misleading.

  12. ldub says:

    MA may have high COL, but it’s got a social safety net second to none in the USA. That’s very important the older you are.

  13. WontEndWell says:

    As a resident of IL I found it easier to just assume that I wont be able to retire and will end up dieing of a heart attack working some minimum wage job when I’m 75.

    • Jonesey says:

      Whoa—Illinois has pensions still?

    • humphrmi says:

      yeah, the only benefits of retiring in Illinois are free public transportation for seniors (thanks to our corrupt former governor, and of course not funded by the state) and, surprisingly, an excellent public health care program (again, thanks to our corrupt former governor). Of course, it’s just a matter of time before those programs get cut in order to try to balance the budget.

      Plus the weather sucks in the winter.

    • sugarplum says:

      Isn’t it grand for our generation!

  14. grapedog says:

    It’s not cheap to live in the educated section of the country. If you want to live with the idiots and rednecks and hillbillies, on the cheap, move south.

    • jojo319 says:

      You must not include math in that education since those states weren’t “educated” enough to keep from spending money they didn’t have.

      • CookiePuss says:

        They had the money, they just stole it.

        I’m so glad to be out of Jersey. All the parkway/turnpike tolls, AC casino revenue, sky high taxes, all the shore revenue from boardwalks/attractions, lottery revenue, industrialized north Jersey with tons of business’, plenty of wealthy areas, etc. and yet the state is always broke.

        When I was a kid growing up my parents paid over 8k/year in just property tax for a tiny house with no land and yet my high school couldn’t even afford busing to send us to the county jail 10 miles away for the “Scared Straight” program. I guess that’s OK though since the 1 mile square town has about 100 cops on its payroll making over 100k/year with OT. The school superintendent was suing for over 500k in severance pay, $184,00 for accrued vacation and sick time, and annual pension payments of $103,889. Money mismanagement all around.

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      Yes, because south of the Mason-Dixon line everyone is redneck and hillbillies. And north of it everyone is stuck up snobs. (/sarc)

      So, rather than internal migration around the country, the southern states that are about to get more seats must just be breeding faster…

      Honestly, feel free to stay up north. Your “education” has done you so well in running your states into the ground. I’ll stay here in Texas…

      • grapedog says:

        Actually I lived in North Carolina for 8 years, and I’ve been living in Texas now for 4 years. I speak from experience. Though in less than 2 months I’ll be out of Texas and headed back north, or possibly further west, haven’t decided yet. Can’t stand Texas, talk about a state full of egotistical blowhards.

      • cromartie says:

        Good. Since you’re staying there in Texas, you can help pay off the $25 billion budget deficit.

  15. econobiker says:

    Sates pension funding issues would go away if politicians and government employees had their pensions converted to 401k’s/IRAs like the rest of us privately employed folks…

    • ARP says:

      Well the bargain is that government employees make less than private sector employees, but make up for it in benefits, pensions, etc. So, you’d have to raise their salaries if you’re going to convert them. If you raise the salaries of all government employees, you’ll have to raise taxes to pay for them.

      You don’t need to eliminate the whole system, you need to reform it:

      1) Require all pensions to be fully funded, period.

      2) Change the rules on pension calculation to an average of the last 8 or so years, not the current 3ish. Many state employees will put in a ton of overtime for their last few years to drive up their pensions to obsene levels.

      3) Prevent double pensions. Some employees will work for one agency until their pension vests, then switch to another for a few more years and essentially a double pension.

      • elangomatt says:

        I am glad that someone mentioned the fact that we get lower pay than in the private sector. If I could find a job, I could probably pretty easily get a 30% or more raise in the private sector. Of course, I do live in Illinois so I hope my retirement system is still around whet I get to retire.

        I do agree with your other points though. I know Illinois used to allow K-12 teachers at least to get a significant raise their last year or two before retirement to increase their pension. My mother got something like a $10k raise her last year as a teacher to boost her pension. I am pretty sure that is no longer allowed.

        The double pension thing should not be allowed either. We currently have someone in my organization that worked for the local city government and has now retired with a full pension. Now he is on his way to getting vested with the university and will get another pension there, though it won’t be a full pension since he won’t be able to put THAT many years in here.

      • jake.valentine says:

        “Well the bargain is that government employees make less than private sector”

        While maybe true in some states, this is friggin hilarious when you consider states like California where public employees enjoy inflated wages AND royal retirements.

  16. TasteyCat says:

    Why would anyone retire in any US state, let alone an expensive one? I’m decades away from retirement but still plan to flee the country, sooner rather than later.

    On the bright side, half of New England is on the list. Represent.

  17. JennyCupcakes misses her grandson says:

    Well, that’s awesome. I live in a Chicago suburb and my dad just retired.

  18. fireplaces says:

    Really? Ohio has high taxes? (everything is in the fine print in this story) 12.3% overall tax burden (New York) is considered “very” high? Let’s put things into perspective here.

    Americans seem to think that they should enjoy things like nice roads health care, medicaid, and other cushy government programs but don’t have to pay for them through increased taxes because that’s UNPATRIOTIC (even though Americans are seriously under-taxed compared to comparable nations). They also think that the government spends too much and should cut back (even though we rank 24 out of 26 countries in overall spending: . . . but somehow find the money to make sure they can eat their cake and keep their cushy programs. Uhm, what?

  19. Mulva says:

    I’ve said this before about Chicago, and it obviously extends to Illinois – we’re always number 1 at things that suck.

  20. ZIMMER! says:

    Massachusetts! Tell me about it…I live in that crappy state! It sucks! You get nothing but crappy roads, awful schools, understaffed police departments and more taxes on anything they can think of. I would not mind paying taxes IF the state was better managed.

  21. MikeM_inMD says:

    Maryland isn’t in the ten worst?!?!? With our cost of living, I am well and truly amazed.

  22. kujospam says:

    This list is different from a lot of different sites. The list is useless and means just about nothing. The only reason why foreclosure would matter to retires would be wanting to move or do a reverse mortgage. But in reality most people that retire don’t move as soon as they retire if ever.

  23. gman863 says:

    Texas has no state income tax (it is prohibited in the State Constitution); however they make up for it with property taxes and high state/local sales tax rates (8.25% in Houston, excluding groceries and OTC meds).

    At the risk of being politically incorrect, many states (esp. border states like CA and TX) would cut their defecits if the United States offered undocumented (illegal) aliens a chance to purchase yearly work visas. If “coyotes” are getting $15-$20K per alien to sneak them across the border, a $2000 per year “green card” fee would be a bargain with most of the money going to states to pay for aliens’ health care and social service needs.

  24. StevePierce says:

    Hey cool, a 10 worst list that Michigan didn’t make. BTW Pensions exempt in Michigan from income tax and so is all Military pay. sales tax also low at 6%. Property taxes are high but housing is cheap so taxes are pretty reasonable when compared to any in the 10 ten. Can you say lots of water front property.

  25. hegemonyhog says:

    I’m glad they use the Tax Foundation’s completely inaccurate list of tax burdens. Let’s use even more numerically illiterate figures to determine where to retire!

  26. skywatchbob says:

    Ah, why am I not surprised about Illinois being the worst state for retirement?
    I live here and this state sucks. Super high property taxes. An incompetent governor bent on raising taxes again instead of cutting the waste. Hey governor, cut the crap. Make government employees pay for their own retirement like the rest of us. I hate paying for their retirement along with my own.

  27. duxup says:

    New York – “Most pensions are exempt, however.” . . . so what is their point again?

    I expect Consumerist to link to more thoughtful articles than this, but it seems I shouldn’t.

  28. JiminyChristmas says:

    I guess that list makes sense…if you’re absolutely obsessed with taxes. Unless you’re filthy rich it may make more sense to look at living in a state provides decent social services. With assisted living or nursing home care running up to $10,000/month it’s not hard for people to burn through their life’s savings in a year or two.

    If you find yourself out of money and still in need of personal care you are going to end up in a nursing home, which will be paid for by Medicaid. Medicaid is funded in part by the federal government and in part by the states. In that case, do you want to be in a state that spends as little as possible on social services, like Medicaid?

  29. PortlandBeavers says:

    Ohio has an estate tax in addition to income taxes on pensions. Anyone with a lot of money moves when they retire. Even Senator Howard Metzenbaum, a tax-and-spend liberal, protected his huge pile by moving to Florida and dying there. It isn’t very good for asset protection, either. Homestead exemptions are nominal, as opposed to almost unlimited in Florida.

    For those of use who aren’t filthy rich, Ohio, does have some things going for it. The cost of living is quite low, at least in Cincinnati. You can buy a house for under $100K in a neighborhood that isn’t bad, probably in an old, inner suburb. Also, the economy isn’t quite as bad as a lot of people think it is. It isn’t like many of the states where road projects, etc. shut down. The housing bubble sort of passed Ohio by, meaning it didn’t get hit quite as hard by the bust.

    • cromartie says:

      If you’re a degreed professional, the job market in Ohio isn’t nearly as bad as it is elsewhere. And, despite all of it’s perceived flaws (I like snow and cold, so that isn’t even a factor to me, frankly) it is a very inexpensive place to live, pretty much statewide. This list is essentially worthless.

  30. anduin says:

    best state to retire? Florida? Wrong, Panama is the new place for older folks to retire, live at 1/4 the cost of living in Florida and still get to live in a heavily Americanized country.