Which States Are Best For Retirement?

Are you wondering which states are best for retirement? As a retiree since 2012 let me share the best states for retirement based on taxes, weather, and lifestyle. My method for calculating the best states for retirement are objective and intuitive.

In retirement, you want to live in a place that has reasonable taxes. Every day, you'd love to go outside and enjoy nature. Further, you'd love to have great food and entertainment activities. Clearly a state like Hawaii is in the top 5 due to its amazing weather and wonderful pace of life.

However, let's determine the best states for retirement with a little more objectivity using taxes and lifestyle as key variables. It doesn't matter if you retire rich if your state has bad weather, poor culture, high taxes, and bad laws.

Which States Are Best For Retirement?

America is amazing because we're free to relocate anywhere in the country that suits our desires. A lot of people scoff at the idea of just moving because of family and job responsibilities.

Which States Are Best For Retirement? Hawaii of course!
Hawaii, obviously?

But when you can take a plane anywhere in the continental US in under six hours, telecommute from home, and FaceTime with people you care about, why wouldn't you at least give moving to a nicer place a shot? There are now plenty of flexible work from home opportunities thanks to the global pandemic.

The best states to live in have a combination of low taxes and incredible weather. California is awesome, but our taxes are horrendous. Hawaii is also amazing, but food and housing are also costly. At least Hawaii's sales tax is only 4-4.5% and pensions are state tax-free.

I've been to a large majority of the 50 States and hav spent 10 years on the East Coast before moving out West in 2001. I'm biased for California and Hawaii. To me, the best state for retirement is Hawaii, if you can afford it. However, it's time to get objective for the greater good of all Americans.

For a better life in retirement, be willing to relocate.

Taxes Are Important When Considering Best States For Retirement

When we calculate cost of living, we typically think of 1) Housing (rent or mortgage), 2) Car (loan payments and interest), and 3) Education and Child Care (student loans or child schooling). However, in actuality, taxes are usually the number one largest ongoing expense.

Let's take a look at the Federal Income Tax brackets for 2022. Let's hope they don't go up too much under Joe Biden. But if you are making over $400,000 a year, Biden has promised to raise your taxes. T

axes must be considered when trying to determine the best states for retirement. You also have to understand whether there is state income tax, the level of property tax, social security tax, and so forth.

2022 Income tax brackets for singles and married couples - best states for retirement

State Income Tax Rates

From a previous post regarding our polled incomes (2,400+ votes), the vast majority of readers here are going to be taxed at the 25%-33% rate federally. After Uncle Sam gets his cut, we need to take a look at individual states and the associated income tax.

Let's take a look at state income tax rates to get an idea of how much citizens are taxed around the country.

Top State Income Tax Rates Map Of USA - Which States Are Best For Retirement?

As we can see the grey states represent those with no state income tax and the lighter the purple, the less overall income tax for the top brackets. However, we also need to take into account that some states with no income taxes are going to make it up at the gas pump or via higher property taxes i.e. Washington State, Texas, and New Hampshire.

Overall, the cost of living tends to be a lot more in cities where people would like to live and be by the coasts. We also need to consider our #1 largest expense aside from taxes, which is housing. Median home prices vary significantly from state to state.

Cheapest And Most Expensive States For Home Prices

The bottom 10 range from $125k-155k and include (cheapest to most expensive): Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma Georgia and Iowa.

The top 10 range from $237k-471k and include (cheapest to most expensive): Oregon, Maryland, Colorado, Washington, New Jersey, Virginia, New York, California, Hawaii, and Washington D.C.

The following chart below is the median household income by state.

Median household income by state

Money is basically made on the coasts with lots of it coming in from San Francisco, NYC, Boston and D.C. Therefore, it costs an arm and a leg to live around these metros. A median house in SF is going for around $1.1 Million, for example. It would be damn hard to make a living and reside in the SF Metro if one isn’t making $200,000 or more.

I really like the $200k figure, as it also represents roughly the current median household price in America. The American dream is pretty much about home ownership, freedom, and comfortable living. We want to be able to work hard and be free with a roof over our heads that we own. So with that said, let’s delve into some states really worth exploring if our income isn’t specific to a geographic region.

Average house price by state 2017 - Which States Are Best For Retirement?
Average house price by state 2017

The Most Attractive States For Retirees

Let's first take a look at the states with the lowest tax burden for residents according to the US Census Bureau. Below are the best states for retirement based on the lowest tax rates.

States With The Lowest Taxes To Save Retirees Money

Top 10 States With Lowest Tax Rates
Source: US Census Bureau compiled by FinancialSamurai.com

Florida – No income tax, low cost of living, and warm weather.

Arizona – Low state income tax, low cost of living, and warm weather.

Nevada – No income tax, low cost of living, and warm weather.

Texas – No income tax, super low cost of living, and warm weather.

Wyoming – Wyoming is unique in that it doesn’t tax any income, including retirement and social security. Sales tax is a mere 4%, there is low cost of living and wide open spaces.

South Dakota – If freezing temperatures and being in the middle of the U.S. don't bother you, in similar fashion to Wyoming, this is one of the best states for retirement.

Alaska – Also has no income tax, but it's far away from the mainland, cold, dark, and not cheap due to the importation of goods.

Related: States That Don't Tax Social Security Benefits

States With The Most Millionaires For Retirement

Now let's look at the states where there are the most millionaires. Millionaires are more mobile than others, all else being equal. Therefore, it is logical to conclude that states with more millionaires provide better lifestyles. After all, if you're a millionaire, you'll want to use your resources to live the best life possible.

To nobody's surprise, Hawaii has the most number of millionaires per 1,000 household in the country. New Jersey and Connecticut have a lot of millionaires given a lot of residents make their money from NYC.

Most Millionaires By State In America - Which States Are Best For Retirement?
Source: US Census Bureau compiled by FinancialSamurai.com

States With The Lowest Taxes And Most Millionaires For Retirement

The final step is to compile the highest ranked states on both charts to come up with the best states for retirees! Below are the states with the lowest taxes and the most number of millionaires. As a result, these states are objectively the best states for retirement.

Which States Are Best For Retirement?
Analysis by FinancialSamurai.com

Related: States With No State Tax Or Inheritance Tax

Live In A Nicer State Already

If you've spent a lifetime saving, investing, and working, it's time to reward yourself with a fantastic retirement. Please don't live in a state with high taxes and a higher amount of crime and poverty. America is a big country. Time to move to a better state!

Given I'm OK with paying a lot more taxes than the average citizen, Hawaii continues to be my number one state for retirement. Every time I go back to Hawaii, I get happier. My stress level goes from a moderate 5 or 5 out of 10 to a 2 or 3.

If you want a combination of lower taxes and a nicer lifestyle, Florida is a great state for retirees. But I wouldn't count out Nevada, since Nevada also has no state income taxes. Given how slow Nevada was in counting the ballots during the 2020 presidential election, its extremely slow pace of life might be exactly what retirees want!

Where I Plan To Re-Retire

Ever since the global pandemic began, I decided to work again. I didn't go back to a traditional day job. Instead, I decided to work on Financial Samurai. Since a lot of fun activities were and are still closed, I decided to find ways to make more money online.

However, once I get vaccinated and there is herd immunity, I'm done with work. I even put together a pre-retirement checklist that is even better than the first.

I'm happy to re-retire in California for the next couple of years. I think it'll be fun to explore this great state while my baby daughter gets stronger.

But by 2023, my plan is to retire in the best state in America: Hawaii. Hawaii is such a wonderful state. I immediately feel less stressed every time I'm there because the culture is more laid back. Maybe I won't fully retire, but fake retire instead by working on my passion projects. But either way, I plan to retire in a state with great weather, chill people, and a slower lifestyle.

Here in San Francisco, everybody is talking about how much money they are making from their investments. There's a non-stop hustle culture which I want to escape. People are seriously too type-A ambitious here.

Of course, taxes, weather, and where the richest people want to live aren’t the only factors that determine the best states to retire. There are other considerations such as climate change, diversity, and politics are other considerations. Choose the factors that are most important to you.

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Earn More Income Through Real Estate

Real estate is my favorite way to achieving financial freedom because it is a tangible asset that is less volatile, provides utility, and generates income. Further, real estate is a great way to earn more passive income in retirement.

Given interest rates have come way down, the value of rental income has gone way up. The reason why is because it now takes a lot more capital to generate the same amount of risk-adjusted income. Yet, real estate prices have not reflected this reality yet, hence the opportunity. 

Take a look at my two favorite real estate crowdfunding platforms.

Fundrise: A way for accredited and non-accredited investors to diversify into real estate through private eREITs. Fundrise has been around since 2012 and has consistently generated steady returns, no matter what the stock market is doing. For most people, gaining exposure through a diversified real estate fund is the way to go.

CrowdStreet: A way for accredited investors to invest in individual real estate opportunities mostly in 18-hour cities. 18-hour cities are secondary cities with lower valuations, higher rental yields, and potentially higher growth due to job growth and demographic trends. If you have a good amount of capital, you can build a best-of-the-best real estate portfolio with CrowdStreet.

I've personally invested $810,000 in real estate crowdfunding across 18 projects to take advantage of lower valuations in the heartland of America. My real estate investments account for roughly 50% of my current passive income of ~$300,000.

Best states to retire by making money through real estate

Which States Are Best For Retirement is a Financial Samurai original post. I've been helping people achieve financial freedom sooner, since 2009.

114 thoughts on “Which States Are Best For Retirement?”

  1. Yikes you got vaxxed. Such an intelligent person, yet you don’t see through propaganda and you don’t think it through or do your own research.

  2. Stacy Stevens

    I was a little taken back that in this article nothing was mentioned about climate change. Do you feel that plays a part in retirement as to where you chose to move?

    1. There are many factors to determine the best state for retirement. I focused on taxes, weather, and where the wealthiest people want to live.

      Climate change can certainly be a factor, with the wildfires in the west and the hurricanes in the southeast.

    2. Grand Solar Minimum is continuing mini ice age. AGW is political science not science. All weather changes are solar based. Our activities on the earth are minimum as per thermodynamics. The current volcanic activity far eclipses any human activity.

  3. How about adding a column on neighborliness or humanness? Just like niceness of Hawaiians, looking for continental US States where humans at least say hello to each other when they meet on the streets. What States still hold a community-like behaviors?
    I live in NorCal; nice weather, great outdoors, fine job. Money talks rule in most friends gatherings. On my street, no one steps outside and if they do, rarely or no greeting.
    This first-generation US citizen single empty-nester with two kids in the Army often feels living on a planet with no humans. :-)

  4. If you want to claim Florida as your primary resident, does it mean you must be there continually 6 months and one day in a row? Or can you break up that time in different places, but still have a total of 6 months and one day in Florida.

  5. Hi, I’v read most the comments on here!
    I see you are high on living in Hawaii? Question?
    Just renting on maui, I’m looking into a 55 older community with rent and all utilities being locked in
    At $3400 month! I’m done with home or condo buying,
    You think it makes sense to live the next 20 years in Hawaii on $45-48 gs a year that includes my SS AND investment withdrawals.. just wanting you opinion..

  6. For people who are seeking a warmer weather and a laid back lifestyle Texas is the ideal destination. Texas has the most affordable hosing, lower tax rates, and ample of leisure activities. Along, with that cities like Sugar Land offers both business as well as job opportunities for retirees looking to launch a second career. Along, with that the state also houses some of the best hospitals and doctors, which can help you manage your health condition and that too at an affordable rate.

    1. I left Texas because their property taxes are insane. I currently live in Scottsdale, Arizona which has really low state taxes, property taxes are about 1/4 of what I paid in Texas, and they have extremely low property insurance.

  7. $120k for a nice home with a pool? In Port St. Lucie? I actually have been looking at real estate in that area for quite a while. If anyone sees that deal, or anywhere near it, please let me know, because I have seen nothing close. This sounds like one of those imaginary tales that are just created to make a point.

    1. Brian, Financial Samurai doesn’t date their articles, but this was originally published in 2015. (Based on some of the comments.) Prices change a lot in five years.

  8. Joanne Rang

    What’s your take on retiring in VA or NC? I live in VA now, but thinking of moving to NC. Are they about par from a retirement standpoint on taxes

      1. The Cape Fear Region of NC is a great place to retire to. Three seasons no boiling summers water baches very low RE tax. Count all the Raleigh and Charlotte second homers and you have millionaires paradise. .

  9. Michael Crumley

    Sam, this is a good start. Maybe this is an idea for an article on Digital Nomad lifestyle. With so many folks being digital nomads living the full-time RV life we are fortunate here in the US to be able to change our Domicile and for tax purposes reside out of South Dakota, Wyoming, Alaska or Texas – yet travel anywhere and work on the road. Digital nomads can travel to Cali or Hawaii or Costa Rica or wherever…yet for tax purposes tethered to the State that offers them the best deal for their nomadic, AirBnb, or full-time RV lifestyle.

  10. We relocated from New Jersey to South Florida in 2012. I was 57 and my husband 59. We loved the mild winters in Fl! However, we had a four bathroom, four bed (two of which were suites) and a full finished basement with inground pool just 10 minutes from the Jersey Shore when we bought a beautiful new concrete block home just 10 minutes from Florida beaches. The Florida home cost more than what we sold our NJ home for a lot smaller house and property with no pool. Property taxes ran about the same, give or take a few bucks. At that time, gas was about a quarter less in Florida but not any more since NJ increased their tax rate on gasoline. Overall, we didn’t see much difference other than the fact that we didn’t have the bitter cold winters and that was what made our decision. Any tax benefits didn’t really affect us. Unfortunately, between the ridiculous out of control home owner’s associations in the state of Florida and the hurricanes, we felt we needed a break and again relocated to the Carolinas. Although we were, indeed warned about the homeowner’s associations, we were still blindsided by egos so I would definitely warn potential buyers to do their homework with 1) what is the capital contribution, 2) is it corporate managed or homeowners who manage (I would personally suggest corporate management), 3) has a reserve fund been established and if so, how much $ is there, 4) who is responsible for street lights, storm drains and roads, 5) is it gated, staffed or unstaffed and if so is their a wall going around the community to prevent people simply walking into the development to rob you? 6) Is it deed restricted, 7) Ask to see and review the annual budget so you can physically see the monthly expenses that the HOA has and how much it will cost you out of your monthly budget. Remember the realtors and sales people are there not to necessarily be honest but simply sell you a house. Example…the saleswoman was working hard to sell us an inventory home on a pond (Florida calls them lakes). We explained that we weren’t interested and when asked why, I responded that I was not interested in alligators in our backyard. Her response was and I quote, “there aren’t any alligators in this water”! Please know alligators are in Florida and in all the waterways. They move through those waterways constantly. Anyway these are just a few questions that should be asked to lessen the surprises. Our HOA fee was $2,800 a year and the community had no pool or clubhouse! It covered the cost of lawn care, building a reserve fund, maintaining the so called “lakes”, the unstaffed gate that was constantly breaking and the preserve along with the roads, storm drains and street lights. Do you get a tax waiver since these things are not maintained by the city through property taxes. The answer is no.

    1. Where are you and your wife now? We are in MD and try to find a tax friendly place to retire: FL (humidity, hurricane & sinkholes), TX (Austin/Dallas), NV (Las Vegas). There are pros and cons of each place and we have a hard time to decide.

  11. What do you think of southern utah for retirees? We’re looking at Ivins and it looks new and better than Henderson for the price.

    1. Lived in southern Utah for 16 years. The only problem is a series of new progressive tax overhaul is coming for 2020. Lots of poverty in southern Utah and guess who has to pay for it all?

  12. You should make an update 3 years later.
    This is a great article you wrote then.
    Even more relevant since you want to go more passive and a little closer to passive retirement.
    Interested how your son would impact the location.

  13. Pingback: Living In An Expensive City Can Make You Richer, Happier, And More Diplomatic | Financial Samurai

  14. All I care about is financial well-being. Weather is irrelevant. We live in the modern age and your home can be as warm or cold as you want it to be. So can the interior of your automobile.

    All I require, outside of financial benefits, is extremely fast internet and as many delivery-services (food, groceries, etc) as possible. Having grown up in Portland, started my career in San Francisco, and spending the past decade in Denver — Wyoming sounds entirely reasonable. I think that may be the direction for me to go… unless the internet is totally screwed up there.

    1. One friend moved from Tennessee to Florida and another friend just recently moved from Florida to Nashville so to each their own.

      1. Anonymous Comments

        No more transplants to Nashville please! The conditions are horrible here. As a native, we are struggling to find jobs and our roads are unbearable. No parking and there is no train for an alternative. It’s ungodly expensive and just not worth it. I’m getting out as fast as possible! Don’t move here.

  15. Pingback: Social Security Will Make Us All Millionaires In Retirement | Financial Samurai

  16. Just an FYI: Illinois currently has a 3.75% flat income tax and does not tax pensions or social security.

    Also, some of these so-called “low tax” states have very high sales tax and property tax (and all kinds of crazy fees, etc.).

    Lower taxes are important, but again, other things are maybe more important when it comes to quality of life…..

    1. Would you actually want to retire in Illinois though? The weather is horrendous for half the year. As I get older, I realize the importance of warm weather for my joints.

      1. Well…. Many retired people do live in Illinois. I don’t see Wyoming (which BTW, never takes down their snow fences) as such as a wonderful climate. And Texas is nasty hot (and comes with very high property taxes!).

        But that’s not my point. What I’m saying is people need to really research a place carefully and not just with what limited data is on the Internet. You need to spend time in your planned future retirement area long before you actually retire. You may end up being less than happy in your new retirement home.

        1. I wonder whether it’s due to a lack of funds why they retire in Illinois though?

          It is true that there is no free lunch. Hence, a good strategy is to retire in one of the no income tax states and RENT in order to avoid paying property taxes.

          1. I don’t know about renting to save on property tax? My assumption is that is included in the rent.

            But anyway, renting might be a good idea. That would certainly increase your flexibility to relocate in the case of your retirement home not working out. It could also provide a retiree with some needed liquidity; avoiding sinking so much cash into a house.

    2. Ace, I know this is a older post but I had to add to you comment. As a lifelong Illinois residence, in some ways I have to agree with what you said. Now, through the years I have done my fair share of b..ing about this state’s issues however after searching for a place to retire in the southwest, it not so cut and dry after all. My wife and I have visiting Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona and Nevada and even Northern CA for a retirement location on a yearly basis and there is no total clear winners. In Illinois, you get a nicer larger home with something wonderful called a BASEMENT for less money. Yes property taxes are high but Illinois is rather tax friendly to retirees. We also have in my opinion the best food and shopping and it’s got green grass unlike may southwest towns that are brown. On our visit to Grand Junction last year, the locals pointed us to their best pizza joint in town. After out first bite we realized if they ever got a Lou Malnati’s, they’d think they’d died and went to heaven. All in all, we still plan on moving and Nevada is high on our list. It’s just not as cut and dry as people may think.

      1. Illinois…tax-friendly? I’m a lifelong resident too, and I can’t wrap my head around how you can POSSIBLY call Illinois ‘tax-friendly’. People are literally leaving the state in droves, not to mention businesses as well…because of TAXES, and uncontrolled/misappropriated state spending.

        1. Stacy, please reread my original comment. “Tax friendly towards retirees” meaning retirement income from social security, pensions Income from IRA and 401k’s are not state taxed.

        2. I agree, I can’t get out of Illinois fast enough! Between the horrible weather, high crime, ridiculous politics, high taxes, poor school system (CPS), I can’t wait to leave. One more year and it’s early retirement for me. I’m thinking of AZ or TX.

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  18. I actually like Pittsburgh, PA as a retirement destination (I know, not a state). PA has just a 3% income tax, but the city of Pittsburgh has no income tax on capital gains (to my understanding). Pittsburgh has a rediculuously low housing cost, and they have big city cultural venue (performance arts, great museums, universities, and a great plant conservatory)! This is a top potential pick for my partner and I when we are ready to pull the ripcord.

      1. San Francisco?? In the same conversation as Pittsburgh?? No way… prices in San Francisco are some of the highest in the country! Pittsburgh is a great city!

        1. Haha, cool. That’s what’s great about America. We are free to live wherever we want! I’m certainly looking to expand my real estate investments outside of SF. Prices are too high here.

      2. Jody Lepore

        Pittsburgh WAY BETTER than anything San Francisco has to offer. Extreme Liberalism, Overpriced on EVERYTHING, Self Rightous attitudes, EARTHQUAKES. Pittsburgh, better class of people, don’t have to fight traffic for 2 hours to get out of town and enjoy the country. Mountans near by. No not “overrated” Florida, or a cesspool like the whole State of California, but will take Pittsburgh over many places anyday. If San Francisco is SO GREAT……..Why are you all leaving?????

  19. I’m ashamed my native state of Nebraska treats retirees so poorly. Not only are the taxes high but there’s really no incentive for anyone to retire here.

  20. Egh, I feel like these tax lists are not always fair and balanced.

    Is NYC super expensive? Yes. But my city tax covers sanitation, subsidized public transportation, etc.

    Also, I work part time in sales (health care) and I would make probably 50% less if I moved to Florida, North Carolina, etc etc.

    But I guess if we are talking about “Full retirement”, then yes, it makes sense to leave NY, NJ, and California. Of course, raising kids changes everything…

    How about 6 months in Tampa, Fl and 6 months in NYC, that would be interesting : )

  21. I’d still go with Washington with it’s fairly low cost of living, great recreation opportunities, no income tax and still cheap housing if you know where to look. It really makes sense to rent here since rent is still so low and you avoid the higher property tax.
    The higher sales tax is easily offset by not buying so much crap. Same with fuel tax since it’s super easy to get around on transit. Seattle is basically a much cheaper San Francisco

    1. And if you live near the Oregon border, you live and work/retire in WA (no income tax), shop in no sales tax Oregon, and you are away from the highest housing prices.

    2. Jody Lepore

      Washington native. Couldn’t get me to move back there permanently until all the Californians leave and go back to California! They like cockroaches, trash their state and move to our state and trash that. Increase the cost of living. More wildfires!!!

  22. Adam @ AdamChudy.com

    We’re currently located in Houston and like it quite a bit (as well as Austin). Property taxes are higher than average, but that’s about the only thing that’s generally expensive. If you don’t mind the climate, I think most people would really enjoy it here. The secret about the weather is the summers may be a bit nasty, but winters cruise largely between mid 50’s and low 70’s, which is really pleasant.

    I imagine we would keep our home base here or Austin, unless we wanted to move back to be close to family in Arkansas.

  23. Colorado , North Carolina, and Florida (in that order) are my dream locations. Lower cost of living, lower taxes, nice weather, and plenty to do!

    nice list!

  24. consider west michigan for easy access to large amounts of fresh water. Might be more of a commodity in 30 years.

  25. This article is very comprehensive–really great info you pulled. Thanks for sharing. I wouldn’t have expected NJ and Hawaii to top the list of most millionaires per 1,000 households.

    If you’re not set on one state, one option that many people choose is to buy a house in a state with no income tax, live there 183 days a year, and then have another house in a different state. That way, you can avoid state income taxes while not tying yourself down to one area.

    1. Is Hawaii really a surprise? Hawaii is AMAZING! So many wealthy people i know retire there or buy second homes.

      NJ is kinda surprising b/c NJ has huge property taxes, and isn’t perceived to be a beautiful place to live, especially with the whether.

      Good call on splitting living. I plan to do that.

      1. Anon E. Mouse

        NJ shouldn’t be surprising. It’s close to NYC and has a lot of good schools. You can get a lot more house for your money by living in NJ or Connecticut.

  26. We like Portland and will probably stay here at least part time after we both retire. It would be nice to have no state income tax, though. For that I like Florida and Washington.
    Seattle area is nice, but it’s getting really expensive and busy just like California. Traffic is horrendous from what I hear. I’d probably choose someplace near the Oregon border.
    Florida sounds good too. I’ll have to visit and research the communities more.

    1. Traffic is horrendous in the larger cities of CA. That’s why I moved more west to Golden Gate Heights. Much more open and relaxing.

      Does living so close to Washington with zero state taxes irk you a little? If I was that close, I’d move. Nevada’s closest drive for me is Reno, 4.5 hours away, so I’ve got to pass. But then, there’s the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe as well.

      1. Re: Oregon/Washington taxes.

        You asked why Oregon residents in Portland don’t live in Washington. Here are a few factors as to why:
        1) Most of the jobs are in Portland. You work in Oregon and you pay Oregon income tax regardless of if your residence is in Washington.
        2) The commute to/from Vancouver to Oregon is absolute hell. Only 2 river crossings from Oregon to Washington and traffic is horrendous.
        3) Vancouver (Washington) has a reputation, deserved or not, for being Portland’s white-trashy stepchild. Tonya Harding is from Vancouver. :-) Living in Vancouver is probably like living in a lot of suburbs but it doesn’t offer the same things Portland does. It’s like comparing living in Morgan Hill to living in SF.

        That said, Vancouver is not a bad option for retirees that occasionally want to venture into Portland during non commuting hours.

  27. Boy do I know how crazy California is with taxes. I love living here, but doubt I’ll still be here in 30 years. It’s too expensive. I really like the last table you made on best states for retirees based on both low taxes and great lifestyle. I’d choose Washington and Nevada as my top two from that list. I haven’t been to Washington before, but I’ve heard great things about it. People say Seattle is similar to San Francisco, although I imagine it’s a lot more peaceful than SF now since SF is becoming too crowded.

    Nevada is great. My only issue would be the cold winters, but I guess it depends where in Nevada you are. Vegas gets cold at night during the winter, but the day time temps are very similar to SF. I’m not sure I’d actually want to live near Vegas (summers are so hot!), but I like the idea of moving somewhere with mild winters like we have in SF.

  28. Done by Forty

    I’m very happy earning in low-cost and generally good weather Arizona. It’s working for us for now.

    Long term, I think taxes will not be as big of a concern for us in early retirement due to our strategy, which involves us looking like very meager earners on paper. Regardless of state, I assume state taxes will be only a modest cost. States like Washington and Oregon appeal to us, but the real estate in desirable areas is a real concern…probably a bigger one than tax rates.

  29. I would be hesitant to suggest that people use the top marginal tax rates to base their retirement decision on. For instance, while Vermont has a top marginal tax rate of 8.95% it is for incomes above $411,500. I’m thinking there aren’t too many retiree’s with retirement INCOME of over $400K. If your retirement income is under $62,600 for a couple the tax rate in Vermont is 3.55%. This is lower than many of the other states and given the average retirement income is under $30,000, I can only imagine that most households will only be paying 3.55%, not 8.95%. I’m sure there are other states where the same analysis proves a very different result than the generalist approach the Tax Foundation takes.

      1. The Roth IRA is not a result of brainwashing when you’re in the 15% tax bracket now. And its not as if you can’t change to a Trad IRA when you reach a higher bracket.

  30. Wall Street Playboys

    For retirement? Texas and Florida should be neck and neck.

    Sexy latinas, minimal taxes and nice weather.

    San Francisco/california in general = *ground zero* for feminists, is already out unless you’re into girls with short hair, green hair, flip flops, tattoos and a sarcastic sense of “humor”.


    Should be close between Texas and Florida. Texas may actually win. Why? Florida does have its crime issues and serious delinquents living there.

    When you’re retired, you should not be paying 10%+ races that’s just crazy!

    Now if we are talking about making money and geting ahead (not retired) you are pretty much forced into the hubs.


    In that case nyc is the most fun.

    1. Oh please enlighten me how an uneducated and unemployed hill billy could *get ahead* by moving to NYC/SF/Boston/Austin/Houston/LA.

  31. Sam, call me crazy but I would stay in CA after retirement.

    Here is my plan so feel free to let me know if my strategy is incorrect

    1) Prop 13 will ensure my bay area house taxes are capped.
    2) I would not have large income in retirement (my current spending is low) so I can stay under the draconian tax radar by spending just $40K annually
    3) Slowly Convert Traditional IRA (my former 401Ks) to Roth IRA
    Once you begin your early retirement, you will likely have less taxable income than you did when you were working. IRA conversions count as ordinary income so to obtain completely tax-free conversions, I would convert an amount equal to my deductions and exemptions (assuming I have no other ordinary income). During this time, I can live off off my long-term capital gains and dividends, which will be taxed at 0% if I am in the 10% or 15% tax bracket.


    1. Well, I did it for 1.5 years, and it wasn’t bad on 75% less income until I get restless.

      Depends how big your property tax bill is. Mine are several, and unfortunately in the tens of thousands of dollars a year (see other post about which type of real estate to buy).

      I would TRY one of the seven no income tax states for an extended vacation and see how you like it.

    2. The main reason to leave CA is for a lower cost of living. Taxes aren’t much of an issue if you have had your property for a long time, because of Prop. 13. People are surprised when they move to other states like Texas that the property tax rates are more than double CA and they aren’t capped, so if someone trades a $500k prop. in CA for one in Texas, the taxes could even be something like 5 times higher if they have had their CA property for a long time. Income taxes don’t get too high until you get over $175k or so in CA, because the bottom bracket starts at 1%

      1. I can’t believe you just compared a 500k property in California to a 500k in Texas, then complained about the property taxes being higher. I’d argue that the property taxes are comparable in that a 500k house in California (probably a decent Townhome) is around a 150K house in Texas.

        You have to believe that house prices will appreciate like they always have in history to take full advantage of prop 13. Buying at today’s prices with stagnating wages isn’t exactly a slam dunk. It took one income to buy houses then, now its imperative to have two incomes. Should we get ready for the 3rd income stream for gains in the future? Wages must go up or prop 13 will only benefit the homeowners who bought before housing bubble 1.0

        1. I bought my property in 1998 when CA was seen as being done for by most of the national media. My property taxes now are less than half than some of my neighbors. Even if I bought a house in Texas that only cost a third of my home’s current value, my property taxes would still go up.

          If property prices go up more than 2% a year, you get a benefit from Prop 13 that starts compounding. 2% inflation isn’t really that much. Some people think inflation is understated by the government and it really has been higher than 2%.

    3. John, I don’t think you’re crazy. Your reasoning is sound. I moved from CA to Reno, NV ten months ago. Note: I believe dividends and cap gains are taxed as regular income in CA, so that may impact your ROTH conversion with regard to CA income tax.

      CA history: my average CA income tax (as % of AGI) ~3%; however, sales tax where I lived was 10% [Sold the CA house, renting it would mean filing CA taxes annually…no thanks!]

      Moved to Reno, NV ‘cuz driving 3 hours to ski was getting OLD! (Kinda like me.)
      NV: House cost ~50% of Calif house; my property tax in NV is half of CA property tax (YMMV due to Prop 13); homeowners ins ~35% of CA, auto ins ~65% of CA; Sales tax in Reno 7.75%; gas & electric ~2x higher than CA; Water ~10% higher than CA

      I’ve tracked my “income/AGI/deductions/taxable income/taxes paid” and calculated % tax to fed & state since 1989. It’s interesting to see paying a lower % of my AGI in taxes in the 2000s vs the higher % & lower income in the 90s.

      1. I second Northern Nevada too (Reno, Sparks, etc.). !!

        No state income tax. Easy drive over the hill to Bay Area. International airport.
        45 minutes to sking

  32. Since I plan to ski into my 90s like my grandparents and hopefully my parents as well, WY would be a perfect home base. Jackson Hole is about as good of skiing as you can get in the U.S., and Targhee next door is pretty sweet, too. Plus, it is absolutely gorgeous there in the summer for mountain biking, hiking, fishing, horse riding, etc. And with all the money you save on taxes, you can fly to Hawaii as much as you want to warm up and get an ocean fix.

      1. Yes, therein lies the challenge! For a lower cost option, Ogden, UT. Snowbasin has the nicest ski lodge I’ve ever seen, and next door is Powder mountain, which is a blast. For $300,000, you can still by a very nice mountain home in the vicinity. Condo as close to Hanalei Bay as is affordable. That’s plan B.

  33. Property taxes rates are generally much more important than income taxes for retirees, especially since social security taxes are not taxed by most states, that is unless you are a retiree with $200k in income.

    1. In my case, I plan to downsize to half of the footage of our current house. I agree with Sam’s point that 500 sqft per person (if I remember it correctly) is enough. Mine now is 2000 sqft per person. What a waste! With a much smaller house, the propertx tax should be much less, even in FL.

    2. Try Virginia, it’s a nice place to live, but the most expensive place to own a vehicle! Some people pay upwards of $1,000 just to own a car (doesn’t matter how old it is). Car dealerships don’t do to well here lol and people ride around in old beat up cars because of the property tax on cars.

  34. The state tax rates above don’t tell everything affecting retirees. In New York, for example, social security benefits are not taxed and neither are the first $20,000 of withdrawals from a pension or IRA. “Seniors” (I hate the term but will take the benefits) get other little perks, like half-price rides on the very expensive Long Island Railroad and half-price on NYC subways and busses.

    As a recent retiree I still live in New York, about 50 miles east of the city, because it remains one of the most exciting locations in the country. (I’ve spent time in Florida. It was warm but I was bored.)

    1. That is interesting Larry, I definitely didn’t know that. As a CT native I just assume CT and NY are pretty expensive to live. However, like you mentioned if you have some social security and pension/IRA benefits that makes it a bit more palatable :)

      1. You can look up 50 websites and find 50 different rankings of best states to retire, with all kinds of criteria (not just taxes and climate – but crime, medical care, and others). And while NY may have a high marginal tax rate, not everyone has the kind of income that would trigger that rate (as I’ve shown, retirees with modest incomes can actually pay relatively little state tax).

        NY’s climate may not be the greatest, but it’s hardly as bad as that of Chicago, Minneapolis, or Milwaukee. Not many places have the wealth of cultural opportunities as NY, and close proximity to Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and DC doesn’t hurt either.

  35. Florida is a great state to lived, been here 35 years, however, South Florida is very expensive will recommend south west florida, Naples and the sourading.

  36. Without a doubt I think Florida is a great place to retire, for all the reasons you mentioned. I also think it is a great place for the remote employee or self-employed who can be remote. I currently reside in Manhattan and get hit with NY state income tax and NYC residency tax. I actually parlayed the move to Manhattan with an increased savings rate due to the fact I received a pay increase, sold my car, and can walk to work. No commuting costs for me! And I share an apartment with two friends to cut down on our Manhattan rent. This move to NYC has definitely sped up my accumulation phase of my wealth building, but it is by no means a permanent move. I will not retire here, that’s for sure!

    I’m surprised New Hampshire didn’t make the top 6 list of best places to retire. With the low taxes and active lifestyle I definitely think it would be top 10.

    1. NH? Too cold. Not too much going on either. No major international airport close by.

      At what age do you stop living with roommates? There is this tech bro phenomena where guys have this frat mentality in SF and live together until as late as 32.

      1. Alaska is #2 on the list above and is colder and more in the middle of nowhere than NH. At least New Hampshire is near Logan airport in Boston (as long as you aren’t that far north).

        As for the roommates – pretty soon. I’ll be getting my own place in 206 when I’m 28.

        1. But in Alaska, you make money from the state with an annual oil credit! Meanwhile, the wilderness is beautiful. I had an amazing time fishing and hiking Mt. McKinely years ago.

  37. I moved from LA to Fort Lauderdale and my expenses didn’t change much. Property taxes are very high, my car insurance went up, home owners insurance doubled and utilities were much higher.

    I think if I didn’t own a home I could avoid a lot of the added expenses.

    1. Fort Lauderdale is not the part of Florida to move to if saving money is your goal. Anything from Palm Beach south along the Eastern coast is going to be the priciest spot in the state.

  38. I vote for Nevada for many of the reasons described here, specifically Henderson, NV, a suburb of Las Vegas. I plan to move there from California in 5-7 years once I build my financial nut. Here are my reasons: 1. Nevada has no state income tax. This as you point out is a huge plus for a retiree. Additionally suburban real estate is cheap ($175k-250k for a 3 bedroom 2 bath house) and cost of goods are reasonable. 2. A warm climate (and a cool but not cold winter as a respite from the summer’s intense heat). Growing up in the Midwest, I’d rather suffer an indoor summer over an indoor winter any day. At least summer mornings (early) are somewhat manageable. 3. A great airport given the size of Las Vegas. You could do better at an LAX, JFK, SFO, ORD, but you can still catch nonstop domestic flights to every major, most mid-level, and many minor US cities. Many nonstop international flights are available to East Asian and European hubs. This is great if you plan on incorporating some short consulting gigs or want to live internationally for part of the year (sweaty summer for example). 4. Amenities. Vegas is not comparable to New York, LA, SF … let’s just say that right away. But you still have world class restaurants, all of the LV strip amenities, world class shows etc. Henderson NV however keeps you away from the tourists, and significantly drops the price of real estate and has very low crime. 5. Availability of outdoor activity. The mountains around Vegas provide tons of great local hiking opportunities. Lake Mead is 45 minutes away for boating and being on the water (at least for now until it dries up!!). The Grand Canyon is a few hours away, as are ski resorts in Flagstaff. 6. Proximity to the West Coast. LA is a short 5 hour drive, as is San Diego. So whatever amenities you lack in Vegas are a long weekend away. Hey you’re retired … you can endure a 5 hour drive … time is your friend! If they ever build high speed rail from LA to Vegas you’ll have that too. 7. Friends and family will come to you to visit Vegas. At least every third or fourth year your friends and family will want to experience a Vegas long weekend. They’ll spend a night or two with you, a night or two on the strip. Train them not to expect you to join them in the casinos. 8. I *believe* rentals are more productive (in terms of rental price to purchase price ratio, rather than appreciation) than on the coasts. Just my two cents. Would love to hear some cons for planning purposes.

  39. Fin Samurai,

    So you’re saying Ohio isn’t on this list? haha joking, not a shocker there. I am actually in the midst of thinking of life from all angles and am strongly considering: Better cost of living, tax impact and better state/lifestyle, i.e. Florida potentially. Further, it would be a great vacation spot for family and friends from home, plus I could keep more of my income and enjoy things that I love, all year round – being outside, running, the beach,etc..

    Samurai – how many different places have you lived and what are your thoughts with it?


    1. You living in Ohio? The good thing is you’ve got a lot of lifestyle upside just by moving!

      I’ve lived in Taipei, Lasaka, KL, Osaka, Manila, Beijing, DC, NYC, SF for the most part and traveled to about 40 other countries. I really like SF for the work life balance and the weather. Our taxes are just bad though. But now that I don’t work a day job, it feels much better!

      I really love Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Fantastic food. Low prices. Great culture. Nice beaches. But, hard to get rich unless you are a local entrepreneur, hence an internet business! I plan to go back this year, maybe next monthly hopefully.

      1. Hey FS – Man I miss KL too! Haven’t been back for 3 years, in Calgary now… brrr

        I understand that the Malaysian government is currently giving out some incentives for global entrepreneurs to have a startup based there. Something you might want to consider, or perhaps you already know hence the trip… :)

        Selamat Jalan & Jumpa Lagi :)

          1. If you recall we were in communication a while back over email – it’s a long story but the main reason is to provide a fair and level playing field for our little daughter to grow up in – we’re in our mid 30s, she is 5 mths old. You probably know of the social issues/challenges in Malaysia since you spent some time there.

            Since moving here I’m beginning to feel that there is no perfect place – you always win some and lose some with each location. Learning to treasure the simple things in life and to be happy by choice :)

            Please share about your trip later if you can – be interested to hear of your experience.

            Yes missing all that and Hokkien Fried Noodles!! Bring on the lard!!

  40. As far as the tax argument, you’d do well to factor in that offer income tax exemptions for retirement income.

    Also, I don’t think looking at less desirable or more desirable states makes sense per se. Quite a few states that may seem undesirable on the surface have one or two trendy cities that could make a desirable home for a retiree.

      1. Tax laws vary greatly state to state, but I’ll use North Dakota as an example (based on information I believe to be accurate). North Dakota, a low tax state, taxes both social security and pension.

        On the other hand, you have middling to high tax states like Maine, Kentucky, and South Carolina that do not tax social security. Additionally, they offer either exemptions or credits for pensions and/or 401(k)s.

        As for cities–depending on the type of lifestyle is desired–places like Coeur d’Alene, Asheville, Louisville, and Columbus are a few places that could be appealing to a retiree’s lifestyle. However, when thinking of states to retire, I doubt that Idaho, North Carolina, Kentucky, or Ohio are the first states that come to mind for most people.

  41. We used to have almonds in the office as one of the grab-and-go free snack choices. Now we don’t. Too expensive. If a SoCal drought worsens, I would anticipate a significant exodus.

    Austin is already a significant choice for outflowing Southern Californians. It’s reasonable to assume that there could be knock on effects in particular real estate markets within Texas, Florida and certain parts of Nevada.

    I am personally considering purchasing an urban condo as a rental in anticipation of this, a retiree tidal wave and because I think it might be a heck of a lot better than shoveling money into 529’s.

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