Tennessee Tops 10 Best States for Retirees

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While it may be no surprise that many retirees enjoy warmer climates, it may be a shock that the top honor in Bankrate.com's 2013 list of best states to retire is Tennessee, lauded for its low cost of living.

"When you think of best places to retire, you would think of Florida or Arizona," said Chris Kahn, Bankrate.com's research and statistics analyst who prepared the report. "States that are not top tourist destinations have a lot to offer."

Kahn was surprised to find a number of states around the Appalachian region of the U.S. made the top 10 list, which may be "mystifying" to people who have never lived there.

"They really hit that sweet spot of having relatively warm temperatures, modest cost of living and access to health care. Some had higher-than-average crime rates, but they still were at top of the list," he said.

Kahn and Bankrate.com looked at characteristics like access to health care, cost of living, crime and tax burdens to choose the best places to retire. They looked at stats like number of hospital beds and doctors per capita, plus average temperatures over 30 years.

Here's a list of Bankrate.com's 10 best states for retirement:

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1.
Tennessee

Tennessee's cost of living was one of the main drivers behind its place at the top of the list. It has the second-lowest cost of living in the country, behind Oklahoma, according to data collected by the Council for Community and Economic Research. In addition, its local and state taxes are the third-lowest in the nation, in the context of its income, sales and property tax levels, according to the Tax Foundation. Bankrate.com says the state's warmer-than-average climate and access to hospital beds, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, make up for its crime rate, which is among the worst in the U.S.

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2.
Louisiana

Louisiana has the fourth-lowest tax burden in the country, which retirees can enjoy in the balmy average temperature of 66.7 degrees, higher than every state except Hawaii and Florida. Its low cost of living and better-than-average access to medical care, as defined by Bankrate, also make up somewhat for its crime rate. There are 4,244 property and violent crimes per 100,000 people in the state, according to the FBI, compared to a national average of 3,253.

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3.
South Dakota

While it doesn't have the warmest climate (with a 30-year average temperature of 46 degrees), South Dakota has the lowest crime rate in the country. It also can boast of a low tax burden. Residents have an estimated local and state tax burden of 7.6 percent of income, lower than every state except Alaska, according to the Tax Foundation.

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4.
Kentucky

Kentucky's very low cost of living -- the fifth lowest in the nation -- plus its warmer-than-average temperatures are two reasons Kentucky made the top 10 list.

It also has a lower-than-average crime rate. Last, who wouldn't love a place that's called the Bluegrass State?

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5.
Mississippi

Mississippi is another Appalachian state to make the top 10 list because of its warmer-than-most climate, low tax burden and lower-than-average cost of living.

On the downside, however, its crime rate is slightly higher than average and it has only 178 doctors per 100,000 people, one of the lowest physician-to-resident ratios in the country, according to the Census Bureau.

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6.
Virginia

With a lower cost of living, warmer temperatures and medical care access, Virginia is for lovers and retirees. There were only 2,446 property and violent crimes per 100,000 people.

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7.
West Virginia

Bankrate.com lauds West Virginia for its lower-than-average cost of living, crime rate and its higher-than-average access to hospital beds. The 30-year state average temperature is about 52 degrees. Living in the heart of Appalachian coal country sounds pretty mild.

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8.
Alabama

While its crime rate is relatively high (with 4,026 property and violent crimes per 100,000 people) and its medical access is lower than the national average, it still boasts of a low cost of living and a warm average temperature of 63 degrees.

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9.
Nebraska

While Nebraska is colder than other states, with an average of 49.2 degrees, the state's cost of living is among the lowest in the country. Plus, its local and state tax burden is near the national average at 9.7 percent, according to the Tax Foundation.

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10.
North Dakota

North Dakota is certainly not a typical, warm place of retirement, with an average temperature of 41 degrees. But notwithstanding the climate, it has excellent access to healthcare, with 5 beds for every 1,000 people in the state, the second-best in the U.S., according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Also in its favor is North Dakota's second-lowest crime rate in the country. Its tax burden is "relatively mild" at 8.9 percent of income, according to Bankrate.com.

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