Worst States To Retire

Choosing where to retire is a huge decision. It's where you'll spend the rest of your golden years. Therefore, you'll want to avoid the worst states to retire.

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Choosing where to retire is a huge decision. It's where you'll spend the rest of your golden years. Therefore, you'll want to avoid the worst states to retire.

The best states to retire will offer pleasant weather, friendly people, tax benefits, and other great conditions for retirees. However, the opposite is true for some of the states on this list.

Some of the worst states to retire include New Jersey, Mississippi, New York, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Illinois, Rhode Island, Washington, and Georgia. The ranking was based on affordability, quality of life, and healthcare.

The major factors that must influence your decisions to move after retirement include how affordable that state is in terms of housing and other living expenses, the quality of life, and the quality of the healthcare system. A state may have affordable housing and provide you with all the amenities you need for quality living, but is it wise to move if the healthcare system is poor? All 3 of these factors are extremely important, and overlooking any of these now might make you regret your decision in the future.

After extensive research and reading studies done by various publications, such as WalletHub, we've compiled this list of the worst states you can choose to retire in.

Table of Contents

What to Look for in a State Before You Decide to Relocate After Retirement

There are numerous factors that you must consider before deciding which state to relocate to after you retire. Of course, the more factors a state complies with, the better choice it is. However, if the state you're planning to move to doesn't check these points off the list, it's probably not the best state to relocate to.

Entertainment and Recreation

Since you’ve already retired, you’ll have a lot of free time. The state you plan on retiring in should offer plenty of entertainment options and recreational activities so that you don’t feel bored and start missing your life back home.


Transportation is, of course, one of the most important considerations. You certainly don't want to move to a state where the public transport system is poor. You should choose to retire in a state where public transport is easily accessible. There should be an extensive network of railways, buses, and highways. Airports are important, especially if you plan to fly to visit your children and grandchildren over the holidays.

Housing Cost

You don't want most of your pension to go into rent and mortgage payments, right? Choose a state where housing is affordable. Do your research and make sure you aren't moving to a state where you have to settle in the outskirts because that's the only place where houses are affordable for retirees.

Cost of Living

The cost of living is an extremely important factor that you should consider. Apart from the cost of housing, the cost of utilities, fuel, and groceries should be affordable as well. Don't forget that you are now retired, and the only income you'll have is your pension.

Quality of Healthcare

You never know when you might need medical attention. It would help if you chose to retire in a state with high-quality healthcare that’s also affordable. This has to be a prerequisite when choosing where to retire.


It’s best if you choose to retire in a state where the weather isn’t too harsh. If the summers are too hot and humid and winters are too cold and long, you probably shouldn’t consider moving.

Worst States to Retire

To put it simply, all the states that fail to meet the factors we discussed above fall under the category of the worst states for retirees. WalletHub has listed a pretty good number of states as the worst states to retire, and they've been so-called for all the right reasons.

The ranking has been done based on the points for affordability, cost of living, and healthcare.

New Jersey

New Jersey ranks on the top of the list of the worst states to retire. It ranked 49th in affordability, 34th in quality of life, and 28th in healthcare. Retiring in New Jersey might be the biggest mistake of your life. You’ll be paying 12% more for basics than any other state. With such a high cost of living, the standard of living in New Jersey is much lower than in other states of the United States.

Apart from expensive utilities and household basics, the tax burden on residents of New Jersey is quite a lot. While the state doesn't tax retirees as harshly and doesn't even deduct taxes from the Social Security Income, you'll still have to pay sales tax - which is about 6.6%. Not only are the sales taxes high, but the property taxes are one of the highest in all of the U.S. You may find it extremely difficult to buy or even rent a home in New Jersey.

Another reason why New Jersey is the worst state to retire is the extensively high healthcare costs. It can cost a lot to get quality healthcare, so many elderly citizens fail to get the treatment they need for their illnesses and ailments.

In a nutshell, New Jersey doesn’t sit well for retirees in any of 3 basic areas, which justifies why it has been ranked as the worst state to retire.


Mississippi has affordable housing and a low cost of living, yet it’s ranked quite poorly when it comes to whether one should retire there. Mississippi is ranked just under New Jersey and is no better for retirees. It’s ranked lowest among 50 states in quality of life. About 21% of the residents of Mississippi are living below the poverty line.

The poverty rate in this state is one of the highest in all of the U.S. It also lacks sports activities. It has no professional teams for any sports whatsoever, offering the sports-loving residents absolutely nothing to look forward to.

The healthcare system of Mississippi is one of the poorest in the country. Quality healthcare isn't readily accessible to residents, the healthcare costs are extremely high, and there are limited hospitals and that too with inadequate facilities and capacities for the size of the state, which is why the life expectancy of the people in Mississippi is quite poor.

Other than the primary factors, Mississippi doesn't score well in various other areas as well. The weather conditions in the state are bad. It experiences some extremist weather conditions, including hurricanes and tornadoes. This is due to the state's geographical location on the Gulf Coast. It stands 4th in the list of the most hurricane and tornado-prone states.

One of the biggest problems about this state is that international travelers have to travel to Memphis because that's the only airport for international flights. As if all of this wasn't enough, the mosquito situation in the summers is extremely frustrating.

New York

Living in New York is a dream for many. However, it's not the best state to retire in. New York takes the last spot among 50 states when it comes to affordability. While it ranks better in quality of life and healthcare, the affordability factor is the prime reason you shouldn't consider retiring in New York if you don't have good financial reserves to help you post-retirement.

The cost of living in New York is extremely high. In fact, it’s about 68% higher than the national average. If you’re planning to live in the Hamptons, you should know that the cost of living in this part of New York is 140% higher than the national average. Even the areas of New York that New Yorkers consider cheaper are more expensive than any other state.

Although the state is ranked 7th among 50 states in the overall healthcare quality, the state stands on rank 21 in senior health. Since the cost of living is so high, seniors aren’t able to spare adequate sums for their medical treatments. It’s best to invest in high-coverage health insurance if you’re living in New York because paying for healthcare out of pocket isn’t affordable for most.


Just above New York in the ranking is Kentucky. The 47th rank in the WalletHub ranking tells a lot about how bad of a choice it is to retire in Kentucky. WalletHub has placed Kentucky on the 26th spot in affordability, but it has been placed 42nd in quality of life and 47th in healthcare.

Kentucky is among the worst states to retire for a number of reasons. The income tax rate is the same for everyone, and that's 5%. It’s one of the few states that have a flat income tax rate.

While people with a high total income can benefit from the flat rate, those who earn less might find it worse than good. What's worse for retirees is that their retirement income is taxable. Earlier, retirees were exempted from income tax on their first $41,110, but this was lowered to $31,110.

The weather conditions in Kentucky can get really bad too. The state experiences at least 2 to 3 storms every year, which are strong enough to rattle your windows. If there's a tornado warning in Kentucky, you've got to take it seriously because tornados are no joke in Kentucky.

The pollution is pretty bad here. You can literally smell the exhaust from the factories from far away. The pollution from traffic is a serious problem too. The air quality of Kentucky isn't the healthiest, which is one of the reasons why you should reconsider your decision to retire in Kentucky. The state is among some of the least healthy states.


According to WalletHub, Oklahoma stands on spot 21 for affordability but is ranked much lower in quality of life and healthcare, and the state sits comfortably on the 44th spot in both these areas. Although the state is much more affordable than others and has a comparatively lower cost of living, the sales tax is quite high.

It’s among the highest sales tax charging states in all of the U.S. Another drawback of retiring in Oklahoma is the shortage of doctors. Although the healthcare costs aren’t too high, finding a doctor is a challenge for the residents. The state has only 76 doctors for every 100,000 residents, which is quite low!

The crime rate in Oklahoma is very high, making you want to reconsider your decision to retire in Oklahoma. The crime rate in the state is higher than the average crime rate of the United States (as of 2020). The most common crimes are property crimes. Violent crimes are not as common, but they're reported too.

The weather in Oklahoma is quite unpredictable. The spring season is supposed to be pleasant and beautiful, but not in Oklahoma. Tornados, thunderstorms, and hailstorms accompany the spring season, often quite devastating.

Another major drawback for retirees who decide to relocate to Oklahoma is the lack of public transportation. Many cities have no bus service. Even in metropolitan cities, the bus service is quite limited. Most citizens are usually very dissatisfied with public transportation.

If you’re someone who doesn’t like to drive because of your health, you’re pretty much on your own if you decide to retire in Oklahoma.


Illinois is ranked better in quality of life and healthcare at 23 and 21 among 50 states, but it stands at 47th in terms of affordability, which is why it's on the list of the worst states to retire. The biggest drawback of retiring in Illinois is the crazy taxation.

The state squeezes the life out of its citizens. The property tax of 2.32% is the second-highest in all of the United States. The sales tax is 6.25%, which can go up to 11% when combined with local taxes.

As if all of this wasn't enough, the state also has a flat income tax rate of 4.95%. The cumulative amount of taxes one pays in Illinois is higher than in most states.

The traffic conditions in Illinois are a disaster too. The roads get choked with traffic in peak hours. You better be prepared to stay stuck in traffic for hours. Apart from this, the winters are quite harsh in Illinois.

The winters are extremely cold and long, and you can expect your routine life to come to a halt because everything around you will be frozen. To make things worse, ice storms are common too. The state is also prone to thunderstorms, lightning, and tornados.

For retirees, the first thing they often consider when planning to relocate post-retirement is the weather, and in the case of Illinois, the weather conditions are a no-go!

Rhode Island

Rhode Island isn't the most affordable state to retire in. It's ranked number 40 by WalletHub. It's one of the priciest states to live in, which is why it's one of the worst states to retire. Whether it's housing, utilities, or groceries, you'll see a surge in your expenses living in Rhode Island.

The housing costs in Rhode Island are 30% higher, so owning a house or even renting one may be tough for retirees who don't have an active source of income except for their retirement income.

It's not just the cost of living that's pretty high in this state; the income tax is also high. While the highest income tax rate is 6%, you'll be paying anywhere between 3% and 5% income tax on your retirement income.

Property taxes are also quite high (among the highest in the United States). And that's not all! You also have to pay a 7% sales tax on everything you buy. Not to forget property tax on automobiles, so if you own a vehicle, that's taxable too. Therefore, Rhode Island isn't very tax-friendly for retirees.

If you aren't a winter person, you shouldn't consider relocating to Rhode Island after you retire because the winters can get very harsh. With about 3 feet of snow, you can expect your routine life to get disturbed big time.

Rhode Island is also one of the most densely populated states, so the traffic situation is pretty bad. To add to all this, the roads are in bad shape with potholes that make the traffic situation even worse. If you're someone who has little or no temperament for bad traffic, Rhode Island isn't the state for you.


Washington is a big name with a big reputation that lures retirees to relocate to this state after they retire. But sadly, Washington isn't the best state to retire. In fact, it's one of the worst states for retirees. It stands at 46th spot in affordability and on 23rd and 8th in healthcare and quality of life. Yes, Washington is known for its fine quality of life, but that's only for those who can afford it because it's not the most affordable state to live in.

Many people like Washington for its low tax burden, but that shouldn't blind you from looking into the factors that make Washington one of the worst states to retire. The cost of housing in Washington is very high.

The average housing price is 65% higher than the national average. Even if you don't want to purchase a house but rent one, you'll still find yourself struggling. Rent in Washington is also 25% higher than the rent in other states. Not only is housing expensive, but utilities, gasoline, and groceries will also cost you more in Washington.

Every citizen in Washington is required to pay heavy sales tax. The sales tax combined with local taxes goes as high as 11%, which is quite a lot.

The road conditions in Washington are bad, and the traffic conditions are worse. Gasoline prices are high, and the rate of car theft is high, too, making Washington one of the worst states for people who own vehicles and drive regularly.

The crime rate is on the rise too. All in all, not all things that shine are gold, and this sits true for Washington. You may never question why Washington is the worst state to retire ever again!


The list of worst states to retire is quite long, but it can't be complete without mentioning Georgia. Georgia ranks 40 and 42 in quality of life and healthcare but in 8th spot in affordability. While you may think good affordability makes Georgia a great state to retire, various other factors only make it the opposite.

One of the reasons why Georgia isn't the best place to retire is its hot and humid summers. The summer season can get unbearably hot and humid at times, making you want to stay indoors in your air-conditioned homes.

With the summer season comes mosquitoes and bugs, which are a nuisance throughout the season. You better forget hosting any outdoor events as long as the weather is warm. The crime rate is high, and the traffic situation is plain bad. As if all of these reasons weren't good enough to convince you not to relocate to Georgia after you retire, you should consider the healthcare quality.

The state is ranked pretty low in healthcare, which shows that healthcare is costly; therefore, it's not accessible to many citizens. However, the quality of healthcare is good, but then, the cost is what keeps citizens from receiving the medical attention they need.

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