Why These Two States Are Once Again The Top Places To Retire

The Northeast and Rust Belt are deemed the worst.

Among the endless lists of where Americans should retire, a finance website is throwing its hat in the ring -- with the novel concept that says the best places to retire are exactly the places where so many have already chosen to retire over the last several decades. Yes, he's talking about the snowbird classics of Arizona and Florida.

WalletHub also says that people need to commit on retirement locale and not keep delaying the decision because of financial insecurity, given a fourth of workers have no money saved for their golden years, says Jill Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for WalletHub.

Florida and Arizona placed six cities in the top 10, while New Jersey and New York State had four of the bottom six worst places to retire.

Tampa led the way at No. 1, followed by Scottsdale, a suburb of Phoenix.

The other Florida cities were Cape Coral, No. 4, Orlando, No. 5 and Port St. Lucie, No. 8. The other Arizona city was Peoria, another Phoenix suburb, at No. 10.

This is the second time WalletHub has done the Best Places to Retire study, with No. 2 Scottsdale placing No. 1 in 2014. WalletHub compared the affordability, quality of life, health care, and availability of recreational activities in the 150 largest U.S. cities.

The data set includes 24 metrics, ranging from the cost of living to public hospital rankings to the percentage of the population aged 65 and older, Gonzalez says.

"We changed the methodology to add some metrics to be more comprehensive," Gonzalez says. "We saw that a lot of people that were retiring had to reenter the workplace, and we looked at percentages of people 65 and older that are working in certain cities and the number of part-time employees per full-time employees for those people 65 and older."

Among some of the findings: Anchorage ranked No. 1 for highest percentage of employed people 65 and older. It was followed by the suburban Dallas cities of Plano and Grand Prairie. Washington, D.C. ranked fourth followed by the Nebraska city of Lincoln. Cleveland and Detroit had some of the lowest percentages.

What helped the cities at the top of the list were affordability, access to health care, and taxes. Neither Florida nor Arizona have a state income tax. Despite the perception that Florida is expensive, Gonzalez says Tampa ranked No. 11 on the list in affordability.

"Florida and Arizona have a lot more tax breaks for the elderly, and that's a huge reason why people are heading there," Gonzalez says. "It's not only health care facilities and quality of life, but those are two states with great weather. There are a lot of golf courses and outdoor activities to get exercise."

Given the popularity of Florida and Arizona, it's not surprising that the Northeast and Rust Belt rank at the bottom of the list, Gonzalez says. Many retirees continue to migrate from those areas to the warmer climate. Cities like Newark, Jersey City, and New York City have such a high cost of living -- without the mild weather and outdoor activities. It's like they didn't stand a chance.

The New Jersey cities of Jersey City and Newark rank Nos. 149 and 150, respectively. The New York cities of Yonkers and New York City rank Nos. 145 and 146. New England doesn't get much love with the Massachusetts cities of Worcester and Boston Nos. 142 and 143. Providence is No. 148. Two Illinois cities made the bottom of the list: Chicago at No. 144 and nearby Aurora at No. 147. Detroit came in at No. 141.

In addition to these northeast and Chicago-area cities having the highest cost of living, Gonzalez points to other disadvantages. "They also have a lot of older buildings that aren't necessarily wheelchair friendly," she says. "Older buildings don't help at all, where a place like Scottsdale has a lot of new buildings. These places [in the Northeast and Midwest] are attracting a lot of young people at the start of their careers and are designed for them. I don't think people are retiring to them. They are retiring from them."

As for cities outside of warm and sunny Arizona and Florida that are great places to retire, Gonzalez points to Boise, Idaho (No. 3), Sioux Falls, South Dakota (No. 6), Baton Rouge, Louisiana (No. 7), and Overland Park, Kansas (No. 9).

"We're seeing these places creep up in terms of affordability and quality of life," Gonzalez says. "It's not going to be a balmy 75 degrees like in Arizona and Florida. It's a give and take. You have to see what's important to you."

Now it Counts has written extensively about the best retirement cities (and which to avoid). In another case, Phoenix tops the list as best place to retire. We recommend doing tons of research to figure out what works for you!

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