Ask anyone to name the states most coveted by retirees in the U.S. and chances are high they'd fire off a list of sun magnets on either coast.
But as today's seniors look toward retirement with nest eggs battered by the recession, more thought will go into choosing their final zip code than climate alone.
In a search for the best states to retire, MoneyRates.com's Richard Barrington spent weeks analyzing what he says are the seven key factors seniors should consider:
Cost of living, property taxes, violent crime rates, climate, life expectancy for seniors, recent population growth in the senior demographic and unemployment.
"Retirees and young people have very different concerns," Barrington told Business Insider. "Crime's a good example. Older folks are especially vulnerable to crime and they tend to worry about it more."
Despite a cost of living that ranks among the nation's highest, seniors are flocking to Hawaii and living longer for it.
While the average life expectancy after age 65 in the U.S. is 18.19, seniors in Hawaii add an extra two years to their lives, Barrington found.
"We looked at life expectancy because it's a good proxy for what the environmental state might be like for seniors," he says.
Just be sure you've set realistic expectations for island life.
"One of Hawaii's drawbacks is that is has the highest cost of living. Retirees moving there need to understand they have to have the financial resources to handle it."
Cold states aren't typically high at the top of anyone's retirement dream list, but Idaho's quiet, crime-free scene has made it one of the hottest retirement destinations.
"Just because you're a cold state, it doesn't condemn you the worst list," Barrington says.
Idaho saves itself with a stellar crime rate.
Per the study, Idaho only saw 221 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, compared to a national average of 366. Property crimes averaged 1,996 per 100,000 residents, compared to the national average of 2,856.
Seniors can live like kings and queens in Utah, where the cost of living is much lower than the national average, Barrington found.
And its 5.8 percent unemployment rate (as of August) doesn't hurt much either.
"At a time when people are absolutely banging their head against the wall trying to find a job, there's something to be said for a place that has a very low unemployment rate," he says.
Chalk it up to a sunny climate and booming senior population, but Arizona has the third highest life expectancy rate for the over 65 crowd in the country, Barrington found.
"Arizona’s life expectancy at age 65 is 19.48 years," he says. "Third best in the nation and more than a year better than the average state’s figure of 18.19 years."
A note of caution: A higher than average crime rate makes neighborhood scouting crucial.
Despite a relatively mild climate, Virginia didn't score high on life expectancy. But it was a standout in terms of crime.
"The violent crime rate is 214 per 100,000 residents," Barrington says. "While for the average state it’s 366. The property crime rate is 2,327 per 100,000 residents, compared with 2,856 for the average state."
"Only three states have seen faster growth in their senior populations, which is helped by the fact that seniors in Colorado tend to live for a long time," Barrington says.
That's never more apparent than when you look at the growth in the state's 65-and-up population, which boomed 32 percent between the 2000 and 2010 census.
7. Florida (Tie)
Despite it's senior-magnet reputation, Florida tied for 7th place with New Mexico in this list.
Blame it on its massive crime rate, which is among the highest in the nation, Barrington found.
Crime is especially important to seniors, who are often targeted by malicious scams. Less than a year ago, three people were charged with tricking Florida seniors into buying $1 million worth of toilet paper over the phone.
Still, the state boasts the kind of climate retirement dreams are made of –– and has a life expectancy rate for seniors that's a year higher than the national average.
7. New Mexico (Tie)
New Mexico just might be the 'Florida' of the Southwest.
"This state saw its senior population grow by 28.29% from the 2000 to the 2010 census," Barrington says.
But crime runs rampant, landing it among the 10 worst states in the nation, according to the study.
9. South Dakota
You'd be hard-pressed to find a "Best XYZ State" list these days without South Dakota on it.
Seniors are overlooking the frigid climate and flocking to the state for its low crime rate and low cost of living. And they're living longer in the process.
"South Dakota had the fourth best life expectancy at age 65, at 19.33 years," Barrington says.
10. California (Tie)
Tying for 10th place, California's struggling economy and high cost of living haven't been enough to deter seniors.
"California couples a good climate with good life expectancy at age 65: 19.08 years," Barrington says.
10. Texas (Tie)
Texas' warm climate and solid economy have made it "enticing to seniors," Barrington notes.
"However, it's a big state that's not without its trouble spots: The overall crime rate is another one of the nation's 10 worst."
But for their trouble, seniors enjoy a cost of living that is just over 91 percent of the national average.
Source: MoneyRates' Best And Worst States To Retire
- Senior Health
- Cultural Groups