When you’re heading into retirement, there are a number of things you’ll automatically start to consider, including your health, finances, and living arrangements.
But there are lots of exciting things you’ll want to factor in, too.
From the ease of finding social events and meeting new people to being able to enjoy your favorite hobbies and having a whole host of activities on your doorstep, you’ll want to make sure your retirement is going to be full of all the things you enjoy and want to do.
So which state is the most exciting place to retire to?
Our scoring system ranks all 50 states based on 16 factors to find out which states come out on top for a particular hobby, activity, or lifestyle factor, and which state is the most all-around exciting place for retirees.
The 10 Most Exciting States to Retire To
As we can see from the above map, the majority of places that are most exciting to retire to are located near the coast. Central-northern states are often the least exciting places to retire to.
Here are the top 10:
Florida: Even though Florida only comes out on top for one category (its number of golf courses – 1,147) and joint top in another (free college for seniors), it does score highly across a number of other categories. With 27 percent of its population being over 60 and 13.1 percent of those over 65 living on their own, it’s one of the best states to make friends and enjoy a relationship/companionship. The Golden State also has 11 professional sports teams.
Best for – those looking to meet new people and enjoy sports.
Not suited for – those wanting to start a business or write a novel. And it does have a higher cost of living than many other states.
Massachusetts: The Bay State is where you’ll want to head if you love a good bargain, with it being the top state for discounts and freebies on transport, hunting/fishing licenses, and state park access. College is also free for seniors. Furthermore, Massachusetts is one of the best states to start up a business in (it has a 5-year survival rate of 55.7%), write a novel in (the average annual salary for authors is $76,870), enjoy good internet coverage with fast speeds, and get involved in community-led groups around the state (there are more than 1,800 in Boston alone).
Best for – those who want to get stuck into a new project.
Not suited for – those who want to save money on their retirement funds. Even though Massachusetts offers the best discounts for activities, it is one of the worst states for taxes on retirees and has a high cost of living.
Pennsylvania: Despite not coming out on top for any category, Pennsylvania does score quite well when it comes to making friends (25.1% of the population are over 60) or starting a relationship (12.8% of over 65s are living alone). It’s also a great place to watch sports (8 professional teams), go hiking (1,923 trails), or go golfing (716 courses). There are also ample social groups, state attractions, volunteer opportunities, and vacation destinations available.
Best for – those who want to socialize or enjoy sports.
Not suited for – those who want to be studious (only some colleges offer free courses and authors earn less than other states), or those who want to save money (low tax perks for retirees, few discounts from the state, and a high cost of living).
Ohio: The Buckeye State has a mixture of positives, including high business survival rates (over 53% survive the first 5 years), a large number of professional sports teams (8), great volunteer opportunities (113), a high number of golf courses (699), a great number of local attractions (720), and free college for seniors.
Best for – those looking to keep active with a mixture of opportunities on offer.
Not suited for – those looking to make money writing a novel (one of the lowest annual salaries for authors – $53,790) or save money (poor tax offerings for retirees).
New York: The Empire State comes out on top for its number of Meetup groups (over 6,400) and its annual salary for authors ($91,280). It also boasts a high number of vacation destinations from JFK Airport (194), a large number of hiking trails (2,617), lots of professional sports teams (10), great volunteer opportunities (151), plenty of golf courses (868), good internet coverage with fast speeds, and free college courses for seniors.
Best for – those who want to meet people, put pen to paper, or explore their state.
Not suited for – those who want to protect their retirement funds. New York is one of the states deemed “least tax-friendly” and has the second-highest cost of living.
Illinois: Illinois scores well for its number of Meetup groups (1,993 in Chicago alone), its offering of free college for seniors, and its number of golf courses (739), volunteer opportunities (101), professional sports teams (6), and vacation destinations from its main airport (233).
Best for – those who want to socialize, enjoy sports, and jet off on vacation.
Not suited for – those who want to enjoy tax benefits (Illinois is one of the states classed as “least tax-friendly”).
California: When it comes to hiking trails and professional sports teams, the Golden State comes out on top with 9,097 and 18, respectively. It also scores highly for vacation destinations (202 from LAX), business survival (over 53% survive the first 5 years), salaries for authors ($90,970), golf courses (978), Meetup groups (1,630), and free college for seniors.
Best for – those looking for a great mixture of opportunities.
Not suited for – those looking to make friends (only 20% of the population are over 60) or start a relationship (only 9.6% of those over 65 live on their own). The cost of living is also quite high.
Michigan: Michigan’s higher score comes from its volunteer opportunities (161) and golf courses (904). It also scores reasonably well across all of the other categories, except for college courses, retiree taxes, internet speeds, and author salaries.
Best for – those looking to get involved with the community.
Not suited for – those looking to write a novel, work online, or start a college course.
Georgia: The highest scores come from Georgia’s 244 vacation destinations from ATL, free college for seniors, and tax-friendly perks for retirees. It also boasts a reasonable number of hiking trails (910), golf courses (421) and Meetup groups (1,208), has some professional sports teams (4), a good number of volunteer opportunities (61), good internet coverage with fast speeds, good state discounts, and a low cost of living.
Best for – those looking for ample things to get involved in while saving money on their pension fund.
Not suited for – those looking to make friends (only 19.7% of the population are over 60) or start a relationship (only 9.6% of those over 65 live on their own).
North Carolina: North Carolina scores well in the vacation (175 destinations), starting a business (5-year survival rate for 52.2% of businesses), hiking (1,758 trails), and golf (560 courses) categories. It also offers free college for seniors and scores reasonably well in several other categories, having 3 professional sports teams, 62 volunteer opportunities, an annual salary of $67,560 for authors, good internet speeds and coverage, and 629 Meetup groups in Charlotte alone.
Best for – those who like to keep active.
Not suited for – those looking for a large number of attractions in the state or discounts on state activities.
The Least Exciting States to Retire To
At the other end of the scale are Alaska, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
Alaska: The Last Frontier should be the last choice of states if you want to go to college, play golf, explore plenty of state attractions, volunteer, watch professional sports teams, or mix with people over 60. However, it is a good place to start a business (it has a 5-year survival rate of 52.1%) or write a novel (authors’ average annual salaries are $65,630). It is also a tax-friendly state for retirees.
Nebraska: The two categories Nebraska scores reasonably well in are the number of people over 65 who live alone (11.8%) and the cost of living. It isn’t the state to retire to if you’re wanting lots of state discounts, free college, to write a novel, to watch sports, to go walking, to start a small business, or protect your pension pot from taxes.
North Dakota: With few Meetup groups, a low number of attractions, no professional sports teams, the lowest number of walking trails in any state, minimal destinations from its main airport, and a low number of people over 60 in the state, North Dakota won’t be the top pick if you’re wanting to socialize or enjoy various activities. Yet, it could be a perfect choice if you want reasonably-fast internet, discounts on transport, licenses, and state parks, or a tax-friendly state.
South Dakota: Those looking at South Dakota as a retirement state may do so because of its great business survival rate (over 52% make it past the first 5 years). But it’s not the best choice if you want to go on vacation, go walking, watch professional sports, play golf, explore the state, go to college, or join Meetup groups.
Wyoming: Watching sports, writing a book, playing golf, enjoying fast internet, joining Meetup groups, or getting good discounts aren’t something you can do too often in Wyoming. But as one of the states that are deemed most tax-friendly, it’s great if you want to protect your assets.
The Top Performers in Each Category
Now we know which states are the most and least exciting overall, which states stood out in each category?
Texas Is the Best Place for Retired Travelers
Whether you want to explore more of the United States or you’re keen to immerse yourself in different cultures, Texas is the ideal state to base yourself from for your travels. With flights to over 250 different destinations around the world available from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, you could go to New York one week and Hong Kong the next.
Maine Is the Best Place for Over 60s to Make New Friends or Start a Relationship
With just under 29 percent of the population in Maine being over 60, this is the perfect place to make new friends within a similar age group. And, with the highest percentage of over 65s living alone in this state (13.8%), it could be the perfect place to strike up a relationship or companionship, too.
Maine is also a top state for those with entrepreneurial spirit (53.2 percent of businesses survive the first 5 years here) and budding authors (the mean annual wage for authors is $72,400). Plus, Maine scores highly when it comes to the discounts and perks available for senior citizens — around 50 percent off public transport, cheap hunting and fishing licenses (approx. $8), and free admission to state parks (65+).
Montana Is the Best State for Over 60s to Start a New Business
With 56 percent of businesses surviving their first five years in Montana, this is the best place to put your entrepreneurial skills to the test. This is closely followed by Massachusetts (55.7%), Iowa (55%), and Minnesota (54.8%).
Montana is also a fantastic place to make friends (26.4% of the population is over 60) or start a relationship (12.1% of people over 65 live alone).
California Is the Best State for Retirees Who Are Keen Walkers
With 9,097 hiking trails available in California, you could walk a different route every day for nearly 25 years. So, if you love nothing more than to don your walking boots and head out into the great outdoors, California is the state for you.
California Is the Best State for Die-Hard Sports Fans
Whether you’ll never miss an NFL game, are an all-time MLB fan, or love sports of any kind, California boasts the most professional teams of any state. With 5, 3, 4, 3, and 3 teams in the MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, and NHL leagues respectively, there’s plenty of sports on offer in the Golden State.
Minnesota Is the Best State for Over 60s to Volunteer In
Boasting 231 Senior Corps opportunities, Minnesota offers an abundance of volunteering opportunities for retirees. From becoming foster grandparents to helping the local community, there is a whole host of volunteering possibilities within the state.
New York Is the Best State for Over 60s to Become an Author In
They say each and every one of us has a novel within us, and if you’ve always wanted to put pen to paper, the Empire State is the one to do it in. Thanks to an average annual wage of $91,280, you could top up your pension fund with a very healthy amount while achieving that lifetime goal.
Nevertheless, Californian authors only receive slightly less per year, with the average annual salary there being $90,970.
Florida Is the Best State for the Budding Rory Mcllroy
The Golden State boasts more than 1,140 golf courses which means you can play a different course every day for over three years. Florida is followed closely by California (with 978 courses) and Michigan (with 904 courses).
Kansas Is the Best State for the Avid Explorer
If you love to explore your local area in search of historic buildings, nature, museums, or even the best roller coasters, Kansas has the most to offer. With nearly 800 individual activities listed on TripAdvisor, Kansas has something for everyone. And with it scoring well in our cost of living category, you’ll be able to put all the money you’ve saved toward these activities.
New Jersey Is the Best State for Silver Surfers
With an average internet speed of 52Mbps and 99% coverage, New Jersey is ideal if you love to surf the web, stream the latest movies, or dabble with all of the latest hi-tech, Wi-Fi-connected gadgets.
Southeastern States Are the Best for Retirees’ Taxes
When it comes to taxes on property and purchases, tax breaks, and taxes on retirement income, southeastern states tend to come out on top. Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee are the most tax-friendly states, alongside Arizona, Delaware, Nevada, and Wyoming.
These states boast low income tax rates (or none at all), no tax on social security, property tax breaks for seniors (except in Nevada and Wyoming), and no tax on inheritances or estates. There are also a number of special treatment options for other retirement incomes, too. For example, in Alabama, railroad retirement benefits are exempt, as well as income from the military and designated local or state governments. Payments from traditional pension plans are also tax-free.
Eastern States Are the Best for Studious Retirees
If you’ve always fancied taking on a university course, you may want to head east (and a little south) as it’s the states in these areas that offer free tuition to everyone over 60 or 65.
Massachusetts Offers the Best Discounts for Seniors
With reduced fares for various transport systems within the region (including for Massachusetts Bay Transportation Administration services), free fishing, hunting, and trapping permits for those over 70, and a lifetime state park pass available for $10 for those aged 62 and over, the Bay State offers the biggest range of discounts for seniors.
Mississippi Boasts the Cheapest Cost of Living
The average annual cost of living for 2020 is the cheapest in Mississippi, followed by Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arkansas. All of the states were scored on their cost of groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, health, and other miscellaneous factors.
The five most expensive states for living costs are Hawaii, New York, California, Oregon, and Massachusetts.
New York Is the Best State for Social Clubs
With more than 6,400 Meetup groups available in New York City, there’s something for every interest, whether you want to learn a new skill, meet like-minded people, or start a yoga class.
Each category has been scored on a percentile basis, looking at how many data points sit above or below each state’s data to give each a score.
Go on Vacation: Ranked based on the number of destinations served by the biggest airport in the state, i.e. Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Alabama. Where possible, we have used the airport’s website and list of destinations. When unavailable, we have used data from flightsfrom.com.
Make Friends: Based on the % of the population in each state in the age groups 60-64, 64-69, 70-74, 75-79, 80-84, and 85+ from census data. While we appreciate retirees may want to make friends with people in other age groups, for the sake of the study we have focused on the above age groups.
Enjoy a Relationship/Companionship: Based on the % of the population aged 65+ who live alone from census data. Again, we appreciate retirees may want to enjoy a relationship or companionship with people in other age groups, for the sake of the study we have focused on the above age group. The focus is also on 65+ due to this being the only age bracket where the data was available.
Start a Small Business: Based on the % of private sector businesses that opened in the year ending March 2014 and were still trading as of March 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Go Walking: Based on the # of hiking trails within the state according to alltrails.com.
Watch Sports: Based on the # of professional teams in each state within the major leagues — NHL, MLB, MLS, NBA, and NFL.
Volunteer: Based on # of Senior Corps opportunities listed on NationalService.gov.
Write a Book: Based on the average annual wage of a writer in the state, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Play Golf: Based on the # of golf courses within each state, according to PGA of America.
Explore the State: Based on the # of attractions listed within each state on TripAdvisor.
Surf the Web: Based on Mbps speed and coverage, according to getinternet.com.
Taxes for Retirees: Based on a study by Kiplinger where 5 = most tax-friendly, 4 = tax-friendly, 3 = mixed, 2 = not tax-friendly, 1 = least tax-friendly.
College for Retirees:
3 = Free tuition for everyone over 60, 62, or 65 at any state secondary institution
2 = Free tuition for everyone over 60, 62, or 65 at some secondary institutions
1 = Some discounts and perks available for those over 60, 62, or 65 at some secondary institutions (including free tuition for those on full social security benefits)
Best Discounts for Over Seniors: Based on free or reduced travel fare on buses, taxis, or ferries; license exemptions for hunting or fishing; and discounts on passes, facilities, or camping for state parks.
1 point for each category when discounts are offered
2 points for each category when offered for free (so 6 would indicate a top score) — this includes a lifetime pass for state parks at a low rate, i.e. $10.
Cost of Living: Based on the latest report from the Council for Community & Economic Research (C2ER), looking at the cost of groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, health, and other miscellaneous factors.
Social Clubs: # of Meetup groups within 2 miles of the most populated city of each state, according to meetup.com.
Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org