Retiring can be an intimidating prospect because it brings with it a sea of change: some good and some challenging. All of us can appreciate the prospects of pursuing hobbies you’ve always wanted to pursue, spending quality time with loved ones, and not having to get up at 7 AM every day to commute to work. With that independence, however, comes a growing concern around financial uncertainty. Do I have enough saved up to retire comfortably, or do I need to find a supplemental source of income? Do I have enough to live on? How long should I expect my savings to last?
We’ve tried to take some of the guesswork out of the process. For this article, we developed a composite profile of the retiree in every state using retirement ages, monthly expenditures, expected lifespan (see the section on methodology for details). We then used the composite profile to determine what the average retiree would need to capitalize on their golden years (Hint: The average US retiree would need to have around $984K in savings to retire comfortably). We did not consider social security income in calculating the balance due to the unreliable state of the social security system at present.
Without further ado, here are the results:
The Ten Cheapest States to Retire Comfortably in:
The Ten Most Expensive States to Retire Comfortably in:
Savings Needed to Retire Comfortably in Each State (ranked from least to most)
Now that you know what a retiree’s nest egg needs to be in every state to guarantee a healthy retirement, here’s some additional color on what to expect when it comes to retiring comfortably in each state.
No 1: Mississippi – The cheapest state to retire in
The average individual in the hospitality state can retire comfortably with a balance of under $660K thanks to its low cost of living and generous tax breaks, making Mississippi the cheapest state for retirement in the US. The state boasts of very low property taxes and exempts retirement income like 401K disbursements and social security, from taxation making it a financial haven for retirees. The average Mississippi native retires at the age of 63, which is at par with the national average, and has a life expectancy of 75, which is below the national average of 78.
While there is a lot going for the state from a budget and income perspective, the state does have its issues with the quality of healthcare services and poverty—all in all, not a bad option to consider if money considerations are top of mind.
No 2: Oklahoma:
The average individual in Oklahoma can retire comfortably with around $725K in the bank. Social security benefits are generally tax-exempt, and a couple can exclude up to $20K per year of retirement income ($10K per person). Like Mississippi, the lower cost of living allows for an earlier retirement (pun intended) at 62. Healthcare services are a cause for concern in the state as well. With a life expectancy of 75.8, the state is below the national average as well.
No 3: Alabama:
The Cotton state definitely offers a ‘soft landing pad’ for retirees with a healthy retirement opportunity with around $750K in the bank. The state also affords its residents abundant access to sun and sand, great golf courses, and a mellow lifestyle. Like Oklahoma and Mississippi, Alabama also exempts social security benefits from taxation. Healthcare services are under-index to the national average but are certainly manageable with good planning.
No 4: Tennessee:
The energy capital of the US is our favorite choice for retirees on a budget. The estimated savings required to retire comfortably in Tennessee comes in at $760K. With a balanced economy that spans tourism, energy production, agriculture, transportation, education, and livestock, Tennessee is able to maintain a healthy financial performance which means it is unlikely that it will need to make drastic changes to its very generous no-state-income-tax policy. People in Tennessee typically retire at 64
No 5: Louisiana
A comfortable retirement in the Pelican state would require a balance of about $765K. The average Louisiana resident retires early at 62, giving them more time to enjoy the state’s vast culture and entertainment. One major cause of concern with Louisiana is that the state ranks very poorly on public health management with a very high incidence of diabetes and obesity. The average resident spends a substantial portion of their income on healthcare.
No 6: Kansas
The sunflower state requires a balance of $785K to ensure a comfortable retirement. Employees in Kansas tend to retire at 65, which is above average for the US. One cause for concern with Kansas is the fact that the state has ramped up spending aggressively to support public pensions, spending on public schools, spending on prisons, as well as higher education. While these seem like fair investments, the state has funded these initiatives through tax increases, which adds to the burden of retirees in Kansas, who are already taxed way more than the national average.
No 7: West Virginia
To retire comfortably in West Virginia, you need savings of $790K. A great retirement venue for the outdoor retiree, West Virginia effortlessly blends civil war history with the Appalachian mountains earning it the nickname ‘the mountain state.’ Poverty, a struggling economy, and poor healthcare make this state a tough choice for retirement.
The average retirement age in West Virginia is 61, which is the lowest in the country. West Virginia’s economy, which depends on mining and logging, has seen some improvement in recent years but is still in a state of decline overall. The state ranks poorly on most fiscal management surveys, which does not bode well for income taxation on retirees.
No 8: Arkansas
Almost at par with West Virginia in terms of money needed to retire comfortably, the natural state requires savings of $790K. The average retirement age in Arkansas is 62. While not particularly tax-friendly, healthcare costs are below average and the cost of living probably makes up for aggressive taxation. The economic prospects are average due to its reliance on traditional sectors like natural gas production, agriculture, etc. Walmart is the largest employer in the state.
No 9: Kentucky
The Bluegrass State derives its name from the high-quality grass that is grown in the state. The average retiree in Kentucky retires at 62 and does so comfortably with a balance of $840K. The state offers great tax breaks and a low cost of living, a net benefit to retirees. However, with poor public health, lack of senior care, and a shaky economy, the long-term prospects for the state are suspect.
No 10: Indiana
The Hoosier state requires about $860K in savings to ensure that you can retire comfortably. While the state doesn’t really offer many tax incentives, Indiana has a very low cost of living and offers a great sense of community around sporting events. The active retiree looking for a laid-back community may find a comfortable home in Indiana. The state also offers decent healthcare, low crime, and access to a decent economy. The weather is definitely a consideration given how cold winters can be.
No 11: Texas
The Lone Star state offers the average retiree a comfortable retirement with $860K in savings. The state has a lot of things going for it, including a great economy. For example, Texas produces close to 40% of America’s oil, and it also has a booming tech sector. In addition, its extremely friendly tax policies, making it a good state to retire in. High temperate is yet another plus for Texas where the average individual retires at 65.
No 12: Wyoming
The Cowboy state comes with a retirement price tag of $875K. Wyoming has perfected the art of fiscal health management. It does a spectacular job of managing its oil and mining resources to generate income without taxing income and maintaining a very low sales tax. The average retiree in the state retires at the age of 64.
No 13: Nebraska
Retiring in Buffet country can be bought with a savings balance of $875K. Despite its fiscal health, high taxes are a bit of a conundrum, especially to retirees on a fixed income. The cost of living is below average, and the quality of healthcare is average. On average, individuals retire in Nebraska at the age of 65.
No 14: Georgia
It’s not difficult to imagine why the Peach State appeals to retirees. With an estimated $875K needed to retire comfortably, Georgia ranks below the US average for nest egg needed for retirement. Warm weather, low cost of living, affordable access to healthcare, and favorable tax laws have attracted retirees to GA over the past few years.
No 15: New Mexico
New Mexico has a lot to offer to retirees. It is known for its hatch chilis, amazing outdoor lifestyle, and low cost of living. With an estimated $880K needed to retire comfortably, New Mexico offers some interesting prospects for retirees. The state government currently projects massive surpluses, which is a good sign for public services and healthcare investments. The state has a higher than average tax rate, and the average age for retirement is 62.
No 16: Missouri
The ‘show me state’ has not many advantages to show retirees. The average retiree needs to have close to $890K to retire comfortably in the state of Missouri. While the average retiree in our calculation will probably not be taxed on social security benefits in Missouri, 401k disbursements are taxed at ordinary income tax levels. Healthcare services are below par, and both retirement age and life expectancy are close to the US average.
No 17: Ohio
Residents of the nation’s industrial capital should expect to have close to $890K to retire comfortably. Ohio does offer retirement benefits in the form of exempt social security benefits and credits to offset regular income taxes on disbursements from retirement accounts. The state’s tax policy is better than average, and the cost of living is below average, making it a decent choice for retirees. Ohio’s economy is fairly healthy, with a diversified base of industries ranging from fuel cells to healthcare. Winters are cold in Ohio, a factor that throttles migrants from moving to Ohio.
No 18: North Carolina
The Tar Heel state requires close to 910K to retire. North Carolina has a lot going for it: mild weather, low cost of living, good economic growth, and an entrenched financial services sector. The state exempts social security benefits from taxation and has a flat tax rate on retirement disbursements. The average person in North Carolina will retire at 63, which is below the US average.
No 19: Iowa
Iowa, the nation’s top pork producer, has a retirement price tag of $935K. Iowa has cheap access to good healthcare but doesn’t offer many tax benefits for seniors. While social security disbursements are tax-exempt, retirement disbursements are taxed and may be as high as 8.9%.
No 20: South Carolina
The Palmetto state requires a balance of $935K to support a comfortable retirement. From a tad perspective, South Carolina does not tax social security benefits and provides a healthy $15K deduction on retirement income. The low cost of living, tax benefits, and mild climate all work in favor of South Carolina, making it a great place to retire.
No 21: Michigan
The Wolverine state requires a savings balance of $940K to retire comfortably. Michigan has been under a fair amount of financial pressure and recently overhauled its retirement benefit taxation, yet to play out. The recession of 2009 hit Michigan hard, and the state has had a tough time rebounding from the decline of the auto industry. While relief is in sight, changes to tax structure, economic uncertainties, and a sluggish local economy make Michigan a hard place to retire in. The one silver lining is the fact that healthcare in Michigan continues to be above average.
No 22: Utah
The Beehive state requires a balance of $960K to support a comfortable retirement. A plethora of outdoor activities, high-quality healthcare, and a strong economy with very low poverty rates work in favor of retirees in Utah. However, Utah is one of the few states that taxes social security retirement benefits as well as retirement income. The weather is a detractor for retirees looking for warm weather throughout the year.
No 23: North Dakota
The Roughrider state requires a balance of $980K to retire comfortably. Good fiscal soundness and a stable economy make the state a good choice for retirees. Even though the state has no tax breaks for both social security benefits and retirement income, the state’s low income-tax rates end up being a positive factor for retirees.
No 24: Illinois
The prairie state has a retirement balance requirement of $985K. With the local economy in steady decline and an ever-increasing deficit, Illinois is a tough state to retire in. Illinois currently exempts all retirement income as well as social security benefits from taxation. Still, the state has financial issues that cast some doubt as to whether the generous tax exemption will persist.
No 25: Virginia
Old Dominion is at par with the average US retirement balance needed at $985K. Virginia doesn’t tax social security benefits and allows a portion of their retirement disbursements to be deducted, making it a fairly tax-friendly state. The quality of healthcare is better than average, and the cost of healthcare is very affordable, making Virginia a good fit for retirement. The economy in Virginia is also fairly diversified, with industries ranging from agriculture and seafood harvesting to technology and defense.
No 26: Idaho
The Gem state comes in with a retirement budget just short of seven figures at $995K. Idaho is a mixed bag of russet potatoes for retirees. While the state does not tax social security benefits, retirement disbursements are taxed, a net negative for retirees. However, the state is very affordable, and the cost of living is meager. The economy in Idaho has been steady, with tourism, aerospace, energy, food, and advanced manufacturing contributing to employment and migration growth to the state.
No 27: South Dakota
Retiring with a view of Mt. Rushmore will cost you around $1.01M. Although it is the first state to break a million dollars in retirement balance, South Dakota is certainly a great choice for retirement. It has no state income taxes and a robust economy built on the back of oil and gas, agriculture, bioscience, and tourism, making it a great choice for retirees.
No 28: Pennsylvania
The Coal state requires $1.03M to retire comfortably. While Pennsylvania does not tax social security benefits or retirement account disbursements, Pennsylvania’s economy is somewhat concerning. With poor fiscal reserves and lackluster economic growth, it is a question mark as to what the state’s tax policy is likely to look like in the future.
No 29: Florida
The sunshine state is no stranger to retirees, and retirement in Florida comes with a price tag of $1.05M. Florida does not tax social security or retirement income, making it a great place for retirees looking to stretch their dollars. The warm weather, sandy beaches, and many tourist attractions make it a great state from a quality of life perspective. Florida is very rich in cash reserves and has a thriving economy that relies on tourism, aerospace, and agriculture, and has made good investments in life sciences and technology.
No 30: Nevada
The Sagebrush state requires $1.06M to retire comfortably. While the state has no income tax, the cost of living is above average. The state relies on tourism, mining, and defense sectors for its economic stability. From a financial health perspective, Nevada has decent cash reserves and low poverty rates. Nevada has seen a large influx of transplants from other states and has a vibrant economy that continues to grow.
No 31: Wisconsin
Retiring in America’s dairyland will set you back $1.06M. Wisconsin does not tax social security benefits. However, retirement accounts are subject to taxes. Wisconsin’s economy runs on manufacturing, agriculture, and healthcare, which means the healthcare in the state is above average. Unfunded liabilities are a source of concern for the state, but Wisconsin seems to be managing it well so far.
No 32: Montana
The average retiree needs to have saved close to $1.06M to retire comfortably in the Treasure state. One concern with the state stems from the fact that the cost of living in Montana is way above average, whereas the average income is substantially below average. This, when combined with the fact that Montana partially taxes Social security income and fully taxes retirement accounts, retirees have to make their dollars stretch a great deal. This is partially reflected in the seven-figure balance needed to retire here.
No 33: Arizona
Retirement in the copper state comes with a $1.07M price tag. The weather, a plethora of outdoor activities, and the fact that Arizona does not tax social security benefits are a plus. On the flip side, retirement disbursements are taxed, and sales tax in the state is high. Arizona’s economy is fairly well diversified across aerospace, semi-conductors, tourism, and manufacturing.
No 34: New Hampshire
Retirement in the Granite state can be had for $1.08M. New Hampshire doesn’t tax any retirement income, including social security benefits, making it a great option for retirees. The state also rates very highly for healthcare services, a plus for retirees. Since the decline of paper and grain mills throughout the US, New Hampshire’s economy has shifted to traditional manufacturing and greenhouse/nursery products.
No 35: Delaware
The diamond state requires $1.08M to afford retirement. Delaware does not tax social security, exempts $12.5K of investment income, and has modest income tax rates, making it a pleasant retirement destination. Delaware’s economy outperforms the US economy and is diversified across several industries such as chemical products, processed foods, and livestock. The state also offers great healthcare. Despite having a lower cost of living than its neighboring states, the cost of living is still above average.
No 36: Colorado
Colorado comes in with a balance of 1.09M needed for retirement. Great outdoor activity, great access to high-quality healthcare, and a low poverty rate make Colorado a great state to retire in. Colorado is entrenched in scientific research, high-tech industries, food processing, precious mineral, and transportation. The average Colorado resident has a life expectancy of 80, which is above the national average.
No 37: Washington
The average retiree in the Evergreen state requires $1.14M to retire. The picturesque state offers the active retiree plenty of opportunities to explore the great outdoors. Home to several industry giants like Mircosoft, Starbucks, Amazon, and Boeing, Washington has one of the healthiest economies in the US. The fact that the state has no income tax means that social security and retirement disbursements are tax-free. Besides a bustling technology sector, Washington also over-indexes on real estate, government, hydroelectric power, and agriculture.
No 38: Vermont
Retiring in Vermont costs about $1.15M. The Green Mountain state taxes social security benefits, as well as retirement disbursements. Combine this with a high cost of living, high property taxes, cold winters, and Vermont starts to lose its appeal for retirees. On the plus side, Vermont has amazing healthcare, great public health, fantastic outdoor activities, and very low crime rates.
No 39: Maine
The fact that most Stephen King books are often set in Maine is not the only thing scaring retirees in the Pine tree state. Retirement will set you back about $1.15M in Maine. Maine does not tax social security benefits, but most other retirement income is taxed. Property taxes in Maine are very high as well. Shipbuilding, paper, lumber, and food processing are key drivers of the Maine economy.
No 40: Alaska
The last frontier is not a bad place to retire, with savings needed in the amount of $1.19M. Retirees who are willing to brave the cold can seek solace because there are no state income or sales taxes in Alaska. In addition, the state also pays each resident an annual dividend check from the proceeds of the sale of the state’s vast oil reserves. Oil and gas, lumber, and mining are the primary drivers of the economy. The state ranks very well for fiscal health, and its residents retire at the age of 61, on average, which is the lowest of all states in the US.
No 41: Minnesota
The Gopher state requires about 1.19M to retire comfortably. Both social security and retirement income are taxable in Minnesota. Senior citizens do get a break in the form of an additional deduction. Minnesota’s economy relies on agriculture, farming, and manufacturing to a large extent. Healthcare in Minnesota is excellent, and it costs less than the average healthcare cost in the US, which is a huge pro for retirees in Minnesota.
No 42: Rhode Island
Retirement in the cornhusker state comes with a budget requirement of $1.2M. The state exempts social security benefits, and everything over $15K in retirement disbursements is taxable. The economy supports healthcare, tourism, manufacturing, and mining. Healthcare in the state is reliable but expensive, and the cost of living is fairly high, making Rhode Island an expensive option for retirees.
No 43: Maryland
Retiring in the free state is not free and requires a healthy retirement account with about $1.2M. Although Maryland exempts social security benefits, it does tax retirement account disbursements. Maryland’s economy relies on agriculture, Lifesciences, and the energy sector.
No 44: New Jersey
New Jersey retirees require at least $1.23M to retire comfortably. High property taxes compounded by high-income taxes make the state a tough choice for retirees. Although New Jersey does not tax social security income, it does tax retirement accounts. The garden state has various industries, including pharmaceuticals, life services, financial services, manufacturing, and transportation.
No 45: Connecticut
The provisions state is on the upper-end of retirement budgets with an estimated $1.3M needed to retire. The state taxes social security benefits after certain income thresholds and taxes all retirement disbursements, making the state one of the least tax-friendly states for retirees. Connecticut’s economy supports the finance sector, insurance, and personal services industries (industries like law, data processing, etc.). Healthcare services in Connecticut are very well-regarded, and the level of care is reliable.
No 46: Massachusetts
With a retirement budget of 1.31M, the Old Colony is not a cheap option for retirees either. Extremely high living costs are only a part of the story as the state also has high healthcare costs. However, the state does provide high-quality healthcare in exchange for the high price tag. Massachusetts’ financial health is also likely to put financial pressure on future tax legislation, making Massachusetts a dicey retirement venue.
No 47: Oregon
The Beaver state comes with a retirement savings balance requirement of $1.43M. Oregon’s tax policies are not very retirement-friendly. Social security benefits are exempt, but retirement disbursements are not. Oregon’s economy clusters around forestry, agriculture, nursery products, outdoor recreation, and food processing. While Oregon is a great state to live in, it does not do much for retirees on a fixed budget. Those looking for favorable financial shelters are better served to look elsewhere.
No 48: California
The average retiree needs shy of $1.5M to retire in the golden state. With a very high cost of living, a high-income tax rate, no retirement disbursement exemption, and very high property taxes, retirees find themselves struggling to retire. California’s unfunded pension liability and budget deficit are a cause of concern as well. On the other hand, the state has a well-rounded economy, with agriculture, technology, entertainment, finance, and manufacturing equally represented. The weather in California adds to the state’s draw.
No 49: New York
The empire state has a retirement ticket of $1.56M, making it the second most expensive state to retire in. New York exempts all social security income from taxation and offers a $20K deductible on retirement disbursements. While most people think of Manhattan when they think of New York, upstate New York really softens the average for the state. The state has above-average healthcare, though it is more expensive than the US average, as one would expect. Besides being the financial capital of the country, it has great healthcare, mining, and agriculture.
No 50: Hawaii – The most expensive state to retire in
The Aloha state comes in at #1 for the most expensive state to retire in the US, with $2.15M needed to retire comfortably. Because Hawaii is an island, the cost of living is undeniably high. With terrific healthcare that’s affordable, an idyllic setting, and a healthy population with a life expectancy of 80, Hawaii is an ideal destination for retirees for whom money is not a concern. Hawaii taxes retirement disbursements but exempts social security benefits, a middle-of-the-road tax policy for retirement. The economy primarily depends on tourism, agriculture, and fishing.
Step one: Determine how much the average retiree spends annually nationally
The bureau of labor and statistics does a phenomenal job calculating annual expenditures by various dimensions, including age groups. You can find the underlying data here. This variable measures what the average retiree spends every year. Since the primary purpose of your retirement nest egg is to cover your annual spending, this is a fine assumption for the average customer.
Step two: Calculate how much the average retiree is likely to spend in each state using the national average
Sadly, the bureau of labor and statistics is focused on the US and doesn’t report data by each state. We extrapolate the national average to each state by multiplying the national average with the cost of living index for each state. The cost of living benchmarks each state against the national average by comparing key expenses such as average food prices, average home prices, average rent levels, etc., to see how the national average compares to each state.
If the average costs are lower than the national average, it stands to reason that you need less money to live in that state. You can find this data here. We multiply the national average retiree expenditure from step one with the cost of living index to estimate annual expenditure by state.
Step three: Determine the age at which the average retiree retires
A simple google search gave us multiple sources for this data. We simply averaged data from two sources (here and here) to determine the average retirement age in each state.
Step four: Determine the average life expectancy in each state
Unfortunately, it isn’t enough to merely know when the average individual is likely to retire. We also had to estimate how individual lifespan expectations by age. We found that data here.
Step five: Multiply the state average retiree expenditure by the difference between life expectancy and the average retirement age to determine cumulative balances needed.
Step five: Add a buffer for savings and taxes
Retirees need a safety cushion to plan for situations where they live past their life expectancy as well as unforeseen events, known as black swans that are likely to happen. We estimate that the average black swan event impacts a portfolio by roughly 15% (backtesting various indices through recessionary periods). There is probably a more precise method to calculate this but we felt that 15% felt right to adequately account for unexpected scenarios. We did not account for inflation because we believe the return you generate from investing the dollars from step four would adequately meet or beat inflation.
“The trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off.” – Abe Lemons