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The 10 best states for retirement

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The 10 best states for retirement
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By Jean Chatzky

10 unexpectedly great states for retirement | iStock.com

The 10 best states for retirement

Gone are the days of Florida being the only retirement destination on the map. Sure, it's nice to escape frosty winters and feel that famous Florida sunshine, but beach weather isn't the only thing retirees are looking for these days. They also want a place where they can stretch their retirement savings and maintain a great quality of life.

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Using data from Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and other sources, Bankrate ranked all 50 states according to factors important to seniors: cost of living, quality of health care, taxes, crime and overall well-being.

Our research shows that most of the top states for retirement aren't your typical coastal destinations -- some are located in the Midwest plains, while others are in the West surrounded by mountains. Like, only 1 state in the top 10 is located on the East Coast.

One thing they do have in common: Every state on this list enjoys a cost of living below the national average. So whether you're buying a house, getting a haircut or picking up a gallon of milk from the store, your retirement dollars will go far.

Here are the best places to retire in the U.S.

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Sources: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; Gallup-Healthways; Council for Community and Economic Research; FBI; Tax Foundation; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

No. 10: Nebraska

Nebraska | iStock.com
Strengths
  • Low cost of living
  • Low crime

Nebraska may have a reputation for cornfields as far as the eye can see, but there are plenty of hidden gems in this Midwest state. In downtown Omaha, retirees can stroll the cobblestone streets of the Old Market, lined with restaurants, boutiques and art galleries.

Nearby Lincoln also boasts a historic downtown called the Haymarket, and football mania is alive and well in the city. Overall, the Cornhusker State offers a relatively low cost of living, and it also ranked in the top half of states for low crime rates. Residents here report being slightly happier than people in other states, based on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being index.

Healthways measures residents' general happiness and satisfaction with their surroundings in 5 areas: residents' sense of purpose, positive feelings about their community, as well as social, financial and physical well-being. Nebraska scored particularly high marks in the social category, and since 2012, it has earned a top 10 spot in the index.


No. 9: Arizona

Arizona | iStock.com
Strengths
  • Great weather
  • Personal well-being

Retirees who want to relax in a warm climate will be drawn to Arizona's desert land. The state scored among the highest in the country for pleasant weather, and it comes as no surprise that there's rarely a cloud in the sky. On average, Yuma sees sunshine 90% of the year, while Phoenix and Tucson see rays 85% of the time.

This sunny outlook could explain why people who live here report a fairly high level of happiness. Arizona ranked in the top 10 in the Gallup-Healthways Index for overall wellness.

Arizona also places a fairly low tax burden on its residents: 8.8% compared with a national average of 9.9% of income as of 2012, according to data released this year by the Tax Foundation. A state's tax burden is the amount of residents' income that goes to state and local taxes.

One downside: Crime is a bit of an issue in Arizona. The Grand Canyon State is the only one in Bankrate's top 10 that has a higher-than-average crime rate compared with other states.

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No. 8: Iowa

Iowa | iStock.com
Strengths
  • Quality health care system
  • Low crime

Quality health care is particularly important to seniors, and Iowa is a great place to find it. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the state received very strong scores for care affordability, and strong scores in people-centered care, effective treatment, home health-hospice care and nursing homes. That includes programs such as Iowa Medicaid's medical homes for members with chronic conditions.

The Hawkeye State also enjoys a relatively low crime rate, with the 16th lowest violent crime rate in the country, according to FBI statistics.

Iowa also boasts an affordable cost of living. In the Des Moines metro area, a half-gallon of milk averages $1.85, compared with the U.S. average of $2.25.

Practicality aside, Iowans also know how to have fun. Retirees who settle in Des Moines, for instance, will find an impressive downtown with attractions such as comedy shows, painting classes, and food and music festivals.


No. 7: Idaho

Idaho | iStock.com
Strengths
  • Low crime
  • Low cost of living

Idaho offers a safe place for retirees to settle down, and a dollar here will go further than in many other states.

In fact, Idaho's cost of living and crime rate both ranked among the lowest in Bankrate's database. In 2014, the FBI reported that the state had the 7th lowest rate of violent crime in the country, and the 4th lowest rate of property crimes in the nation.

Housing in Idaho is extremely affordable, with median home values in Boise at $258,125 and $267,000 in Twin Falls, compared with a national average of $312,874. The average apartment rental in Twin Falls is a low $662 a month, compared with the U.S. average of $945.

Other perks of Idaho: The weather isn't too shabby either, and residents here can enjoy many natural treasures, including large lakes, national forests and canyons. Idaho's 5 major cities are located on the picturesque Snake River or its tributaries. Hells Canyon, one part of the Snake River, is the deepest river gorge in North America and is renowned for its whitewater boating, hiking and breathtaking mountain views.


No. 6: Montana

Montana | iStock.com
Strengths
  • Great weather
  • Low taxes

There's much to love about Montana, from the mountains to the prairies. Whether it's Granite Peak, the tallest point in the state, or the grasslands of the Northern Montana Prairies, natural wonders abound.

The state has temperate weather that ranks above the national average, and residents report being happy with their surroundings. Since 2012, Montana has ranked consistently high for well-being, according to the Healthways index, and it received particularly good marks for residents' feelings about their community.

Although the cost of living here is just a hair below the national average, residents have a reasonable tax burden of 8.7% as of 2012, according to the Tax Foundation. Only 11 states have a lower tax rate than the Treasure State. The Tax Foundation also ranked Montana in the top 10 best in its 2016 State Business Tax Climate Index, in part because it has no sales tax.


No. 5: Virginia

Virginia | iStock.com
Strengths
  • Low cost of living
  • Low crime rate

Virginia has earned the No. 5 spot on Bankrate's list of best places to retire in the U.S. for the 2nd year in a row. It's also the only coastal state in our ranking.

One of the main draws to the Old Dominion State is its low cost of living, which is particularly impressive because of that coastal location. In fact, Virginia ranks in the top half of all U.S. states for affordability. Retirees looking to invest in real estate here will be happy to know that the average home price in the Richmond metro area is $265,703, much lower than the $312,874 national average. If you just want to rent, you'll pay about $893 a month.

Virginia's low crime rate is another attractive feature. From 2001 to 2010, violent crime rates decreased in Virginia by 27% and property crimes went down 19%. The state's violent crime rate now ranks as the 5th lowest in the nation.

The state also received above-average marks for health care quality and weather.


No. 4: Utah

Utah | iStock.com
Strengths
  • Great weather
  • Personal well-being

Outdoor enthusiasts will find no shortage of activities to keep active in Utah. The state boasts national parks, lakes, mountains and canyons, and there are plenty of remedies for cabin fever during winter. In the colder months, snowfall is mostly confined to the mountains, which is great news for skiers.

Overall, the state ranks 6th best in the nation for weather. Not only does Utah see lots of sunshine, it also has remarkably low humidity, tying with New Mexico, Idaho and Colorado on that measure. Overall, Utah scored in the top 10 for pleasant weather.

Residents of Utah also report being happier than those in most states, particularly when it comes to financial well-being. Although taxes are a bit higher than in other states, the cost of living is below the national average. Even in its biggest metro area, Salt Lake City, the average apartment rent comes in at $894 a month, compared with the U.S. average of $945.


No. 3: Colorado

Colorado | iStock.com
Strengths
  • Great weather
  • Personal well-being

It's no shock that Colorado has some of the best weather in the country -- the 3rd best, in fact, according to the NOAA data we analyzed. The state sees ample sunshine and little humidity, particularly in cities such as Denver, which enjoys more than 300 days of sun a year. In January, the average high in the city is 47 degrees and the low is 16. By March, the average high increases to 56 degrees and the low reaches 25.

There's plenty to do in Colorado, including golfing, skiing and visiting museums, but retirees might just be content taking in the spectacular scenery. Whether it's the Great Sand Dunes in southern Colorado, Pikes Peak or the Black Canyon, this state is certainly postcard-worthy.

Colorado also scores high for well-being in the Gallup-Healthways index, particularly in the social category. It ranked 4th out of U.S. overall.

As if all this weren't enough, residents of the Centennial State have a relatively low tax burden of 8.9%.


No. 2: South Dakota

South Dakota | iStock.com
Strengths
  • Personal well-being
  • Low taxes

South Dakota made a big jump this year on Bankrate's list, from No. 8 to No. 2.

The state has one of the lowest tax burdens in the country at 7.1% -- or an average of $3,318 per resident -- tying with Wyoming for the 2nd-lowest score in the U.S. (Alaska's is 6.5%). South Dakota also scored well for overall happiness, particularly when it comes to social well-being.

South Dakota winters can be fierce, but the state still receives an above-average amount of sunshine. And there's plenty to do and see all through the year, whether you want to visit Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore or the Air and Space Museum. Skiers and snowboarders will also be in heaven in the Black Hills, which receives over 200 inches of snow a year. It's no wonder South Dakota is often referred to as the "land of infinite variety" for its scenery.


No. 1: Wyoming

Wyoming | iStock.com
Strengths
  • Low crime
  • Low tax rate
  • Great personal well-being

Wyoming earned the top spot again this year, and it's easy to see why.

Like South Dakota, it has among the lowest tax burdens in the country at 7.1%. It also scored well below the national average for crime rates. In 2014, the FBI reported just 195.5 violent crimes per 100,000 people, 3rd lowest in the nation.

Overall, residents are very satisfied with their lives, with Wyoming falling in the top 5 in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. That may have something to do with their beautiful surroundings. Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park and the Devils Tower National Monument are just a few of the natural treasures in the Cowboy State.

When it comes to weather, Wyoming gets it right. The state enjoys a fairly cool climate, and summer nights are mild. There are usually fewer than 10 cold waves during the winter (although winds can be strong). Humidity is also super low, making it the perfect place for retirees who don't like stuffy summers.

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