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Want to retire? Better do it in any state other than Kentucky, new study says.

The states in white are the worst for retirees, according to Wallethub’s latest study.
The states in white are the worst for retirees, according to Wallethub’s latest study. Wallethub

“Do not retire in Kentucky” seems to be the message in a new study that says the state is worse for retirees than it was a year ago, when it was ranked ninth-worst in the country.

Now, Kentucky is the worst state in the country to retire in, according to WalletHub’s 2018 rankings. Kentucky got particularly low marks among the 50 states for quality of life and health care, in part because of life expectancy (the state was 44th); death rates; quality of elder abuse protections; share of population 65 and older below poverty level; share of those 65 and older who can’t afford a doctor visit; elderly food insecurity rate; health-care facilities per capita and not great rankings for elderly friendly labor market.

The state ranked 38th in affordability. It got high marks for tax friendliness on pensions and Social Security income and ranked 11th for annual cost of in-home services.

Wallethub — a personal finance website that crunches a lot of data and puts out well-followed studies in many areas — looked at 41 metrics, including share of the population 65 and older, public transportation access, museums and theaters per capita, adult volunteer activities, crime rates, elder-abuse protections, physicians and dentists per capita, current health status of adults 65 and older, and death rates. The data came from the U.S. Census Bureau, the FBI, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United Health Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and elsewhere.

Kentucky dropped from bad to worst between the 2017 and 2018 studies as WalletHub added and reviewed more measurements and data. In 2017, WalletHub looked at 31 metrics. In 2018, it considered 41 key metrics, according to Communications Manager Diana Popa.

After applying those 41 metrics, WalletHub determined the best states to retire are Florida, Colorado, South Dakota, Iowa, Virginia, Wyoming, New Hampshire, Idaho, Utah and Arizona.

Other states retirees should avoid, according to Wallethub, are New Jersey, Rhode Island, Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia, Louisiana, New Mexico, Hawaii and Alabama. Hawaii took Kentucky’s place as ninth worst. It has the highest adjusted cost of living.

Some states received bad rankings in specific areas, including North Dakota for its highest annual cost of in-home services; Illinois, where property taxes are steep, for its worst taxpayer ranking; Utah for its fewest museums; and New Mexico for its highest property crime rates.

Anderson School of Management professor Almee Drolet Rossi said the new tax cuts “penalize certain states that have traditionally been attractive to retirees,” so the rankings might change sharply in 2019.

Seniors are otherwise attracted to milder climates, culture and good health care, said Rossi, who works at the University of California.

In determining where to retire, seniors should consider location costs, including all taxes and utility expenses; access to family; existence of a network of friends; quality and availability of health care; and opportunities for post-retirement employment, said Geoffrey J.D. Hewings, emeritus director of the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory and a professor at University of Illinois.

“Labor-force participation rates among those above 65 are growing rapidly, as many retirees find that they do not have sufficient funds to afford them a comfortable lifestyle,” Hewings said.

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