‘Is this heaven?’ No, but it’s the best place to retire.


The movie “Field of Dreams” famously asked if Iowa was heaven. While it may not be heaven, it’s now seen as the best state to retire in, according to a BankRate study.

Bumping Florida out of the top spot, Iowa ranked well in areas such as affordability, crime levels, and quality and cost of healthcare. 

“Don’t rule out unlikely places for retirement,” said BankRate analyst Alex Gailey. “The economy has changed so drastically and inflation has had long-term effects. More than half of working Americans feel behind on their retirement. Affordability is really important, especially for those on a fixed income.”

Iowa, which ranked 14th last year, also showed strong rankings this year in terms of cost of living, state health system performance, cost of healthcare per capita by state, adults 65 and older per capita, and combined state and local sales tax, BankRate said.

Rounding out the top five, the other best places to retire included Delaware, West Virginia, Missouri and Mississippi.

“People may be surprised not to see Florida, Georgia and Arizona in the top spots. But the states that were once popular for retirement have seen their cost of living rise so drastically. The housing market is so competitive in those states that it’s unaffordable for many,” Gailey said.

Florida ranked eighth in this year’s study, down from first place last year.

Read: I want to retire somewhere scenic with low taxes and near a big airport. Where should I go?

Gailey suggested the top rankings serve as a starting point for soon-to-be retirees and retirees to explore some different locations. 

With states in the Midwest and South ranking as more affordable, retirees looking to stretch their budgets may want to consider them over the higher cost of living in the northeast and west.

Read: I live in the South and don’t want to retire here. I’m seeking four seasons, diversity and outdoor living. Where should I retire?

“Everyone’s personal situation is going to be very different. You may have a paid-off home in a high-cost area so affordability may be less of a factor for you and your budget. Or maybe you sell that house, and use that income to move to a low-cost area. It’s all unique to the person,” Gailey said.

Among specific metrics, West Virginia came in on top in terms of affordability, while Colorado ranked first for quality and cost of healthcare. Hawaii ranked first for both well-being and weather, and New Hampshire ranked first for least crime, BankRate said.

BankRate said it did not specifically factor in climate change, but it did look at weather patterns such as average temperatures and natural disasters. Those issues had about a 10% weighting in the study. Affordability was the biggest factor at 40% weighting.

Read: We want to retire somewhere with pleasant winters. Our budget is $600,000-$700,000. Where should we go?

The worst states to retire in? Alaska scored last, with poor rankings in weather, crime, affordability, quality and cost of healthcare, and well-being. New York, California, Washington and Massachusetts rounded out the bottom of the list.

“In our overall ranking, the best and worst states for retirees are split geographically. The Midwest and the South claim the top five states, while the Northeast and West claim the bottom five states, primarily because of the differences in cost of living,” Gailey said.

“For many Americans, a comfortable retirement may feel out of reach,” Gailey says. “If you’re considering a late life move to lower your cost of living in retirement, our rankings provide some food for thought.”

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