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Hawaii Tops List of Best Places to Retire

Posted October 22, 2012, 05:32 PM HST
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No need for central heating: Climate was one of the factors in Hawaii being named the best state in which to retire. Photo of Kilauea volcano by Ben Gaddis, USGS.

It’s no secret to the senior set already here, but a personal finance website has ranked Hawaii as the best state for retirees.

MoneyRates.com selected Hawaii atop its 2012 list based on eight criteria that include property taxes, unemployment rate, violent crime rates, property tax rates and life expectancy for seniors.

“We recognize that individual tastes vary, so the best state for one person is not going to be the best state for everybody,” said MoneyRates columnist Richard Barrington. “The point is, though, that crunching the numbers the way we do points out some things that seniors need to know when they make a decision about where to spend their retirement years.”

One of the factors, climate, is one for which Hawaii would be expected to have an advantage over many states, but there it came in second, behind Florida.

MoneyRate defined the best climate as having the least monthly variations from a moderate 68-degree temperature.

But that may also have been balanced out by consideration of the cost of living. Hawaii’s selection as No. 1 overall came with a warning from Barrington: “Make sure you have a well-funded retirement plan, because Hawaii also has the highest cost of living in the US.”

And gentle climate wasn’t an absolute necessity, as the ranking’s top 10 include Idaho, Colorado and South Dakota.

The eighth criterion, recent population growth in the senior demographic between 2000 and 2010, was a new factor this year. It could be viewed as a ranking in itself, reflecting seniors’ choices to move to the Aloha State as well as longer living.

MoneyRate said seniors in Hawaii live longer past the age of 65 than in any other state in the nation.

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That, and its No. 2 ranking for climate and above-average scores in most other categories, pushed Hawaii ahead of second-place Idaho.

Barrington acknowledged Idaho’s high ranking may come as a surprise to some. But he notes that the spud state combines a low crime rate with a good economy, and only two states have a faster-growing senior population.

Rounding out the top five in the website’s third annual ranking were Utah, Arizona and Virginia.

The worst state in which to retire, the website said, was Michigan, which earned its dubious distinction by ranking below-average in every measure of the survey. It was followed by Pennsylvania, Alaska, Illinois and Massachusetts.

But while MoneyRate’s analysis is fact-based, Michiganians can take heart, because the ultimate decision on where to spend the Golden Years includes subjective subjects.

“While MoneyRates.com recognizes that much of what marks a good place for retirement is subjective – family and friends, cultural attractions, natural beauty – there are plenty of objective, quantifiable factors to examine too,” Barrington said.

“Knowing how a state performs in certain measures is important before you choose it for your retirement, and that’s precisely what these rankings are about.”

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