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The Worst States for Stretching Retiree Income


Cost of living isn't everything, but for retirees on a limited income, it can be a very important determinant of how far their dollar stretches. Residents of these states face the toughest challenge.

We often write about the best places for retirees to consider living, based on location, weather, cost of everyday living, things to do, and real estate values and prices. Today, we’re going to look at some states retirees should avoid—and why. Some are obvious and are for very specific reasons, such as the incredibly high real estate prices in New York. Others may surprise you.

New York

The Empire State tops the list of worst states for retirees to consider. Everything is more expensive here, but the real estate costs in the Big Apple take the biggest bite. Even outside New York City, though, cost of living and tax rates are as high here as they are anywhere. State and local income taxes in New York are the highest in the U.S., and property taxes are always in the top 5 nationally. But there’s another reason New York isn’t a great choice for retirees: though New York is home to some of the premier healthcare institutions in the country (Memorial Sloan Kettering, and NYU Langone, among others), healthcare costs in the state are significantly above the national average. This problem is pronounced for retirees.

Washington, DC

Ok, so it’s not technically a state. Still, it’s a bad enough place for retirees that we’re including it here anyway. The usual suspects—high cost of living and high real estate costs—make DC less than hospitable retirees. But the big kickers for the wealthy in DC are high sales and income taxes, and an astronomical estate tax for estates valued at $1 million or more. Many dentists won’t have to worry about that number, but some will, particularly if they have any wealth generated from sources outside their main career.


By now you know the drill: high sales tax and ridiculously high property values are a given in California. Even worse, though, is the traffic in the southern part of the state. The temperate climate is partially offset by the ever-present smog there as well. California has its charms, but for many retirees, the “dreamin’” comes with too high a price.


The Beaver State is our first real surprise, because it’s lovely, quiet, and loaded with activities that appeal to many retirees, including golf courses aplenty, spectacular hiking amidst startling mountains and breathtaking views, fishing, and inviting beaches. Unfortunately, other Oregonians have noticed all these things as well. Rent in cities like Portland start at nearly double the national average rental fee. Gasoline tends to be more expensive in Oregon also. While there is no sales tax in Oregon, there is a high income tax for residents who earn more than $125,000 per year (retirement income included) of almost 10%. Your dollar will go farther in the lumber state than it will in New York, but not by as much as you think.


The Aloha State is a wonderful place to visit, but you probably wouldn’t want to live here. Unless you’re spectacularly rich, that is. Even vacationing in Hawaii is expensive, but at least then the price of milk only hurts the wallet for a few days or weeks. The higher prices of goods add up over time, and nowhere in the U.S. are everyday prices higher. Income taxes, also, are a bear.

Cost of living isn’t everything, but for retirees on a limited income, it can be a very important determinant of how far their dollar stretches. Most of the locales on this list have in common that they are simply pricier than their neighbors.

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