Another Top-10 List — Least (and Most) Expensive States to Retire Comfortably

Almost one-half of Americans (46 percent in an April 2019 Gallop Poll) said their biggest worry was not having enough money in retirement.  Only 51 percent expect to live comfortably once retired, down from 54 percent a year ago.

Retirement is much like buying, using and maintaining a car:

  • The cost for each is different
  • Included options vary from one to the next
  • Distances traveled vary
  • Some are more luxurious while others are utilitarian – and everything in between
  • Some last longer than others – as do some people live longer
  • Maintenance varies – akin to health issues and related expenses and spending habits
  • Fuel consumption is a function of both the model selected (and respective performance) and how the vehicle is driven, just as local cost-of-living impacts retirement costs as do people’s actions

How much does it cost it cost to retire comfortably?  Just like the economy and real estate markets, things change and are unpredictable.  As usual, I invoke the TINSTAANREM axiom — There Is No Such Thing As A National Real Estate Market or a National Economy.  The same is true regarding the cost to retire.

One key to the cost of retirement is where people retire.  Incomes and expenses vary from one location to the next.  To estimate how much it costs to retire in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, focused on four expenses on a per capita basis:

  • Groceries
  • Healthcare
  • Housing
  • Transportation

The four costs were then annualized, with a 20 percent addition to accommodate the costs “…to account for the ‘comfortable’ aspect of retirement.”  Assumptions included a 20-year retirement span. The annual expenses were totaled and then multiplied by 20.  No consideration was given for inflation or for any potential interest earned.

The first of the two following tables shows the 10 states the Bankrate methodology indicates the most affordable costs to retire comfortably.  The second table shows the most costly.  A person living in Hawaii (the most expensive) has an estimated annual cost to retire comfortably of 2.2 times Mississippi (the least expensive).

The last table shows these data for all 50 states sorted both alphabetically and from least to greatest cost.

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While just 51 percent of current non-retired Americans responded they expect to retire comfortably in the April Gallop survey, 78 percent of those already retired stated they have enough money to do so.   Thus, there is hope for many of the yet-to-retire demographic.  Where a person retires, however, can have significant impact on how much money they will require to do so.


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