This Is the Best State for Retirement? Seriously?

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Rather than a retirement filled with long walks on the beach, warm nights and sunny days, your best bet may be the state known for the Black Hills and Harleys – and a typical January low temperature of 3 degrees. So says new research tabulating the country's best states for retirement.

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Florida, the perennially popular retirement destination didn't top the list – in fact, the Sunshine State didn't even crack the top ten. South Dakota, the home of Mount Rushmore and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, offers the best quality of life for seniors, according to Bankrate.

The rankings were based on FBI crime rates, weather statistics, quality of health care, state tax rates, the cost of living and "well-being scores" from a year-round survey that helps measure residents' general happiness with their surroundings.

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South Dakota topped the list due to its low tax burden, low crime rate and high wellness score. The top five best states to retire include Colorado, Utah, North Dakota and Wyoming.

"While the states that ranked highly may not be thought of as typical retiree havens, seniors should consider more than sunshine when choosing a place for their golden years," says Bankrate.com research and statistics analyst Chris Kahn. "The Dakotas both ranked in our top ten for the second year in a row due to their low cost of living, low crime rates, good health care quality, low taxes and excellent satisfaction scores from residents."

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The five states that ranked the lowest for retirement were:

New York, West Virginia, Alaska, Arkansas – and get this: Hawaii.

"Of course, the best place to retire will differ drastically depending on the individual," adds Kahn. "For some, the best place to retire is simply anywhere there's year-round warmth and sunshine. For others, it's where family and friends live. Retirees are best off deciding what factors matter most to them and checking the relevant statistics before making a final decision."

Florida ranked 39th overall, because of a higher than average tax burden and crime rate. Arizona made the top 20 best retirement states, ranking number 16. Completing the top ten best states for life after work according to the survey were: Nebraska, Montana, Idaho, Iowa and Virginia.

Using slightly different criteria for last year's survey, including number of hospital beds and doctors per capita – as well as average temperature – the 2013 top five retirement states were Tennessee, Louisiana, South Dakota, Kentucky and Mississippi.

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet

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