“I’m heading to Iowa for retirement” is rarely heard among retirees and soon-to-be retirees. Still, Bankrate recently named Iowa the number one retirement spot.
It notes that traditional warm-weather retirement magnets may only sometimes offer the best retirement quality of life.
In ranking U.S. states’ retirement friendliness, Bankrate looked at an array of factors—affordability, overall well-being, the cost and quality of healthcare, weather, and crime.
Noting that retirees are feeling financially pinched, Bankrate paid particular attention to housing affordability in making its choices. After all, an October Bankrate survey showed that 55% of working Americans thought their retirement savings weren’t up to snuff, and 35% said they’re significantly behind.
Others that made the top five retirement states also were unconventional: Delaware, West Virginia, Missouri, and Mississippi.
Why Iowa? “With its vast farmlands, peaceful countryside, and friendly locals, Iowa offers a unique retirement experience for many Americans seeking a more relaxed and affordable lifestyle with access to the outdoors and retirement-age communities,” says Bankrate.
Its draws also include being the sixth cheapest place to live in the U.S., featuring a median home price of $239,400, and it got points for its high-quality healthcare and low healthcare costs. Still, Bankrate acknowledges some drawbacks, including the state’s lack of racial and ethnic diversity and cold winters.
It lauded Delaware for good healthcare, tax-friendliness, racial and ethnic diversity, and access to arts and entertainment. That said, housing can be pricey.
The low cost of living and tax-friendliness got West Virginia on the list. Though Mississippi received high scores for affordability, weather, and crime, it lagged on healthcare and overall well-being.
Another advantage of considering a state with a low cost of living is that if you have lots of equity in your current home, you may be able to buy a house without needing a mortgage.
Besides the rankings, another reason to look at Bankrate’s study is the insight from experts. For instance, Kerry Hannon, author of “In Control at 50+: How to Succeed in the New World of Work,” suggests renting for six months in a city you’re considering for retirement. “See if it’s easy to join groups, whether it’s a bowling league or a volunteer organization. Set up your community before you take that leap,” she says.
In addition, she recommends not ruling out places that seem like unlikely retirement spots. “It’s important for people to get excited about that next chapter of life. It’s a new adventure, and you should take the time to do the prep work financially and personally to make smart decisions.”