Thinking about where to retire? Kansas is an above-average choice — the 17th best among the states — but Missouri is the 13th worst, according to this year’s Bankrate ranking of best places to retire.
How can two neighbors vary so much? And how can the one with the Gateway Arch get waxed by the one with the world’s largest ball of twine?
Lots of numbers are involved — Bankrate’s formula combines six factors, some of them indexes of yet more factors. But in the end, much of this Kansas-Missouri divide comes down to satisfaction and humidity.
Both states do well on cost of living, Kansas eighth and Missouri 12th; middling on tax burden, Kansas 28th and Missouri 23rd; and below average on crime rate, Kansas 32nd and Missouri 37th, and on quality of health care, Kansas 36th and Missouri 35th.
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But Kansas is way out front on a well-being index based on Gallup polling on people’s “happiness and general satisfaction with their surroundings.” For that, Kansas ranks 25th, and Missouri is dragged down by feeling dragged down — all the way to 45th. “Show me and I still won’t like it.” Ouch.
The weather gap is just as large. Kansans probably don’t realize they have the 17th best weather, and poor Missouri is 38th. But this weather index relies heavily on percentage of sunny days (advantage Kansas) and average humidity (big advantage Kansas). Average temperature also figures in, and as Kansans know, 20 and 100 do average out to 60.
Put them all together, weighted according to other surveys of what’s most important to retired Americans, and Kansas is way ahead. Who knew?
Nationally, Western states fare well, thanks to strong well-being scores, low living costs and below-average crime rates. The top four places this year go to Wyoming, South Dakota, Colorado and Utah. Virginia comes in fifth, then Montana and Idaho.
But typical retirement havens don’t do well, mainly because of above-average crime and high costs of living, and also because of high taxes in California’s case. Only one, No. 9 Arizona, cracks the top 10. Florida is 28th, New Mexico 30th and California 39th. Hawaii was 45th, mainly because it’s the most expensive state to live in, though residents’ satisfaction is high.
High taxes and cloudy days did in Oregon, which was 48th in the overall rankings. Ditto New York, dead last. Hardscrabble West Virginia, with poor health care, weather and sense of well being, was 49th.
“There are a lot of factors that go into how well retirees will do in a state,” said Claes Bell, a senior analyst at Bankrate.com. “While features like pleasant weather and nearby amenities are important, nuts-and-bolts considerations like cost of living and the local tax burden may have a bigger impact on your overall quality of life. Many retirees live on a fixed income, and it’s hard to have a pleasant retirement if you’re constantly under financial pressure.”