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MA Ranked 5th Worst State to Retire

Thursday, December 06, 2012


Bay Staters preparing for retirement may want to look outside the Commonwealth, after it ranked among the worst states to retire in 2012, according to MoneyRates.com.

Due to its high property taxes and high cost of living, MoneyRates.com ranked Massachusetts the 5th worst state to retire this year. In addition to all its other perks, the Commonwealth is also home to per capita property taxes of $1,845.

New England made a strong showing in the list of 10 worst states to retire, with Maine coming in 8th due to its harsh climate and low life expectancy for seniors and Rhode Island rounding out the list in the 10th spot for its own high property taxes and a cost of living among the highest in the nation. The Ocean State was also the only state whose senior population shrank between the 2000 census and the 2010 census.

"These lists always spur a spirited discussion, but Massachusetts is yet another state in the bottom 10 that ranks near the bottom in growth of its senior population, so there must be something to the relationship between these criteria and attractiveness to retirees," said Money Rates Columnist Richard Barrington.

In addition to senior population growth, key factors in the rankings were economic conditions, crime rate, climate and life expectancy. Michigan was ranked the number 1 worst state to retire due to below average scores across the board and especially on climate and economic conditions.

At the other end of the spectrum, MoneyRates.com ranked Hawaii the best state to retire to in 2012 due to its long life expectancy and pleasant climate despite boasting the highest cost of living in the country, followed by Idaho in 2nd place with its low crime rate, good economy and fast-growing senior population. Utah rounded out the top three, notable for its economy and fast-growing senior population as well.

The Pros and Cons of Growing Old in Mass

According to Lou Swan, executive director of Elder Services of Worcester Area, Inc. (ESWA), some of the factors that may make Massachusetts a less attractive location for retirees are unique to the state or the Northeast in general, while others will be issues anywhere you choose to retire.

At ESWA, Swan and his colleagues work with seniors in Central Mass to help them remain in their own homes rather than move to a nursing home or assisted-living facility, which can be a difficult task financially.

"You have a lot of elders in this category that are what I call 'house rich and income poor,'" he said. "The value of their house has gone up, but their income hasn't kept pace with it."

As the cost of upkeep has skyrocketed, affording to stay in their own homes has become more of a struggle for elders in the Bay State. However, the Commonwealth offers more extensive long-term services and supports to aid seniors who wish to stay at home than the majority of states.

"It doesn't cover everybody," Swan said, "but it does cover more than you'd find in a number of other states, and in the long-run it'll be cheaper than moving them into a nursing home and having the state pay for it."

Yet the high cost of living in Massachusetts does take a greater toll on residents who rely on a fixed income than those still in the workforce.

"When they calculate the cost of living adjustment for Social Security, they're not taking into account the real cost of housing," Swan said.

"The older you are probably the more out-of-pocket expenses you have for things like your healthcare, and the less purchasing power you have from your income."

And while the state is home to some of the best healthcare services in the country, those services can carry a hefty price tag. Add to that the fuel costs of living in a New England climate, and the MoneyRates.com ranking can start to seem justified.

But, said Swan, most people still retire where they lived due to those less easy to measure factors like family, community and culture.

"Those are all things that you can't put a dollar amount on." 


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