U.S. News names “Worst Places to Retire”

Another half-baked and misleading list from another site desperate to attract readers.

U.S. News recently released a list of The 10 Worst Places to Retire.  Wow, I thought, these places must be awful to be chosen as “the worst”.  They must have deadly air and water pollution, rampant crime, unchecked disease, unsafe nursing homes, no public transit, and are probably bankrupt to boot.

Actually, the U.S. News analysis consisted of only one criteria, the metro’s cost of living.  As the article explains their methodology, “Retiring  in a city with an inordinately high cost of living means you will have  to save more money and invest more successfully just to make ends meet.”

So here is the U.S. News list of the “10 Worst Places to Retire”.

  • Bridgeport, CT
  • Honolulu, HI
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • New York City, NY
  • Oxnard, CA
  • Poughkeepsie, NY
  • San Diego, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • San Jose, CA
  • Washington, DC

I don’t think I even know where to start with my criticism of this one-dimensional analysis.  Even if one were to rank retirement desirability on just a single factor, a high cost of living is one of the worst indicators of poor living conditions.

Why?  Because a high cost of living often means that a place is highly desired, and people are willing to pay top dollar to live and work there.  I could argue that these most of these places are great for retirement, if you can afford it.

So why produce a simple-minded and misleading ranking like this?  They might have at least titled it accurately, such as “The Most Expensive Places to Retire” but that wouldn’t be intriguing enough to capture readers’ attention.

About five years ago, U.S. News publisher Mort Zuckerman declared that rankings would be the new business model for his magazine.  Now U.S. News is churning out the rankings in every possible area; Colleges, Grad Schools, High Schools, Online Schools, Hospitals, Children’s Hospitals, Doctors, Health Plans, Nursing Homes, Diets, Mutual Funds, Retirement Places, Cars & Trucks, Hotels, US and Foreign Vacations, Honeymoons, Law Firms and Law Schools, and more.

The quality of the lists don’t really matter.  It’s all just a mechanism to produce revenue.  Like so much content on the web these days, it’s produced to be easily found by search engines and generate discussion.

U.S. News hit gold with this list, when it was mentioned on the NBC Nightly News.  Shame on U.S. News for a misleading, lazy, and mean-spirited list, and shame on NBC News for giving the ranking undeserved attention and credibility.


16 Replies to “U.S. News names “Worst Places to Retire””

  1. Not surprised that 50% of this list comprises of cities in California. I lived in San Jose, CA for five years over 20 years ago and it was expensive then so I can imagine it still is very expensive to live there. Our household income was very high compared to other parts of the US but it took all of it to live there. We had a 850 square foot basic apartment..no amenities..and paid 900/month for it in 1987.

  2. Can you tell me anything about living in Delray Beach, FL. I am 63, retired, and wanting to relocate to year-round warmer weather, as opposed to NE PA, where we have short summers and long, cold, snowy winters. Thanks.

  3. I hate politics. When I travel I stop at the most unexpected and non-touristy area possible. I think the local phone book, local newspaper, the local librarian and local grocery store will tell a visitor just about everything they want to know about an area.

    Size and population does not mean an area is not family friendly or offers nothing. It may be a farm town. On the other hand the nearest large employer may be 30 miles away. All these little pieces of data factor into a final decision.

    I have a young friend who graduates this year from college. He’s whined for at least two years about his lot in life. I told him to get out. He didn’t; he snared a very good job. He’s still unhappy the town isn’t Chicago (surprise) but his opinion is slowly changing to the positive.

    There is always an adjustment when one moves from one region in America to another. It is especially true when one moves from the North to the South, or from either coast to the Midwest. Most would be surprised to learn Du Sable, the founder of Chicago, was a resident of Peoria, Illinois.

  4. was trying to warn someone about how los angeles might be a bad place to retire even though their son is there and all i got was get thee behind me how is retirement in los angeles dont think its a good idea for a 69 year old woman on SSI to go

    1. Hi Phyllis,
      You’re certainly right, Los Angeles is a very expensive place.
      Still, it’s worth looking to see if there are some more affordable places further from the central city, such as towards Riverside.
      Good luck with your search. I know it’s a big strain to try to make ends meet in an expensive place on a modest fixed income.
      Best always,

  5. You’re pretty savvy. Bert. I read a lot of useless lists. They all seem to focus on large metro areas. None seem to think small metro areas measure up. I’ve lived in many places in the US where is less costly for seniors, or where outdoor activities are available all year. I like big parks and park districts that love kids; it’s hard to find.

    Taxes are a necessary evil. In some states the real estate taxes help support local schools, small hospitals, and the county fire department. It’s never discussed. Instead it is dismissed as a high tax state or a place with a high COL. Ack!!!

    I’d like to kick around a new list that might appeal even more to readers because it contains a different type of information. That is, of course, if you are up to the challenge.


    1. Hi PJ,
      Thanks for your thoughts.
      Sure, I’m always up for a challenge. You mention a “new list… that contains a different type of information.”
      What would be the focus on this new list, and what kind of factors would you like to see in it?
      Maybe we’ll call it “The PJ Rankings”! 🙂

      1. Thanks for your reply. I’ve lived in several states and traveled extensively. Since you asked, a new list might look like this: 1.Area: Cliffs, rolling hills, flora and fauna.
        2.Schools: Public, gifted, autistic, medical, and university.
        3.Medical: Children’s hospital. Mayo Clinic Network.
        4.Shop: Malls, six shopping areas, a dozen grocers.
        5.History: Great Lakes Native American dated to 100BCE.
        6:To do: Wildlife park, art, music, theatre, planetarium, tours.
        7.Trivia: The nearby Cowboy Church at Lovely is non-denominational. Yes, spurs, ropes, horses and hats are optional. “We don’t care how you get here or what you wear.”

        Add something here; It’s a beautiful pristine area. Nearby are five historic Civil War Battlefields, fishin’ holes, water sports, and three mountain ranges. It a great place to raise a family or retire. The downside is distance to major shopping areas and the occasional flood.

        Filed under: Small Town America

      2. Add a category that deals with social issues. For example the 15% of mixed families. Where is a good place for older mixed race couples to retire?

        1. Hi Hannah,
          Thanks for the suggestion and the question. It’s an important one!
          I was asked a similar question from couple who are Caucasian/Asian and living in a major Midwest city (I forget exactly where.)
          They said the residents were o.k. with their marriage, but they were just too different to feel comfortable or fully accepted..
          I don’t have a separate category on my website for multiracial families or households (and I should) but here’s a link to a recent (2012) report from the Census Bureau. Check out the table on page 18 for state-level data.
          But here’s another thought. There are some places where different people have a certain exotic or cool factor. Perhaps paradoxically, some predominantly white cities can be open and welcoming to people of color and accepting of mixed couples. There can be a downside though, in that it can be pretty lonely for those in the racial or ethnic minority. A young black man called and told me about living in Seattle where everyone was just so “nice”, but there was no black culture for him; no clubs, neighborhoods, shops, even radio stations. We was thinking of back closer to home, somewhere in the Deep South.
          It’s a tough call, and a very personal one. I recommend taking some trips, and seeing first-hand which places feel most like “home” to you.
          Best wishes,

  6. I have looked for a source of real information and I have found it here. It is so refreshing to see a resource that can cut through the BS and not have to look for 3 or 4 sources to see if I can get a glimpse of what is really true. Thank you for telling it how it is in a condensed format built upon facts. Someone wrote “facts are the enemy of truth–. Only to those who “dress it the way they want”. I like your facts and they are the enemy of the “headlines for $$$ whether they are true or not”
    Thank you Bert


    1. Hi Bob,
      Thanks for the nice comments.
      I like facts, but sometimes it can take a lot of work to understand the context which gives them meaning.
      For example, if I said that Olympia, WA has 60.6 General Practice physicians per 100,000 population, it’s tough to know if that is a little or lot without more information. (It’s a lot. The average for all U.S. major metro areas is 35.7 per 100,000 population.)
      I’m working on some ways to present many categories of data so the reader can readily understand what the numbers mean in the greater context.
      My goal is to make the dry facts insightful, enlightning and maybe even a little entertaining.

  7. I live in Bridgeport, CT and everyone complains about the property tax, but i would much rather live in Connecticut than Florida, which I have visited three times in my life time. The only state that I would consider moving to is California, which I love, and has three cities cited on the list. Also, i noted there are no red states on the list. Makes me wonder.

    1. Hi Judy,
      I think taxes are overblown in the discussion of a place’s negative factors. Talking with people all over the country, I often hear they are relocating for jobs, school, family, and a better quality of life (shorter commute, recreation, lifestyle), but I don’t recall anyone ever saying they are moving to pay lower taxes.
      If that were true, places like Wyoming, Alaska, and South Dakota should be seeing a flood of people. In all fairness, some of the lowest-tax states are seeing population growth, but it’s mainly to seek jobs in the energy industries in those states.
      We pretty much get what we pay for, and states with a low tax burden often are trimming public services and infrastructure improvements and infrastructure.
      Of course, identifying our own best place to live doesn’t help much if we can’t live these comfortably. I think I’ll stick to visiting New York, San Francisco and Hawaii instead of moving there.

    1. Hi Ben,
      Yes, a new book is in the works.
      We’re looking for the best combination of the data, reviews and opinions to keep it unique and relevant in the Internet age, where all the statistics are readily available with a few clicks.
      Thanks for asking, and check back for more information.

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