The best and worst states for retirement

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Many Americans are spending decades in retirement, what with fewer workers delaying retirement and life expectancies on the rise. That makes the choice of where to retire even more important.

Seniors have many factors to consider, apart from proximity to grandchildren, such as cost of living, access to health care, safety and quality of life, whether that means museums and theaters or in-home services.

Affordability is another key consideration. American workers are increasingly sanguine about their financial prospects in retirement, but even so, more than 40 percent lack some confidence or are not at all confident they have enough money to retire comfortably, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

In addition, some people over 65 "are seeing they kind of jumped the gun on retirement" and may want to return to work part-time or full-time, said Jill Gonzalez, an analyst at WalletHub. The labor market for older workers may then be a factor as well.

A new survey by WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 24 key metrics to come up its list of "2016's Best and Worst States to Retire." Here are the top and bottom five.

— By CNBC's Kelley Holland
Posted 26 January 2016

Miami, Florida
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1. Florida

There are many reasons the Sunshine State is a perennial favorite for retirement. Florida ranks 15th in health care out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, but it scores second place in affordability. The state is also one of those without an estate tax, and it has more residents over age 65 than any state except California.

In addition, those long stretches of beach combined with the growing sophistication of cities like Miami help Florida garner third place in quality of life. Pack your sunscreen.

Jackson Lake, Wyoming.
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2. Wyoming

If a low cost of living is your main priority in retirement, then Wyoming is your place. The state, which among other things does not tax individual income or estates, won top honors for affordability in WalletHub's survey. In addition, the quality of health care in the state is close to that in Florida, ranking 16.

But you might want to lock in that Netflix subscription: Wyoming ranked 28 for quality of life. Museums and theater companies are "a little fewer and further between," said WalletHub's Gonzalez.

Deadwood, South Dakota
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3. South Dakota

Look no further than South Dakota for top-flight health care, thanks to plenty of health-care professionals per capita and long life expectancies. That helps propel the state to third place on the overall retirement quality scale, even though WalletHub ranked the quality of life in South Dakota 29th out of 51.

The survey's heavy weighting for quality of weather no doubt played a role, with average winter temperatures in South Dakota between 15 and 20 degrees. Still, the state has plenty of natural beauty, and it scored well on affordability, ranking 14th.

Charleston, South Carolina
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4. South Carolina

The Palmetto State has balmy weather, no question, but a lackluster labor market for older workers knocked it down to rank 26th for quality of life. South Carolina also fares worse than many on health care, ranking 34th, partly because of cost.

But when it comes to affordability, the state gets high marks, with state and local taxes 20 percent below the national average, helping it rank sixth in the country. And did we mention those wonderful beaches?

Maroon Bells, Colorado.
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5. Colorado

Living in Colorado is not cheap — the state taxes some Social Security income, for starters — but it is not overly expensive, either. The state ranks 27th in affordability. And when it comes to quality of life, Colorado is a winner, ranking sixth. Though the state can't compete with South Carolina or Florida on beaches, the array of other outdoor activities it offers is exceptional.

Coloradans also enjoy quality health care, according to WalletHub's survey, which ranked the state at No. 11.

A covered bridge near Brattleboro, Vermont
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47. Vermont

It is known as the Green Mountain State, and apparently residents need plenty of green to live there. Vermont ranks 47th for affordability in WalletHub's survey, thanks to state taxation of Social Security and relatively high prices for in-home care.

That said, quality health care is readily available, and Vermont is a welcoming labor market for older workers. But on quality-of-life measures, Vermont comes up short, ranking 30. It must be hard to build golf courses among those green mountains.

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48. Connecticut

With its proximity to New York, long coastline and a plethora of high-quality colleges and universities, Connecticut seems like an excellent place to retire. And sure enough, the state ranked 14th for health care and 15th for quality of life.

But a Connecticut retirement does not come cheap, with the state coming in at 50 for affordability. Certainly, housing is not cheap: Greenwich had the 14th highest average price for a four-bedroom, two-bath house out of more than 2,700 communities surveyed by Coldwell Banker in 2015. And the state taxes some key sources of income for seniors, like pensions. If you want to retire to Connecticut, start saving yesterday.

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49. Hawaii

Honestly, who wouldn't want to retire to Hawaii? The state is renowned for hospitality and natural beauty. It also has high-quality health care, coming in at No. 4.

But just like Connecticut, life in Hawaii does not come cheap. It ranks 49th for affordability, in part due to the tourism-reliant state charging high sales taxes. And on quality of life, Hawaii also comes up short, scoring 42.

In addition, the labor market for seniors was among the least friendly in the country, and there are relatively few adult volunteer activities,Gonzalez said.

What's more, the state has some of the fewest museums per capita of any state, and in-home care is among the most expensive in the country.

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50. District of Columbia

It is hard to beat Washington, D.C., for free world-class museums, abundant fine dining and shopping, and its high-quality health care, which put Washington at No. 5 on that scale.

But the nation's capital is another place where retirement is expensive. The district ranked 45th for affordability, and despite the museums, Washington ranks dead last in quality of life, thanks in large part to a high crime rate. For those hoping to hit the linx in retirement should definitely look elsewhere.

Providence, Rhode Island.
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51. Rhode Island

For the smallest state, Rhode Island sure has more than its share of challenges when it comes to retirement living.

Rhode Island is the least affordable for retirees, coming in dead last, at 51. Quality of life is not much better, ranking 45th despite pretty beaches, picturesque Newport and the presence of an Ivy League university with all its cultural appendages. In addition, only 13 percent of residents over 65 are employed. With few health-care professionals per capita, access to health care is also less than stellar, placing the state at 36 in that category.