”Survey says” looks at various rankings and scorecards judging geographic locations, noting these grades are best seen as a mix of art and data.
Buzz: California gets poor grades as a place to retire, with cost-of-living a significant challenge.
Let’s look at my mashup of the trio of rankings broken into three slices — quality of life, health related-metrics and affordability.
Livability: California ranked 28th. Top states were Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Florida, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Worst? Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kansas and New Mexico.
Wellness: California ranked 24th. Tops: Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maryland and Washington. Worst? New Mexico, Mississippi, Indiana, Alabama and Georgia.
Cost of living: California ranked 42th. Tops: Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Wyoming and Alabama. Worst? New Jersey then New York, Hawaii, Maine and Oregon.
A problem with a geographic scorecard for retirement is that a household’s monetary needs vary widely, both in terms of actual dollars as well as their feelings about financial security.
Many retirees are very anxious about running out of cash. Yet no measurement of an area’s affordability is right for all. For example, think of folks who already own a home, especially those who own it mortgage-free. For them, housing costs may be a minor consideration.
So here’s the challenge: When you build “best place to retire” grades, how much weight should a state’s cost of living matter?
Let’s look at a scorecard where cost of living determines half of the results while livability and wellness split the other 50%.
By this math, California gets a No. 47 ranking — not terribly surprising consider the state’s pricey lifestyle. The cheapest on this scale was Florida, followed by Wyoming, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and South Dakota. Lower on this ranking than California was New Mexico, Kansas and Rhode Island, and just below was New Jersey and New York.
Next, ponder the results when affordability, livability and wellness get equal weightings: California improves a bit to No. 39. Top states are the same five with Florida remaining No. 1. Worst? New Mexico then Kansas, Mississippi, Indiana and Arkansas.
Then consider a metric with affordability a low priority — cost is one-sixth of the grading. Livability and wellness split the remaining 83%.
California moves up again to a below-average No. 31. Tops? New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Florida and Wyoming. Worst? New Mexico, Mississippi, Kansas, Indiana and Alabama.
Let’s note another ranking — the share of state population aged 65 or older, according to Census Bureau data.
Highest senior population? Maine (20.6%), Florida (20.5%), West Virginia (19.9%), Vermont (19.4%) and Delaware and Montana (18.7%).
Fewest? Utah (11.1%), Alaska (11.8%), Texas (12.6%), Georgia (13.9%), Colorado (14.2%) — then California (14.3%)
Is California worth the price for retirees? Let me throw out an odd metric: a state’s gap between the extremes of this cost of living-adjusted ranking.
The spreadsheet says California had the eight-biggest drop in rank when affordability was a larger consideration — a fall of 16 ranking spots, from No. 31 down to No. 47.
Where is it a bigger factor? New Jersey (falling 27 spots), Maine and New York (25), and Vermont, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Oregon (20).
By the way, where does affordability boost rankings the most? Alabama (up 25 spots) then Georgia, North Dakota and Texas (up 24); and Nevada (up 19).
Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at email@example.com
Source: Orange County Register