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Best and Worst States for Older Workers

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They produce the most dynamic work together
PeopleImages/istockphoto

In With the Old

While the pandemic has sparked early retirements, there are also plenty of workers 65 and up who aren’t quite ready to punch the clock for the last time. How the careers of older workers match up might depend on the state they live in, though. Seniorly conducted a study to compare states across five categories including life expectancy, health care, income, taxes, and labor force participation for older adults. The results were graded on a scale that Cheapism dissected to pinpoint the 10 best and 10 worst states for older workers, showcasing why each one ranks the way it does


Related: America's Healthiest States for Seniors, Ranked

Aerial View of Lincoln, Nebraska in Autumn
Jacob Boomsma/istockphoto

10th Best: Nebraska

Nebraska’s public sector workers enjoy one of the best-funded pension systems in the nation, with 93.1% of its pension obligations fully funded. But the list of reasons why Nebraska is a good state for older workers doesn’t stop there. Nearly every person aged 65 and older has Medicare benefits — 96.6%, to be exact.


Related: Ways to Jump-Start Your Retirement Savings

Richmond Downtown Aerial With Park Greenery
Davel5957/istockphoto

9th Best: Virginia

Not only is Virginia a good state to grow old in, it’s a great place to work once you do grow old. For starters, the average annual earnings as of 2020 among workers 65 and older are the 10th-highest in the country, at $68,435. Among Virginia households, 54.8% are led by someone 65 or older with a household income of at least $50,000. To top things off, Virginia boasts a labor force participation rate for workers 65 and older of 18.4%, landing on the high end of the spectrum.


Related: Valuable Tax Breaks for Seniors

Aerial View of Kualoa area of Oahu Hawaii
Art Wager/istockphoto

8th Best: Hawaii

The tropical climate and beautiful beaches aren’t the only highlights of Hawaii attracting older workers. Sixty-five percent of households in Hawaii led by someone 65 and older earn at least $50,000 annually, the highest rate in the nation. The state also has the highest average life expectancy from birth of all 50 states: 81 years. Maybe the fountain of youth is hidden on one of the islands?


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Denver Colorado skyscrapers snowy Longs Peak Rocky Mountains summer
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7th Best: Colorado

The Rocky Mountain state boasts extremely fast growth rates of residents aged 65 and up, but how does that age group fare in Colorado’s workforce? In addition to one of the highest average life expectancies from birth at age 80, the state is making efforts to embrace age diversity in the workforce. Plus, if you’re thinking about eventual retirement, working in Colorado puts you in the state considered third-best for retirees.

Downtown Fargo North Dakota Skyline
DenisTangneyJr/istockphoto

6th Best: North Dakota

Thanks to faltering financial security, North Dakota is actually considered one of the worst states for the older population to live in. In fact, The Peace Garden State’s population accounts for only 15.8% of people ages 65 and up. But just because it’s not the best place for seniors to live doesn’t mean it’s not a good place for them to make a living. At just 2.3%, North Dakota has the second-lowest median income tax among collecting states, while the labor force participation rate for seniors is on the high end: 20.4%.


Montpelier, Vermont Skyline
SeanPavonePhoto/istockphoto

5th Best: Vermont

Vermont is the fourth-best state for single seniors, largely attributable to only 6.1% of older adults falling below the poverty line — the lowest percentage in the country. Vermont ties with Washington, D.C., as having the highest percentage of labor force participation, coming in at 22.7%.


Space Needle and Seattle downtown
aiisha5/istockphoto

Tie for 3rd Best: Washington

Washington is one of only eight states that do not collect state income tax, which helps make it a good state for older workers. Since Washington has one of the highest life expectancies from birth, coming in at 80, it sounds like The Evergreen State is appropriately nicknamed.


Anchorage, Alaska, at sunset
John Pennell/istockphoto

Tie for 3rd Best: Alaska

The country’s biggest state is also one of the top places for older workers. Like Washington, The Last Frontier does not collect state income tax. That likely contributes to its ranking as the third-best state for older workers to save money.


Rapid City, South Dakota
DenisTangneyJr/istockphoto

2nd Best: South Dakota

South Dakota is yet another state that doesn’t collect state income tax. Older workers also rack up a labor force participation rate of 22% — one of the highest in the nation.


Bison
Brian Evans/istockphoto

Best for Older Workers: Wyoming

Picture a judges’ panel holding up all 10s with just one curmudgeon giving a lower score — that’s essentially how the Cowboy State earned the title as the best state for older workers. The state had the best score overall, landing in the top half for every evaluated category save for life expectancy, where it wound up at 30th. Not only is there no state income tax in Wyoming, but 98.2% of people 65 and up get Medicare benefits.


Tulsa skyline, pond, and fountains
Davel5957/istockphoto

10th Worst: Oklahoma

Between poor quality and access to health care, a struggling economy, and heightened criminal activity, Oklahoma is not exactly at its most appealing. It’s also one of the worst states for workers ages 65 and up. Despite having the lowest median rates for state income tax, the Sooner State doesn’t boast a very high life expectancy, landing at 75.6.


Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA Skyline
Sean Pavone/istockphoto

9th Worst: South Carolina

Older workers shouldn’t merely avoid South Carolina because of higher poverty levels and unsettling crime rates. The state is also on the lower end of workforce participation rates for seniors, at just 14.8%.

Jackson, Mississippi Skyline
SeanPavonePhoto/istockphoto

8th Worst: Mississippi

Mississippi’s low score can be attributed to the fact that it has the lowest rate of senior-led households bringing in an average annual income of at least $50,000. Having the second-lowest life expectancy among all 50 states at just 74.6 might have something to do with its poor ranking.


Bridge Over The Southern Mississippi
Art Wager/istockphoto

7th Worst: Louisiana

It’s easy to assume older Americans will flock to the South as they inch closer to retirement, simply because the weather is consistently warmer. But as yet another Southern state proves to be one of the worst for older workers, the trends become hard to ignore. Louisiana is infamous for high poverty levels, so it’s no surprise that it’s considered one of the worst states for older workers. In addition to one of the lowest percentages of householders age 65 and up making at least $50,000 annually, Louisiana has poor life expectancy, at 75.6.


Charlotte North Carolina Uptown downtown aerial view
pawel.gaul/istockphoto

6th Worst: North Carolina

North Carolina is one of the worst states for seniors to live and work. Earnings for older workers in the state fall well below the national average. The standard 65-and-older household in North Carolina makes $52,481 annually, around $11,000 less than the national median.


Little Rock skyline with Broadway Bridge and the Arkansas River
Davel5957/istockphoto

5th Worst: Arkansas

High crime rates and more common financial hardships contribute to Arkansas’ ranking as the fifth-worst state for older workers. The poverty rate for Arkansas residents aged 65 and older is 10.5%, which is more than an entire percentage more than the national rate of 9.4%.


Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
Sean Pavone/istockphoto

4th Worst: New Mexico

With a bleak economy that includes high poverty rates, New Mexico is one of the worst states for workers 65 and up. The state’s score is especially low thanks to some of the lowest rates for senior workforce participation at 15.6%.


Drone Aerial View of Downtown Mobile Alabama AL Skyline
Kruck20/istockphoto

3rd Worst: Alabama

Among Alabama residents 65 and older, 10.5% live in poverty, compared with the national average of 9.4%. The state also has the second-lowest percentage of labor force participation among those 65 and older, at 14.1%.


Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
DenisTangneyJr/istockphoto

2nd Worst: West Virginia

Not only is the Mountain State the unhappiest state in the country, it’s the second-worst state for older workers: It has the lowest average life expectancy at just 74.4 and the lowest percentage of labor force participation for residents 65 and up, 13.4%.


Rural Landscape - Kentucky
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