Global Retirement Index

The best places to spend your retirement in the US and abroad

We all want to be able to enjoy a long and happy retirement after a lifetime of work, but not all of us will be able to enjoy the same quality of life in our later years. Depending on your pension scheme, savings, and access to initiatives such as medicare, you could find yourself struggling to afford to enjoy your twilight years.

However, differences in retirement outcomes don’t just vary depending on your personal financial situation, as the place you live can have a huge impact on the quality of your retirement. Different countries, or even states within the US, can vary considerably in terms of happiness, life expectancy, retirement age, and a host of other factors.

To shed some light on the national and international retirement landscapes, we at the Better Benefits Guide have put together a study that investigates many of the factors that could determine the quality of your retirement.

The best countries for retirement

In this section, we focus on the differences that retirees might experience from country to country. Looking at eight different factors, we’ve formulated an overall International Retirement Score which allows us to contrast and compare different countries based on the quality of retirement that they offer.

1. Iceland International Retirement Score: 8.11

Iceland takes the top spot as the best country for retirees having scored an impressive International Retirement Score of 8.11. The country boasts a high life expectancy of 82.77 years, great social support networks, and good scores for both happiness and life satisfaction. Iceland has one of the lowest rates of old-age income poverty at just 3.05%, while elderly incomes are just shy of the national average wage at 95.04%.

2. Luxembourg International Retirement Score: 7.96

In second place is the small European nation of Luxembourg, which borders Belgium, France, and Germany. Luxembourg received an impressive International Retirement Score of 7.96 and performed well across the board. The country particularly stood out for its elderly incomes, which are actually higher than typical wages in the country at 107.77%, as well as having a relatively low pension age of just 62.

3. Norway International Retirement Score: 6.86

Norway took third place with an International Retirement Score of 6.86, meaning all of our top three countries for retirement are in Europe. Norway also performed well in most areas, with good support networks, a long average life expectancy, and very low levels of old-age income poverty at just 4.34%.

The best US states for retirement

Here we turn our attention to the United States, which came 24th in our ranking of 36 countries, and focus on comparing the varying qualities of retirement you could expect in different parts of the country. We’ve taken five separate factors and combined them into a single US Retirement Score to reveal the best places in the country to enjoy your post-work life.

1. Delaware US Retirement Score: 8.16

The state that received the highest US Retirement Score of 8.16 is Delaware. The state performed particularly well for the proportion of old-age households receiving retirement income, while also recording one of the highest mean retirement incomes in the country.

2. Washington US Retirement Score: 7.67

Washington took second place with a US Retirement Score of 7.67, thanks to a strong performance across most factors. However, a greater proportion of over 65s were reportedly still in work in the state, while the share of households receiving retirement income was 6.7% lower than first place Delaware.

3. Oregon & Wisconsin US Retirement Score: 7.35

Tied for third place are Oregon and Wisconsin, both having scored a respectable 7.35 out of 10. On average, Oregon’s retirees enjoy an additional 0.7 years of retirement as well as a higher mean income of $30,446 compared to Wisconsin’s $26,744.

However, Wisconsin outperforms Oregon when it comes to the share of old-age households that receive a retirement income, as well as having a lower proportion of people over 65 who find themselves living in poverty.

Methodology

We wanted to find out which countries and US states are the best locations for people to enjoy a comfortable retirement.

For the country comparison, we used a variety of sources including OECD data for international comparisons of pensions, retirement ages, and life expectancies, with a second OECD source providing data on life satisfaction and the quality of support networks in each country. We also included data from the World Happiness Report to help identify the most pleasant places in the world to spend a happy retirement. We combined all of these data points into a single International Retirement Score which allowed us to rank the countries and reveal the best global locations for retirees.

For the comparison of US states, we combined life expectancy data from World Population Review with retirement age data from a study by Go Banking Rates to calculate the average length of retirement in each state. We then supplemented this with various data points relating to over 65s and their retirement incomes, whether they remain in the workforce, and the poverty rate among this age group, all of which were sourced from the US Census Bureau. Again, we combined all of these factors into a single US Retirement Score which allowed us to rank the states and reveal the best locations for American retirees.