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Why your clients should dream of retiring to South Dakota

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Every time I see an ad promoting a retirement product, I see images of carefree people-of-a-certain-age relaxing in the sun. Sometimes they are playing with their adorable grandchildren. Sometimes they are walking on a beach or sailing away on a boat. But, no matter how they are depicted, they are always shown in a place where every day is sunny. Someplace like Florida, or maybe Arizona. The implied message is, “Invest with us and someday you too will be able to retire to the Sun Belt.”

Nobody ever says, “Invest with us and someday you will be able to retire to South Dakota.” But The Mount Rushmore State might be a better retirement destination than the sun-drenched South, according to a new survey.

Bankrate’s 2014 ranking of the best states for retirement found some unlikely destinations in the Top 10. Arizona and Florida didn’t make the cut. The states that did are South Dakota, Colorado, Utah, North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana, Idaho, Iowa and Virginia.

Wait a minute! Where are the beaches? Don’t those states get cold in the winter? This isn’t how retirement is supposed to be!

In evaluating the states, Bankrate said there is more to consider than weather when choosing a retirement destination. Other factors that entered into the rankings included access to health care, cost of living, crime rate and tax burden. The rankings also added a standard-of-living measurement from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, a comprehensive survey gauging people’s satisfaction with their surroundings.

So what makes South Dakota so great? According to Bankrate, it had one of the stronger health care quality rankings in the country and was second only to North Dakota in its wellness score. In addition, South Dakota is a place where residents feel safe and cared for. The state has a relatively low cost of living, as well as the sixth-lowest crime rate and the third-lowest tax burden in the nation.

A few other things I learned from the Bankrate report:

- Pueblo, Colorado, gets more sunshine each year than Honolulu.

- Wyoming has the lowest taxes of any state in the nation.

- The price of milk in Nebraska is 30 cents per gallon less than the national average.

- Idaho has the lowest crime rate of any state in the nation.

OK, so you’ll still have to shovel snow (or hire someone to shovel it for you) in the winter if you retire to any of these states. But with the nation facing a retirement savings crisis, perhaps those who are thinking about uprooting in retirement would be wise to adjust their mindset and envision themselves enjoying their golden years in a place with great health care, a low crime rate and a low cost of living — somewhere like South Dakota.

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Susan Rupe is assistant editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Connect with Susan →

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