AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Georgia lags as retirement destination

With Georgia's expected tidal wave of retiring baby boomers, senior housing communities are springing up around metro Atlanta. But the state is no retirement haven, according to a new ranking that looks beyond tax rates and cost of living.

Georgia's biggest drawbacks: healthcare and wellness, according to LPL Research.

The firm did what it calls the first holistic look at the attractiveness of states for people preparing for retirement. Of the six key factors it analyzed, Georgia got D's in both health-related measures.

Georgia apparently has too few doctors and dentists and too many uninsured people, among the healthcare factors measured. It was ranked 44th among the states in that category - its worst ranking.

When it comes to the wellness category, the state apparently stumbled when it comes to the estimated life expectancy for 65-year-olds and the number of adults with diabetes, obesity, inactivity and cigarette use. Compared with other states, it ranked 38th.

The state's biggest attraction for those ages 45-64, looking at retirement: financial benefits. It ranked 8th among the states, trailing Texas, Tennessee, Wyoming, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington and Missouri. The financial measure was based on cost of living, median household income, private sector retirement assets, the health of state pension funds and the tax burden. Georgia got a B and an 8th place ranking.

It also got a B for housing, based not only on home ownership, median home prices and median rents, but also on the cost of home health aides and nursing home costs.

The state got a C grade for the other factors: Community Quality of Life and Employment & Education.

Overall, the state got a C, with the financial category being the weighted the most in the calculation.

Best states overall: Virginia, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wyoming and Wisconsin. The worst: Arkansas, California, New Mexico, New Jersey and New York.

Of course, lots of others tout their own systems of ranking retirement destinations. Forbes recently had Athens on its list of 25 best places to retire, citing the tax and crime rates and housing costs. Bankrate.com lists the 10 best states for retirement; South Dakota made the list, but not Georgia.

Whatever drawbacks Georgia may have, the 2010 census showed that those ages 45-64 made up the fastest growing segment of the population in the Atlanta region.

To meet demand, housing for seniors is in the pipeline throughout the area. Projects include Noble Village in Peachtree Corners, Celebration Village in Acworth and an apparently as yet unnamed development in Cherokee County that promises to be cutting edge.

Reader Comments ...

About the Author

Lois Norder is Senior Editor for Investigations in the newsroom at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.