WalletHub came out with its “2022’s Best States to Retire” study, and New Jersey ranked dead last. This has real-world negative consequences for NJ: NJ also came in dead last in United Van Lines’ 2022 study of moving patterns, with retirees comprising almost one-third of out-movers and almost half of out-movers having incomes over $150,000. The fact is that NJ is losing people and wealth because it is so inhospitable to retirees.
How inhospitable? Sunlight recently wrote a research report on retirement in NJ for Garden State Initiative (GSI) where we compared NJ with several other states as a retirement destination. We chose Florida and Arizona because they are two of the top national destinations for retirees, as well as neighboring Pennsylvania and Delaware for retirees who would want to stay near NJ. By comparison, NJ was very inhospitable.
How does NJ compare to the comparison states in the WalletHub rankings?
|State||Rank||Affordability||Quality of Life||Healthcare|
Consistent with the GSI study, NJ’s biggest issue is affordability: only New York is more expensive. WalletHub includes cost of living, taxes and cost of healthcare in its affordability ranking, which goes a long way to explaining why so many retirees flee NJ. FL and AZ rank very highly, so it is understandable why many retirees choose them.
But where NJ’s lack of affordability really hurts is when compared to neighboring states PA and DE. Not every retiree can or will choose to move away from the northeast, but they can easily move to PA or DE. Both the WalletHub and GSI studies indicate that they will. This out-migration will hurt NJ in the future as billions of dollars of retiree income and resulting tax revenues leave the state.
What are Gov. Murphy and the legislature doing about this? Very little. Murphy raised income taxes on the wealthy in his first term and his touted property tax rebates barely make a dent in retirees’ tax burdens. In his inaugural address, Murphy talked of addressing NJ’s high property taxes and affordability, but these are just words. According to WalletHub, his actions are falling well short.