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10 best states for military retirees: 2015

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The average enlisted servicemember retires from military duty at 43 after 22 years of service, according to a May 2014 report from the Congressional Research Service, and the average officer retires at 45 after 24 years. Many of them re-enter the work force, but for some it’s not easy.

Military retirement benefits are only available to vets who serve a full 20 years. Servicemembers can also contribute to the Thrift Savings Plan, the defined contribution plan for federal employees, but they don’t receive a matching contribution from their employer.

Ryan Brady, associate professor of economics at the United States Naval Academy, told WalletHub for its report on the best states for military retirees that the Department of Defense should provide a matching contribution for “social-economic” reasons.

“The bulk of the active duty force are very young men and women, whom typically enlist around age 18 or soon thereafter,” he said. “Yet being young by and large they do not save money, and they are less likely to save for retirement. Agency matching would be a tremendous benefit to these young people — young people who would otherwise not have any savings and, aside from the GI Bill (which is a great benefit of course), do not receive long-term financial benefits from their service.”

Steve Abel, the founding director of Office of Veteran and Military Programs and Services at Rutgers University, suggested finance, information technology and human resources specifically as “solid areas” for veterans looking for a new career, and management and leadership roles more generally.

“It has been my experience that many veterans in general undervalue the talents they have from their service to the nation,” he told WalletHub. “Companies are looking for leaders/managers with integrity, initiative, solid work ethic/habits and are willing to compensate based on these values.”

WalletHub found that states that lean red are slightly friendlier to military retirees than blue states, with an average ranking of 24.96 compared with 26.93. (WalletHub noted the smaller the number, the more friendly state is toward the military.)

(Check out last year’s list here: 20 Best & Worst States for Military Retirees)

WalletHub ranked states’ friendliness to military vets based on three broad categories. The economic environment category measured the state’s tax on military pensions; the number of veteran-owned businesses per 1,000 inhabitants; dollars in Defense Department contracts per 100 residents; job opportunities for vets; the number of military bases and installations per 100,000 veterans; housing affordability; cost of living; and WalletHub’s Taxpayer Ranking.

The quality of life category measured the number of veterans per 100 inhabitants; the number of VA Veterans Benefits Administration facilities per number of veterans; the university system; the number of arts, leisure and recreation establishments per 100,000 inhabitants; the percentage of the population that is 40 and older; the homeless rate among veterans; and WalletHub’s Weather Ranking.

The health care category considered the number of VA health facilities per number of veterans, which was weighted twice as heavily as the other factors; the number of federal, state and local hospitals per 100,000 inhabitants; the number of physicians per 1,000 inhabitants; “patients’ willingness to recommend the veteran hospitals,” which was used as a proxy to determine the quality of VA health facilities; and emotional health.

Here are the 10 best states for military retirees:


10. South Carolina

  • Economic environment rank: 3
  • Quality of life rank: 2
  • Health care rank: 43


9. Oklahoma

  • Economic environment rank: 6
  • Quality of life rank: 9
  • Health care rank: 33


8. North Dakota

  • Economic environment rank: 8
  • Quality of life rank: 43
  • Health care rank: 3


7. Alaska

  • Economic environment rank: 4
  • Quality of life rank: 6
  • Health care rank: 28


6. New Hampshire

  • Economic environment rank: 12
  • Quality of life rank: 3
  • Health care rank: 25


5. Florida

  • Economic environment rank: 16
  • Quality of life rank: 8
  • Health care rank: 8


4. Maine

  • Economic environment rank: 19
  • Quality of life rank: 4
  • Health care rank: 5


3. South Dakota

  • Economic environment rank: 7
  • Quality of life rank: 29
  • Health care rank: 2


2. Montana

  • Economic environment rank: 31
  • Quality of life rank: 12
  • Health care rank: 1


1. Wyoming

  • Economic environment rank: 4
  • Quality of life rank: 7
  • Health care rank: 4



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