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Lots of Americans would love to retire in California — but their No. 1 choice is this state

When thinking about where to retire, "clarify what is most important to you."

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Retiring in California would be a dream for many Americans, but it still isn't the No. 1 U.S. state where they want to spend their golden years. Even more people have their eyes on sunny Florida.

Researchers at MagnifyMoney polled 2,050 people on their retirement plans. The national sample included adults, ages 18 to 75, from each generation, not just those close to retirement.

Most people want to stay domestic, according to the survey. Just 13% want to live out their future abroad.

Of those who wish to retire in the U.S., 15% want to do so in the Sunshine State because of its warm climate, low cost of living, and leisure lifestyle. That's compared to the No. 2 choice of California, where 11% of people would choose to settle down.

10 states where Americans most want to retire

Based on the findings, here are the states where Americans want to retire.

10. Georgia
9. Tennessee
8. Pennsylvania
7. North Carolina
5. Colorado (tie)
5. Hawaii (tie)
4. New York
3. Texas
2. California
1. Florida

3 key considerations for where you spend retirement

MagnifyMoney poll-takers considered more than just sunny shores. When prioritizing their future, over half, 52%, said their main focus was on overall lifestyle, but 51% were also keyed in on cost of living. (Respondents could pick multiple answers.)

Here are three key considerations when it comes to retirement locale, according to experts:

Cost of living

Households headed by someone age 65 or older have income of around $52,290 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2020 Consumer Expenditure Survey. A lower cost of living helps that cash stretch further in some places.

The cost of living in popular Orlando, Florida, for example, is 5% lower than the national averageand housing there costs much less than it does virtually anywhere in California.

Median homes prices in the Sunshine State overall are around $334,882, says Zillow. In the Golden State, the median is $727,370, and nationwide, it's $316,368.

Taxes

If you want to cut costs more, perhaps a state with no income tax like Florida is an option, or the Midwest, where housing costs are cheaper. Tennessee, No. 9 on the list, and Texas, No. 3, also don't charge residents income tax.

Keep in mind, though, "how your other expenses may change," says Marcia Socas, a real estate broker in Central Florida.

"In Florida, we have a great homestead exemption and no state income tax," she says. "But if you move somewhere like South Florida, your car insurance and cost of living may be much higher than the state you're coming from."

Look at all "facets of your expenses," she says, to avoid "saving in one area and spending significantly more in another."

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Happiness

Don't ignore your instinct: "Tax savings will not drive you to happiness," Erika Safran, a certified financial planner and principal at Safran Wealth Advisors, previously told Grow. The right choice is personal and based on many factors, like proximity to family.

Before committing to a new place, experts suggest you visit or rent there for a while to see if you like it.

'Clarify what is most important to you'

Where you live has a big impact on what you'll spend. So whatever you decide, it's crucial to first map out your goals. Grow's retirement calculator can help you figure out how much you might need, as well as steps to take to stay on track.

"My biggest advice is to get your finances in order and really clarify what is important to you," says Sarah Jane Paulson, a certified finical planner and owner of financial planning and investment firm Valkyrie Financial in Appleton, Wisconsin. "Once you have an idea of what is most important to you, create a spending plan to take a look at what your fixed expenses are and how much room you have to play with."

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