Washington (Score: 32). In the near term, Washington has the country's most promising real estate market. Home prices there are expected to surge by a whopping 6.6 percent per year between 2010 and 2013, according to Moody's Analytics, providing residents who are downsizing for retirement with opportunities to put away some extra cash. Still, for new home buyers, getting a foot in the door can be hard given how expensive the Evergreen State's housing market is. The median home price there is upwards of $235,000. Another bright spot: Washington doesn't tax capital gains or wages. One of the state's bigger problems is its unemployment rate. At 8.9 percent, it's still below the national average, but it's high nonetheless.
North Dakota (Score: 30). Nationally, the unemployment rate sits at 9.5 percent. But in North Dakota, which boasts the country's lowest joblessness rate, it's just 3.6 percent. And as other states struggle to grow their labor markets, North Dakota's is healthier than ever. Notably, as of last month, more North Dakotans had jobs than ever before—even in the pre-recession years. North Dakota's biggest soft spot is its housing market. Between 2010 and 2013, home prices there are expected to grow at 0.2 percent per year, according to Moody's Analytics. That puts the state right in the middle of the pack.
The worst states:
Ohio (Score: 9). Not much is going right for Ohio residents. In the near term, their home prices are expected to take a huge hit. Between 2010 and 2013, home prices there are projected to drop by 3.5 percent per year, according to Moody's Analytics. Only in Florida, where prices are expected to fall by 5 percent, is the outlook worse. Don't expect great tax treatment in Ohio, either. Notably, the state's state and local tax burden, expressed in terms of taxes as a percentage of income, is 10.4 percent, the seventh highest in the country. Meanwhile, the state's 10.5 percent unemployment rate exceeds the national average.
California (Score: 11). California's swelling budget gaps and overall fiscal mess have grabbed no shortage of national headlines. But it's not just the state government that's struggling to rebuild its finances. Notably, the state has a staggering 12.3 percent unemployment rate. Only Michigan (13.2 percent) and Nevada (14.2 percent) have worse labor markets. In terms of home prices and tax burdens, California is in the same position as Ohio. The state's most redeeming quality for those looking to build a nest egg is its salaries. The per capita income there is $42,346.
Kentucky (Score: 12). Wages in Kentucky are among the worst in the country. The per capita income there is $32,476. Nationally, the equivalent number is $39,423. The real estate market is also discouraging. Between 2010 and 2013, home prices in Kentucky are expected to decline by an average of 0.9 percent per year, according to Moody's Analytics. The silver lining is that for people looking to save money on mortgages, houses there are relatively inexpensive to start with. Notably, the median home price is under $120,000.
Indiana (Score: 14). While not at the bottom of the pack in any of the categories, Indiana is decidedly below average in nearly all of them. In particular, Hoosier State residents shouldn't count on home sales to fund their retirements. Between 2010 and 2013, home prices there are expected to tumble by an average of 2 percent per year, according to Moody's Analytics. At the same time, wages won't pick up the slack from the souring real estate market. Currently, the per capita income in Indiana is $34,196, which is solidly below the national level of $39,423.
Georgia (Score: 16). The Peach State's unemployment rate, which is currently 10 percent, is above the national average of 9.5 percent. Wages are also subpar: The per capita income there is $33,708, a tad worse than Indiana and well below the national level. The state's state and local tax burden, expressed in terms of taxes as a percentage of income, is 9.9 percent, which is a tad above the national average of 9.7 percent. Georgia's saving grace is its housing market. Home prices are expected to grow there by an average of 0.5 percent per year between 2010 and 2013, according to Moody's Analytics.