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So why do rankings of all sorts often vary widely?

View the creators of all those data-driven rankings like a chef.

Sure, selection and quality of ingredients matters — or, in this case, choosing the underlying economic and demographic stats that build a rankings metrics.

But its the recipe — how the ingredients are mixed — that can truly impact the final result. You know, a dash here. Or a pinch there.

Take retirement. How the complex concept of personal finances figures into a persons location choice for their golden years is by no means a set number.

Did you save enough? Are you a heavy spender? What might medical costs be? All are fairly unique parts of any households happy-retirement recipe.

But recent, noble efforts of data crunchers at WalletHub, Bankrate and Kiplingers to gauge the states in terms of retirement livability factors help show how the statistical mix can alter a rankings outcome.

I used my trusty spreadsheet to combine this trios retirement rankings in order to give a composite picture of strengths vs. weaknesses. I reassembled their published ranking data — overall scores, subindex grades and related data — into three categories: cost-of-living; character (culture and climate); and care (healthcare and healthiness).

Imagine making the costs measurement doubly as important as the other two metrics. Thats probably good for folks who are carefully watching their retirement pennies.

Florida and South Dakota were the top two. Utah was third followed by Wyoming and Tennessee.

California was the ninth-worst state for retirement when personal budgetary items were given high importance. And New York and New Jersey were worst-to-retire-to states by this math.

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On the other hand, there are folks who dont worry much about money. Perhaps they have generous pensions or saved smartly (or were simply lucky).

Also, note what many studies of retirees views on their quality of life after employment reveal. Lifes intangibles — friendships, families, and health — are far more critical to seniors happiness than many of factors frequently used to study best-place locations.

So, what if costs werent part of the retirement math, just the character of a state and the quality of its senior care?

According to this formula, the top three states shift to Vermont then Hawaii and Maine. Vermont was No. 40 when costs were a double factor.

Meanwhile, Florida and South Dakota fall into a tie for eighth place when costs arent part of the recipe. Tennessee drops to No. 40.

And California, minus its well-known high expenses? The 15th-best state for retirees.

Have you checked out Bubble Watch …

Bubble Watch: Are house hunters shying from newly built homes?

Bubble Watch: Is Californias anti-business vibe killing the states economy?

Bubble Watch: Home-equity loans back at pre-recession levels

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