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Maryland retirement: Is it really the worst in the nation? | COMMENTARY

Carmela and Robert Singer enjoy lunch in the sunshine on the Crisfield City Dock on the Eastern Shore with their grandson John Boncore, 19. The Singers, a retired couple from Rockville have owned a home in Crisfield for more than 20 years. June 24, 2021. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun).
Carmela and Robert Singer enjoy lunch in the sunshine on the Crisfield City Dock on the Eastern Shore with their grandson John Boncore, 19. The Singers, a retired couple from Rockville have owned a home in Crisfield for more than 20 years. June 24, 2021. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun). (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun)

For all the wonders of the internet age, from the joys of online shopping at home to the free flow of information to repressive countries abroad, there is also no shortage of silliness. TikTok videos of people doing goofy things are not so bad, especially if they come with a warning that double back flips are best left to Simone Biles. Same with those social media memes, where famous movie moments get new life as snarky remarks. But for our money, there are few internet features as foolish as the listicle, the pseudo-journalistic tallies that claim truth by numbers — the five best ways to do this, the seven worst examples of that. They promise big, deliver little and serve mostly as mind-numbing clickbait.

Still, they suck us in. The latest example is Bankrate’s list of the best and worst states for retirement in 2021. Maryland made the roll call, but not in a good way. Bankrate judged the Free State the absolute worst state in these United States in which to retire. No doubt, this aligned with the views of a lot of Marylanders who long for a retirement in a warmer or cooler or at least less expensive locale.

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So how did Maryland get to be dead last for retirement? The state’s chief knocks are the following: It has a high cost of living (a product of its high average household income), and ranks low on culture (based on the fact that it has fewer movie theaters, recreational amenities and restaurants per capita than other states) and weather (high and low temperatures — and perhaps the threat of both hurricanes and snowstorms — appear to be the culprits in that category).

To that, we say: Well, that’s just silly. Maryland is home to Baltimore, which is a foodie’s dream town. In fact, another listicle (clearly better researched), named Charm City one of the Top 10 Foodie Cities in the United States based on Yelp user ratings. And Bankrate’s rating completely ignores how Maryland is home to the Chesapeake Bay, one of the top sailing and seafood producing waterways on the planet. Oh, and did anyone notice that Maryland is day-trip convenient to theater and museum-rich New York City and Washington, D.C., the actual cultural centers of this country? There are any number of legitimate complaints about life in Maryland, but lack of access to culture just isn’t a legitimate one. Unless going to see the latest “Fast and Furious” movie in surround sound is regarded as a cultural zenith. Who knew older folks were so into going to the movies? The senior discounts must really be something else.

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As a retirement destination, we’ll grant that Maryland’s tax structure isn’t ideal for affluent people looking to shield retirement income or protect their heirs in estate planning. And it’s true, the weather isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, especially in mid-July. But if weather is a problem in Maryland, that should also disqualify the South. It didn’t. The top four states for retirement, according to Bankrate, are Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Missouri. Really? What kind of restaurants are they counting?

And are they diving deep enough into the complex circumstances that make up a state? Maryland’s relatively high income tax rate, for example, takes pressure off property and sales taxes, which can be more regressive and hit people on a fixed income hard. And surely, most retirees have bigger concerns than the dew point — like proximity to grandchildren. Even those higher taxes carry noteworthy government benefits, including more senior centers or discount transit fares.

The lesson here, obviously, is to never trust a listicle (unless you like what it says), especially when it comes to your retirement and other life-altering plans. We’d offer more insights, but we’re preoccupied trying to figure out how Georgia ranks fourth in weather under the Bankrate list. Perhaps it’s because Georgia’s all-time record high temperature is 112 degrees, while Maryland’s is only 109. Outdone again.

Baltimore Sun editorial writers offer opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. They operate separately from the newsroom.

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