Choosing where to retire may be the most important decision you'll ever make. Take time to study the possibilities, and you'll never need to look back.

Retirement should be the best of times; but it could be the worst of times if you choose the wrong place to live out the remainder of your life. If safety is a concern, examine crime statistics; you don't want to be looking over your shoulder when you're taking a power walk. Taxes are also a concern if you're living on a fixed income. Some states, like Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming, have no personal income tax, and sales and property taxes vary from location to location.

There's nothing worse than being the worst at something. In fact, the only time you want to be affiliated with anything known as the "worst" is if you're in a Viennese restaurant and order a wurst. The following cities are ones that retirees may not enjoy calling home:

1. Detroit, Michigan. In addition to taking the award as the most dangerous city by Morgan Quitno Press, Detroit ranks #7 in Sperling's BestPlaces "Lowest Healthiest Cities." Maybe that's because citizens saw $8.4 million of their 2007 tax dollars spent for settling a number of police whistleblower lawsuits instead of the money being spent on the city's infrastructure. Since the 1950s, 600,000 manufacturing and white-collar jobs have left the city, leaving an undereducated population and a suffering tax base. As the heart and soul of America's auto industry, Detroit neglected to build a reliable mass transportation system. Forbes magazine has named it the most miserable city in the U.S. As the American auto industry struggles for survival, only one industry is truly thriving in Detroit: foreclosures.

2. New Orleans, Louisiana. It may be the best city for a party, but it's one of the worst for hurricanes. Even if the levees are repaired, the potential for another devastating storm remains. The Crescent City sports nationally high violent crime and unemployment rates, and a poor air quality index. While long thought of as a cultural Mecca, it has fewer movie theaters, restaurants, libraries, and museums than the national average. It boasts more bars than average, so if you want to spend your golden days in a drunken stupor, it may be the place for you. Sperlings BestPlaces also voted it one of the "Five Most Stressful Cities" and one of the unhealthiest in the country, thanks to low ratings in physical activity and lifestyle pursuits.

3. Riverside, California. Retirees may be singing "California Here I Come," but it's a good bet to steer clear of Riverside, which was voted the worst place for air pollution by the American Lung Association. But challenging breathing and relentless traffic aren't the only things that make Riverside bad for retirees-it's the decline in home values. With the future of Social Security at risk, more and more retirees are turning to their property for retirement cash in the form of reverse mortgages and home equity loans. The fact that Riverside was ranked as the metro area most likely to suffer housing price declines over the next few years by PMI Mortgage, and ranks #5 on HousingPredictor.com's "Worst 25 US Housing Markets," is indication that you should park your cash cow in a sunnier meadow.

No matter what your needs, there's a place you can hang your hat once you're no longer doing it at the workplace. But the above cities are ones to avoid. Choose carefully, because the older you are, the harder it is to relocate. It's important to make the most of the upcoming years. As humorist Art Buchwald said, "Whether it's the best of times or the worst of times, it's the only time we've got."

Published on July 13, 2008