Many retirees, especially those who live in cold northern climates, dream about moving to warm states such as Florida. Often a big factor is achieving a lower cost of living, but beyond the financial reasons are other issues that can be just as important.
"We lived in Midwest college town. Hated November thru April weather. Neither daughter or son settled in same town—[lived] elsewhere in the Midwest. Our decision was Arizona vs. southwest Florida and chose the latter for warmer winter, closer to family (a much more pleasant drive to and from) and no income taxes. We decided on a 55+ community with golf. Best decision we ever made. We travel and visit children/grandchildren 3 months July thru September. Family loves to visit us in Florida. We fly back for Christmas."
Where Are Retirees Moving?
At one time, when people thought about retiring and moving to a warmer place, Florida was the main option. But retirees are flocking to many other warm areas. Retirees on the East Coast are drawn to the Southeast, anywhere from Virginia to Louisiana, but especially the Carolinas. In the West and Midwest, people are heading to Arizona for its sun and warmth.
Top Retirements publishes an annual list of the most popular places to retire, based on its readers’ opinions. In 2015, the most popular regions were, not surprisingly, the Sunbelt, followed by the Northwest and mountain states.
Since Top Retirements first started publishing the lists in 2007, Asheville, N.C., has been the first choice. The mountain town has a four-season climate and recreational/cultural opportunities such as the University of North Carolina.
Here are the top 10 most popular places to retire:
Warmer weather is one of the main reasons retirees move elsewhere. It’s appealing to get away from the snow and cold and not have to shovel snow, drive on icy streets or bundle up in parkas. However, warmer climates can vary greatly. Humidity, extremely hot summers or excessive rain are a few factors that may accompany temperate areas. Make sure you know what your comfort level is in terms of rain, heat and other conditions. On a similar note, do you enjoy the changing seasons? To enjoy those fall colors, you might have to endure some cooler rainy weather.
Next to weather, being near family ranks as one of the top reasons for moving after retirement. Being closer to your family not only allows you to spend more time with your children and spoil your grandchildren, but your adult children might appreciate an extra babysitter. And, if your health deteriorates or you need help around your home, someone will be there.
Writes one person to the Morningstar forum: “We made this decision 16 years ago: moved to be near our children. That has worked out marvelously; we’ve been an intimate part of our grandchildren's lives."
However, some grandparents who value their independence might not want to be that close to grandchildren. The solution might be to move only a few hours’ drive away from the family, someplace still warmer, and close enough for fewer but longer visits. Others warn that you shouldn’t make your decision based solely on being close to your family, as your children may decide to move, or relationships can become strained.
For many people, having a good group of friends is more important than a lower cost of living or enjoying the sun’s warmth every day. "[M]y friends, clubs and activities are more important to me than a view of the ocean,” writes one person on the Morningstar forum.
This can mean staying in the community where you’ve established a network of good friends with whom you have dinner, take short trips and share all the aches and pains of getting older. Or it could mean moving to a different place where you know you can find a good community—through church groups, clubs or a senior center.
Having a good social network is particularly important after you retire and you lose your work relationships. When deciding where to move, you might look for a town or city that has a large concentration of people over 50 (unless you’d rather hang out with younger people).
When retirees list important factors for their move, near the top is access to quality and affordable doctors, hospitals and other health facilities. Look for towns with multiple hospitals within 30 miles as well as highly rated doctors and specialists.
Many able-bodied people don’t consider the fact that there may come a time when they can no longer drive. At that point, you’ll want to be somewhere with good public transportation so you can still live independently. Some local governments provide transportation specifically for seniors, often with wheelchair access and/or help getting in and off. Numerous agencies also have volunteers who are happy to drive seniors to and from doctors’ appointments, grocery stores and other necessary errands.
Activities and attractions
If dining out is a pleasurable part of your life, you should look for cities with a thriving dining scene. Or if you enjoy the opera, theater or museums, seek out a town with cultural amenities. Maybe shopping is your favorite activity; check out which areas have good shopping districts.
Perhaps you like to be physically active. Are there walking or bicycling trails nearby? Good golf courses? Facilities where you can swim? For some, proximity to a college is important so that you can take courses and challenge yourself with new ideas. University towns, such as Austin, Texas, are becoming popular retirement locations.
Familiarity and history
You may not realize how well established you’ve become in your community. When you consider relocating, think of all the connections and contacts you’ll have to reestablish: your doctor, car mechanic, favorite pizza place, gym club. These places and relationships may have taken years to find and cultivate. At the same time, your present home may hold a lot of memories, maybe both good and bad. These places have meaning for you and can be hard to replace.
A good way to check out cities you’re considering for retirement is to use AARP's livability index, which evaluates neighborhoods and communities for housing costs, social outlets, entertainment, work opportunities and access to medical care. At the same time, experts say that it’s a good idea to first rent for a month or two, especially in the most extreme season (hot, rainy), before moving to your desired location.
“Planning to relocate after retirement? Here are 5 things to consider,” October 24, 2014, Fox News Latino,
“Q&A: How to find the ideal retirement location,” March 31, 2015, USA Today Money
“The Boomer Effect,” Aug. 2, 2012, National Association of Realtors
“Where Are Baby Boomers Going to Live?” July 16, 2013, U.S. News Money
“7 Reasons Not to Move in Retirement,” U.S. News Money
“How to Decide Whether to Relocate in Retirement,” Feb. 15, 2013, U.S. News Money
“9 Questions to Ask Before You Relocate,” Aug. 29, 2012, AARP
“Age in Place or Relocate During Retirement?,” June 14, 2015, Morningstar
“Relocating in retirement? Experts say look before leaping,” Sept. 16, 2015, CNBC
Warmer Weather Only One Reason to Move after Retirement is a featured article in the February 2016 Senior Spirit newsletter.
Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors