The Best Place to Retire? Think Florida, on the Coast

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

November 8, 2011 — If you thought that North Carolina was the current “hot” state for retirement, you would be wrong. On the other hand, if you guessed retirees look forward to retiring on the coast or next to a lake, go ahead and grab the brass ring.

To get a handle on what people who are nearing retirement consider to be the best places to retire we recently analyzed the (anonymous) statistics from our Retirement Ranger. The Ranger is our free interactive tool that helps people identify their best places to retire, based on the criteria they select for location, weather, cost of living, etc. So far the test has been taken over 11,000 times. The analysis of these preferences reveal a number of sometimes surprising trends.

Here are the basic findings and our conclusions from them:

- The quiz has been taken 11,471 times (some people have taken it multiple times)

- 39% of quiz takers say they plan to retire in 1-5 years; a slightly smaller percentage say they plan to opt out of the work force in 5-10 years.

- About 80% of Ranger quiz takers say they are planning or considering a move far away from where they live now. Only 5% said they will stay where they live now, or near there. This result is definitely atypical of the general retirement population – usually only about one-third of retirees seriously consider moving far away. There is a simple explanation for this: if you take this test, you are preselected to be someone who is looking to move!

- About 1/3 of test takers were not interested in an active adult community, 20% are very interested, and the remainder are open to that option

- Surprisingly, about half of test takers are looking for an average cost community, while a third are seeking a community with below average costs

- The most favored environments were in order: coastal, lake, small town, mountain, suburban

- The population of town does not appear to matter too much (whether small, medium, or big)

- Most people are looking for a warm retirement, but not necessarily Florida-warm. The most selected option for median low January temperature was that it had to be at least 40 degrees (49%). About 25% of takers were not that fussy, who said that the Jan median low had to be at least 20+ degrees

- When it comes to choosing a place based on culture, a substantial one-third were looking for a community that has an above average cultural environment. Average culture was good enough for 52%

- Not so surprising in these difficult economic times, 60% of quiz takers were interested in finding a state with lower than average tax burden

- Regional preferences – The Southeast was the most preferred region, followed distantly by the West

- States – All the talk that the Carolinas have overtaken the traditional retirement favorite, Florida, does not seem to hold up. Retirement Ranger quiz takers asked to see Florida communities 330 times, followed by North Carolina at 127, Texas at 95, South Carolina with 78, and Tennessee at 75. Trailing those states were (in order) Arizona, California, Washington, Virginia, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Delaware.

- When it comes to foreign countries, Costa Rica and Mexico were essentially tied as the most popular choices (but less popular than the states mentioned above).

Note about these statistics: People can and do take the Retirement Ranger multiple times, which means that although the test has been taken over 11,000 times, these statistics represent the interests of a smaller number of actual people. While it is a bit of a “What-if” exercise, the value of these statistics is that they represent what people considering a move in retirement are looking for in their best place to retire.

What do you think? What do you think represents the best place to retire. Please share your opinions in the comments below.

Coming up: We will be writing an article summarizing recent migration patterns of people in retirement, which have changed dramatically since the recession began.

Posted by John Brady on November 7th, 2011
Comments (15)
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15 Comments »
joe verdoorn says

Is there any way to use Retirement Ranger inquires to track the final decision to relocate, the type of community and location to which they move. While Im asking, can you also identify the motivational criteria for thier selection.Thats all!!!

November 8th, 2011 | #

Carey Mebach says

John,
Great article. It’s very interesting to see how ‘main-stream’, or not, each one of us is.
As to the overwhelming choices being in the Southeast, is that because the largest percentage of quiz takers reside on the Right Coast, so our ties are here primarily?
Also, maybe we of this ready-to-retire new generation are not really so different than our grandparents when it comes to location; only the activities we want to do when we get there.
Thanks again.

November 8th, 2011 | #

Jane says

That is a great idea, Joe. I, too, would like to see the same info!

November 8th, 2011 | #

Catherine says

Hi John – great article. As a West Coaster, I too want to retire on the water/ocean. However, due mostky to California coastal conservation and development restrictions, availability of places to live on the coast much less than the east coast. Add to it that the scarcity drives up the cost of living and property prices, west coast retirement is just too cost prohibitive for many, even most. Darn!

November 8th, 2011 | #

Admin says

To answer some of the questions posted above:
Yes, I am sure that the bias toward the east coast retirement destinations is a reflection that 2 out of 3 Topretirements members and visitors are from the Right Coast. There are a lot of people on the East Coast and Midwest, and our weather and taxes conspire to make them want to move somewhere else for retirement.

There isn’t a good way, yet, to track preferences on the Ranger as they translate to final choice. But we encourage members to tell us where they decide to move, and we keep track of those and report on them. Here is one of our reports http://www.topretirements.com/blog/great-towns/where-our-members-are-retiring-to.html/

I wasn’t exactly sure what you meant by motivational criteria for selection. People tend to choose the selection criteria for the retirement they are interested in. And we made choices available for minimum January temperature, location, taxes, cost of living, etc. We also encourage test takers to specify no-preference when they can, because with only 750 towns in the database, if you get too specific you won’t see many results.

Thanks to everyone for posting these comments – keep them coming.

November 9th, 2011 | #

Jan Cullinane says

The East Coast (populations especially concentrated in the the N.E.)has about twice as many people as the West Coast (U.S. Census), so that explains part of the bias as well – people often stick to the same coast when relocating.

Jan Cullinane, The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life (Rodale)

November 9th, 2011 | #

David says

The article was interesting but I doubt the data is very useful. I’ve taken the Ranger quiz at least a dozen times and plugged in widely divergent criteria each time just to see what different results I’d get. I’d bet others have done the same, perhaps on a smaller scale. If you collated my efforts you’d find someone who wants to live in the mountains, coast, small town, suburbs, lake, coast; who wants to live in a small town, medium-size city; on the west coast, in the Southeast; lower cost of living, not lower cost of living; etc. That’s the fun and value of taking the quiz, to see what retirement options there are given different cirteria.

November 9th, 2011 | #

Vito Fortuna says

The best place in the world to retire is Naples Florida.
Especially is you from the Northeast, NY, NJ,
NH, Mass, etc. We are use to paying high taxes, eating in average
restaurants that cost a small fortune. Gold, boating,
beaches, tennis, fitness, theater, festivals, sporting events
great weather, hundreds of restaurants, NO taxes. The place
looks like a botanical gardens. Really, why would want
to live anywhere else, I challenge you to find a
better place to retire.

great restaurants to choose from

November 9th, 2011 | #

Jeff says

Really, why would want to live anywhere else…..?
Because Florida is just too damn hot and humid 6 months out of the year.

November 9th, 2011 | #

Steve says

Having lived in the west most of my life (even though I was born in NJ) I can’t see living anywhere but in the west. It is just too humid to live comfortably on the east coast, particularly Florida. Give me the “dry” heat of Arizona anytime!

November 9th, 2011 | #

Don Hoffman says

I’ll bet none of you ever thought about time change as a factor of staying on the east coast. The hour difference between Eastern and Central for example would mean a radical change in life style. Up very early etc. affects your biological systems and habits formed over many years. My wife and I have had a degree of difficulty with those adjustments, so I’m betting that some others will have a similar problem.

November 10th, 2011 | #

Susan says

We love to travel. So, cost is a big factor for us. We think by having Texas be our destination we will also be able to afford trips to Africa, South America, etc. We ruled out Arizona because it is too cold. In Texas we can sleep with our windows open some in January.

November 10th, 2011 | #

Debbye says

I was born and raised on the east coast and lived in d.c. Part of my adult life. Moved to the west coast and visits to the east coast. Time does NOT change your lifestyle or your biological clock. I don’t get where you are coming from.

November 11th, 2011 | #

» Housing Crash Casts a Shadow on Sunbelt Retirements Topretirements says

[...] For Further Reference: “Economy Alters How Americans are Moving” from the New York Times. Outward Bound New Yorkers The Best Places to Retire as Preferred by Takers of the Retirement Ranger [...]

November 21st, 2011 | #

Christina Gregoire says

As a West Coast chick, I can’t imagine living anywhere on the East Coast, except for Manhattan. And, I know I can’t afford NYC.

I must admit that I’ve never been to the Carolinas, but I’ve seen Florida and I was not impressed. Granted, I spent most of my vacation going from one big city to another…but I just wouldn’t ever move there. If I needed to relocate to a different area for a cheaper cost of living, I would go to a place like Boise, Idaho. If I won the lottery, I’d move to Hawaii.

December 6th, 2011 | #

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