March 27, 2012 — Last month we asked our members to briefly share with us where they are thinking about retiring, and why. The results are in, and they are fascinating – the diversity and common sense approaches to decision making are guaranteed to get you thinking. We are grateful to the more than 220 people who took the time to tell us about their retirement destination plans. One side benefit was finding about several active adult communities not on our radar. We especially enjoyed hearing from the folks who haven’t yet decided on a place, but nevertheless let us in on their their often conflicted thought process. And to those of you who didn’t respond – you owe your fellow members a big favor! The thoughtful input they so graciously provided is going to be very useful to you (see below). You can see the actual responses in the Comments section of “Tell Us Where You Are Going to Retire – and Why“.
Where you are retiring – your best places to retire
There was a pretty clear pattern to where our members have decided, or are leaning towards, retiring. A handful of states got most of the votes, although 34 states in all will have at least one of our members heading there for retirement. The states getting the most interest were, in order:
Florida (40 mentions)
The Sunshine State has far more people headed there for retirement than any other state – 40 in all. There was interest in just about every corner of the state, from Panama City in the panhandle down to Fort Myers on the southern Gulf Coast. Cities or communities attracting the most interest were The Villages (near Ocala), Venice, and Fort Myers. Some of the active communities named were Valencia Lakes, Lake Weir Living, Spruce Creek, High Vista at Ridgewood Lakes, Pelican Preserve, and Botanica Lakes. Here is a typical reason for the interest in a Florida retirement: “… attracted to the lower cost of living, warm weather, beaches, sunshine. No more shoveling snow!” Lower taxes (Florida has no income tax) and inexpensive housing prices are also big draws. On the other hand some folks are concerned about the cost of homeowners insurance, as well as hurricanes.
North Carolina (14 mentions)
Within the Tarheel State retirees are attracted to the diversity of environments it offers. Some folks like Asheville or the western part of the state, including the Raleigh area. Others think New Bern or the southern coast around Wilmington or Southport are great places to retire. Part of the attraction to NC centers around climate and geography- Asheville for example is viewed as asthma-friendly, whereas the beaches are a big draw in the eastern part of the state. NC apparently has high-risk medical insurance pools which means people with pre-existing conditions can get medical insurance. Here is a typical comment that sums up the NC attraction: “The climate is much warmer than NJ, it’s less crowded and a lot less expensive”.
Arizona (13 mentions)
Most of the attraction to Arizona centered around the Phoenix, Tucson, and Prescott areas – which are indeed the principal retirement areas here. Several active communities have been selected as our members next place to live, and those include: Canta Mia, Trilogy at Vistancia, Trilogy at Power Ranch, Sun City Festival, and Sun City West (all of those are in the Phoenix Metro). Weather and low humidity are a big par of the draw here. Here is a comment from a member moving to Prescott: “World class golf, fishing, hiking, rodeo town with 4 mild seasons and a stones throw from Scottsdale. At 5,000 ft elev.”
South Carolina (9 mentions)
We need to mention that several members tended to lump the Carolinas, North and South, together. So both states actually had a few more mentions than their separate totals. Your fellow members are headed toward Charleston for its culture, the northeast portion because it is close to Charlotte, Beaufort/Bluffton, and Myrtle Beach. The attractions here vs.the northeast where many folks are moving from are less expensive housing, lower income and property taxes, and warmer weather. As one person said, “the cost of living (in New York) is killing us!” In places like Myrtle Beach the beaches are a draw.
Texas (9 mentions)
Austin drew 2 mentions as a retirement destination. Other folks are headed to Georgetown, the Texas Hill Country north of San Antonio, Tyler, Corpus Cristi, Marble Falls,Cypress, Houston, and Dallas areas. Texas appears to be hitting the sweet spot for retirement with its low taxes (“No income tax on my pension”, lower cost of living (“literally 50% of what it was in Maryland”), quality medical care, and weather (“Yeah, the summers are hot, but the dry 100 is no worse than Ohio’s humid 85”.
Tennessee (7 mentions)
Tennessee, another low-cost state, had several people who intend to retire in Fairfield Glade, the very large active adult community near Crossville that features 90 holes of golf and 12,000 acres. Eastern TN and Savannah were also mentioned.
California (6 mentions)
California is a mighty big state that attracts retirees to several of its regions. Atascadero, Shasta County, Oceanside, and San Luis Obispo were specifically mentioned. CA active communities chosen for retirement include Sun Lakes in Banning and 7 Oaks in Rancho Bernardo (near San Diego). Beaches and weather are draws in California, and areas away from the big Metros are seen as more affordable. Here is how one member summed up the State’s attractions (and problem): “Love California climate (no humidity) and enjoy its year round outdoor activities. Affordability is the downside”.
Delaware (6 mentions)
Yet another low tax state, Delaware is attracting Topretirements retirees to Dover, Lewes, Smyrna, Georgetown, and Milton. Here is how one member summed up its appeal: “A house that has low taxes. Great fishing and hunting. Great tax breaks for seniors. Delaware is the little known “gem” of the east coast for reetirement. Delaware offers all the seasons yet, they are not harsh. The State beaches are well maintained”.
Pennsylvania (6 mentions)
Many people who live in the Keystone State are aware of it, but most non-residents are not: Pennsylvania is a very tax friendly state – for retirees. That is certainly an important reason why 6 of our members are planning on retiring there. Lancaster County, the Poconos, Philadelphia area, Mechanicsburg, and Carlisle were singled out as desirable destinations. As one member put it: “Recently visited; houses beautiful, residents (really) friendly, great amenities, PA tax burden for military/Federal/Social Security non-existent”.
Those who aren’t sure where they are going to retire
The responses we enjoyed the most were those from people who haven’t yet made up their minds about a retirement destination. The Comments are a perfect illustration of the issues that come up in making such an important decision – we applaud them for thinking this through. In some cases members have narrowed it town to a region – often the Southeast, North Vs. South Carolina, or neighboring towns in Florida (most often Venice vs. Fort Myers). But other times the conflicting geography is even bigger – such as this fairly typical comment: “Mesa, Knoxville, Atlanta,or Orlando would work;love water, golf,university facilities, and lots of activities; we’re the new 60?s.”
Occasionally our members are having trouble working out differences between the 2 spouses: “…Greater Albany area – feel living near relatives and adequate medical facilities is a good idea. Would really prefer the SW though, NM or AZ. Husband refuses to go south and I prefer to not go north. Compromise may be Philly suburbs – we’re looking at Buck’s county and other suburbs within train-ride of the City. We want walkability, 4 seasons (we can escape winter to go to Puerto Rico), trees, old houses and neighborhoods, etc. And PA is tax friendly.”
Many members are doing careful research on where to retire. Here is a good example of someone using good weather as the important criterion, resulting in a trio of otherwise unrelated choices: “Twin Falls, ID; Roseburg, OR; and Prescott, Ar. These are the best year round climates I’ve seen. Prescott leads”.
Several people indicated they are leaning toward a college town for retirement, although they haven’t decided on which one yet. Here are 2 examples of their reasoning: “A warm-weather college town – lots of activities at affordable prices, good health care options … and college kids to keep us thinking young”; “A college town with intellectual amenities and excellent health care”.
Quite a few folks, 13 in fact, want to have the best of both worlds – living in 2 different places. The most typical plan is something like this: “looking at Palm Coast, FL and North Myrtle Beach, SC. Thinking we might split our time between “home” and a coastal area – winter on the coast (possibly in an RV) and summer in Charlotte”. But one is reversing the usual stereotype: “We live in South Mississippi, 50 miles North of New Orleans. The winters are lovely and mild here, but the summers are hot and humid. We don’t want to move away and leave friends and family behind. So, we will be spending August through mid-September in Blowing Rock, NC. Asheville is nearby. There is lots to do”.
We were a bit surprised by the small number of people who intend to retire overseas. We only counted about 7 folks who intend to be expats. Belize, Puerto Rico (still in U.S.) and Panama were each being mentioned twice.
If there was one group that is up in the air about where to retire, it is the single people in our membership. You could feel their frustration in looking for a welcoming, affordable place to retire. Here was one of the more interesting suggestions: “Singles, consider co-housing communities. I lived in Lyons CO in a co-housing community in my early 50s. You have your own complete home without anyone living in your own 4 walls, but live close to each other and intentionally form a strong community”.
Lastly, Why they are retiring where they are
It should be no surprise that our top vote-getters were mostly states with a low-tax reputation: Florida, Tennessee, Texas, South Carolina, Delaware, and Pennsylvania (for retirees). Warm weather is a big reason, as evidenced by states like Florida and those in the Sunbelt doing much better than colder places. Lower cost of living was frequently cited. Other important reasons for choosing a place to retire center around being near the beaches or mountains, proximity to grandchildren, cultural opportunities and classes, plenty of activities and outdoor recreation, and availability of housing.
Your comments. It’s not too late to weigh in and tell us about where you intend to retire, or the places you are considering. Feel free to tell us what you think is bad or good about the places others are choosing. We want to hear from you – please use the Comments section below.