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Surprising New Survey Finds Many Retirees Plan on Moving in Retirement

Category: Baby Boomer Retirement Issues

June 29, 2010. How closely do you match the profile of your fellow visitors at Topretirements? We just finished a new research study which looked at the questions asked by the almost 5000 people who have taken our Retirement Ranger Quiz. The results from that study have helped us learn more about baby boomer retirement hopes, dreams, and preferences. One of the most interesting things we’ve learned is that the people who have taken our quiz are much more ready to relocate than the average population – the vast majority of Ranger takers plan on moving in retirement. Another finding is that they are very open about the kind of environment they want to live in. We found out that most of our visitors are either already retired – or will do so soon. Taxes, cost of living, and region are all important considerations for just about everybody taking the quiz. Find out what we found out – and how you compare to the average Topretirements visitor – in our analysis of over 4840 responses to the Retirement Ranger retirement quiz. Read on and compare your preferences to the surprising – and the predictable – things we found out in this research.

As background, the Retirement Ranger is a free quiz, or retirement calculator, that asks 10 short questions. Based on the answers, an email is sent that provides a personalized recommendation of retirement towns that match their criteria. Since the Ranger was launched about a year ago, we have been curious about exactly what our readers’ retirement preferences might be. Most of the results are common sense – people who come to a website like Topretirements are interested in retirement, and they are ready to move. Here are the results in detail, which we will try to use in future weeks and months to help give you the resources and guidance you are looking for.

Q 1: When do you plan on retiring?
The overwhelming majority of people who take this quiz are either already retired (22%), or they will soon (about 13% will retire within the year, and 39% more will retire within 1-5 years).

Q 2: Will you move in retirement, and how far?
Statistics we’ve seen in the past are usually a bit fuzzy about the moving intentions of prospective retirees. A Del Webb survey found that about one third of baby boomers plan on moving in retirement – other surveys have found even less who want to move. The Retirement Ranger results are quite different – people who take our quiz are very interested in finding a place to retire that is different from where they live now. Excluding those who were unsure of their plans, 39% said they plan on moving out of state or out of the country. The most startling difference from other surveys is how few people taking the Retirement Ranger plan on staying where they are now – just 2%. The biggest category of responses on this category is the 46% who plan on moving out of their “current metro” – presumably not too far from where they live now, but a move from their current home at least. Presumably that means they intend to downsize and/or find a home in a more retirement friendly location or development – but not move too far away from where they live now.

Q 3 Are you interested in a 55+ or active adult community?
About 50% of quiz takers are “somewhat” interested. Those who are “not at all interested” (30%) outweigh the test takers who are “very” interested (20%). Bottom line – a lot of people remain to be persuaded about the benefits of active adult living.

Q 4. Cost of living preference?
These results surprised us. Against a steady drumbeat of interest in low-cost of living responses, the fact is that the majority of people (62%) taking the Retirement Ranger are looking for an average cost of living. There were 30% who are looking for a lower cost of living (a much smaller number than we would have thought), compared to a paltry 6% who for some reason want a higher cost of living.

Q 5. What environment are you looking for?
The results to this question are refreshing – Topretirements visitors are looking for all kinds of experiences – from coastal to lakes to college towns to suburbia. Aside from a clear preference for a coastal environment, most other environments were fairly close together. College towns, small towns, and suburbia were slightly preferred over the mountains or an urban experience. Deserts and a rural environment brought up the rear in retirement interest.

Q 6. Size of town?
This question gave some dimension to the previous question about the kind of town these prospective retirees want to live in. By far, most people are open minded on this question too – they do not have a strong preference on the size of town they want to retire to. Of those who do care, in general it seems the smaller the better – 0-25,000 population got the most interest, followed by towns 25,001-100,000, and bringing up the rear – cities of more than 100,000.

Q 7. What is the lowest median January temperature (F.) you want to live in?
As we will see in Q 9 (Region), there is a strong preference for a moderate to warm winter temperature. Just over 50% are looking for a place where the January median temp is over 40 degrees, while 36% are willing to tough it out if the temperature is 20 or higher. Only 12% are going to insist that the January temperature average over 60.

Q 8. How much culture do you need to have?
Not surprisingly, Topretirements visitors are an educated group who wants to live in an exciting and stimulating environment. Almost no one selected lower than average culture for their retirement town preference, compared to 36% who are looking for higher than average culture – presumably museums, theaters, music, dance, movie theaters, concerts, restaurants, etc. The rest of the people would be OK in a middle of the road cultural scene.

Q 9. What are your regional preferences?
Close your eyes and try to guess – what are the most, and the least popular retirement regions in the U.S. for takers of the Retirement Ranger quiz? Chances are you will guess the trend correctly – although the results are a bit more lopsided than we thought. The most popular retirement region, by far, is the southeast – 51% of takers were looking for retirement ideas in that region. The southwest and west were tied in 2nd and 3rd place at about 17% each. The northeast and midwest held the least interest.

Q 10. Would you like to find a retirement destination with a lower than average tax burden?
The short answer is yes, but not nearly as emphatically as we might have thought. This was a yes or no question: 58% apparently could be induced to move by a low tax burden, while the remaining 42% have no strong preference.

A Few Caveats
People who take the Retirement Ranger are not typical retirees. By taking the quiz they show they are more interested in finding and moving to a better place to retire than other people. When people take the quiz the first time we encourage them to take the quiz with as few selections as possible, which gives them a broader range of results (they can retake and narrow down the choices, if necessary). That emphasis could have biased the results in the direction of “no preference” as well as away from the extreme range of choices.

The Bottom Line
We are very happy that almost 5,000 people have taken our Retirement Ranger. It looks like the changes we made to it to give you more results are working. We just hope that people find it useful to help find the retirement town of their dreams – one that matches their personal priorities. Last of all, it is exciting to see these results and realize what a diversified and open-minded group come to this website – thanks!

What do you think?
Are some of these results startling to you? Any you disagree with? How was your experience with the Retirement Ranger – any recommendations or experiences you would like to share? Use the Comments section below.

Posted by John Brady on June 28th, 2010


  1. Great article. Nice idea on a survey. The findings are very interesting. As an Active Adult
    builder in the southeast,Windsong Properties
    , I am happy to hear that 51% of your respondents are moving in our direction!!

    by Carrie — June 29, 2010

  2. I took the survey and never heard back 🙁

    Ed. Note: We are sorry that sometimes people don’t get their results from the Retirement Ranger. Usually the cause is from entering an incorrect email address or an overly aggressive spam filter. If you try to login with a different user name than the one already associated with your email, there will be problems. Use the Help link or Contact Us link and we will try to help.

    by B Zukowski — June 30, 2010

  3. Great article and an interesting survey. I see Del Webb has started surveying their website visitors as well. I hope they are willing to share their findings like you have. Thank you very much.

    by After55Atlanta — June 30, 2010

  4. The Ranger has a good survey inclusive of lower costs of living,proximity to quality health care,quality of life,but not touching upon the subject of available water,energy, and transportation.
    If this survey was completed 20 years ago, I would entertain Del Webb’s suggestions; however, many properties are foreclosed today,and crime has entered into some of these communities. This is a risk that must be measured as equally as the low cost of living, and what sense is there in moving to the West, when there is no fresh water and four States are suing for rights to the depleted Colorado River. Without any analysis of the gloomy environmental challenges that every State faces today pursuant to contaminated water, land, overuse of pesticides,methane in home faucets,garbage mounting in our Lakes and Oceans, and a breakdown in our U.S. infrastructure. I think retirees better reflect on the best place to live based on transportation systems,proximity to shopping and Hospitals. The old benchmarks do not mean much if retirees cannot drive, shop, or have quality health care nearby, fresh water, available commodities,and cooler temps….these are the factors that seem important to my Family as we prepare to retire.

    by Greg — July 7, 2010

  5. Great article..We have been looking at southern Utah to retire to. After a few trips and much research we found a problem. The Mormon -factor, that is non LDS families moving into LSD wards. Only to move out after a short time due to no inter action with LDS neighbors. I know this sounds weird check out has blog on many cities. Any way Way have to rethink Utah and maybe thats why it did not make the list 2010.

    by BILL — July 26, 2010

  6. Im interested if there are countries that you can retire to that will accept retirees who earn less than $2000 monthly?? Most countries in Europe require you to have an income of at least that amount and don’t quite understand why that is….

    by mary11 — May 31, 2017

  7. Mary11-have you considered Mexico? Many of my friends here in DC and many who have served with the State Dept are moving to Mexico. You can live well there on $1200/mo as I have been told. I have a friend who lives in San Miguel de Allende…check it out.

    by Jennifer — June 1, 2017

  8. Mary 11, I currently am retired and live in Barbados. I am currently in the process of selling my house to move back to the states. Miss the grannies!! Most countries will ask if you have income (not become a burden to the state), medical insurance and some countries will require you to purchase a property. My advice is to go to the country you are interested in and live their for as long as you are able to. Speak to ex pats about their experiences and then decide if you wish to permanently retire their. Find out about moving money back and froth from the U.S. Check out the medical care. Remember that many countries will not offer what you can have in the U.S.A., whether its food choices or entertainment et al.
    Good luck!!!

    by Tim O'Dwyer — June 1, 2017

  9. Other US Territories that might be of interest to retire to:

    by Louise — June 1, 2017

  10. Thanks Tim and Louise. …Alot to think about.

    by mary11 — June 2, 2017

  11. Mary11 I was looking at Barefoot Bay in Florida. It is a 65+ mobile home park where you own your land. Prices seem to be from low to high. I am sure there is some danger with hurricanes. Looks like it could be fun to buy something there if you are thinking about snowbirding.

    by Louise — June 2, 2017

  12. Louise,
    I lived in the Clearwater Fla area for 10 yrs…..but after awhile the humidity and bugs got to us and relocaTed to San Diego. I loved the beaches there and there’s a lot to do for free but the constant air conditioning and the heat and thunderstorms got tiresome.

    by mary11 — June 3, 2017

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