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Where You’re Retiring – And Why

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

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”.

College towns
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”.

50-50 retirements
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”.

International retirements
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.

Singles Perplexed
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.

For further reference:
Tell Us Where You Are Going to Retire – and Why
How We Rank the 10 Best Places to Retire
10 Worst States for Retirement

Posted by John Brady on March 27th, 2012


  1. Thank you so much for the thoughtful summary of comments from members about where they want to retire.

    My wife and I are part of the group who have not yet decided.

    Based on a lot of soul searching, we want to be close to our family and most are living in Northern Virginia near Washington, D.C.

    In addition to family, Northern Virginia has four seasons, a reasonably mild climate, good medical services, cultural activities, and reasonable taxes.

    Northern Virginia is expensive, but we can financially afford it.

    Again, we are still exploring other places, but our desire to be near family will probably keep us here and possibly in our own home, which we enjoy.

    We may end up spending part of our time in another area, like your referenced 50-50 group.

    by Everette — March 28, 2012

  2. I was born and reared in New Jersey. Then I left to see the world with the military and attend college. I eventually returned to the Garden State and have been trying to leave again ever since. The property taxes here are the highest in the country. And, almost everything else is more expensive too, than most other states south of New Jersey. The weather isn’t too extreme anymore but the biggest pet peeve of most residents is the overall high cost of living. So, where to go? Our son lives in the Tampa Bay area. So it’s a toss up for us to relocate near him, or maybe move to South Carolina…or stay put….because we can’t find a buyer for our home. Until the housing market takes a turn for the better, unfortunately, we’ll probably have to stay put for the time being.

    by JOHN PERIAN, JR — March 28, 2012

  3. We are retiring to Bluffton South Carolina leaving Wisconsin.
    The cost of living in SC is much cheaper than Wisconsin the taxes are much lower .SC gives retirees tax breaks at 65.The weather is better than Wisconsin
    Bluffton is 30 minutes from beautiful Savannah, minutes from the beaches of Hilton Head and 30 minutes from historic Beaufort and 90 minutes from Charleston. There are biking and walking trails through out Bluffton along with an abudance of great golf courses.
    All in all Wisconsin is ranked the 10th worst state to retire in due to high taxes thats why we are leaving

    by Karl Radzins — March 28, 2012

  4. Be careful with Pennsylvania. True pensions of any form are not taxed but the real estate taxes can get to you real quick. An example is that my texs are 5 to 6 times what I would be paying in the carolina’s. Location is SE PA

    by Paaul — March 28, 2012

  5. I am late to the party….but my wife and I are getting serious about AZ for retirement in about 2-3 years.I have lived my entire life in Chicago and the suburbs and we both are anxious to leave the cold and snow behind! We know AZ and the PHX area because my in-laws have wintered there for 25 years. We like the hot/dry climate, to bad about the income tax on pensions, but AZ is listed (most of the time) in the top 10 states of being friendly to retirees. A gated retirement community is in our sites. Scottsdale, Chandler, Mesa or like surrounding cities/towns are all on our radar. We will actually talk to a realitor this spring, and maybe tour with buying in mind. Retirement is no later than 2015, and maybe a year sooner. :shock::cool:

    by David Coughlin — March 28, 2012

  6. I thought I would end up in the Carolinas…but after a softball tournament at The Villages, I was hooked. I went back and spent a week and then bought a homesite. A year later I comitted to building and closed on the house earlier this month (March). Reasons? Affordability, no state tax on my military pension, nice weather, ….. but mostly the awesome diversity of activites there.

    by Nancy — March 28, 2012

  7. I want to retire in an area that is not below 30 degrees in the winter and not above 90 degrees in the summer; a place where I can have a garden and grow my own food and enjoy people of the same mindset. Thank you for listening.

    by Darlene Hensley — March 28, 2012

  8. I know I was one of the early responders, but my comments were not mentioned. We are expecting to split our time between Northern Colorado (where we live now) and AZ in the Scottsdale area. Both places have low humidity, lots of sunshine, and a fairly low cost of living, low cost of housing, an abundance of outdoor activities & cultural activites. The Northern Colorado area includes: Greeley, Loveland, & Fort Collins. Both Greeley & Fort Collins are also college towns. AZ is included in our retirement plan due to the wonderful winter climate.

    Editor’s note: Thanks for posting. Glad these are here now, they are helpful!

    by Kathy — March 28, 2012

  9. I have been thinking about Oregon.nice area between Portland and Tillimook. mts and beaches nearby but not sure yet. Have been to the east only once and boy was it humid in the summer but would really like to go there and explore the Carolinas and Kentucky. Have a few years to decide and want to start my own business too. Any thoughts on small craft business friendly areas?

    by ruxy — March 28, 2012

  10. We’re considering several options for retirement, which will happen in the next 3 years. Number 1 is the suburbs of Nashville TN, for the warmer weather and access to live music. We’re also,considering Austin for the same reason, but currently Nashville gets the nod because it is closer to our grandchildren. One thing is for sure: we will be leaving New York, with it’s corrupt politics, long miserable winters and high taxes and cost of living in our rear view mirror!

    by Don — March 29, 2012

  11. I have lived in Pennsylvania all my life. We are not going to retire here.
    The real eatate taxes are very high and go up every year.Area is south eastern Pa.

    by Ken — March 29, 2012

  12. Hello and thank you for this most recent article. I truly enjoy reading the information that you and your readers provide. My wife and I Plan on retiring within a year and while my wife and I have lived in Calif for most of our life, we are considering leaving the state for our retirement.

    We are thinking of Florida due to the weather and cost of living, no state income tax. In fact, we are vacationing this May in Florida and plan on checking out some of the local towns, like St. Augustine Fla. We also like Cambria California in the central California coast but we have not made up our minds yet. Cambria is a beautiful but small town and the cost of living would be higher. We like other states with low cost of living and no state taxes but weather and local activity is a factor (ie Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas).

    My wife and I are retiring about three to five years earlier than originally planned so I am having to do a lot of research in a short amount of time. We will be living on my pension and some savings, however I had intended to work longer to increase the pension percentage, but unforeseen forces are mandating an earlier retirement than initially planned.

    I will be 50 and my wife will be 55 when we retire. When I turn 55, my pension will also cover our medical costs. I can’t tell you how much insight your newsletters have provided us, please keep up the good work. One question I have not been able to find an answer to is the average yearly income for retired folks. I will have an annual income of a100 thousand, with a yearly cost of living increase that is capped at 3%. Frankly, I am scared of the unknown “retirement” and am concerned if this will be enough to live on modestly but comfortably. Do you have any insight as to the average income and maybe shed some light toward my anxiety?

    Again I read your articles with a lot of anticipation and I have yet to be disappointed with its content.

    Thanks again and I hope to hear from you on my question..
    Jerry and Diana

    by Jerry Rodriguez — March 29, 2012

  13. I’m still looking very closely at the area surrounding Bloomington, IN. Indiana is not the most income-tax friendly state, I’m sure that my income will not be sufficiently large to suffer from that. What they do have are LOW real estate taxes (I just found a place on 18+ acres in Williams, IN, 3 beds, 2 baths, outbuildings … cost $89,900 and ANNUAL real estate tax of $426! … see at this link … wish I could buy it today!). It’s about 40 miles south of Bloomington, They have a climate similar to Cincinnati, with relatively mild winters and warm to hot summers. I don’t have children, my mom is deceased and my Dad is 85 (I won’t be moving until after he passes away), and my sister and I are not that close … so I have no family ties to the Chicago area with its harsh winters and deep snows. As to why I am looking at such a large parcel of land? After living in the Chicago suburbs all my life, it will be nice to be in the middle of nowhere!

    Thanks for this forum!


    by Susan Osada — March 29, 2012

  14. Couple of years ago , my husband and I purchased the book “best places to retire”, we visited few ,went to Sequim wa, liked it , bought a piece of property there . Then , we went to Rio Rancho/Albuquerque New Mexico, 4 seasons , friendly to military retirees , liked it . We were planning to go back and decide .Illness striked…I enjoyed your comments , love to read your information. Now ,retirement does not have the same meaning , I would consider first to be close to family and friends . I am still looking .
    Mesa del Sol in Albuquerque just opened , it is not a retirement community , but an other concept of “neighborhood living “. Any information about retirement community in Colorado Springs ?.Thanks

    by lucienne — March 30, 2012

  15. Does anyone know anything about retiring in Bluffton, SC? I have read about it and so far so good, but have not read or heard anything negative about the place; no place can be that good 🙂 Thanks

    by diandto — March 31, 2012

  16. To diandto: Bluffton, SC – Hot, Humid and Sticky

    by Anne MacKinney — April 1, 2012

  17. To Anne MacKinney-I sort of knew what the weather would be like because all of the East Coast places are usually hot, humid and sticky.That does not concern us. I live in Texas and not only is it “all of the above”, add to it allergies all year around! We were wondering what life is like there other than the weather.How is the housing, taxes, shopping, etc?

    by diandto — April 2, 2012

  18. We lived in Bluffton for over 1 year. Generally a nice area,but can be a little pricey due to the Hilton Head influence. Hot as Florida in the summer, but can get cold in the winter especially at night. Do not consider any Pulte/DelWebb properties. Horrible ripoff construction quality. There has just been a state approved class action lawsuit for faulty stucco at Sun City. Best advice, rent and live in the area before you buy.

    by Rob — April 2, 2012

  19. To Rob-Good to know. I would not buy a Sun City home built in the past five years especially. Is The Hilton Head influence bad? Interesting you only stayed a year…is the Myrtle Beach area better or worse? We like the proximity to Savannah, the beach, the weather etc…

    by diandto — April 3, 2012

  20. We received this question, here is our response. The people asking the question have done a nice job of refining their priorities, a critical step in finding your best place to retire.

    Q: Looking for a really good place to settle down for the next 20+ years of life:

    Looking for a property on a Lake.
    Looking for a state with no or little income tax.
    Looking for a retirement community with some land around the homes, need room for a shop. Homes are not important, land, room and lake are.
    Looking for something within a hour to hour and half to really good medical assistance and hospital.
    Looking for friendly and community orientated people
    Looking in northern Tx, Ar and easternTn and Ky.
    Open to suggestions. Thank you for your time.

    A: Thanks for sharing your priorities. It is always interesting to see what people are looking for. Appears to me you have done a good job of prioritizing. I will add your question anonymously to our Forum and Blog see what others suggest.

    While we dont have the resources to personally answer questions like this, i do suggest you spend some time exploring communities in the State Directories for those states that interest you. You will get some ideas there. Use the Best Places or Find a Community features at the top of the page.

    Good luck! Anybody have any suggestions for them?

    by Admin — April 17, 2012

  21. For Admin’s posting source, look at Fairfield Glade TN. I think you will find it fits your needs. There are 11 lakes, lots with room as well as existing homes on large lots. Knoxville is an hour East, Nashville a bit farther West. Favorable taxes. Very friendly community.

    I hope you find what you are looking for!

    by Holly — April 18, 2012

  22. It is interesting that you want some land…how much? I find it very frustrating that most active adult communities do not even mention the lot size on their web sites. Yes, most people want big house little or no lot…but I want small house with some land. I will follow this thread with great interest and although I have no suggestions for you I will let you know if I find something in my search.

    by Elaine — April 18, 2012

  23. RE: Admin posting

    Be careful of northern Texas because of tornados. AS luck should have it, we have a house for sale on Canyon Lake-not directly ON the lake, but it is considered a lakeside community. We are about 40 minutes to San Antonio Medical centers, and closer when the Stone Oak area is all built up. The closest hospital is 30 minutes, BUT the EMT is 5-10 min. We own an acre, a one-story 3000 sqft home, four bedrooms and three baths, three-car garage. It is in the community of Spring Branch, Texas, specifically Mystic Shores (Google it to see if that is what you’re looking for). There are two community pools, boat ramps, parks, tennis courts (lighted), children’s play area, BB courts, etc…the fee is $260.00 per YEAR. If you are interested, let me know, and I will send you the reale state listing.

    by diandto — April 18, 2012

  24. This comment came in from W:
    Sorry but Virginia is not a place for retirement. It is not a retirement friendly state. I will retire soon and Virginia
    is not on my list of places I assure you.

    by Admin — April 24, 2012

  25. A new comment came in:
    My husband and i are only 54 but by the time we are 60/ 61 we want to retire to florida however, we would like to start searching for our retirement home now since the property down there is unbelievable but we don’t want to retire in an area where there is alot of very old people ( i hope i am not offending anyone) we want an area where there is mixture of people old, young, middle age, children a place where we can enjoy our 2 beagles.

    by Admin — May 3, 2012

  26. Hello. To the above couple looking to retire in their 60/61 in Florida. My suggestion, look into the Tri-county area (Marion, Lake, and Sumter counties) it’s cost-effective and not as congested as typical areas of Florida. They are nice communities with adventurous active adults (who like hiking, RVing, boating, and motorcycling). Typical gated communities are costly. Pay particular attention to Marion County which has the most concentration of natural artisan springs and the Ocala National Forest — a breathtaking area! (In my opinion.)

    by Neil S. Schuster — May 4, 2012

  27. […] After we posted this invitation we followed up with a summary of your intended places to retire, plus comments. Don’t miss […]

    by » Tell Us Where You Are Going to Retire – And Why Topretirements — October 16, 2012

  28. Garden City, SC or the panhandle of Florida

    by Will Kearney — October 18, 2012

  29. I’ve always wanted to retire to the beautiful mountains and canyons of Arizona. I’m a warm weather person and I love the spacious outdoors

    by Rick Lasto — March 11, 2020

  30. I retired in 2014 and was not ready. Did so again in 2016 and felt much better about it but ended up on dialysis. Now have new kidney but afraid to leave KY. Have great doctors here and good support system.
    We would like to go to Delmarva or VA beach. Will wait and decide if we are brave enough.

    by Al B — March 11, 2020

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