The Most Popular Retirement Destinations for Seniors

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Many of us look forward to that sweet day when we’ll never have to set an alarm again. You have no boss, no deadlines and no meetings. Most of us would agree that retirement sounds pretty awesome. Which is why it is so important to plan for it properly.

When it comes time to choose where to live, cost of living and general livability for retirees are typically the two main concerns. In past studies, we have endeavored to look at a cross section of retirees’ concerns, so we can rank the best places to retire. But sometimes, the best places to retire doesn’t always line up with where retirees actually move. We hope to shed some light on senior retiree preferences by finding the top retirement destinations. Here’s a look at the most tempting locations.

Key findings

  • The top 25 retirement destinations is dominated by Arizona and Florida metros. Those two states account for 15 of the 25 metro areas with highest net migration of retirees.
  • The Phoenix metro area was the runaway favorite. This area attracted 19,550 new seniors. Only about 12,421 opted to leave. That left a net influx of 7,129 retired seniors making Phoenix their home.
  • Only two metro areas not in Arizona or Florida made it to the top 10: Milwaukee and Nashville, Tenn. Milwaukee saw a net influx of 3,924 retirees, while Nashville gained 2,831.
  • The busiest and least-affordable metros saw the largest loss of retirees. Cities like New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco tend to lose those who left the workforce. This exodus of retirees does slightly help balance population crises in cities like San Francisco which lost 2,731 retirees.
  • Weather and a sense of “affordability” aren’t the only factors attracting retirees. Florida and Tennessee in particular, and Arizona to a lesser degree, have extremely retiree-friendly tax laws. Florida does not tax any kind of retirement income and has relatively low property and sales taxes. Likewise, Tennessee does not tax social security income, which, apart from the BBQ and music, may explain why Nashville is a top 10 retiree destination.
  • California experiences the biggest loss of retirees. Of the 18 California metro areas we analyzed, 14 saw a net decrease in retirees.

Most popular retirement destinations

Phoenix stole the number one spot that retirees are flocking to. But if you prefer less desert and more beach, Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, Florida came in second place. If you’d take a lake over a beach any day, Lake Havasu City in Arizona made its way into the top 10. And thanks to their low cost of living, midwestern cities may be the perfect place to spend your golden years.

If the top 10 is sounding a little crowded for your taste, you could hop on over to the Pacific Northwest. Slightly less popular – but still highly ranked – is Portland and surrounding metro areas in Oregon and Washington. The Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro area in Oregon and Washington ranked 11th place. And Eugene, Oregon was also highly ranked as the 19th most popular retirement destinations for seniors. We have to say, Portland has a pretty stellar reputation. We found in a previous study, that Portland ranks seventh as one of the best places to live in America if you’re looking for a balanced lifestyle.

The South is looking mighty appealing too. Of course, plenty of spots in Florida made the list, but so did Nashville, Tenn. Who’s ready for some BBQ? If you desire even more southern charm, check out the Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin region of South Carolina.

Humidity got you down? Golden coast California didn’t make it into the top 10. Hint: high real estate prices. But sunny San Diego ranked 23rd, which is not too shabby.

Least popular retirement destinations

The New York metro area ranked number one in our list of the least popular retirement destinations for seniors. Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles didn’t fare too well either.

Dream locations like Honolulu, Hawaii, and Orlando, Florida didn’t rank as highly as one would think. And on a not so surprising note, bustling metro areas full of workers bees weren’t desirable spots either. Apparently, there is a lot less need for early bird specials in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, New York, Seattle and Chicago.

Be prepared for retirement with these tips

Preparing to retire is a big financial undertaking. One you should take seriously and plan for. Consider these tips as you prep for retirement.

Take advantage of catch-up contributions: If you find yourself over the age of 50 and getting ready to retire but fell behind on saving money, you may want to take advantage of catch-up contributions. Usually, the maximum contribution limit to a 401(k) is $18,500 and to an IRA is $5,000. But for those over 50 years of age, catch-up contributions are more flexible, allowing those total contribution limits to be $24,500 and $6,500, respectively.

Adjust your budget: Tightening your budget so you can see how you’ll live on your new income can help you prepare for the adjustment to life in retirement. You may want to consider saving for unexpected expenses like travelling, assisting family and friends and the potential need for medical care or the option of living in an assisted living facility.

  • The 4% withdrawal rule: Generally you’ll need to withdraw around 4% from your nest egg each year. This means that if you have $1 million saved for retirement, you would withdraw $40,000 each year for costs like food and medical supplies. This is just one way of looking at the expected cost of retirement.
  • 75% of income rule: You can also follow the principle of the 75% of income rule. This guideline advises that you should spend between 75% to 85% of your current annual income each year in retirement. Generally your expenses drop after retirement, so ideally this should be enough income for you to live comfortably.

Review and pay off debt: Taking care of debt before you retire is something to seriously plan for. Seniors with credit card debt have a net worth worth of 43% less than those without credit card debt. The high interest rates associated with credit cards can destroy nest egg income.

Because the average credit card interest rate is 14%, seniors who have credit card debt (on average, $4,786) will pay an average of $670 every year for interest charges. With the average investment portfolio not earning more than 8% every year, seniors will on average earn only $4,508 from their portfolio. Sadly, this means that credit card interest can eat up more than 15% of a nest egg income.

Methodology

Data comes from Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS). In order to rank the top retirement destinations for seniors, researchers looked at two metrics. Specifically we looked at the number of residents over 65 who were out of the labor force who moved into a metro area and compared it to the number of over 65 residents who were out of the labor force who moved out of a metro area. Those two numbers were then combined to create a net migration figure. This study is ranked based on that net migration figure.

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Jacqueline DeMarco
Jacqueline DeMarco |

Jacqueline DeMarco is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jacqueline here

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