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Top 5 States Where Retirees Are Moving

South Carolina gained on Florida as retirement relocations took a big jump in 2023

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Older Americans are on the move, and they’re still making Florida their number-one stop.

More than 338,000 U.S. residents retired to a new home in 2023, a 44 percent jump from 2022 and the highest number in three years, according to a new report on migration trends from online moving-services marketplace Hire A Helper.

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Retirement was the fastest-growing reason people gave for moving last year, the company found in its annual report, increasing by nearly twice the rate of job-related moves and more than four times the rate of people seeking cheaper housing.

About a quarter of retiree relocations crossed state lines, with Florida ranking as the top destination for the second straight year. About 11 percent of such moves were to the Sunshine State. South Carolina, which did not make the top 10 in 2022, was a close second, drawing 10 percent of retirement moves. 

Where retirees are going to (and leaving from)

These five states drew the largest percentage of interstate moves by retirees in 2023:

  1. Florida (11.1% of all inbound moves)
  2. South Carolina (10%)
  3. New Jersey (6%)
  4. Texas (5.8%)
  5. Washington (5.3%)

And these five were the most frequently exited:

  1. California (18.3% of all outbound moves)
  2. New York (11.4%)
  3. Virginia (6.5%)
  4. Ohio (4.9%)
  5. Pennsylvania (4.8%)

Source: Hire A Helper, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey and its Annual Social and Economic Supplements for 2023.

“My guess is it’s probably due to cost,” says Miranda Marquit, a consumer advocate and spokesperson for Hire A Helper, of the Palmetto State’s ascent. With the cost of living rising in Florida, particularly for housing and homeowners’ insurance, “more folks are looking for someplace that’s also warm but maybe isn’t as expensive.”

New Jersey, Texas and Washington state rounded out the top five landing spots. California and New York were the states older residents most often left, the study found, with 3 in 10 relocating retirees departing from one or the other.

‘More affordable to move now’

The report, drawn from U.S. Census Bureau survey data, links the big increase in moves to economic factors such as a cooling housing market and lower inflation. “It’s kind of a shift to where you’ve got folks saying OK, it’s more affordable to move now,” Marquit says.

Financial worries were less pronounced in survey responses on retirees’ reasons for moving. Just 6 percent said they were moving to find cheaper housing, compared to 12 percent in 2022. Family and health issues were the top two motivators in 2023, collectively driving 27 percent of retirement relocations.

Michael Collins, founder and CEO of WinCap Financial in Winchester, Massachusetts, says health care is one of the first things he brings up with clients weighing a retirement move.

“You always have to remind people [to consider] the health care infrastructure in the area they’re moving,” he says. “I’ve had clients ask, ‘What's the cheapest state for taxes?’ And I’m like, yeah, but you’re three hours away from the hospital.”

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The data also suggests a move toward earlier retirement, for those who can afford it.

Thirty-seven percent of people who moved for retirement last year were younger than 65 (up from 26 percent in 2022), and nearly a quarter were under 55. The median income for relocating retirees was more than $88,000, 35 percent higher than the 2022 figure.

“I think a lot of Americans in that stage of their life have looked at their retirement account balances and said, you know what? Life’s too short. I should go do what I want,” particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Collins says. “I saw that a great deal with my clients. A lot of people retired between 59 and 62 over the last three years.”

Collins, who also teaches finance at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts, says that in weighing where to retire, his clients generally consider “lifestyle first, cost second.” But “people will still downsize to more affordable areas,” he adds. “I think that's a retirement trend that’s never going to leave us.”

Gone to Carolina

Lifestyle and affordability both factor into South Carolina’s rise as a retirement destination, says Philip Gibson, a certified financial planner with Wealth Enhancement Group in Rock Hill, a city in the northern part of the state.

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The Palmetto State ticks several boxes for retirees on the move — a mild climate, plentiful beaches, world-class golf — while offering a lower cost of living than some other hot spots and relatively affordable housing. The median home value in South Carolina was about $287,000 in November, according to Zillow estimates, compared to $391,000 in Florida.

That’s more within reach for many retirees, especially those who’ve seen the value of longtime homes spike in recent years and can plow those gains into a new place in a lower-priced market, says Gibson, who is also a professor of finance at Winthrop University in Rock Hill.

“Owning a home is one of the major factors in being able to move somewhere, where you probably even end up with more square footage and a home that is actually more friendly” for aging bodies, Gibson says.

“Instead of having a home that has maybe two or three stories, you may go for a ranch-style home, or a home with one and a half floors,” he says. “Being able to buy a home outright that provides you with a yard, more square footage, potentially, and also just better on the body.”

A similar dynamic may be at play in the list of top cities for retirement relocations. Florida topped the list here, too, with Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach the most popular destination for retirees moving to metropolitan areas, but El Paso was a surprise number two. The West Texas town had never been in the top 10 since Hire A Helper started compiling retiree move data in 2020. 

“Cheaper housing, right?” Marquit says. “One of the things we found is that the folks who are more likely to talk about saving money in retirement were most likely to choose El Paso and places like Kansas City [which ranked 10th]. The folks that had more savings and were more interested in lifestyle and health reasons were moving to Miami, Fort Lauderdale.”

Florida, sure. But New Jersey?

Yes, New Jersey. Though not typically thought of as a retirement haven, the Garden State was the third most popular destination for interstate retiree relocations in 2023, drawing 6 percent of such moves, according to Hire A Helper’s annual analysis of Census Bureau survey data.

That might seem counterintuitive, given New Jersey’s reputation as an expensive place to live, with some of the highest income and property tax rates in the nation. Indeed, New Jersey also ranked as the sixth most likely state for older adults to leave, accounting for 4.1 percent of outbound retiree moves. “From a financial standpoint, it’s a no-brainer to leave New Jersey to go to Florida,” says Michael Collins of WinCap Financial.

The dueling data points serve as a reminder that many things go into deciding where to move in retirement — including where you are moving from. While many older Garden Staters are heading to Southern states like Texas and Virginia, Hire A Helper spokesperson Miranda Marquit says, “New Jersey is a popular retirement destination for those leaving the state of New York.”

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