Personal Finance

Retirees are flocking to these 'hot' spots

Key Points
  • Year after year, promises of better weather and a smaller tax bite encourage retirees to relocate.
  • Once again, Florida is the most attractive destination for seniors over age 60, according to SmartAsset's annual study.
Nils Hendrik Mueller | Cultura | Getty Images

There's no place like home. In retirement, that's not always the case.

Lured by better weather, lower taxes or an improved quality of life, some seniors would still prefer to relocate.

More often than not, that means moving to a state like Florida, Arizona or the Carolinas, according to SmartAsset's annual study on where retirees are moving.

It may come as no surprise that Florida snagged the top spot once again in 2019 — it consistently ranks among the best place to retire. For good reason: The Sunshine State benefits from a low cost of living, extensive availability of health facilities and recreational activities, including golf, museums and beaches, as well as no personal income tax.

Over the last decade, Florida has been the most attractive destination by far for older Americans on a fixed income, as measured by average annual net migration for the 55-plus set, according to a separate analysis of Census Bureau data by William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution.

However, it's also been steadily losing ground to states like Arizona and the Carolinas. This year, the total number of migrations fell to 68,918 seniors from 84,663 the previous year, SmartAsset found.

Arizona closed in on No. 1, with 31,201 retirees coming to the state, up from 28,614 in the 2018 rankings. "We've seen that gap getting smaller," said AJ Smith, SmartAsset's vice president of financial education.

To determine the net migration, the personal finance site compared the number of people ages 60 and older who moved into the state to the number of people who moved out of state, based on data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Although all of the top spots benefit from warm weather, money may matter more when it comes to relocating. Notably, half of the states in the top 10 do not tax income and wages, SmartAsset said. On the flip side, high-tax states such as California, New York and New Jersey were among the least popular spots to relocate. In fact, seven of the bottom 10 are also among the most expensive places to live, Smith noted.

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For those thinking more outside the box, a recent report by International Living, a guide to retirement abroad, ranked the top retirement destinations around the world.

Despite all the moving, most American retirees decide to stay put, and those who do move usually don't go far, according to Rodney Harrell, director of AARP's Livable Communities program. (According to Brookings, less than 1% of Americans make an interstate move, let alone a move abroad.)

More from Personal Finance:
Here are the spots with the best weather for retirement
3 tips to help you boost your tax-free income in retirement
Why working into old age may not salvage your retirement

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