There are many recommendations for the best places for baby boomers to retire, including the healthiest places, sunniest places, best places overseas, the most affordable places and the best places that you probably can't afford.
But people are funny. Sometimes they just don't do what the pundits tell them to do. So where are baby boomers actually starting to retire? Here’s what the facts say about where boomers are headed over the next 10 or 15 years:
Boomers will stay where they already live. Even though boomers are more mobile than their parents, according to a survey by the housing company Del Webb, fewer than half of today's 50-somethings intend to move at all during retirement. For one thing, according to a Careerbuilder.com survey, over 60 percent of workers over age 60 say they are postponing retirement, because of the economy, the disappearance of pensions and the threats to Social Security. As empty nesters they are likely to downsize, but in familiar surroundings, largely in the suburbs where they settled decades ago. According Sandra Rosenbloom of the Urban Institute, who studies retirement trends, the propensity to move drops dramatically as people get older. Roughly one out of three people in their 20s move in any given year, but as people age into their 50s and beyond, the ratio drops to one in 20. “Boomers are staying put more than anyone thought,” Rosenbloom says. “People of that generation tend to own their own homes and stay there.”
They will move to be near their children and grandchildren. When boomers do decide to move, Rosenbloom notes, they do so largely for prosaic reasons, such as being closer to children or, more importantly, grandchildren. Since the children of boomers are now beginning to get married and have children of their own, they, too, tend to live in the suburbs. Of course, a few well-heeled retirees may purchase a pad in the city or buy a fanciful cottage in the country, but most of those who move will relocate to another suburb, just like the ones they lived in before.
They will relocate to areas with a lower cost of living. Still, many boomers dream of relocating in retirement, leaving behind traffic, cold weather and high taxes. A quarter of a century ago, the most important consideration in choosing where to relocate in retirement was climate. Today, the primary drivers are the cost of living and access to affordable healthcare. Many boomers see selling a house in California or the Northeast as a way to make up for less than adequate IRAs. And the evidence supports the notion that many boomers are indeed moving away from high cost of living blue states like Massachusetts, New York, Illinois and California, and relocating to lower cost red states like Texas and the Carolinas. Recent surveys show the Carolinas have surpassed Florida as the top retirement destination. Texas, Arizona, Georgia and Colorado follow close behind.
They will choose less congested areas. An analysis of recent migration patterns among baby boomers shows that, like their parents, they are leaving the big cities of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco and heading for smaller cities with less congestion, less noise and a slower pace. Yet many boomers do not view retirement as a permanent vacation. Instead, they are turning to nontraditional and less expensive retirement spots for a second chance, or even a second career. They are especially attracted to college towns that offer opportunities for culture as well as work, which many boomers expect to continue on their own terms as consultants, freelancers or small businesspeople. Some current college town hot spots include Newark, Del.; Lancaster, Pa.; Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; Athens, Ga.; Gainesville, Fla.; Austin, Texas; Las Crucas, N.M.; Fort Collins, Colo.; Ashand, Ore. and Bellingham, Wash.
They will move into senior living facilities. The boomers are ready to pursue their own interests. They don’t want to spend time and money on home maintenance. They no longer want a backyard. There is a re-emerging trend toward condos and smaller, low-maintenance homes, including developments that offer special services for older people, such as golf and other recreational activities, social clubs, book clubs, knitting clubs and various educational activities. And while the majority of boomers will continue to live in mixed neighborhoods, among old friends and amidst familiar surroundings, a significant group will gladly retire to independent living facilities that offer services such as meals, housecleaning and convenient access to nearby medical facilities.
Tom Sightings is a former publishing executive who was eased into early retirement in his mid-50s. He lives in the New York area and blogs at Sightings at 60, where he covers health, finance, retirement and other concerns of baby boomers who realize that somehow they have grown up.