Retirees on the Move: Why Warm, Affordable Cities in the South Are Gaining Popularity

In recent years, retirees have been flocking to warmer, more affordable cities in Arizona, Texas, and Tennessee, leaving behind bustling metropolises like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. This trend, highlighted by a new analysis from SmartAsset, is driven by a combination of lower living costs, warmer climates, and better access to health and entertainment resources.

The Exodus from the North

According to SmartAsset’s 2022 study, Mesa, Arizona, a city just east of Phoenix, emerged as the top destination for retirees. With a net influx of nearly 7,000 retirement-aged individuals, Mesa not only led the pack but did so by a significant margin. Out of the 182 cities analyzed, all the top 10 cities for net movement of retirees were in the South. This shift underscores a broader trend of retirees moving to Arizona and other warm, affordable retirement destinations.

The data reveals stark contrasts between regions. Cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago experienced significant net losses of retirees. Specifically, New York City saw a net outflow of 22,775 retirees, with only 6,194 moving in. Similarly, Los Angeles and Chicago had net losses of 5,549 and 3,251 retirees, respectively. This mass exodus from the North can be attributed to high living costs, colder climates, and perhaps the hustle and bustle that no longer appeal to those looking to enjoy a quieter, more relaxed lifestyle. This retiree exodus from New York highlights the changing dynamics in retirement relocation trends.

Why the South?

Several factors contribute to the South’s growing appeal among retirees. Mesa, for example, not only offers a warm climate but also ranks high in financial security for seniors. The city boasts the highest percentage of homeownership among retirees and the second-lowest percentage of senior poverty. Additionally, it has the lowest percentage of older adults on food stamps, painting a picture of a financially secure retirement community. For those considering retirement in Mesa, Arizona, the city’s strong support system and vibrant community are key attractions.

San Antonio, Texas, ranked second for net movement with 2,936 retirees moving in. Texas cities like Houston and Fort Worth also made the list, coming in at seventh and eighth, respectively. These cities offer a combination of affordable living, favorable tax conditions, and a warm climate, making them attractive destinations for retirees. The trend of senior living in Texas showcases the state’s appeal to older adults seeking a comfortable and affordable retirement.

Florida, known for its retirement communities, continues to be a hotspot. The state saw a net gain of 77,290 retirees in 2022, with 94,053 leaving but 171,343 moving in. Cities like St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and Cape Coral were among the top destinations. However, not all Florida cities experienced gains; Miami, Tallahassee, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa, and Gainesville all saw net losses of retirees. The emergence of popular retirement cities in Florida reflects the state’s enduring allure despite some areas experiencing declines.

Balancing Cost and Quality of Life

While the South is becoming increasingly popular, it’s not just about the cost of living. Retirees are also considering quality of life factors. Many fear they won’t have enough savings for a comfortable retirement and are therefore drawn to cities that offer strong health and entertainment resources. Mesa, for instance, topped SmartAsset’s study of where seniors are the most financially secure, reflecting its robust support system for older adults. This makes Mesa one of the best cities for retirees in 2023.

Conversely, despite the net losses, retirees in cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago often have comparable or higher retirement incomes. This suggests that while these cities may be losing residents due to higher living costs and less favorable climates, they still offer significant economic opportunities and amenities that can support a comfortable retirement for those who can afford it.

A National Trend

This migration pattern is part of a broader national trend where retirees are seeking out warmer, more affordable places to spend their later years. Cities like Henderson, Nevada, Atlanta, Georgia, and Tennessee’s Murfreesboro and Chattanooga also ranked high for net retiree movement. These cities provide a combination of affordability, favorable weather, and amenities that appeal to retirees. Best places to retire in Tennessee such as Murfreesboro and Chattanooga illustrate the state’s attractiveness to the retirement demographic.

The migration of retirees to the South underscores a significant shift in the retirement landscape. As living costs rise and climates play a more crucial role in the quality of life, warmer, more affordable cities in states like Arizona, Texas, and Tennessee are becoming the go-to destinations for retirees looking to make the most of their golden years. This trend not only highlights the changing priorities of the aging population but also the evolving dynamics of American cities as they adapt to meet the needs of their growing retiree communities. The focus on top retirement destinations in the South, warm weather retirement cities, and affordable retirement destinations reflects a broader retiree migration trend that shows no signs of slowing down.

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