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Image shows two retirees sitting in front of a laptop and reviewing paperwork. SmartAsset used Census Bureau data in order to conduct its latest study on the states and cities where retirees are moving.

Retirees are on the move, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Though just 17% of the U.S. population is 65 and older, relocation company United Van Lines reports that seniors in that age group completed 29% of all its moves in 2020, one percentage point greater than in 2019. Moreover, about 20% of all surveyed movers listed relocating for retirement as their primary reason for pulling up stakes. But those leaving the workforce are gravitating in droves to certain places compared to others. With that in mind, SmartAsset examined data from states and cities to uncover where retirees are moving the most.

In this study, we used Census Bureau data to compare the number of people 60 years and older who moved into a state or city to the number of seniors who moved out. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

This is SmartAsset’s sixth annual study on where retirees are moving. Read last year’s version here.

Key Findings

  • Tax-friendly states rank well. All top five states where seniors are moving offer potential tax benefits for retirees. Florida tops the study as a very tax-friendly state with no state income tax and no tax on retirement income. Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas round out the top five and do not tax Social Security retirement benefits. Retirees, however, should note that Arizona and North Carolina tax income from retirement accounts like a 401(k) or an IRA. Furthermore, South Carolina provides a $15,000 taxable income deduction for seniors receiving any other type of retirement income. For more information on state tax friendliness for retirees, see our complete guide here.
  • Western and Southern cities make up our top 10. Of the top 10 cities in our study, six are located in the West and four are in the South. Arizona has the highest number of cities at the top of our rankings. Mesa, Scottsdale and Tucson in the Grand Canyon State claim first, second and 10th place, respectively. Nevada and North Carolina each have two cities in the top 10: Henderson and Paradise in Nevada, and Charlotte and Cary in North Carolina.
  • Fewer retirees are moving to Spring Valley, Nevada. There was a very large influx of seniors to Spring Valley, Nevada in 2018, with a total of 2,920 seniors aged 60 and older moving to the city. In 2019, the number of seniors moving to Spring Valley dropped significantly; the net migration was less than 200. That change dropped Spring Valley 64 places in our rankings, from No. 2 to No. 66, in just one year.

States Where Retirees Are Moving

Like last year, Florida and Arizona remain the top two states where retirees are moving. In 2019, there was a net migration of roughly 95,000 people ages 60 and older to both states. Over the course of the year, approximately 145,600 retirees moved to Florida, while roughly 78,500 moved out. And in Arizona, slightly more than56,000 retirees moved to the state while more than 27,900 moved elsewhere.

North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas follow Florida and Arizona as popular destinations to which retirees are moving. Census data shows that there was a net migration of roughly 19,700 people aged 60 and older to North Carolina in 2019, while South Carolina had about 14,000 and Texas had just over 9,300.

Cities Where Retirees Are Moving

1. Mesa, AZ

Mesa, Arizona is the top city in our study where retirees are moving. In 2019, about 3,800 seniors moved to Mesa from a different state. Meanwhile, roughly 1,800 seniors left the city, moving to a different state. In total, there was a net migration of 1,951 seniors to Mesa in 2019.

2. Scottsdale, AZ

Scottsdale, Arizona follows closely behind Mesa, Arizona as a popular spot where seniors are relocating. There was a net migration of more than 1,900 people 60 years and older to Scottsdale in 2019. About 35% of those movers were older than 75.

3. Henderson, NV

In 2019, about 3,800 seniors moved to Henderson, Nevada from a different state while roughly 1,900 seniors moved out of the city to a different state. In total, the most recent Census data shows that there was a net migration of 1,917 people 65 and older to Henderson in 2019.

4. Savannah, GA

Roughly 1,500 seniors moved to Savannah from outside of Georgia in 2019, and only about 100 seniors moved out of Savannah to a different state in that same year. In total, there was a net migration of 1,434 people 60 years and older to the Hostess City of the South.

5. Paradise, NV

Located near Las Vegas, Paradise, Nevada had the fifth-greatest net influx of retirees in 2019 across all 177 cities in our study. About 2,000 seniors 60 years and older moved to Paradise from outside of Nevada, while fewer than 600 moved out of the city to a different state. Retirees in Nevada luck out when it comes to taxes: All retirement income is tax-free at the state level. Talk about retiring in paradise.

6. Charlotte, NC

Charlotte, North Carolina is the largest city in our top 10, with a population of more than 885,700. In 2019, roughly 2,500 seniors moved out of the city to a different state while just over 3,700 moved in. In total, the net migration of seniors to Charlotte in 2019 was 1,290.

7. Fort Myers, FL

Fort Myers, Florida is a popular and favorable retirement spot, ranking as our top place for retirees to live and work in 2020. In 2019 alone, more than 1,100 people 60 and older moved to this top spot.

8. Cary, NC

According to our calculator, the cost of living in Cary, North Carolina is about 21% lower than the cost of living in New York, New York (which, as you might have guessed, is the city with the largest net outflux of retirees in 2019). Cary has a relatively affordable cost of living and temperate weather, attracting more than 1,050 retirees to relocate there in 2019.

9. Eugene, OR

Eugene, Oregon moves up on our list from 15th place last year. Recent Census data shows that roughly 1,100 retirees moved to Eugene in 2019, while fewer than 200 left the city. Retirees in Oregon do not have to pay state income tax on Social Security benefits, but the state does tax income from retirement accounts like a 401(k) or an IRA.

10. Tucson, AZ

Tucson, Arizona rounds out our list of the top 10 cities where retirees are moving. In 2019, about 2,600 seniors moved to this city from outside of Arizona and fewer than 1,800 seniors moved out of the city to a different state. In total, there was a net migration of 883 people 60 years and older. If you recently moved to Tucson and want assistance managing your finances, check out our list of the top financial advisors in the area.

Data and Methodology

To find both the states and cities where retirees are moving, SmartAsset analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.

To determine the states where retirees are moving, we examined the number of people aged 60 and older who moved into a state compared to the number who moved out of the state. The net migration for each state is the number of people aged 60 and older who moved into the state minus the number of peopled aged 60 and older who moved out of the state. States are ranked by those with the highest net migration to those with the lowest net migration.

In determining the cities where retirees are moving, we considered 177 of the largest cities in the U.S. for which data was available. We similarly found net migration during 2019 in each city by subtracting the number of people aged 60 and older who moved out of the city to a different state from the number of people aged 60 and older who moved into the city from a different state. Cities with the highest net migration ranked the highest and vice versa.

Saving Tips for Seniors

  • A professional advisor can help you make smart money moves. Another great way to plan for retirement is by working with a financial advisor. A financial advisor can help you make smarter financial decisions to be in better control of your money and keep you on track in terms of your saving. Finding the right financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Know how much you will need. Some of the states and cities on our list of where retirees are moving have higher living costs than others. It is important when planning for your retirement to know how much you will need. Our retirement calculator can help with this.
  • Catch-up contributions. If you did not save enough for retirement earlier in your career, catch-up contributions may help. Catch-up contributions allow people ages 50 and older to make additional deferrals to their 401(k) or IRAs after they reach the annual contribution limits set by the IRS. For more information, read our guide here.

Questions about our study? Contact us at press@smartasset.com.

Photo credits: ©iStock.com/JohnnyGreig

Stephanie Horan, CEPF® Stephanie Horan is a data journalist at SmartAsset. A Certified Educator of Personal Finance (CEPF®), she sources and analyzes data to write studies relating to a variety of topics including mortgage, retirement and budgeting. Before coming to SmartAsset, she worked as an analyst at an asset management firm. Stephanie graduated from Williams College with a degree in Mathematics. Originally from Philadelphia, she has always been a Yankees fan and currently lives in New York.
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