Retirees in search of their own private Shangri-La in which to spend their golden years are heading less toward the beach and more toward the mountains, possibly indicating a sea change—no pun intended—in what seniors are looking for during retirement.
That’s according to United Van Lines’ 40th annual National Movers Study, which found that retirees these days are choosing destinations that differ from what one might expect.
In fact, only last May, a study by SmartAsset Tools that relied on U.S. Census Bureau data on the migration patterns of people over the age of 60 found that during 2014, the most recent year for which data were available, retirees were still seeking out southern and beach states (think Florida, the Carolinas, Georgia and Delaware).
While those states are still fairly popular—there’s no denying the soothing appeal of waves on the beach—things appear to be changing.
Although at one point it was a pretty reliable prediction that retirees would flock to mild climates and seaside venues, United Van Lines found instead that many were seeking out other destinations, including the Mountain and Pacific West (with some exceptions, of course).
The United Van Lines study has tracked inbound and outbound moves by state since 1977, and for this year the study included moves it handled within the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia.
“This year’s data clearly reflects retirees’ location preferences,” Michael A. Stoll, economist, professor in the Department of Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in the study.
Stoll added, “We are seeing more retirees than ever decide to relocate, and as a result, new retirement hubs are popping up in Western and Southern states. Interestingly enough, these retirees are leaving at such a fast pace that the movement of millennials to urban areas in the Midwest and Northeast is being overshadowed.”
Many retirees tend to put heavy weighting on factors such as the availability of good medical care and the cost of living—including taxes on retirement income and property—although some are more concerned with proximity to family (nearly 20 percent of all those who moved in 2016 did so to be closer to family).
But whatever’s driving them, it appears many are listening to Horace Greeley’s old advice to “go west,” with states in the Mountain West drawing more retirees than previously.
Here are the 10 states United Van Lines says retirees flocked to last year—including some uncharacteristic destinations.
With its location in the intermountain west, Wyoming is one of the unexpected states drawing a high number of retirees.
In United Van Lines’ survey of movers entering the state, 21.05 percent of respondents said they were going to Wyoming to retire, while 5.41 percent of those leaving the state had other retirement destinations in mind.
9. New Hampshire
Considering its weather, New Hampshire isn’t exactly the first state you’d expect retirees to seek out to spend their sunset years.
Yet 23.08 percent of inbound movers to the state intended to retire there. Of course, 22.78 of those departing the state for (greener) pastures said they were going elsewhere to retire.
Another high-on-the-list state gaining retirees, Maine’s New England climate apparently held no terrors for 24.72 percent of the folks moving into the state last year.
Of course 20.27 percent of those moving out of the state said it was to retire elsewhere, but interestingly, among its influx of new residents, many were older—whether retiring in the state or not; 31.71 percent were aged 55–64, while 35.37 percent were 65 or older.
Among those moving to the Big Sky Country, 24.75 percent had retirement in mind, while 23.71 percent of the outbound crew had other retirement destinations as their goal.
Overall, the state lost more residents than it gained, with just 49 percent of state moves coming in; 51 percent were outbound.
Twenty-five percent of inbound moves to the state were people looking to retire, while 16.07 percent planned to spend their after-work years elsewhere.
Among the influx of older movers, 34.52 percent were aged 55–64, while 27.4 percent were 65 or older.
6. New Mexico
With half of New Mexico’s moves inbound and the other half outbound, it gained more would-be retirees than it lost; 27.13 percent of those moving into the state were doing so to retire, while 18.33 percent of those moving out were doing so to retire elsewhere.
The state also gained a substantial number of older residents among those coming into the state, with 34.17 percent of its new residents aged 55–64 and 33.33 percent 65 or older.
Arizona is still a popular destination among retirees, with 30.75 percent of inbound movers indicating that they were retiring in the state.
Among those leaving, 9.3 percent said it was to retire elsewhere.
In addition, 28.7 percent of the state’s new residents were aged 55–64, while 31.5 percent were 65 or older.
4. South Carolina
South Carolina welcomed a lot of new residents; 60 percent of the state’s moves were those coming in for a range of reasons that included jobs, health and retirement.
Those would-be retirees made up 32.35 percent of those entering the state—nearly a third—while those looking to leave the state to retire elsewhere accounted for just 10.05 percent of those leaving.
Of Nevada’s moves, 58 percent were inbound, giving it a bit of an edge over Arizona. Even more retirees moved here than to Arizona, with 32.43 percent of inbound moves due to retirement.
Most of those moving to Nevada, incidentally, were older people; 34.58 percent were aged 55–64, while 28.5 percent were 65 or older.
Still extremely popular as a retirement destination, Florida’s would-be retirees made up more than a third of those coming to the state—34.12 percent—while just 8.65 percent of those moving out of the state did so to retire elsewhere.
Fifty-seven percent of Florida’s moves were incoming, with 28.98 percent aged 55–64 and 31.34 percent 65 and older.