Boomers: Head South or Stay Put?

Smiling senior couple sitting on their kitchen floor at home drinking red wine and browsing the Internet on a laptop.

North or South? It’s a big question, so take time to consider whether you’ll retire to the cooler North or warmer South.

Where are you going to live after you retire? If you belong to the Baby Boomer generation, you’re either already retired or are close to it.

Where you’re going to live is one of the primary decisions you need to make, as your location will have the biggest impact on your quality of life.

One of the first things you’ll hear, when discussing where you’re going to live after retirement, is that you need to move south, especially if you live in New England, the Great Lakes states or the upper Midwest. But that may not be the wisest decision.

To help you decide, we’ve put together a quick quiz; the results should bring the answer into sharper focus.

1. It’s cheaper to live in Texas or Florida than anywhere up north.

a. True
b. False

Answer: Not necessarily. While neither Florida nor Texas have state income taxes, their sales taxes and property taxes are more expensive and are not as predictable as an income tax. The result? Higher cost of housing, food and shopping. And buying a home is more expensive, especially in Florida.

2. Senior housing is cheaper in Texas or Florida than in the North.

a. True
b. False

Answer: True, it is cheaper to get senior care in either Texas or Florida than it is in New York, at an average cost of senior living of $91,000 in Florida, compared to $136,000 in New York. However, both South Carolina, at $75,000, or Mississippi, at $60,000, are even better choices, according to a recent article in Forbes magazine.

3. The weather is better in the South than it is in the North.

a. True
b. False

Answer: True — depending on the time of year and your preference. It is true it doesn’t snow that much and the temperatures are warmer in the South during winter, with more days in shorts and flip flops than parkas, gloves and boots. However, there are days when it does get cold during the winter. And the cities in the South do not have the resources to deal with ice or snow, so you’ll be stuck inside, at home, on those days when it does happen.

Remember that summers can be challenging in the South, with many days approaching and being higher than 100 degrees. This could be an issue if you’re thinking about selling everything up North and moving permanently to the South. Remember — you can always put more clothes on, but there’s only so much you can take off without being arrested.

4. People are friendlier in the South than in the North.

a. True
b. False

Answer: This is absolutely true. Why? It has to do, in part, with the warmer weather all year. In the winter up North, people tend to stay home more, huddled by the heater. When they do go outside, it’s for as short a period of time as possible before they hustle back into their homes. You are more likely to see friends and family once the spring thaw hits.

By contrast, in the South, everything is outside, all year round. Windows are thrown open during the winter, and even in the middle of the hottest summer, you’ll find folks tubing in the nearest river, enjoying a barbeque or sitting around a fire pit at the lake as the sun goes down over the horizon.

And, we get it, some folks find the North friendlier, while others prefer Southern hospitality. This is a trick question!

5. There’s more room in the South.

a. True
b. False

Answer: False. There are still vast areas of land in even the most densely populated area of the North. It doesn’t take that long to get from Denver, Detroit or Minneapolis to rural areas with plenty of land. So, if you’re looking at having more land, look around where you’re currently living, where your friends and family are, before looking to move South.

While all these questions are somewhat tongue-in-cheek, taken altogether, they bring to light what really matters when considering moving from the North to the South. The grass isn’t always greener somewhere else; and moving elsewhere doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be happier when you retire.

As a matter of fact, as long ago as 1984, studies showed that a large number of those moving South from the North end up going back North, or at least more North than where they landed when they first moved.

Moving from the North to the southern parts of the country is a huge step. It can mean leaving your family and friends behind, as well as all those things you’ve built around you to make your life happy.

There may be genuine reasons for moving south, such as being unable to tolerate the winters because of advancing arthritis or other medically related reasons. Just make sure the reasons you’re looking South are valid, not spur of the moment.
Laurie Leiker is a published author, business coach and consumer advocate. She spent 10 years as producer and on-air investigator for the Troubleshooter Tom Martino radio show in Denver, Colo., where she helped consumers get back more than $2 million in one year.

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