Retirees move, but not very far

Thu Mar 8, 2012 9:17pm EST
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By Mark Miller

CHICAGO (Reuters) - When Harvey and Cora Alter decided to move away from Washington, D.C., for their retirement, friends were surprised to hear where they were going.

The Alters weren't even crossing a state line. They would move just 30 miles north of Rockville, Maryland, where they had raised two daughters, to Frederick -- a town of about 65,000 on the outskirts of the Washington-Baltimore metro area near the Catoctin Mountains.

"People were surprised that we weren't moving to North Carolina, where one of our daughters lived," Harvey Alter recalls. "We wanted to be near Washington where all our friends lived, and we saw no point moving near one daughter and bothering her -- and not the other in Ohio."

Relocation in retirement often brings cross-country or big north-south moves to mind, but very few seniors actually go very far. In 2010, just 1.6 percent of retirees between age 55 and 65 moved across state lines, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by Richard Johnson, director of retirement policy research at The Urban Institute.

And even among retirees who do move across state lines, migration patterns have shifted in recent years, Johnson says. In 1990, more than one in four retirees between age 55 to 65 who did relocate across a state line moved to Florida -- and seven of the top cities for migrating retirees were in the sunshine state. Florida remains the most popular destination, but it only attracted one in seven of retirees between 2005 and 2010.

"Americans are moving to cities all over the country today when they retire," he says. The most popular destinations now include Atlanta, Las Vegas, Dallas and Phoenix, but New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago also attract many retirees.

The Alters made the move from Rockville to Frederick 14 years ago, when they were in their early 60s. They traded in a single-family home for a townhouse in Worman's Mill, a planned residential development in Frederick adjacent to the scenic Monacacy River. It's not an age-restricted retirement community: "We have school buses coming in, and friends in the community almost the same ages as our kids. I don't want only to be around old grouches like me," Alter says.

Harvey, 79, and Cora, 75, say they are still happily ensconced in Frederick, although they recently sold the townhouse and moved into a condo to eliminate staircases and outdoor gardening chores.   Continued...

Retired couple Harvey and Cora Alter are pictured on the balcony of their planned-community apartment in Frederick, Maryland. Moving in retirement to save money - but not that far from previous homes, is a trend where retirees want to reduce the cost of living but not uproot their lives completely. Picture taken March 2, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed