How Retirement and Cost of Living Impacted Move Decisions in 2023

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Why people move can be just as interesting and informative as where they wind up. The United Van Lines 2023 National Movers Study looked at the many factors that go into making a move decision — and while perennial factors such as retirement and job-related moves remained important, there was also a strong trend to head where home prices are lower and the cost of living less expensive. 

Retirement and Relocation: A Changing Dynamic 

For many, the post-work years mark a key milestone in life— and frequently involve not only a change in outlook, but also a change in address. With a less structured schedule and more time to relax, many people over 65 take this chapter as an opportunity to enjoy their golden years in an environment where the weather’s nicer, the pace slower and the cost of living more affordable.  

Sounds simple and straightforward, right? At the top level, yes. According to the 2023 National Movers Study the top five states retirees chose to move to were: 

Top 5 Inbound Move States for Retirees, 2023 

Florida 29 % 
Delaware 28.1% 
South Carolina 26.8% 
Maine 25% 
New Mexico 21.3% 

No surprises here. After all, just about every one of the above states offers attractive tax benefits for retirees, not to mention abundant natural beauty and numerous recreational options. However, when you delve a bit deeper into the data, retirement as a factor for moving — in and of itself — declined to just 14% among all respondents. That’s significantly below the 20% result from 2022. Even Florida has experienced a significant decline as a mecca for retirees. Although still in the number-one spot at 29%, it’s a significant drop from the pre-pandemic 40% inbound rate our study recorded in 2019.  

Another key motivator in the past — the desire to be closer to family — also dropped from 32.5% in 2022 to 27% last year, suggesting that movers in general are increasingly influenced by a combination of other, less obvious factors. 

What New Trends Are Emerging? 

According to Zillow, affordable housing in both the real estate and rental markets has been on a downturn for at least the last three or four years. Mortgage rates are high, available housing stock is at a premium and people are tending to stay where they are until conditions become more favorable. This means that if they’re moving at all, people are headed to smaller cities and towns that have less competitive housing markets. Not surprisingly, most of these moves tend to be away from areas such as northern California and the Northeast and more toward the Southeastern U.S. 

Consider that the top five move destinations also offer a “Boomer-friendly” combination of affordability and amenities. And interestingly, not one of these cities is located in Florida, the top “moved to” state for retirees. 

Top 5 Move Destinations, 2023 

 Myrtle Beach, SC  84%  
 Wilmington, NC  83%  
 Flagstaff, AZ  82%  
 Sioux Falls, SD  80%  
 Santa Fe, NM  80%  

What Does It All Mean? 

The key to understanding this particular result is that, while cost of living by itself might not be a primary motivator behind move decisions, when combined with other associated reasons — such as making a positive lifestyle change and the importance of affordable housing — the aggregated percentage takes on a new and richer meaning.  

For example, let’s look at Myrtle Beach, our number-one “moved to” city according to the 2023 National Movers Study. While respondents didn’t specifically call out Myrtle Beach’s affordable housing as a reason to relocate, the fact remains that housing there costs about 32% less than the U.S average. It’s easy to see how this could indirectly impact other move-related trends, including the growing preference for leaving expensive metro areas to embrace a small-town lifestyle.  

Could today’s movers be thinking more in terms of achieving an overall higher standard of living versus a lower cost of living? It seems entirely possible. 

Wherever you’re considering a move — and for whatever reason — United Van Lines can help relocate just about anywhere nationwide. As a full-service moving company, we have agents located across the country. For long-distance, cross-country moves, our movers can also help not only transport your items, but also assist with packing and storage.   

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