The Most Popular States to Retire to in the U.S.

What are the most popular retirement states to relocate to in the United States? Well, before we get to that question, let's look at some broader migration trends across the country.

If you live in Vermont, Oregon, or Idaho, it's possible you've had to make room for more neighbors. These states were among the nation’s top moving destinations overall, according to the 2018 United Van Lines’ National Movers Study, which tracks state-to-state migration patterns over the previous year. In Vermont, which topped the list as the most popular moving destination of 2018 (the most recent available data, as of Aug. 3, 2019), nearly 73% of moves in or out of the state were inbound.

The Northeast continues to lose people, experiencing what United Van Lines calls a "moving deficit." New Jersey had the greatest percentage of outbound moves for 2018 at almost 69%, and it was followed closely by northeastern state New York (61.5%).

The 2018 survey marked the 42nd year that United Van Lines released results tracking which states people moved to and from and their motivations for moving, "As the nation’s largest household goods mover, the data we collect is reflective of national migration trends," Melissa Sullivan, the company's director of marketing communications, said. 

Zooming in on the movers who are retired, the survey showed a trend toward retirees moving to the Pacific Northwest and Mountain West regions, as well as relocating to southern states. 

Most Popular States to Retire To

Below is a list of the top 10 states where retirement was cited as the main reason for the highest percentage of inbound moves:

  • New Mexico (43%)
  • Florida (39%)
  • Arizona (37%)
  • South Carolina (37%)
  • Idaho (34%)
  • Maine (33%)
  • Vermont (31%)
  • Nevada (29%)
  • Wyoming (27%)
  • Montana (26%)

While the southern states of Florida and South Carolina represented two of the top four retirement relocation destinations, United Van Lines noted that the Mountain West was the most popular region for retirees to move to. For number one spot Nevada, 43% said retirement was the reason for their move.

United Van Lines also noted that the popular retirement locations in the Western United States tend to offer a plethora of outdoor activities, along with art and educational opportunities, making them ideal for active retirees. 

The Bottom Line

While these studies point to where retirees may be likely to move, it is worth noting that most people end up staying in place when they retire. Only 1.6% of retirees between the ages of 55 and 65 moved across state lines, according to an analysis of 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data by Richard W. Johnson, director of the Urban Institute’s Program on Retirement Policy. The vast majority of retirees either stayed in their existing homes or made in-state moves.

Those retirees who do venture out of their home states, often do so to settle in locations that have favorable taxes, better weather, and plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities.