The Washington Economics Group Picks Tallahassee, Fla., as Number One Retirement Destination for Baby Boomers

~  Study Cites Climate, Cost of Living/Taxes, Health Care as Key Factors ~

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A revealing new analysis of trends and preferences indicates that tens of millions of Baby Boomers searching for the ideal place to retire should look to Southern college towns for the best combination of climate, cost of living, health care and other top priorities, according to a report from The Washington Economics Group (WEG). And in the scientific comparisons of 20 prospective ideal “Boomer” retirement communities, Florida’s capital city, Tallahassee, ranks number one in the country.

The WEG report, “Best Choice for Retiring Boomers: Head South – An Analysis of Selected U.S. Cities,” builds on the first major survey in 10 years of retirement relocation preferences, which was recently conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research. The survey found that fully one-third of Baby Boomers would consider moving to another state to find the desirable conditions they most value. Chief among those conditions identified by “Boomers” in the poll are a mid-sized town that offers a pleasant warm climate with a mild hint of winter, a low cost of living and favorable tax rate, and a top quality health care system, among other key priorities.

“Through the Mason-Dixon Poll, we’re learning exactly what Baby Boomers are looking for as they near retirement and where they can find it,” said nationally renowned economist Dr. Tony Villamil, Founder and Principal Advisor with The Washington Economics Group. “The Mason-Dixon survey provided an intriguing snapshot of what matters to this important group of 78 million Americans. We thought it would be beneficial to take the analysis a step further and ask the key question of which cities come closest to offering Baby Boomers what they’re looking for.”

The answer, at least in large part, appears to be Southern college towns. The top-ranked community in the WEG analysis is Tallahassee, Fla., capital of the Sunshine State and home to two state universities. Tallahassee’s winning assets also include quality affordable housing, the nation’s top-rated Medicare program in its Capital Health Plan, an ideal array of outdoor activities and the highest percentage of other key attributes that Boomers identified as priorities. Three of the next five cities are also homes to ‘Deep South’ universities: Athens, Ga. (3); Tuscaloosa, Ala. (4); and Oxford, Miss. (6).

However, the WEG analysis of potential retirement destinations does not point exclusively to the South: Tied at Number 9 on its list of favorable retirement destinations is Pittsburgh, Pa., due to a lower-than-average cost of living and its highly regarded health care system.

The remaining cities in the top 10 are all located in the South. In order, the top 10 cities are: Tallahassee, Fla.; Memphis, Tenn.; Athens, Ga.,; Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Atlanta, Ga.; Oxford, Miss, and Charleston, S.C. (tied); Louisville, Ky.; and Richmond, Va., and Pittsburgh, Pa. (tied).

After the Mason-Dixon survey was released on February 1st by the Consumer Federation of the Southeast, WEG identified 20 cities for its deeper drill-down analysis based on the overall criteria identified by Baby Boomers. In addition to climate, economic and health care considerations, other factors included a community’s size, supportive senior services, arts and cultural opportunities, proximity to a beach and robust higher education opportunities for life-long learning. The 20 cities evaluated by WEG have an already high number of retirees or are classified as typically popular destinations for retirees; have populations consistent with or close to the size favored in the Mason-Dixon poll; or feature more than one factor favored by those surveyed.

“Finding the right mix can be tricky for retirees – because they want to live in a community that is big enough but not too big, warm and cool enough but not too warm or too cold, and with the amenities and resources of a big city but not the annoying traffic and congestion,” said WEG’s Villamil. “College towns in Southern states, with their dynamic communities and temperate climates, appear to offer the best mix of these many factors.”

 

The Mason-Dixon poll results pointed to five main factors Baby Boomers consider most important for retirement: climate, cost of housing, quality of health care services, local taxes and recreational options. WEG developed a scoring system that rated these factors among selected communities and then weighted the results to reflect the priorities indicated by Boomers in the survey. WEG noted that even within the five broad categories, certain factors weighed more heavily than others with Boomers who are considering relocation during their retirement. For example, moderate climate and affordable housing mattered more than recreational options.

In analyzing the Mason-Dixon results, WEG experts observed several important trends. When asked about their top priorities, for example, more than half the Baby Boomers preferred a city with a climate described as “warm with cool months,” and more than 70 percent preferred a medium-sized city or small town. More than one in five said the most vital or second-most important factor is proximity to ocean and beach-related recreational activities.

The following table shows the top 10 cities in the WEG analysis, along with the percentage of total possible points each community earned in the weighted scoring system:

 

Ranking of Retirement Destination Cities (#1-10)

Ranking

City

Percentage

of Points Scored

1

Tallahassee, FL

93%

2

Memphis, TN

88%

3

Athens, GA

85%

4

Tuscaloosa, AL

82%

5

Atlanta, GA

78%

6 (tie)

Oxford, MS

73%

6 (tie)

Charleston, SC

73%

8

Louisville, KY

68%

9 (tie)

Richmond, VA

65%

9 (tie)

Pittsburgh, PA

65%

 

In all, WEG assessed the retirement potential of 20 cities in the eastern third of the United States. The analysis identified important attributes to many of the locations outside the Southeast, but found that on balance, climate and cost-of-living considerations frequently offset those locations’ high rankings for health care and recreational opportunities.

The following table shows the second group of cities – numbers 11-20 – in the WEG analysis, along with the percentage of total possible points each community earned in the weighted scoring system:

 

Ranking of Retirement Destination Cities (#11-20)

Ranking

City

Percentage

of Points Scored

11 (tie)

Raleigh-Durham, NC

63%

11 (tie)

Indianapolis, IN

63%

13 (tie)

Lexington, KY

55%

13 (tie)

Toledo, OH

55%

15

Cleveland, OH

53%

16 (tie)

Boston, MA

50%

16 (tie)

Milwaukee, WI

50%

18

Washington, DC

47%

19

Philadelphia, PA

45%

20

New York, NY

43%

Read coverage from Tallahassee.com / Tallahassee Democrat

The full Washington Economics Group report is available at http://www.scribd.com/doc/89220697/Best-Choice-for-Retiring-Boomers-Head-South-An-Analysis-of-Selected-U-S-Cities.

The previous Mason-Dixon poll results are available through http://consumerfederationse.com/2012/02/01/new-poll-shows-what-baby-boomers-want/#more-382.