Retirement rankings? They’re all over the map

What’s the best place to live in retirement?

New Hampshire boasts low taxes and a vital cultural climate. Mexico has warm weather and a low cost of living. The Provo-Orem metropolitan area of Utah, with about 115,000 residents, promises an outdoorsy lifestyle, proximity to Salt Lake City and plenty of opportunities to take classes at local colleges.

All three were the top suggestions in recent retirement location rankings. And there are more studies — actually, many, many more. Bert Sperling, the founder of a website that ranks places across the United States based on quality-of-life factors, keeps a running tab of best-places-to-retire surveys, and he counts nearly 40 of them. Media and personal finance websites, think tanks and even insurance companies produce rankings.

The quality varies, Mr. Sperling said: “Some are very analytical, and others are casual in their approach, with little justification provided for their choices.”

With so many surveys and rankings, you’d think that America’s retirees are no more than a horde of itinerants. But relatively few people really do move in retirement.

Only six-tenths of 1 percent of Americans over age 55 moved across a state line in 2015, according to Census Bureau data. And those who do move generally are not following the more creative, and sometimes chilly, recommendations found in many surveys. The top five destinations between 2010 and 2015 were all in the Sunbelt: Arizona, California, Florida and Nevada, followed by Texas, North Carolina and Georgia.

But eyebrow-raising retirement location studies keep coming. In this Sunday’s New York Times, I survey the surveys.

 

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