senior couple and moving boxes

More than 3 million Americans retired earlier than planned as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to recent research. As a result, you’d expect the number of retirees relocating for retirement to also have increased, but in fact, a new report from HireAHelper shows that only 226,000 Americans moved to retire in 2021 — approximately 43% less than in the previous year. 

Overall, retiree moves are at their lowest number in five years, thanks to the ongoing pandemic, high-priced homes and a lack of retirement savings, report authors suggest. 

The report also shows that among those retirees who do move, many moved a lot further than a typical person moving in 2021. Almost half (47%) of Americans who moved after retiring this year went to a different state, compared to just 16% of all people moving. Early retirees — those younger than 65 — were even more likely to leave their state (64%). 

The most popular destination this year for those retiring outside their home state is the state of Tennessee, which has one of the nation’s lowest tax burdens. The Volunteer State was chosen by 13% of Americans moving out of state for retirement, the highest percentage of all U.S. states.

Florida, the staple in any top destinations for retirement list, wasn’t that far off the top spot, with 11% of retirees who left their home state relocating to the Sunshine State in 2021. Pennsylvania (10%), North Carolina (10%) and South Carolina (9.4%) round off the top five.

Areas outside cities and metropolitan areas were the most preferred destinations for retirees, with 26% of Americans who moved for retirement heading to smaller towns and cities far from urban areas, according to the report. Pittsburgh, however, topped the list of metropolitan areas attracting retirees who relocated, with 7.2% of them choosing to move to the city, likely due to its relatively low cost of living, high-quality healthcare systems and its large already-existing population of senior citizens.

On the flip side, states that saw the highest percentage of retirees choosing to move out for retirement were Delaware and Maryland, where 22% of people moving to retire decided to leave.

Report data were taken from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey and its Annual Social and Economic Supplements for 2021.