A Closer Look at the Half Back Retirement Trend

Many active adults are packing up and leaving Arizona and Florida to head back north, but only halfway. 

Many retirees who hail from the North have traditionally ventured to the warmer climates of Florida or Arizona in their golden years, preferring sun-drenched days to cold, dreary ones in the North.

But the days of enjoying margaritas on the beach or hitting the links in a desert oasis aren’t quite as appealing to active adults anymore.

In fact, many native Northerners are moving out of Florida and Arizona and going halfway back to the North, often to North or South Carolina or Tennessee. These adults are called half backs, and they’re part of a growing national trend.

Where Are Half Backs Landing?

United States Census data reveals that mid-South locations are experiencing some of the swiftest increases in adults 65 and older. Raleigh, North Carolina tops the list, with its older-adult population increasing 60 percent from 2000 to 2010. Its 55-to-64 population expanded 97 percent during the same period.

Over the past 10 years, more people age 55 and older have moved from Florida to North Carolina than vice versa. This migration from Florida to North Carolina has been the trend every year except for 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. 

Retirees are also fleeing Arizona. While the state provides breathtaking desert scenery and year-round sunshine, the heat is overwhelming for many—and it’s only getting hotter. 

Climate researchers in Phoenix expect the city’s all-time high of 122 degrees to be the typical yearly high. The city might even soon rival Death Valley’s high of 130 degrees. Many active adults don’t want to stick around to find out. Instead, they’re leaving the state altogether.

What’s Behind the Half Back Trend?

 A pleasant climate and generally calm weather play a huge part in where active adults choose to call home. Warmer destinations have long been preferred by retirees who would much rather own sandals than snow shovels. 

In the Carolinas or Tennessee, retirees can enjoy a warmer climate that’s not too hot. They also don’t have to contend with hurricanes in the same way as Florida residents. After the devastation of recent hurricanes Irma and Harvey, many individuals are wary of living in hurricane-prone areas. So they say farewell to Florida and move on to a nearby northern state.

An ideal climate isn’t the only reason behind the half back trend. Active adults view the Carolinas and Tennessee as retirement havens for another reason: These states are easy on their wallet. There’s no social security income tax in the Carolinas and Tennessee doesn’t tax withdrawals from retirement accounts.

There’s also a social aspect behind the half back trend. Retirees may initially move to Florida or Arizona and envision a lifestyle of recreation. Once they arrive, they end up missing their hometown, family and friends, so they move back again. The same can be said when grandchildren enter the picture. Many active adults find a happy medium that allows them to see their grandchildren more often yet also not return year-round to their hometown.

Half Back, Full Speed Ahead

The half back trend shows no sign of slowing as people from northern states continue to flee the heat in destinations they once found desirable. Active adults dreaming of retiring to a warm, sunny locale don’t necessarily need to turn to Florida or Arizona. They often find exactly what they’re looking for in the South Atlantic.

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