3 Surprising Places U.S. Retirees Moved To Last Year

Last year, more than 338,000 Americans moved away from home for retirement. That’s 44% more than in 2022.

A cooling housing market and lower inflation help explain this big number. Put simply, more people could afford to move away from home last year compared to the year before.

Where did all these retirees end up? If I were to guess, I’d say the top places were Mexico, Costa Rica, Portugal… maybe Spain.

But I’d be wrong.

The top places that retirees moved to last year were Florida, South Carolina, and New Jersey.

“Lifestyle first, cost second” was the trend that guided these results, according to AARP.

As a reader of Overseas Property Alert, you already know that we too are advocates of leaving home in search of better lifestyles and property prices…

But for us, if you leave home and end up in Florida, South Carolina, or New Jersey, you didn’t go far enough.

In our opinion, the best lifestyle opportunities and property prices are found beyond the borders of the United States.

You can find overseas havens where the lifestyle appeal is similar to that on offer in Florida, South Carolina, and New Jersey… but property prices are much cheaper.

You also have to consider the cost of living once you get there. How much do you need to get by, not to mention actually enjoy life, in each of those states?

Let’s compare the lifestyle appeal, cost of property, and monthly budget needed in Florida, South Carolina, and New Jersey with attractive overseas counterparts.

1. Florida Vs. Belize

Florida was the #1 spot retirees sought out last year. About 11% of the 338,000 people who moved for retirement in 2023 ended up here.

They were drawn by the dream of a beach retirement plus warm weather and a low cost of living, including lower taxes…

If they were willing to venture a bit farther south, they could’ve accessed all of Florida’s appeal at a much lower cost.

Just two hours from Miami by plane is Belize, an English-speaking Central American country with a long Caribbean coastline.

It has white-sand beaches, palm trees, and warm weather year-round… a tropical retirement dream come true. Plus, it’s a tax haven. Even as a resident, Belize does not impose tax on income earned outside of the country.

Home prices vary across Belize by type of property (whether it’s an American-style home in a private residential development or a Belize-style home in a humble village).

Some of the best value is in Corozal District, the northern part of the Belize mainland, close to the border with Mexico. Here, homes cost between $100,000 and $200,000 on average.
Compare that to the median home value in Florida—$391,000, according to Zillow.

The cost of living is lower in Corozal, too… We estimate that a couple needs about $2,000 per month for a comfortable lifestyle here.

In Florida, the living wage (the amount needed to support yourself without falling below the poverty line) is $4,755 monthly.

If you brought Florida’s budget to Corozal, you’d have an extra $2,755 in your pocket every month, which you could allocate to nice dinners out, boat or fishing trips, or travel.

2. South Carolina Vs. Spain

South Carolina made up 10% of the 338,000 retirement relocations Americans made last year. That’s a huge jump from the year before, when it didn’t even make the top 10.

Retirees love South Carolina for its mild climate, beach access, golf, and low cost of living.

The median house price in South Carolina is $287,000.

Compare that to Murcia, a little university city of just under half a million in Spain, about halfway between Valencia and Málaga and about 30 minutes inland from the coast. Here, the average home costs about $100,000 to $150,000.

Murcia has a strong expat community, attracting people from all over the world who are drawn by the affordability, warm weather, and Spanish cultural ambiance. About $1,500 is a reasonable monthly budget here.

In South Carolina, despite being sought out for affordability, the living wage is a whopping $4,351 per month.

If you brought that budget to Murcia, you’d have an extra $2,852 in your pocket every month to spend on enjoying your retirement. It could go towards your green fees at Murcia’s 17 golf courses, for instance.

New Jersey being among the top three states that retirees moved to last year is a surprise…

It’s known for being an expensive place to live (the living wage is $5,371 per month), and it has some of the country’s highest income and property tax rates.

It accounted for 6% of all retirement relocations in 2023… It turns out that New Jersey is a popular retirement destination for people leaving New York State.

Retirees like New Jersey for its charming small towns on the Hudson River and easy access to the big city.

A good overseas alternative to New Jersey is Braga, Portugal. It’s an elegant, well-loved city, with narrow lanes and lively plazas hemmed in by historic buildings and elegant baroque churches.

It’s also less than an hour from Porto, Portugal’s second-biggest city, and a three-and-a-half-hour train to Lisbon, the capital city, so cosmopolitan amenities are within easy reach from Braga.

Here, an apartment costs $200,000 to $250,000 on average, and the cost of living is about $2,855 per month. That leaves an extra $2,516 in your pocket each month relative to the average New Jersey living wage.

How Much Can You Save Overseas?

Florida Corozal Discount
Average Home Value $391,000 $150,000 62%
Monthly Budget $4,755 $2,000 58%
South Carolina Murcia
Average Home Value $287,000 $125,000 56%
Monthly Budget $4,351 $1,500 66%
New Jersey Braga
Average Home Value $512,908 $225,000 56%
Monthly Budget $5,371 $2,855 47%

To smooth travels and successful property buys,

Sophia Titley signature

Sophia Titley

Editor, Overseas Property Alert