Steven Ramos, a retired letter carrier, estimated his cost of living would drop 80 percent when he moved from New York to a rental community in Central Florida.
In 12 years, Ramos saw the taxes on his modest 1,200-square-foot house in Queens rise from $1,400 a year to almost $4,000, and other bills climbed as well.
"The increases are insane," Ramos said. "In the wintertime, we're pushing $400 to $500 a month to keep the house warm." So off to Nalcrest, about a dozen miles east-southeast of Lake Wales in Polk County.
Retirement moves, which dropped sharply during the worst of the recession, are making a comeback.
Florida, the top draw for movers 55 and older, is gaining about 55,000 older movers each year, more than twice the growth it saw after the housing bubble burst in the middle of the last decade, says a Stateline analysis of Census Bureau numbers. Florida's annual growth for this age group is 138 percent.
Arizona has seen an 18 percent increase in retiree moves and South Carolina 6 percent, comparing the average of annual moves in the post-recession years of 2009-12 to 2006-09.
The 55-and-older category is often used by researchers because people tend to be thinking of retirement when they make long-distance moves at that age, though they could be moving for job transfers or other reasons.
Low cost of living and warm weather are prime draws for retirees. The top five most popular cities for seniors have seen increases since the recession ended in 2009, says a study by William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. They are the metropolitan areas around Phoenix; Riverside, Calif.; Tampa-St. Petersburg; Atlanta, and Denver.
Florida remains by far the destination of choice. A study by the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research found the state's economy is becoming more dependent on tourism and retirees as agricultural land is increasingly plowed under for housing. Service jobs for retirees have created a lower-skill job structure, the study suggests.