Monday, February 26, 2007

Pittsburgh a retirement haven? not exactly.

So the New York Times today is writing on the apparent surge in elderly return migrants from southern states, especially return migrants to Pittsburgh. You may think that this correlates with a PG story over the weekend reporting that Pittsburgh is a great place to retire to. Yet the same paper, even the same business section, reported just a couple years ago on some other research concluding that Pittsburgh is the single worst place to retire , a veritable "tax hell" for retirees according to Money Magazine..

So which is it? A great place to retire to, or the worst place? Neither, of course. In fact the idea that retirees are looking carefully at either costs or taxes when choosing to move in or out of Pittsburgh is probably not right. I think other factors are really driving the decisions to leave or come back.

Lest anyone get confused, new retirees flee out of Pittsburgh faster than young people do. I would even speculate that the net loss of population due to new retirees moving out is larger than the net loss of "young people" in their 20's in some ways. Note I said net loss.. I am sure the flow of young people into and out of the region is larger, but people think that flow is all one way and that just isn't the case. and I also said new retirees.

New retirees are mostly a one way ticket out. Younger elderly, or new retirees who are not yet elderly, don't move to places like Pittsburgh to retire. They just don't and its not possible to compete against the weather in Florida, the Carolinas and places out west that attract most new or seasonal retirees from across the country. Uncompetitive cost of living or not.

But what may be changing is later life migration of older retirees after they have spent time away. What my friend Peter Morrison and I have looked at is a counter-flow of elderly migrants into Pittsburgh, but it is very different group of people compared to those who are moving out. Specifically, the elderly moving into Pittsburgh tend to be several decades older than ones leaving. Along with being older they are more likely to be widowed and have far more health problems. So these people are not coming to lounge around the pool spending their lifetime of savings. I bet those savings are mostly expended before they come back. The Trib wrote about this research a bit last year. We also put some of the results in this issue of our PEQ newsletter. Still an ongoing thing, but clearly something having an impact here.

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