Thomas Elias: California (mostly) keeps its retirement appeal
All those folks who have been saying for years that California housing and taxes are too expensive for most Americans to move here, take note: The newest survey of Americans aged 45 or more, those who can be expected to retire in the next two decades, show the Golden State has lost little of its retirement allure.
To be sure, California ranks only fifth among the 48 continental states as a desired retirement destination, but it’s well ahead of Texas, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, to name just a few of the popular destinations for Californians cashing out their high-value homes and moving.
The only states ahead of California as desired retirement destinations are Florida, Arizona, Tennessee and South Carolina, with Tennessee the only surprise on the list. Florida, the clear leader as the preferred final home for 24 percent of those surveyed, has far more retirement communities and other facilities catering specifically to seniors than California. The allure of the other three states plainly is their lower housing prices.
This becomes clear from a look at the savings and other assets held by a stratified random sample of 1,068 Americans over 45 sampled by the New York-based real estate data firm PropertyShark.com.
The firm, using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk tool, found that three of every five persons in that age category possess less than $100,000 in savings and just 4 percent had more than $1 million available for use in retirement, covering real estate and other expenses. It’s tough to contemplate buying California property with that kind of asset base. So, most likely, California isn’t in the top two in retirement desirability because most near- or middle-term retirees can’t buy into this state’s market. More than one-third of the study’s respondents also said they had experienced some difficulty meeting housing-related expenses in the last year.
And yet, the study shows a significant 56 percent majority of middle-aged and older Americans want to stay put for the rest of their lives. Aging in place, said PropertyShark, remains the gold standard.
That bodes well for California, the state providing the single largest share of respondents. It means most older Californians do not now plan to cash out and leave, despite the siren call of far lower living expenses in nearby states like Arizona, Nevada and Idaho.
Still, many seniors who would like to stay put have felt a pinch. Among those with yearly incomes between $20,000 and $40,000, fully 42 percent reported struggling with housing costs. There was no breakout for California, but this state’s higher costs probably mean even more seniors had difficulty here.
This was one reason one-third of those surveyed said they’d consider sharing a home like the women in the constantly rerunning Golden Girls TV comedy. About 40 percent of those 45 or over would consider sharing space with younger housemates, with 35 percent preferring to share with folks about their own age. The better-vetted a potential houseguest is and the more of a financial contribution that person might make, the more popular the idea becomes. Simply helping with chores would not do it in most cases, while being a family member would increase the chance of acceptance for younger housemates.
Policy makers need to consider these kinds of findings significantly as they plan neighborhoods or begin to make the kind of densifying housing changes now being pushed by Gov. Gavin Newsom and some state legislators.
Most Americans in the over-45 category, the survey found, currently do not live in neighborhoods they consider senior-friendly. But with Baby Boomers aged 52 to 74 now controlling about 70 percent of all disposable income and 60 percent of those aged 65 or over living mortgage-free, more and more development will have to cater to them if it’s to be profitable.
It adds up to a picture where California is a favored place, just as it long has been. These facts appear to contradict the pessimists about California that former Gov. Jerry Brown used to call “declinists.” At the same time, PropertyShark makes it clear life is not entirely simple for most of the soon-to-be elderly in California or anywhere else.
Email Thomas Elias at firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It,” is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit http://www.californiafocus.net
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