Study: More retirees move to Milwaukee area than leave, nearly half come from in-state

Findings show Milwaukee is fourth most popular destination for retired seniors

The Milwaukee River runs through downtown.

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:07 am

The Milwaukee metropolitan area has far more retirees moving into it rather than moving elsewhere, although nearly half of those moving into the area upon retirement come from elsewhere in the state.

That’s according to the findings of a recent study by MagnifyMoney, an affiliate of LendingTree.

Overall, the study ranked metro markets throughout the U.S. by their popularity as places to retire. The study uses data from the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, and measures popularity of retirement destinations by calculating a net migration figure. Those with the highest net migration ranked near the top of the list. The numbers the study uses are for the time period of 2016-’17.

The study arrived at its net migration figures by taking the number of residents over 65 who were out of the labor force who moved into a metro area and subtracting that from the number of residents matching those same characteristics, only they moved out of the area.

Using this methodology, Milwaukee registered a net migration of 3,924 people, with 5,790 retirees moving into the Milwaukee area and only 1,866 leaving the metro area.

Of those who moved into the metro area, 2,502 were already Wisconsinites, said Derek Miller, senior research analyst at LendingTree who worked on the study. More specifically, he said, nearly 1,000 retirees moved to Milwaukee from Racine and Sheboygan.

“So you can certainly see a large portion of retirees moving to Milwaukee want to stay somewhat local,” he said in an emailed statement.

Other large chunks of retirees appeared to make the move to Milwaukee to save money in retirement. As evidence, Miller pointed out that San Francisco and Seattle supplied a combined 1,177 retirees to Milwaukee.

Even small chunks of retirees moved to Milwaukee from more traditional retirement destinations like Cape Coral, Florida and Naples, Florida. Between those two metro areas, Milwaukee received roughly 270 retirees.

“Milwaukee is certainly not a traditional city when one thinks of retirement destinations, but despite the harsh winters Milwaukee has plenty to offer potential retirees,” Miller said.

He pointed out that the median home in the nearby Chicago metro area is worth roughly 10% more, according to 2017 U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Milwaukee may also make sense for retirees already living nearby who don’t want to move too far from family — especially grandchildren.

Milwaukee ranked as the fourth most popular retirement destination for seniors relative to all other metro areas analyzed in this study.

Ranked above Milwaukee were the following metro areas:

  • Phoenix, with a net migration of 7,129
  • Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Florida, with a net migration of 5,878
  • North Port/Sarasota/Bradenton, Florida, with a net migration of 5,750

However, far fewer retired people actually moved into Milwaukee than other metro areas at the top of the list. The Phoenix metro area saw 19,550 people move into the area, while the Tampa area saw 20,734 people moving into the area. As for the North Port metro area, 9,987 retirees moved there.

Alex Zank, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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