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More Baby Boomers choosing not to migrate

Chris Farrell Dec 16, 2011

Jeremy Hobson: At least 10 million homeowners in the U.S. are underwater on their mortagages — they owe more than the house is worth. That’s the latest figure from Realty Trac, which monitors foreclosure filings. And those underwater homes are
keeping millions of Americans from moving, even if they have guaranteed work in another city.

Marketplace economics correspondent Chris Farrell says this is also impacting retirees. He joins us now to explain. Good morning Chris.

Chris Farrell: Good morning, Jeremy.

Hobson: So Chris, I know that the recession has had a big impact on migration patterns, where people move for jobs and whether they can move at all, because of the weak housing market. First of all, what’s been happening with retirees on that front?

Farrell: Well, the retirees are no different than everyone else. They’re aging in place. There’s not a big migration from the “snow belt” to the Sunbelt anymore. But here’s the thing, Jeremy: I know it sounds crazy, but when the economy recovers — and yes, the economy will recover someday — and when the housing market improves, retirees are still not going to move to the Sunbelt the way they used to, say, in the ’60s and the ’70s.

Hobson: Why not, Chris? I mean, has Arizona lost its sunny sparkle that brings them down there, or Florida?

Farrell: No, sun still comes up, it’s still nice and warm. Everyone now realizes that they need to work well into the traditional retirement years, you know: work longer, earn an income, delay taking Social Security. Well, scholarly research shows that about 50 percent of our jobs come from our networks, informal networks — family, friends, colleagues, former bosses. And so if you move from the snowbelt to the sunbelt, or you move hundreds of miles away, you’re leaving your network behind, and it’s that much harder to get a job.

Hobson: Well if more and more people are going to stay in the snowbelt, as you say, does that mean we need to start thinking differently about how we plan for retirement?

Farrell: Oh we really do. So much of the discussion about retirement is stocks and bonds and asset allocation. Look, if we’re going to be working longer into retirement, here are the investments that really matter: Skill, education, health and finally — and most importantly — your networks. So the biggest investment that people can be making is nurturing their network where they are today and age in place and continue to work longer.

Hobson: Although it’ll be a little bit colder, I guess. Marketplace economics correspondent Chris Farrell. Chris, thanks a lot.

Farrell: Thanks a lot, Jeremy.

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