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Lone Star State is the new retirement mecca

November 07, 2009|Don Lee

Then there's the Mexico price. Every couple of months, retirees Thomas and Shirley Jones, transplants from Indiana, cross the bridge outside McAllen into Nuevo Progreso, where he buys medicine for his emphysema at half price. Last year, Shirley Jones got a full set of upper dentures for $325, a fraction of what it would cost in the States.

The Joneses used to be Floridians, but "Florida got so high on everything," she said. "We couldn't afford it."

Stanley Smith, a University of Florida demographer who produces official population reports for the state, said the recession will make Florida's cost of living more competitive. Home prices have fallen by as much as 60% in parts of the state.

What's not yet clear is how Texas will fare with baby boomers, whose retirement path remains undefined, experts said.

The oldest of that generation is 63 this year. The recession and loss of wealth may hold back their migration, and many boomers may look to settle in places where they can find part-time work.

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California shift

That could be a big plus for Texas. It's expected to outstrip the nation in job growth in the next few years. Already four of the nation's 10 fastest-aging metro areas over the last decade have been in Texas, according to the Brookings Institution public policy think tank.

"I think Texas has been attracting many seniors in large numbers and has many amenities along with low living costs which lure them," said William Frey, a Brookings demographer.

California is a primary target for Lone Star boosters. Last year more than 82,000 people from California moved to Texas, while almost 32,000 from Texas went to the Golden State, according to data from the Internal Revenue Service.

Charles and Joan Baker will be joining that trend this year. Even before selling their Rancho Santa Fe town home, on the market for $829,000, the California couple closed on a ranch-style house in the Sun City retirement community north of Austin.

Joan Baker, who is in her 60s, wouldn't say how much they paid for the new place, which is slightly larger than their property in San Diego County. But a Sun City spokesperson said the average home in the community of rolling hills is running about $218,000.

"I'm not saying it's easy to leave," said Baker, a retired schoolteacher. "The whole San Diego area is lovely. To go north and south, east or west, and be able to see the water, it's pretty unique.

"But other things are beginning to outweigh it," she said, complaining about crowding and the state budget mess. She said her husband is semi-retired and will continue his consulting work in Texas.

"It's just real convenient living," she said. "The terrain's a little higher so you get a breeze. There are lots of oak trees. You've got three golf courses that are drop-dead gorgeous. . . . And in Texas, you don't have income tax."

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don.lee@latimes.com

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