Thursday, April 11, 2013

Is Hawaii where to Retire?

Every day 11,719 “baby boomers” (Americans born between 1946 and 1964) turn 65.  Many of the 77 million “boomers” are planning to retire soon and consider living in a warm, tropical environment ideal.  In the past two years, Hawaii has seen a surge in the number of visitors, due in part to the spreading violence and political unrest in many other tropical destinations.  We suspect that many of the visitors are boomers looking at Hawaii as a place to retire.

We know personally how wonderful it is to live in Hawaii.  The year round warm weather, the amazing local foods, the laid back lifestyle, and the traditional respect for the elderly makes Hawaii a great place to be old.  We have always wondered when the boomers would show up in Hawaii looking to retire.  We calculate that if only 1% of the 77 million American boomers retire in Hawaii, it would increase Hawaii’s small population by almost 1 million people.  

After five years of living on Hawaii Island, this is the first year we have seen a noticeable increase in older Americans from the mainland on the west side of Hawaii Island.  They are more obvious this time of year, because it is the start of “off season” and the thinning crowds of tourists make long term residents stand out.  Normally the beaches and parks are less crowded and the traffic lets up this time of year.  So, we are surprised at the number of boomer couples still here from the mainland in the grocery stores, strolling around town, swimming off the Kailua pier, sunning on the beaches, and walking on the Maka’eo path.  We are even seeing out of state license plates on the highway, a rarity in Hawaii.

If boomers do retire in Hawaii in large numbers, the changes could be epic. There could be an increase in real estate prices, new businesses, increased traffic, and the “boomer vote” would change the political priorities in Hawaii. A single seasonal surge in older Americans remaining on the island past “high season” may be a fluke or the beginning of a big change in Hawaii, only time will tell.

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