Looking for a Warm, Sunny Retirement Haven?

By on January 25, 2006 in News, Retirement

For many readers, the ideal retirement location is in a warm location, preferably with a beautiful view of the water, inexpensive tax rates and a wide range of housing options that will enable a retiree to live comfortably while not spending much money.

For many people who are retired or planning to in the near future, this means heading for Florida. Hawaii would be nice but you can’t drive there and it is generally thought to be very expensive (and it is).

For many baby boomers who are much closer to retiring than they thought possible, retiring to a location in Florida like the one described in the first paragraph may have been lingering in their mind. Many had parents or grandparents who retired to Florida and they may remember idyllic scenes of playing with grandad in the back yard or on the beach.

If this is your idea of retirement, it may still be possible. But, before you sell your house, pack up your RV and tell your accountant not to worry about filing an income state tax return in coming years (Florida has no income tax), think about what you really want to do when you retire.

If your idea of a heavenly retirement is living in a large, luxurious condo right on the beach overlooking a vast expanse of ocean with beautiful sunsets with extra bedrooms for the grandkids and a huge balcony where you and your spouse can sit in the evening, drink wine or margaritas and reminisce about your former federal government career, you may be in for a serious letdown.

It’s not that places like this do not exist. Florida has plenty of them. They are beautiful and, no doubt, the amenities and the view are worth a million dollars. Actually, they may be worth a few million dollars. If you are selling your house in San Francisco, CA or McLean, VA or Potomac, MD or Boston, MA and you bought it for a pittance back in the early 70’s, you can probably sell what is now a very expensive house for a couple of mlllion and roll the money over into the purchase of a new condo. If so, congratulations on accomplishing your dreams!

One caveat: While Florida does not have an income tax, it really likes people retiring there, buying a multi-million dollar condo and then paying property taxes. You may not see it written up in the advertising brochures but Florida loves property taxes. With all those retirees moving into the state, the cost of building an infrastructure has to come from somewhere. And, since there are no state income taxes, property taxes are a tremendous source of revenue for local governments. That property tax will take a big bite out of your yearly income when you own an expensive beachfront property–even if you don’t have a mortage and pay no state income tax.

There is also, by the way, an intangibles tax in Florida. If you have extensive holdings in stocks and bonds, check with your tax advisor before moving.

But, for everyone who is not in a position to sell a very expensive house in a large city just prior to retiring, is retiring to Florida even an option?

Here’s the good news: It is an option. There are numerous communities around the state where housing is relatively inexpensive. In fact, there are some communities where the housing is very inexpensive.

Have you checked out the new double-wide trailers recently?

Anyone watching late-night comedy shows has heard the jokes about people who live in double-wide trailers and shop at Wal-Mart. And, in all seriousness, there are numerous trailer parks in parts of Florida filled with retirees who are enjoying the warm winter weather while their former colleagues in Washington or Philadelphia are freezing in the sleet and snow.

There is nothing at all wrong with this lifestyle. Many of them are very clean, with well-manicured landscaping and the neighbors are friendly and love to stand around and cook hamburgers and play shuffle board (before making the trip to Wal-Mart). It can be a way to interact with friendly people who have similar interests and your spending may be low enough so that your TSP account lasts as long as you do.

Just make sure this lifestyle fits your needs and desires.

If your image of Florida is emerald green water along wide stretches of sandy beaches, this image does exist in reality. But your trailer park won’t be sitting on the beach. In fact, it may be a couple of hours away and to get there you will be driving along narrow country roads before hitting the traffic jams along the sandy shores.

Your trailer park may be in a rural area. The land is cheaper there and the people who build the expensive houses have not found it profitable to go into some of these rural areas. A rural area can be an idyllic setting for retirement. But have realistic expectations. If your idea of a good time is to trek down to the nearest Starbucks, pick up a copy of the New York Times or Washington Post and listen to National Public Radio, you will not be happy. The nearest Starbucks is miles away and if you want to read the New York Times or the Washington Post, make sure you can get a high-speed internet connection to read it on-line because it won’t be available to you at the local gas station down the road. And, if you like NPR, you may want to consider a subscription to satellite radio. One more caveat: If your idea of a political conservative is someone you heard give a talk on National Public Radio, you may be surprised to learn that some parts of Florida don’t have the same political landscape as Miami Beach or New York City.

But Florida is not all high rise expensive condos and trailer parks. You will find that thousands of your baby boomer colleagues are already buying up property in sunny Florida (and locations in Arizona, New Mexico and Hawaii). Large developments with very nice houses are springing up in Florida and many readers will find the prices to be easily affordable. The new developments are not on the ocean (unless the house is several million dollars) but they may be on a lake in the interior of Florida.

In fact, if you recall a relative retiring to Florida back in the 50’s, and still have pleasant memories of some of the sights you saw there while visiting, it may still be possible. One entrepreneur apparently anticipates the boomers wanting to still visit and has invested millions of dollars to upgrade Cypress Gardens. It probably looks as good as when it opened 70 years ago and those retirees who liked the music from the 1960’s will feel right at home. If you know who Bobby Vee is or Lou Christie and used to listen to their records, you will like the concerts catering to the preferences of the boomers who have turned in their ID cards and headed south for the rest of their lives.

Here is my advice before you decide how to enjoy your retirement. Think about what you would like to do and where you would like to live. If you decide you will like Florida, you are likely be very happy there. But visit first. There are numerous rentals available. Rent a place for a few days (or months) and find out which lifestyle is best for you.

Like many states, Florida is very different in different locations. In public places in lower Florida, you may feel right at home if you are from the Northeast and are used to clipped accents with people who root for the Yankees. Eating in a restaurant in Tampa or Orlando may remind you of the same social atmosphere and a similar menu to what you are likely to find in Northeastern states.

On the other hand, if you go to the Panhandle of Florida to cities like Panama City, Destin or Pensacola, you are more likely to hear accents from Alabama, Georgia or, depending on the time of year, accents from MIchigan and Wisconsin with people who root for the Chicago Cubs. Sweet tea (with unlimited refills) and Alabama bar-b-que is readily available.

It’s your retirement. Give yourself a chance to enjoy it. Here is one quick guide to Florida retirement communities.

© 2016 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.


About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources.

15 Replies

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  1. disqus_kwBz1kMQI9 says:

    Panama,carribean,Mexico coast.Costa rica

  2. Lee says:

    I lived in Florida from 2001-2007 in the Tampa area and then moved to MD-DC area. The housing is indeed much cheaper and the people a lot friendlier. Having said that, house insurance is steep in FL (I paid $2000 a year on a middleclass house NOT on the ocean) because all of the insurance companies have run out of the state because of hurrianes and sinkholes and now pretty much the only insurance comes from the state itself (“Citizen’s Insurance”).. Food isn’t that much cheaper and neither is gas. Having said that, I’m definitely moving back when I retire –the relaxed lifestyle and ability to move outside in the winter seems to make one’s senior years a lot more pleasant than up north.

  3. Angel Escudero says:

    Yes, Puerto Rico is an excellent option for retiring in front of the ocean. There are still some ocean front properties that doesn’t cost millions like in the states. It is a US territory with US dollars. There is a lot of different things to see: coastal areas, mountains, caves, light houses, spanish constructions (forts such as El Morro), museums, the biggest observatory telescope in the world, and much more. Also, the culture there is very friendly and the food is fantastic. Stop and go type of small cafeterias alond side the roads are interesting. Just go out and taste the locals, do not concentrate in the metropolitan area all the time. Drive away and tast the center of the Island. You will love it.

  4. Keith says:

    When I read that the article was dated 2006 I stopped reading right away.

  5. Roll Tide says:

    Don’t forget coastal Alabama!! Great place to retire with no income tax on retirement income.  Good people and good food with lots to do with your time.

  6. $26307850 says:

    If you are going to continue to show links to this 2006 story, at least update the information in it. Florida no longer has an intangibles tax on stocks, bonds, and interest.

  7. Jbrady says:

    For one thing Florida repealed its intangible tax in 2007, so you might want to update that. For another, the Save our Homes law provides an extremely valuable property tax protection for Florida residents – your taxes can’t go up more than the rate of inflation or 3%

  8. Gregmckenna says:

    We retired from federal service in the DC area in 12/11, and after visiting THE VILLAGES of central florida we purchased a 3 bedroom two bath two car garage with golf cart garage for $250,000 along with 80,000 other northerners and are engaged in many of the 1500 activity clubs available along with an active social life on our block including an Octoberfest gathering the othe day, an upcoming Halloween costume party, the ladies of the block golfed yesterday and shopped the outlets today, and on and on. The Villages offers a visitor program and I urge you check their website.  A resident of the village of Bonita in the VILLAGES informally called Disney World for adults!  But hurry only 10,000 lots left in the development with an expected completion date in 3 years and no doubt an upsurge in real estate values!

  9. Itsjustmeagain1 says:

    I moved to Florida in ’83 as a job transfer and retired in ’04.  I’m still here, just moved closer to the beach.  I must admit I’m itching to move again, the place is too crowded now and in the winter the oldsters are out in their tanks who should not be behind the wheel of a car.  I almost killed a 70 year old something who turned right in front of me and never realized I missed T boning her by a foot.
    Time to start checking off the bucket list and move overseas to places I haven’t been or I want to explore more.  I’m not getting younger and time is running out. The question is Europe or South America?

  10. laundryman says:

    Florida can be a delightful place to live, but chose your location very carefully.   While it is true that Florida has no income tax, the author is right when he advises the reader to be aware of property taxes.  Florida’s transportation infrastructure can not support the amount of automobiles in the urban areas, where there is minimal public transit.  Choose your location carefully or be prepared to waste countess hours in your car as it takes you three light cycles to make a left turn at  scores of overburdened intersections.     The real estate bust devastated some middle areas in Tampa, Miami, Ft Myers, and Orlando.  This has created some  house buying opportunities, but poverty is still visible as the economy  slowly recovers. Some pockets of bank owned properties and vacant houses are still visible but this is lessening.  Also watch out for the very high  cost of homeowners insurance once you find something that appeals to you. If you are looking for an affordable location to age in place and lessen your car dependency look before you leap.

  11. magdalena48 says:

    Cypress Gardens is now “Legoland”??????

  12. magdalena48 says:

    This article is dated – written 6 years ago.  You mean nothing has changed during that time??

  13. Abby Holmes says:

    We don’t want our parents and loved ones to live in
    communities that can exhaust and bother their life. I like Florida and New York
    retirement communities
    to be the future retirement place for
    my parents and also for me when I get old. We should look for the best senior
    friendly communities while we are young so that we are ready for our future.

  14. kempis says:

    Puerto Rico is another warm location perfect for retirement. The island is as beautiful as Hawaii, closer to the main land. Due to the recession there are no jobs, but you can find beach front , and resort properties very cheap.

    • Tomd63 says:

      I agree with kempis. I retired in Puerto Rico in a small ocean front town called Luquillo. Beach front condos in Luquillo and Fajardo are very reasonable.