Florida has long been a popular destination for retirees, thanks to its sunny climate, sandy beaches, and tax-friendly policies. However, in recent years, many seniors have been leaving the Sunshine State for other places that offer better opportunities and quality of life.
According to a recent SmartAsset study, Florida saw a net loss of over 12,000 retirees in 2021, the largest among all states. So, where are these retirees going instead, and why? In this article, we will explore some of the reasons why Florida is losing its appeal for retirees and the top destinations that are attracting them.
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Why Florida is losing its appeal for retirees
There are several factors that may explain why Florida is no longer the ideal place to retire for many seniors. Here are some of the most common ones:
High cost of living
While Florida does not have a state income tax, it does have a relatively high sales tax of 6%, and some counties and cities add their own local taxes on top of that. Additionally, Florida has one of the highest property tax rates in the country, averaging 0.98% of the home value. The median home price in Florida was $305,000 in August 2021, up 17.5% from a year ago. The cost of living in Florida is also higher than the national average, especially in popular areas like Miami, Orlando, and Tampa. For retirees living on a fixed income, these expenses can be a burden.
Climate change and natural disasters
Florida is one of the most vulnerable states to the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels, coastal erosion, saltwater intrusion, and more frequent and intense hurricanes. According to a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, more than 64,000 homes in Florida are at risk of chronic flooding by 2030, and more than 1 million by 2100. The state also faces the threat of wildfires, droughts, heat waves, and invasive species. These natural disasters can cause damage to property, infrastructure, and health, as well as increase insurance costs and reduce property values.
Overcrowding and traffic
Florida is the third most populous state in the country, with over 21 million residents as of 2020. It is also one of the fastest-growing states, adding more than 400,000 people between 2020 and 2021. This rapid population growth has led to overcrowding and congestion in many areas, especially in urban and coastal regions. Traffic is a major problem in Florida, with drivers spending an average of 47 hours per year in congestion, ranking fourth in the nation. Overcrowding also affects the availability and quality of public services, such as health care, education, and transportation.
The top destinations for retirees leaving Florida
While Florida may not be the best place to retire for everyone, there are many other options that offer different advantages and benefits for seniors. Here are some of the top destinations for retirees leaving Florida, according to the SmartAsset study:
Iowa may not seem like an obvious choice for retirees, but it has a lot to offer in terms of affordability and quality of life. Iowa has a low cost of living, with a median home price of $170,000 in August 2021, up 9.7% from a year ago. The state also has a low tax burden, with no tax on Social Security benefits, and a partial exemption for other retirement income. Iowa ranks high for health care and safety, with a low crime rate, and a high-quality and accessible health care system.
The state has over 120 hospitals, including the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, which is nationally ranked in seven specialties. Iowa also has a rich culture and recreation scene, with many museums, theaters, festivals, and parks. The state is known for its agricultural heritage and hosts the famous Iowa State Fair every year.
Arizona is another popular destination for retirees, especially those who love warm weather and scenic beauty. Arizona has a mild climate, with sunny days and cool nights, and a diverse landscape, with mountains, deserts, canyons, and forests.
The state is home to the Grand Canyon National Park, one of the natural wonders of the world, and many other attractions, such as Sedona, Monument Valley, and Lake Havasu. Arizona also offers tax benefits and retirement communities for seniors.
The state does not tax Social Security benefits and has a low sales tax of 5.6%. The state also has many active adult communities, such as Sun City, which cater to the needs and interests of retirees, with amenities like golf courses, pools, fitness centers, and social clubs.
South Carolina is another attractive option for retirees, especially those who enjoy coastal charm and historic cities. South Carolina has a long coastline, with sandy beaches, islands, and marshes, and a rich history, with colonial towns, plantations, and Civil War sites.
The state has many cultural and recreational opportunities, such as Charleston, which is known for its architecture, cuisine, and festivals, and Myrtle Beach, which is a popular tourist destination with amusement parks, golf courses, and entertainment venues.
South Carolina also has low taxes and housing costs for seniors. The state does not tax Social Security benefits and has a low-income tax rate of 7% for the highest bracket. The median home price in South Carolina was $240,000 in August 2021, up 13.2% from a year ago.
Choosing the best place to retire is a personal decision that depends on many factors, such as your budget, lifestyle, health, and preferences. However, if you are looking for alternatives to Florida, there are many other states that offer different advantages and benefits for retirees. Here are some tips on how to choose the best place to retire:
Consider your personal preferences and needs
Think about what you want and need in your retirement, such as the climate, the culture, the amenities, the activities, and the people. Make a list of your priorities and preferences, and rank them according to their importance. For example, if you love nature and outdoor activities, you may prefer a state that has a lot of natural beauty and recreation options. If you value health and safety, you may prefer a state that has a low crime rate and a high-quality health care system.
Compare the pros and cons of different locations
Once you have a list of your preferences and needs, research and compare different locations that match them. You can use online tools and resources, such as U.S. News & World Report’s Best Places to Retire rankings, to find information and data on various aspects of different places, such as the cost of living, the tax burden, the health care quality, the happiness, and the desirability. You can also read reviews and testimonials from other retirees who have moved to different places, and learn from their experiences and insights.
Visit and explore before you decide
The best way to find out if a place is right for you is to visit and explore it yourself. Try to spend some time in the locations that interest you, and experience them as a resident, not as a tourist. Talk to the locals, visit the neighborhoods, check out the amenities, and participate in the activities. This will help you get a feel for the place, and see if it meets your expectations and needs. You can also use this opportunity to look for potential housing options and compare the prices and availability.
Retiring is a major life decision that requires careful planning and preparation. If you are thinking of leaving Florida for another state, you have many options to choose from, each with its own advantages and benefits. By following these tips, you can find the best place to retire that suits your budget, lifestyle, health, and preferences.