NEW YORK – Aug. 28, 2017 – Florida’s population swells by more than 1,000 people every day, many of them retirees relocating for the second halves of their lives. And it’s easy to see why: Even in the coldest months of the year, the average daily high is at least 70 degrees, and the temperature rarely dips below 50.
Florida is also one of the most tax-friendly states in the country for retirees. There is no state income tax, and permanent residents are eligible for a homestead exemption of up to $50,000. Seniors may qualify for an additional exemption.
But Florida is a big state, with diverse options on both coasts – or inland, if hurricanes or rising sea levels strike too much fear in your heart. (Generally, the hurricane risk on Florida’s west coast is less than on the east coast.) We’ve rounded up five great Florida retirement destinations that are affordable and offer access to top healthcare systems. Take a look.
- Population: 53,583
- Cost of living (national avg. = 100): 108.1
- Median single-family home price (national median = $265,500): $275,000
- Median condo/townhome price (national median = $246,000): $215,500
- Share of population 65+ (national avg. = 14.1%): 24.4%
Life in this small city moves a bit more slowly than in St. Petersburg and Tampa, but Sarasota offers plenty of amenities. Examples are the many restaurants and 130-plus stores in the island shopping center of St. Armands Circle, as well as access to the Sarasota Memorial Health Care system, which is one of the largest public health systems in Florida.
Located along the Gulf of Mexico, Sarasota has miles of white-sand beaches. Homes a few miles inland tend to be newer and more affordable than homes along the waterfront, which start at about $500,000. Nature lovers will find lush landscapes and subtropical wildlife at the local parks, as well as at Celery Fields (an erstwhile celery farm now known for its birds and wetlands) and the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. Sarasota also has a lively and diverse arts scene, which includes a ballet company, art museums and an 80-member orchestra.
- Population: 127,559
- Cost of living: 100.9
- Median single-family home price: $224,625
- Median condo/townhome price: $120,500
- Share of population 65+: 8.9%
Gainesville is smack in the middle of the state, which means it’s 75 miles from the ocean. But during hurricane season, that’s not such a bad place to be. And the home of the University of Florida offers many benefits for retirees looking to escape the cold and the high cost of living up north.
In addition to Florida Gators football and basketball, the city offers 13 museums and galleries and a thriving downtown. Residents age 60 and older can enroll in courses at the University of Florida at no cost on a space-available basis. In addition, the Institute for Learning in Retirement at Oak Hammock, a retirement community affiliated with the University of Florida, offers an extensive roster of courses, many of them taught by university professors. (Seniors don’t have to live in the community to participate.)
Gainesville was founded as a health care resort. Now, medical care is available through the university’s Shands Hospital and the North Florida Regional Medical Center.
- Population: 20,603
- Cost of living: N/A
- Median single-family home price: $405,000
- Median condo/townhome price: $264,000
- Share of population 65+: 50.8%
The growth in Naples, which gets a top grade from the American Lung Association for air quality, has been fueled by a torrent of retirees attracted by miles of beaches, gracious homes and giant banyan trees. But you don’t have to be retired to like living here. The Naples-Marco Island area was ranked number one in the 2014-15 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being index, which measures residents’ views about health, financial security, community and sense of purpose.
NCH Healthcare System, which operates a hospital downtown and one in north Naples, offers a range of specialties, including rehabilitation and cardiac, cancer and geriatric care. It’s a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, which connects its doctors with Mayo Clinic specialists.
Residents pay a premium to live the good life, particularly in Old Naples. Home prices range from about $240,000 for a small condo to more than $5 million for homes on the beach, says Sharon Kaltenborn, a real estate agent for Sotheby’s International Realty.
- Population: 250,713
- Cost of living: 96.2
- Median single-family home price: $248,450
- Median condo/townhome price: $160,000
- Share of population 65+: 16.7%
Home prices here range from $165,000 to $1 million (or more). North East Park, Old Northeast and the rest of the inner northeast side of St. Petersburg offer a mix of bungalows, Craftsman-style cottages, large ranchers and enough Spanish-influenced design to suggest you’re in Pasadena or Santa Monica. You can easily bike or walk to neighborhood bars and restaurants and to St. Pete’s artsy downtown.
St. Pete and Tampa – the area’s other, higher-rising central city – include an array of theaters, concert halls, stadiums, colleges and hospitals, but without the density and congestion of Miami or the inflated real estate costs of Palm Beach and Boca Raton.
The city of St. Pete extends 10 miles west to the Gulf of Mexico, where you can follow a 20-mile beachfront road north to Clearwater, home of the giant Morton Plant Hospital complex and the area’s best-known beaches, most of which are free or nearly free. You can also explore the area via the Pinellas Trail, one of America’s best recreational trails. It starts in downtown St. Pete by the Tampa Bay Rays’ ballpark and links a variety of commercial and suburban neighborhoods.
- Population: 17,288
- Cost of living: N/A
- Median home price: $165,000 (all properties)
- Share of population 65+: 50.8%
Because nearly half of its residents are age 65 and older, Punta Gorda is wise to recognize its strong senior presence and do all it can to satisfy them. You can find numerous retirement communities, restricted to people age 55 and older, that offer waterfront sites, golfing, fishing and other activities. In town, the Harborwalk along Charlotte Harbor is just a portion of the 18 miles of bike trails and pedestrian pathways you can enjoy.
Source: The Kiplinger Washington Editors