For decades, Florida has been one of the most popular states for seniors considering their retirement plans. Just its nickname, “The Sunshine State,” conjures up images of gorgeous weather, recreational activities, and a vacation atmosphere beckoning retirees south. Florida also boasts attractive financial benefits for seniors. There’s no state income tax, estate tax, or inheritance tax, and cities offer incentives for homeowners 65 and older.
Although other states have been rising in popularity in recent years as hot retirement destinations, Florida is still the tried-and-true classic.
But Florida is a large state geographically, with the third biggest population in the nation. So where in Florida should you retire? Does coastal living appeal to you? Would you prefer a more urban or central area? Florida has these options and more.
Here’s a look at five major Florida retirement communities, with pros and cons to ponder.
Sarasota: Cultural Capital
As with all Florida retirement communities, Sarasota enjoys beautiful weather. This central west coast city bears the legacy of the Ringling family (of the famed Ringling Bros. Circus) and is considered by many to be the state’s cultural capital. Retirees can explore a wide range of museums, musical events, theater, and historic architecture. Of special note is The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.
There are a few downsides, however. Sarasota’s cultural charm draws lots of tourists. The city’s crime rate is about double the nation’s average, though this does vary by area. Summertime in the region can bring unpleasantly hot and humid conditions.
Fort Myers: History by the River
Like Sarasota, Fort Myers appeals to retirees charmed by life along the Gulf of Mexico. But Fort Myers has its own brand of cultural appeal centered on its lovely old downtown district, which lies along the Caloosahatchee River. It also has a tremendous boom of development, with numerous communities – many of them specifically for seniors – spilling out in all directions. Golf, fishing, and other recreational activities abound. The population spans a vibrant range of ages, from young professionals to families with school-age kids to retirees.
However, as in any city that has seen a massive wave of development, there is the inevitable overload and bust. Fort Myers is at the point of saturation in these terms. Traffic also can be a huge headache in this busy area.
Orlando: More than Disney
Retiring in Central Florida around Orlando instead of on the coast has some distinct advantages. The weather can be more temperate here, and less prone to hurricanes. One of the biggest and most successful master-planned retirement communities, The Villages, is located smack in the heart of Florida.
For those who wish to venture out of a planned community but remain in the central area, Orlando – home, of course, to Walt Disney World and a host of other theme parks – is a natural choice. Tourism is the backbone of this city, creating a diverse international population. Orlando neighborhoods range from affordable to very exclusive. There is always something to do here, and the recreation goes far beyond Disney. The Orlando area is filled with cultural landmarks, theater, art, museums, and top-tier restaurants.
On the negative side, Orlando is an urban center that sees a good share of crime. And waves of tourists may not be every resident’s cup of tea.
Miami: Glamour and Diversity
South Florida is home to the state’s largest metro area and, arguably, its most glamorous city, Miami. Known for its art-deco appeal, beautiful beaches, glittering celebrities, and a large Spanish-speaking population, this is a perfect choice for retirees who want to settle in an exciting and pulsating area.
Miami has many fascinating neighborhoods and is a very walkable city for those who like to get out and about on their own two feet. The city’s many Cuban and South American residents provide cultural diversity with a wide range of art, food, and music.
Miami isn’t the place to come if you’re pinching pennies, however. Since this is a popular city for foreign investors, the price of housing and the general cost of living are quite high. Miami also has a crime rate more than double that of the national average.
Jacksonville: Big City, Big Choices
Like the hustle and bustle of urban life? Jacksonville is the most populated city in Florida, with all ages represented, from young professionals to retirees. The city’s geographically large area (the 12th biggest in the nation) provides ample choices for housing. You’ll find downtown condos to beachfront properties, with an equally wide range of prices.
There’s plenty to do in warm, sunny Jacksonville. Retirees can explore the city’s neighborhoods, including the historic Riverside/Avondale area, and enjoy beautiful beaches. Sports fans will enjoy a Jacksonville Jaguars game, while those in search of culture can visit the University of North Florida for lectures and workshops.
Jacksonville is a thriving center for the finance and banking industries. Therefore, it is rife with employment and volunteer opportunities for those who aren’t quite ready to leave the working world – or who wish to entice children and grandchildren to relocate!
As with all big cities, however, traffic, crime, and overdevelopment are things to watch out for in Jacksonville.
Your turn: What Florida retirement community did we miss? Where have or would you like to retire in the Sunshine State? Tell us in the comments below.