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We Beg to Differ: Florida Has Some of the Best Places to Retire

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

November 26, 2019 — Are you in the camp of retirees who “hate” Florida, or are you among those that “love” it? Most folks thinking about the best place to retire in Florida seem to fall into one of those divisions; not so many have no opinion. In our view, Florida is filled with many great retirement towns, and it is diverse in more ways than you might think. This article will tell you a bit about this very large and populous state, plus give you a list of 12 Florida towns we think make for a great place to retire.

First, a few facts
Florida’s 2018 estimated population was 21,300,000, the 4th most populous in the nation. Some 19% of the population is 65 and over, compared to 15% nationwide.

Geographically speaking, the State has a very unusual shape – it is both tall and wide. So tall and wide that it takes over a day to drive from Pensacola to Key West (832 miles). Florida is the 22nd largest state, has the longest coastline in the contiguous states, and the only state to have a coastline on the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. It is a very flat state, which is one of the things that people tend not to like about it (Mount Dora, at 185′ is one of its highest towns).

Florida’s median home value in late 2019 was $237,900 – up from $120,600 in 2012 (Zillow), just slightly lower than the U.S. median ($231,000 – Zillow, or $163,500 – NAR). According to Zillow.com the priciest metro in the state for homes is Naples ($329,100) and the most inexpensive is Pensacola ($132,100).

From a tax viewpoint Florida is very friendly to retirees. There is no state income tax. Sales tax is 6%. Florida has a homestead law, Save Our Homes, that protects full-time residents from property taxes above the rate of inflation. One of the few economic negatives about Florida is that in many areas near the coast, property insurance is very expensive. Many private insurers have pulled out of the market after several bad hurricane seasons, leaving the non-profit Citizens Insurance Co. as the insurer of last resort. You can find more facts about Florida in our FL Mini-Retirement Guide.

12 Best Places to Retire in Florida

There are multiple ways to come up with the 10 Best Places to Retire in Florida. One way would be popularity at Topretirements: on that basis the leading contenders in 2019 would be Pensacola, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Fort Myers, Venice, and Jupiter – all of these towns made our recent “20 Most Popular Places to Retire in the Southeast“. But based on some other rating factors – location/geography, charm, walkability/traffic, cultural resources – this a sampler of our top choices, in no particular order.

Downtown Sarasota

Sarasota, FL. Some consider Sarasota to be the cultural capital of Florida, after Miami. It has one of Florida’s best walkable downtowns with many interesting neighborhoods. An impressive array of cultural facilities are available in Sarasota, along with high-rise, luxury hotels and apartments. The barrier islands have great beaches and developments where retirees can live.

Courthouse in Vero Beach

Vero Beach. Located in the middle of Florida’s Atlantic Coast, the town is in several parts – a long ‘beach” area on the barrier island with a resort feel, and a large downtown across the bay on the mainland. There are types of interesting active adult and 55+ communities offering an array of lifestyles. The Zillow Home Value Index was $214,100. One potential drawback is Vero is relatively far from a big airport. On the other hand, it doesn’t have the congestion of some bigger places.

Downtown Delray Beach

Delray Beach
We love Delray Beach for so many reasons. At the end of the main street is an amazing stretch of public beaches and dunes. Take a boat tour on the Intracoastal…Enjoy the interesting restaurants filled with interesting people of all ages…Live downtown in a condo above the many cool shops… or take in a concert or a museum. Above all you can walk anywhere with ease. Surprisingly, the Zillow Home Value Index was only $209,800, making it a much more attractive alternative than Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, or Miami. Properties near the water will be much more.

Welcome to Dunedin

Dunedin
This great little town (pronounced Due need’ an) just north of Tampa and St Petersburg still celebrates its Scottish heritage. It has a concentrated and interesting downtown that is easy to walk through. In a State known for its beaches, its easily accessible public beaches are some of the best. There is a 39 mile bike/walk trail system running through town.

Winter Park

Winter Park

The heart of this walkable town near Orlando is Park Avenue. It is aptly named, as Winter Park claims it has more park space than any town in Florida. The walkable main street includes retail and public civic buildings, art galleries, a private liberal arts college (Rollins), museums, a park, a train station, a golf course country club, a historic cemetery, and a beach and boat launch. The Zillow Home Value Index in Winter Park is $402,700, higher than we expected to see.

Scene on Amelia Island

Fernandina Beach
Situated at the very top of Florida on the Atlantic Ocean (just above Amelia Island), this town has a wonderful and walkable downtown. There are great restaurants and shops. Best of all if you live in one of the cute neighborhoods you can be downtown with just a few steps.

The Hollywood Beach

Hollywood Beach.
Hollywood is just south of Fort Lauderdale. It enjoys about 60 parks, seven golf courses, and beaches that run for miles. Hollywood Beach is famous for the great boardwalk that extends about 2.5 miles along the Atlantic Ocean.

Home in Key West

Key West. Once the wealthiest city in Florida, Key West citizens have created fortunes over the centuries from shipwreck treasures, turtles, sponges fishing, and cigars. Most recently its economy is based on the tourist trade and folks looking for a warm and artsy place to spend the winter. You can walk or bike anywhere on this small island with nice bike lanes and drivers who look out for pedestrians. “The Conch Republic” attracts artists, musicians, and people of every type under the rainbow.

Home in Mount Dora

Mount Dora. This central Florida lakefront community is nestled in gentle hills and orange groves. Its elevation of 184 feet makes it one of the higher communities in Florida. It features active shopping, excellent antiquing, a rich cultural life, and recreation. Many festivals and community events attract residents and tourists. See the article we wrote on Mount Dora.

Harbor

St. Petersburg has long been a synonym for retirement community, which does not tell the real story. This city on a long peninsula has a lot going for it. For one, it has a bustling, big city downtown with thriving businesses and lots to do. For another, it’s a peninsula with beaches and water just about everywhere. Then it has many funky neighborhoods and villages, like definitely funky Gulfport and its famous dancehall Casino.

Great mural in Tarpon Springs
Great mural in Tarpon Springs


Tarpon Springs is a fascinating little town on the West Coast above Tampa and St. Pete. What makes it unique is its Greek heritage – descendants of earlier immigrants who came here for sponge gathering are still here fishing and operating Greek restaurants for tourists. Another unique feature of Tarpon Springs is that is has 2 downtowns. The main one has a nice area with shops, restaurants, and the old train station. It is charming, but a bit frayed around the edges like a funky town should be. The waterfront area a mile away offers an array of Greek restaurants and views of fishing and shrimp boats.

Jacksonville Skyline

Jacksonville. You might not think you want to retire in the 12th largest  city in the country.  But this huge city has many very different neighborhoods and areas to retire in – from little beach communities, to an urban setting, to sophisticated new urban style communities. An historic neighborhood that gets a lot of favorable press is the Riverside and Avondale area. Surrounding towns like Orange Park and Fleming Island offer many interesting options.

Bottom line. We hope this whets your appetite for a possible Florida retirement, because there are a lot more towns like these if you get out and explore the Sunshine State. Please let us know your favorite towns in the State in the Comments section below.

For further reading:

Posted by Admin on November 26th, 2019

20 Best Places to Retire in the West – 2019

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

November 11, 2019 – As a place to retire the American West offers perhaps the biggest range of geography and the lifestyles that go with that. This huge area comprises 9 states with every kind of geography. Most impressive is its huge coastline that runs from coastal California to the state of Washington. There is the Pacific Northwest with its rain forests and deserts. Then there are towns in the real wild west from Idaho to Montana, along with deserts, mountains, and national parks in Nevada and Utah. There are college towns, some big and small cities, and many towns in tourist areas, so it’s likely there is a great place to retire for just about everybody. Here in our the third installment of our “Best Places to Retire 2019” are the top 20 most popular retirement towns in the U.S. West. Here are links to the other two: “The Top 20 Places to Retire in the Southwest” and “Best Places to Retire in the Southeast“.

What States are in the West?
The National Geographic Society includes nine states in the American West, a huge territory made up of Washington, Oregon, California, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. With the exception of the coastal Northwest, most of this region is dry with hot summers. Most of the region has low humidity. For more information about what it is like to retire in the West see our “Dueling Retirement States” series: Dueling Retirement States: The Pacific Northwest, and
Dueling Retirement States: The Western Mountain States.

A Surprising # 1
The 20 most popular towns in the West contain some surprises, including a few not familiar to many. The surprising #1 most popular place to retire on our list, Sequim (WA), edged out many more well known towns and cities. Its review was read by over 3,300 visitors in the first ten months of 2019 by Topretirements.com visitors, beating out Grand Junction (CO). Last year’s winner, St. George, UT, slipped to third place this year. This year there were four newcomers to the top 20 list: Cheyenne (WY), Eureka (CA), Brookings (OR) and Port Townsend (WA). Dropping off from the 2018 were Coeur D’Alene (ID), Medford (OR), Spokane (WA), and Las Vegas (NV).

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Posted by Admin on November 10th, 2019

16 Great Mountain Towns for Retirement

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

October 30, 2019 — Ahh, the mountains. Snowy peaks, amazing trails, clean air, and majestic scenery that one never tires of. Although many people dream of a retirement near the beach, in a small town, or even the downtown of a city, there are plenty of baby boomers whose ambition is to retire near the mountains.

To help them find their best mountain retirement town, we have assembled a list of sixteen. From most of them you can look up and see mountains rising above, while in others they are just a short drive away. All are proven great places to retire – some are college towns and others are also on a lake. At the end of this article we will discuss some of the pros and cons of retiring in the mountains, but first here is our list, in no particular order (they’re all nice!). Note this is Part 2 of Mountain Towns for Retirement, see Further Reading at end for 10 more.

Shoshone Falls

Twin Falls, Idaho. Sitting above the Snake River Canyon, this town is known as the hub of the eight-county Magic Valley region. Its location atop the Snake River Canyon provides for outdoor activities including boating, fishing, hiking, golf, whitewater rafting and skiing. There are many parks, a national forest, and the popular Shoshone Falls. It is home to the Shoshone Falls, “The Niagara of the West”.

Williamstown and campus

Williamstown, Massachusetts. This small town in western Mass. offers a double pleasure – it is in the Berkshire Mountains and is home to prestigious Williams College. The famed Clark Art Institute, the Williams College Museum of Art, and the Williamstown Theatre Festival are just some of the proud artistic accomplishments of the town. Williamstown is in Berkshire County. Mt. Greylock rises to 3,500′ above town.

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Posted by Admin on October 29th, 2019

20 Most Popular Places to Retire in the Southeast

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

October 16, 2019 – According to our surveys, the most popular places to retire in America are in the Southeast. In that research 48% of respondents said they would like to retire in the Southeast, twice as many as for the Southwest, the next highest choice. This is our 2019 list of the 20 most popular places to retire in the Southeast, the second in this year’s “Best Places” series. Here are links to other reports: “The Top 20 Places to Retire in the Southwest” and the 20 Most Popular Places to Retire in the West (California to Colorado and points north, which will come out in Nov.).

What States are in our Southeast compilation?
The states we have included in this big region are: Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida (MS did not have any towns in the top 20). In general the region has a humid subtropical climate with hot summers. Areas in its west and north tend to be cooler as they generally have more elevation or are further north. Hurricanes can reach landfall in the summer and fall months along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. The region’s major geographical features include the Appalachian Mountains, Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Changes this year – Ups and downs
The 20 most popular towns in the Southeast are mostly familiar names. Asheville (NC), which has been top dog on our Top 100 list for the entire U.S. many times, was no surprise to take the #1 spot here. Its review was read by over 7,400 visitors in the first 9 months of 2019, more than three times as many as viewed the #20 selection, Jupiter, FL. One of the hottest towns on this list was St. Petersburg (FL), which rocketed from #18 on last year’s list to the #7 spot. Four very familiar retirement towns dropped off the list in 2019: New Bern (NC), Brevard (SC), Jacksonville (FL), and most surprising of all, Naples (FL). Of the four newcomers to this year’s list, three have been on the list in previous years (Ft. Myers (FL), Charlottesville (VA), and Fairhope (AL). Jupiter (FL), in the #20 spot, was the fourth new town on this year’s list.

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Posted by Admin on October 15th, 2019

20 Most Popular Places to Retire in the Southwest for 2019

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

October 2, 2019 – Many baby boomers might not know exactly where they want to retire, but they probably have an idea of what region or state they prefer. So if the Southwest is on your retirement radar, here is our 2019 list of the 20 most popular retirement towns in that region. In the coming months we will be providing similar lists for the West and Southeast.

The 20 most popular towns in the Southwest are almost all recognizable. This year Prescott, a former cowboy town that celebrates that image, is a close favorite for baby boomers looking for a relaxed southwestern lifestyle. It narrowly beat out last year’s winner, Green Valley (AZ).

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Posted by Admin on October 1st, 2019

Bizarre Lists for Best and Worst States for Retirement: Who Are These Companies?

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

August 21, 2019 — There seems to be a never ending supply of articles touting the best and worst states to retire in. People obviously enjoy reading them. The trouble is that many of the websites publishing them have no expertise in retirement, and a result the lists they come up often have no connection to where people actually want to retire.

A good example is the recent list from Bankrate.com, which must have been overjoyed to see their picks reprinted in the New York Times and many other big media outlets. For the record, Bankrate.com is a website that promotes credit cards and loans, very similar to what wallethub.com does (but which generally produces more credible lists). Other frequent list generators are GOBankingRates.com and Smartasset.com, the latter of which is a site promoting financial advisors. Search on Google for “best places to retire” and sites like these will have prominent rankings, because it is good for their financial businesses. See the top listing in this screen capture, Homesnacks.net – anyone see their connection to retirement? (see more list companies at end)

Here is the list of Best States to retire from Bankrate.com:

  • Nebraska
  • Iowa
  • Missouri
  • South Dakota
  • Florida
  • Kentucky
  • Kansas
  • North Carolina
  • Montana
  • Hawaii
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Posted by Admin on August 20th, 2019

Retirement Scouting: Peace, Quiet, and Scenic Splendor on Lake Superior

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

July 17, 2019 — Those of you who have been members for a few years might remember our two-part retirement exploration of Michigan’s eastern coast in 2017. Today we are happy to follow up with a report on our recent visit to the Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Coast of Lake Superior

The Upper Peninsula lies between Lake Michigan on the south and Lake Superior on the north. People have described it as looking like a fist with the thumb sticking out in the northwest portion. The area is sparsely populated and has a rugged climate. We visited two towns east of Marquette. Both would be interesting places to retire, although for most people only as a summertime residence.

Map courtesy Google Maps
Downtown Munising
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Posted by Admin on July 16th, 2019

Tempted by Retirement in Scotland?

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

July 8, 2019 — If you are looking for a place to retire where it is tranquil and beautiful with a cool temperature, you might want to consider Scotland. Topretirements just got back from an enchanting exploration of the country, which definitely lives up to the beauty you have seen if you are a fan of Outlander, Monty Python, the Davinci Code, or Game of Thrones , all of which had important scenes filmed here. A country that is part of Great Britain, Scotland is bigger than you might think, about the size of South Carolina, with 130 inhabited islands.  It has a tremendous range of regions where you might want to retire. And even that holds no interest for you, Scotland still makes a wonderful retirement trip!

Cupar – castle used in “Outlander”

There are livable cities like historic Edinburgh or Glasgow. Charming market towns like Peebles or Moffat. University towns like St. Andrews. Or you could choose to live in a town like Portree on the stunning Isle of Skye. The areas around the many lochs (lakes) provide idyllic living choices. One of our friends would like to retire in Scotland because he likes its relaxed atmosphere and cool climate. It is also rainy much of the year, which is one reason why everything seems so green and there are flowers – both wild and cultivated – everywhere. But as beautiful and charming a place as Scotland is, there is one great problem – it is very difficult, but not impossible for an American to retire here. But more about that later. 

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Posted by Admin on July 7th, 2019

Follow Our Visit to Scotland Along with Other Retirement News on Facebook

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

June 22, 2019 – We have been posting on Facebook about some of the most likely places to retire as we continue our tour of Scotland and a little bit of Ireland. These posts will give you a little hint of what it might be like to retire there, mostly because of the photos.

Harbor at Tobermory on Isle of Mull

Very soon we will have a summary feature that covers places to retire in Scotland, how possible it is for non-Brits, cost of living, and more. But in the meantime, follow us on Facebook where you will find posts not only about Scotland, but links to all of our newsletters and other interesting retirement news as well. See our Mini-Retirement Guide to Scotland as well.

Posted by Admin on June 21st, 2019

10 Best Places to Retire for Active Boomers

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

May 21, 2019 — Possibly you are one of those baby boomers who can’t wait to retire and do all the things that your job wouldn’t let you do. If so, here is our list of 10 great places to retire where you can go, go, go from dawn to sunset, and maybe not even quit then!

By active we mean all kinds of things, not just sports. Your best retirement town might be in the mountains, where hiking and skiing is available in your backyard. It might be at the beach, where you can swim, sail, fish, or surf. Or maybe a vibrant community where you can catch a concert or play, get dealt into a bridge game, or find volunteer work – just about any day of the week. We gave extra points on this list for towns and cities that are walkable and have good biking, since we don’t consider riding around in our car active living. One thing is certain, it staying busy is your thing, there is a retirement town where you can be very happy.

Here is our 2019 list of the best places for an active retirement. We concentrated more on mid-sized towns and cities since just about every big city offers opportunities to stay active.

Lakes in Madison

Madison, WI. The city boasts a 30-mile web of paved trails that are lit, snowplowed, and biked year-round. Beautiful lakes surround this walkable town. The University of Wisconsin and all its attractions. You can be busy all year round in Madison, a great place to retire.

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Posted by Admin on May 20th, 2019