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Florida Retirement 101: The Sunshine State is Bigger and More Diverse than You Might Think

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

April 17, 2012 — There are people that “hate” Florida, and there are those that “love” it. Surprisingly, the people who don’t have a strong opinion seem to be a smaller group. In Part 2 of this article we’ll get into which region might appeal to different folks better than others, but here in Part 1 we would like to provide a “Florida Retirement 101” crash course. Our objective is to help you understand this very large and popular state, which is diverse in more ways than you might think. You still might not like the idea of Florida, but at least you will know more about it.

First, a few facts
The 2010 household population was 18,800,000, the 4th most populous in the U.S. Median age is 40.7, higher than national average. Some 21% of the population is 62 and over.

Downtown Mount Dora

Part of Florida’s geographic diversity comes from its 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. Its different regions tend to attract different kinds of people, offering another kind of diversity. 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 “loftiest” towns).

Florida’s median home value in early 2012 was $120,600 (Zillow), about 20% lower than the U.S. median ($145,000 – Zillow, or $163,500 – NAR). According to the priciest metro in the state for homes is Naples ($199,000) and the most inexpensive is Ocala ($84,200).

From a tax viewpoint Florida is very friendly to retirees. There is no state income tax. There used to be a tax on intangible assets (stocks, etc.), but that has been eliminated. 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.

Weatherwise, it is a well-known fact that Florida is pretty warm in winter and hot in summer. Along the coasts you can count on very high humidity. In the interior it will be less so. Hurricanes are a problem everywhere in the state, but worse along the coasts. Winters in the north around Tallahassee and Jacksonville will have an occasional frost, but generally warm up enough in the day for any outdoor activity. As you move south winter temps get higher and higher. Key West is the only true frost-free city in the continental U.S. – yes, even Miami has seen a few snow flakes on the rarest of occasions.

The Diverse Regions
One measure of Florida’s diversity and its attractiveness to retirees is the number of FL towns we have reviewed at Topretirements – 99. That is close to double the number reviewed in California (53). Florida is quite representative of the U.S. from an ethnic and political basis. It has every ethnicity and political stripe – in fact many of its residents, young and old, have moved here from somewhere else. As Florida votes in our Presidential elections, so usually does the rest of the country as a whole. We break the state into 8 regions, which are discussed below:

The Panhandle
First, in Florida’s Panhandle on the Gulf of Mexico you will find towns like Panama City and Pensacola. Both are relatively low key, lower cost, and very popular with retirees. Panama City has a reputation for attracting spring breakers in the springtime. Since there is several large military bases in the area, many military retirees have decided to retire here. There are great beaches here and numerous bays – fishing and boating are topnotch. At the start of the Panhandle in the “Big Bend Area” is Tallahassee, a completely different kind of place.

Shrimper in Apalachicola in the Big Bend area

A college town, it is home to both Florida State Univ. and Florida A & M. Also the state’s capital, it is considered one of the more liberal enclaves in the state (although people who view themselves as conservatives will find like-minded people too). Though not on the water, it is only an hour’s drive to very peaceful areas of the Gulf, such as Apalachicola. The real estate market is relatively stable and slightly below the state median price. Traffic can be bad. Winters are mild. Although there is an occasional frost, the prime vegetable growing season is winter.

Northeast Florida – Jacksonville to Daytona Beach
Jacksonville is one of Florida’s 3 big urban areas, along with Tampa/St. Pete and Miami. This one tends to attract the youngest residents. There are huge suburbs and new developments. Some of these include neighborhoods for families with children, along with others designed for the 55+ crowd, an approach that is attractive to many who want to retire near their grandchildren (See Fleming Island Plantation in Orange Park). Going east from the city, Jacksonville Beach offers many little neighborhoods on the beach. Jacksonville has a great airport and some of the country’s top medical facilities. As one goes south along the beach you run into very wealthy enclaves like Ponte Vedra, home to many famous and/or wealthy people.

Historic St. Augustine is an interesting, if touristy town. Palm Coast is a massive development originally started by ITT in 1969. Now a city, it is one of the largest developments in the country. It has multiple neighborhoods and developers, and attracts families and retirees for the recreation, newer homes, and attractive prices. At $120,000, 2011 home prices were lower than the Florida median. Finally there is Daytona Beach, site of the famed speedway. The city on the beach has somewhat of a checkered reputation as first a destination for spring breakers and now for motorcycle conventions.

Mid Atlantic – the Space Coast
From Titusville to Port St. Lucie, Florida’s Atlantic Coast tends to be overlooked. The traffic isn’t as bad, and the climate is a bit warmer in winter. Real estate is quite inexpensive, with the median home in Melbourne going for $120,000 in late 2011. The area generally has inhabitable barrier islands that many of the nicest neighborhoods are on. It is quite easy to live very near the water. The bigger towns are on the inland side. A drawback is that in otherwise great retirement towns like Vero Beach it is a long drive to the nearest big airport. Parts of this area were severely walloped by hurricanes in the mid 2000’s. A significant percentage of the people who live in this area are retired.

Central Florida
Moving away from the coast there is the gigantic center portion of Florida, which runs from the college town of Gainesville (University of Florida) in the north to Ocala’s horse country, the major metro of Orlando, and on down to Lakeland, Winter Park, and smaller towns below that. The climate is different in central Florida – humidity is a bit lower and it gets hotter in the summer.

Victorian in Central Florida

The area is filled with countless lakes – in many areas like Lakeland and Cypress Gardens it often seems like there is more lake than land. The housing crisis has hurt this part of Florida as hard or harder than anywhere in the country. It is filled with inexpensive active adult communities, RV communities, and inexpensive communities of manufactured homes. As an example, the median price of a home in late 2011 was $80,000 in Ocala. Nearer the huge city of Orlando the selection of communities is more varied, going from very low budget to gated golfing communities where all the homes sell for more than a million dollars. For budget-minded retirees, we like this area. Real estate prices are cheap and there are tons of communities to choose from. Check out places like Mount Dora and Kissimmee. Famous active communities like On Top of the World and The Villages are in this part of the state. Many people believe that central Florida is the most conservative portion of the state.

South Atlantic Coast
Stuart is not only a very cute town on the coast, it is reputed to be the northernmost part of Florida benefiting from proximity to the warming influence of the Gulf Stream. From here south the coast gets more and more crowded, going through retirement towns like Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Boca Raton, Palm Beach, and finally, the huge and most unusual city of Miami. Here in this region the ocean and the beaches are beautiful. One can find any type of community for any budget here. The Century Villages (there are 4 of them) are old-line, very large active communities dotted throughout the region. Those are fairly inexpensive, but it is easy to spend plenty to live in very exclusive communities like Sailfish Point on Hutchinson Island near Stuart.

A downtown neighborhood in Sarasota

Middle Gulf – The Nature Coast

The Gulf Coast is surprisingly unpopulated in its northern regions below Tallahassee. The first town of any consequence coming from the north is Spring Hill. It has a lot of communities to live in, most of which are nothing special. It is a short drive to the beach. Tampa/St.Petersburg/Clearwater is one of Florida’s biggest Metros. Tampa tends to be the commercial center, while St.Petersburg’s island location and many nice neighborhoods and beaches make it more relaxed. Although has a lot of interesting neighborhoods rather than 55+ developments, the city is filled with retirees. Home prices are low (about $70,000 according to Going south from there is Sarasota, a wonderful place to retire for people who are looking for culture, restaurants and a vibrant community. It has active adult developments and nice general neighborhoods. The beachfront barrier islands of Siesta Key and Longboat Key offer a chance to live on the beach but be right next to a city. Sarasota proper has a more liberal outlook than many other places in Florida.

South Gulf Coast
Fort Myers is the biggest community in this part of the state. It is a diverse community in its own right – from a very pretty and restored downtown area to sprawling developments to a very long coastline. Real estate prices are low and traffic in season is high. It has a terrific new airport and active cultural life. Towns around it and south of here offer different attractions. In Cape Coral anybody can buy a house on a canal for well less than $100,000, whereas Punta Gorda is strikingly more upscale. To the south Bonita Springs offers great beaches and plentiful golf. Naples and Marco Island, the last 2 towns before the Everglades start, are the decidedly upscale parts of the state. Naples has a wonderful downtown and beautiful neighborhoods on the beach, plus very expensive active adult communities on the bay.

Home of the Turtle Soup Magnate in Key West

The Keys
Starting below the Everglades on the East Coast of the State the Keys begin on a series of mangroves. Narrow Route 1 connects them to Miami over a series of bridges and narrow coral islets, ending in Key West just 90 miles from Cuba. In most places the Keys are less than 200 yards wide, although the principal towns of Marathon and Islamorada are bigger. While great for vacationers who love the beach and fishing, the Keys are better for younger retirees than older ones. That’s because it can be a long way to Miami for healthcare, not to mention the problem of mandatory evacuations that can come in hurricane season. Property values in Key West, the tropical and bohemian paradise, are among the highest in the country.

More Resources:
Funky Towns of Florida: Part 1 (North and Central)
Directory of Florida retirement towns and active communities
State Retirement Guides
Gulf Coast Retirement: Sun, Tax-friendly, and a Lower Coast of Living
Retirement 101 Mid-Atlantic States: MD, DE, VA, NJ
Florida Retirement 101
Dueling Carolinas: NC vs. SC
Dueling States: Arizona vs. Florida
California Retirement 101
Retirement in the Southwest: AZ, NM, and Utah
The Mountain States: CO, ID, MT, NV, UT, WY
The Pacific Northwest: Oregon vs. Washington

Comments:  What are your favorite parts of Florida? Do you think we have characterized it accurately. Please provide us with your thoughts in the Comments below.

Posted by John Brady on April 17th, 2012


  1. John, Interesting article. However, I don’t know if I agree with using Zillow as your primary resource for Florida’s median pricing. Zillow groups all homes in a geographic area. It doesn’t help for what your primary audience seeks — which are retirement/adult communities. A reality of pricing would be to actually research within those retirement/adult communities for the cost of new and existing homes sold.

    by Neil S. Schuster — April 18, 2012

  2. Florida has always intriqued me but, with the wife being shy of hurricanes and me being shy of hot humid areas (almost as bad as snow), it would be helpful to include weather variances in different part of the state. This way we may not “rule Florida out” because of weather.

    by Mark Crosbie — April 18, 2012

  3. I can relate to what Mark says re: the weather. Except I would say very humid heat is far worse than snow and cold (I have asthma). My husband’s four siblings and families all live in Sarasota/Bradenton. We live in western NY. We’re looking for a part of Florida (or another state) less humid, but still easily drivable to where the relatives are. Heat is ok; high humidity isn’t.

    by Marian — April 18, 2012

  4. We have lived in Florida (Mount Dora and Winter Haven FL) since 1998. We love it here. We find costs for housing,, entertainment and living in general much less that we spent previously. It is sunny here in central Florida and warm. The first summer we spent heere was difficult for us. We still had that northern go go go all day attitude. Since the first year we have learned to pace ourselves and do the heavy stuff earlier in the day so that we can be more restful and slower moving the rest of the day. We don’t seem to have the alergies and brathing problems we experienced in western New York. My wife suffers from arthritis and she finds Florida weather better than the north where there were many cool damp days and even weeks. We like central Florida because airports and cruise ships and expressways make travel easy. Airfares from Orlando or Tampa to almost anywhere including central and south America and plentiful and priced right. In Winter Haven where we are now things are changing, business is improving and with that comes better opportunities for the retiree. You can buy and good sized condo or small house including lake views in the $50-75,000 range. You can rent these kinds of properties too. We consider central Florida to be excellent for retirement living.

    by David M. Lane — April 18, 2012

  5. I quote from the flyer of the farmer’s market a few blocks away: tomatoes .59; romaine head .50; limes 15/$1; kiwi 6/.99; watermelon $2each; jumbo eggs $1.50/doz. etc. On Sundays, even cheaper. Delivered fresh every day.
    No heating bills and no road salt eating out car bottoms.

    by OldNassau — April 18, 2012

  6. If you really want to see some enticing real estate prices in central Florida for retirement including villas and condos on beautiful lakes go to and type in Winter Haven, FL. you will be amazed at these places and their great affordability. Winter Haven is between Tampa and Orlando off I-4 one hour or so by car from either atlantic coast or gulf. check out that website!

    Editor’s note: Thanks David for this added insight. We also came across this article today in the WSJ Online in answer to this question: “Is buying a Florida condo too risky”

    by David M. Lane — April 18, 2012

  7. @David, I agree with your comments about the convenience and great pricing retirees can find in central Florida versus the rest of the State. Although it maybe true that buyers might find existing condos or homes below $100k, but Buyer Beware applies here. Typically pricing under $100k is likely a 30+ year old property with dated appliances, no upgrades, not remodeled, maybe a manufactured-home, and can be accompanied by a high monthly homeowner association fee (for condos or old homes in retirement/adult living communities). Again, Buyer Beware when looking at Old Property.

    by Neil S. Schuster — April 19, 2012

  8. @Neil, you are right you need to do your homework. The places I am referring to are not manufactured housing and are not bank owned forclosures. These are large square footage homes and condos and many with completely redone kitchens and baths. Your condo fees here might range in the $220-300 range per month often including cable and water. Some properties were homes for former residents and snowbirds no longer able to use them. You are right you need to look carefully. Winter Haven is an excellent place for those needing a descent second home or permanent Florida residence.

    by David M. Lane — April 19, 2012

  9. @David, There are pros and cons in every situation. Although a homeowner association may include ‘basic’ cable and water, at $100s per month (which can up add up to $1000s a year), one should look closely at association restrictions, fee increases, special assessment costs, and the stability of the Association. Also, knowledge of association board leadership will help in understanding the ruling power and policies of that executive governing board. (A side note: David, I did take a look at the link you suggested, and what I found were old models — looking somewhere 1980s design.)

    by Neil S. Schuster — April 19, 2012

  10. Interesting discussion. In any case, no matter where my husband and I would move, there would have to be extenuating circumstances to make us live in a condo. Just not interested. Neighbors much too close; too much potential for noise. And I’m a gardener — and would hope to be for many years. (Besides adjusting to high humidity I admit I’d have a very difficult time living in a place without four seasons.) And we have 6 cats, as well. But I did look at some single-family homes in Winter Haven. Good prices — though not very different than where we live now in NY’s Niagara Peninsula. But they pretty much all needed renovating, by my standards. And one that didn’t had a living room view onto the neighbor’s patio 30 feet away. We’ve got a while; we’ll keep looking.

    by Marian — April 19, 2012

  11. David
    I too am from the “gray” western NY region. I am currently staying in Sarasota area while checking out possible regions. How was it in Mount Dora as opposed to Winter Haven? We are looking for a regular single family home. It seems that in most of Florida, you almost NEED to be in some sort of gated community in order to find nice neighborhoods. I don’t mind that, but Sarasota’s nicer places can be quite expensive. Are there nice communities at reasonable cost around where you are now?

    by Peter — April 20, 2012

  12. […] Note: This is Part 2 of a 2 part article on Florida and its many different regions for retirement. Part 1 was “Florida Retirement 101: FL is Bigger and More Diverse Than You Might Have Thought“. […]

    by » Florida Regional Pluses & Minuses for Retirement Topretirements — May 1, 2012

  13. @David, Have you considered Marion, Lake, or Sumter Counties?.. There’s a lot to chose from, and it’s the shortest distance to both coasts — it’s what I call the neck-tie of Florida, because of the most concentration of lakes, rivers, and natural springs, as well as curvy backroads for cruising a classic car or a motorcycle ride. The Tri-county area of Marion, Lake and Sumter have several of communities that are pretty reasonable. Pricing is great for existing homes and brand new construction. Also, this area does not get as humid like the Orlando region because the tri-county area has many large bodies of water, and it’s the closest distance to both coasts. (In my opinion.) It’s worth checking out!

    by Neil S. Schuster — May 2, 2012

  14. Thanks, Neil. We’ve considered various areas across Florida, but haven’t checked out in detail the counties you mention. Will do that.

    by Marian — May 3, 2012

  15. Marian, You’re welcome! Yes, take a look at No HOA communities as well. HOA-free communities won’t have restrictions or fees regarding pets, and typically have larger lots then gated-communities (more room for you and your four-legged kids). Pay particular attention to Marion County — it has reasonable pricing and plenty of existing homes and brand new constructions to choose from! (In my opinion.)

    by Neil S. Schuster — May 4, 2012

  16. […] For your reference: Part II: Comparing Mid-Atlantic States – DE, MD, NJ, VA Part III Dueling Carolinas: NC vs. SC. The Best of the Best Places to Retire How North Carolina Climbed over Florida as #1 Retirement State Best States for Retirement Florida Retirement 101: Part 1 […]

    by » Dueling Retirement States: Arizona vs. Florida Topretirements — May 22, 2012

  17. […] are providing a basic course in southwestern U.S. retirement, similar to what we did last month in Retirement 101 (a 2 part series). We will cover 3 southwestern states with many similarities: Arizona, New Mexico, […]

    by » Retirement 101: Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah Topretirements — May 22, 2012

  18. […] further reference: California Retirement Towns and Active Communities State Retirement Guides Florida Retirement 101 Retirement in the Southwest Comparison Dueling States: Arizona vs. Florida Dueling Carolinas […]

    by » California Retirement 101: More Diverse Than You Think Topretirements — June 26, 2012

  19. Please allow me to amend some comments on the middle Gulf region of Florida. St. Petersburg is a city of some 275,000 and is NOT on an island (perhapss it being confused with St Pete Beach) Yes, St. Petersburg does have very “interesting neighborhoods”. And there are many existing over-55 communities here with condo resales ranging from $40,000 to $200,000 and over, about 40-50%of the average price of just six years ago. There are very few being built now as Pinellas County is pretty well built out.

    St. Petersburg is part of Pinellas County which is a peninsula on the west side of Tampa Bay that includes Clearwater, Largo, and various beach towns with a total population of over 900,000. Those who want a relatively laid-back but semi urban retirement locale should definitely check here.

    As a realtor, I’m currently developing a website that discusses the pros and cons of major over-55 communities in Pinellas County. There are about 300 registered with the state in Pinellas County alone!

    by Tony Branch — December 5, 2012

  20. Tony, please keep us updated on that website…would be valuable info for me and I assume others.

    by eric — December 6, 2012

  21. […] A: Florida is a big state with multiple regions. 2 coasts (Atlantic and Gulf). North and south. Warmer south. A very big interior section filled with lakes. Here is a link to a 2 part article we wrote on FL, “Sunshine State is Bigger and More Diverse Than You Think“. […]

    by » What Is Better Part of Florida: Coast or Interior Topretirements — December 3, 2013

  22. Retiring in South Florida is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I searched so many places, trying to find the best place that would work perfectly for my husband and I. A place that has a beautiful view, and where we were able to live on our retirement and social security only. We are so happy here at Valencia Reserve and we recommend it to all of our friends! Hope this helps, good luck!
    -Laura Judge

    by Laura Judge — August 4, 2014

  23. Laura, it looks very nice, but beyond my SSI. But I am curious of what you mean by “our retirement” and SSI only. For those with houses in an expensive area that might work if they are selling the house. What is “our retirement”? Luckily for me there are less expensive alternatives. Plus I am not that interested in FL at this point.

    by Elaine — August 5, 2014

  24. 😎 First – I would rather be in Wisconsin. I’ve lived in several states but Wisconsin seems to be in my blood. I know – I know — it’s very cold in the winter. 2 reasons I don’t live there – my husband wouldn’t move with me & I’d have to have enough money to afford a heated garage (my car motor froze one year). Next, if I have to live here in Fl then I would wish to live on the sea side but costs are prohibitive for us. We live on SS only – no savings – cancer & life took care of that. But we live nicely in a home built in the ’60s in the interior – north of Orlando & south of Ocala. Home insurance is easy to get & not any more expensive than any other state that I can find (it’s on the coast that it is difficult to get and/or expensive); if you own your home it cant be taken away for debt unpaid – they can do leans of course so you end up not being able to sell it but they can’t force you out of your home; unless you want to pay expensive water bills, don’t install or buy a home with St Augustine grass – this would not apply this year as our ‘rains’ are back but we’ve just come out of very dry years. No taxes on social security – no state tax at all – sales tax depends on where you live – ours is .0625 right now. We are near excellent medical care & acceptable active living retirement centers – both expensive & not. People are friendly but not ‘in your face’. Very busy traffic during the winter (snowbirds back). The same ‘home’ will cost way more if you choose gated communities, by the sea or bay, Orlando metro area & the traffic will be more also. If you have money, of course you will be able to afford more amenities .. we don’t but we’re comfortable. No, you can’t bring most of your flora/fauna here & expect it to grow. Many plants & trees NEED the Wisconsin cold! No lilacs but we do have crepe myrtles. Happy Planning 🙂

    by Jeanne C — August 6, 2014

  25. […] as #1 Retirement State Best States for Retirement State Retirement Guides California Retirement 101 Florida Retirement 101 Comparison: Retirement in Arizona, New Mexico, and […]

    by » Retirement in the Mid-South Comparison: Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama - Topretirements — December 10, 2014

  26. […] further reference: State Retirement Guides Retirement 101 Mid-Atlantic States: MD, DE, VA, NJ Florida Retirement 101 Dueling Carolinas: NC vs. SC Dueling States: Arizona vs. Florida California Retirement 101 […]

    by » Dueling Retirement States: The Pacific Northwest (OR and WA) - Topretirements — February 16, 2015

  27. This comment came in from Doc:
    I’ve been checking out the St Augustine Beach area to retire.. Have you got any info on this area for retirement? I have family and friends there, sure seems like a great place..We have been looking for Oceanfront property down there but will look at other property IF close to the Ocean.

    This was our response – anybody else have something to add?
    You should check out our review of St. Augustine and its communities, which you can find here:

    We don’t personally have experience with the area but i do know it is a nice area. If your friends are there, even better!

    by Becky — May 4, 2015

  28. does anybody live in On Top Of The World in Ocala or Ciquana Crossing in St AUGUSTINE?

    by Lillian — May 5, 2015

  29. What about anyone living in the Top of the World older development in Clearwater area?

    by Carol — May 6, 2015

  30. Does anyone have input about Sun City Center in the Tampa Bay area? My husband and I visited in March, and liked what we saw–at least in the “newer” sections, as the original/older areas’ age demographics were seemingly geared to the quite elderly. We want an Active community, with friendly people and lots to do. Hoping Sun City Center will fill the bill for us in 3 years. Only apparent negative is the relatively high HOA fees–$450 per month, not including taxes. Wondering if an expected $7500 monthly income (including SS) will cover all costs and be doable. Commentary anyone?

    by Kathy S — May 7, 2015

  31. Kathy S,

    Just depends on if you pay cash for the house. We have friends that retired out of state and didn’t pay cash for their house and are already struggling. They might have 20-30 years of that. That’s not my idea of a fun retirement. Sad actually especially after working 40+ years.
    The HOA fees are pretty average from what we’ve looked at in 55+ communities. We used to think about 55+ communities, but our home is paid for now so we are staying right where we are and traveling. Much cheaper!

    by SandyM — May 8, 2015

  32. Kathy,
    if you look at the average income in Florida your $7500 a month should be fine providing you don’t won’t to take multiple vacations a year. I agree with you assessment on Sun city is that the older areas of the community are dated. The new section is nice but I don’t like the fragmentation of the communities created by the withdrawal of different builders over the years.
    Take a look at Valencia lakes which is a much newer community and I think GL makes a quality home. Residents are early to mid 60s and they seem to have an active group and its very close to Sun City

    by alexmac56 — May 8, 2015

  33. Sandy,
    It’s great you can stay in your present home and travel but I think that is the exception. I living in NY cannot afford to pay the taxes, utilities and maintain our current house on a fixed income. On Long Island most families need to generate about 85000 to maintain status quo of basics let alone travel. Count yourself blessed to be able to have that choice and enjoy…

    by alexmac56 — May 8, 2015

  34. I had read the blog for singles this morning first, and posted about prospective retirement budgets there. Then I read this blog, and discovered others with exactly the same worries! I’m a widow, and have a retirement goal of $60K-$65K, with a paid-off retirement home. I’m looking for retirement destinations with that budget in mind. I was hoping to hear about other people’s goals or budgets, to get a feeling for how this might work out. I do know that it’s highly subjective. I have a relative who is doing ok on $38K a year as long as he doesn’t have to go to work anymore. I’m sure others need a much higher income to cover golf, cruising, and other plans. Of course, couples need to look ahead to when a spouse is deceased and one Social Security income is lost. Boy, this is tough.

    by Kate — May 9, 2015

  35. Just looked at the website for Valencia Reserve, which is sold out, and redirected to Valencia Cove. Houses anywhere from $450,000 upward.

    Would take my whole retirement to buy a house!

    While we have saved for our retirement, our nest egg, after selling our house here, will be around $700,000. Still not enough?


    by Vicki — May 10, 2015

  36. Kate, If you are close to your goal, I think you will have many choices in states like SC, FL, etc. NY, CT , CA…probably not.

    you may want to search for a budget template on line…there are many from simple to complex. If you have excel, try searching on their web site…many free ones. They can help. for example

    by elaine — May 10, 2015

  37. Has anyone looked into Stonecrest in Summerfield, FL? It’s about 5 miles from the Villages. The HOA is quite reasonable–$106 a month and it seems to be a well maintained community.

    by Linda — May 10, 2015

  38. Alexmac56,
    I realize we are lucky to be in our situation. We live in the Midwest and cost of living is much cheaper than most locations with excellent healthcare. Yes, New York is extremely expensive. When we travel to 55+ communities in Florida, we meet lots of people from New York. I’m assuming cost is part of the reason and New York’s amount of snow would probably have something to do with it. Thankfully, we only had about 4″ last year of snow. We can handle that! If it was 4′ then we’d have to move!

    by SandyM — May 11, 2015

  39. wondering exactly HOW can you qualify for a mortgage in retirement?? Don’t banks want to see a regular paycheck (or two!) coming in? Pointers anyone? also, does it make any sense to tap into the 401(k) ahead of the next inevitable “bust” and buy a house cash? The crash of 2008 left me (and I’m sure countless others), a bit terrified of a next huge downslide, especially as we inch towards retirement. We have 3 years to go… Buy that house for cash now and rent it out to “protect” what’s in our 401(k)? Or, tough it out and hope for the best??

    by Kathy S — May 11, 2015

  40. @Kathy S: I had no trouble qualifying for a mortgage in retirement. They look at your potential cash flow from your assets and your actual cash flow from things like Social Security and a pension. One recommendation: if you’re looking to buy something in Florida, use a Florida bank. My Minnesota bank had no clue about selling condos turnkey and wanted to value each piece of furniture individually! We finally just took the furniture and everything out of the contract and I paid the seller separately for that. As soon as I sell my house in Minnesota (which is paid for), that mortgage will go away.

    by Linda — May 11, 2015

  41. The more I read, the more I realize how many variations there are among current and aspiring retirees. My wife and I are fortunate to have a combination of SS, pensions, annuities and equity that will enable us to live comfortably in retirement, 18-36 months away. We are considering SC, NC, GA and FL. When we looked at our taxable income, we need to take a long look at FL. We are spending 2 weeks in the Jacksonville areas; Amelia Island; Flagler Beach; Ormond Beach, etc. While we love the Grand Strand, having spent a good deal of time there over the past three years, we’re giving the North Atlantic coast of FL a good look for an area and a community that draws us in. Thanks to all for being so generous with info and experiences. I hope to share as well. Take care and be well.

    by Richard — May 14, 2015

  42. We are interested in those aeas also but want 55+ and haven’t found much except Ponte Vedra. There are some in Melbourne a little farther down but we were hoping for the areas mentioned above farther north.. We cannot travel yet due to a small health issue taking too much time to resolve so will be interested in what you report, Richard. Thanks for sharing.

    by Carol — May 15, 2015

  43. To all who are looking in FL, check out the sister community of Solivita which is Vitalia at Tradition in Port St Lucie. Vitalia has around 460 homes built of the planned 1250. It has a younger crowd of the 55 +. Houses are reasonable and lots of activities. It is close to shopping, restaurants, golf courses and to both I95 and FL turnpike.

    by Ralph — May 15, 2015

  44. I own property in Port St. Joe Bch, Gulf Co Fl. Use to live in Indian Pass and was a teacher in Apalachicola. Life broght me back home to South Jersey over 30 years ago. New Jersey ( South Jersey) take away high property taxes car insurance , and estate taxes actually due to location alone would be a great place to retire. Unfortunately, we do have those things. So I too, am concidering leaving my beloved NJ.

    Eastern Shore Va. and maybe back to the Panhandle of Fl ( Gulf or Bay counties) are in conciderations. Never hear or read much about both areas when it comes to retirement. Love the Easternshore of Md, but negative Md retirement press has changed my mind about that area. Would love to hear more retirement info on both areas.

    by Sam — May 16, 2015

  45. I have a friend who retired in Gulf Breeze Florida from the White mountain area of New Hampshire. He has lived in Gulf Breeze for 15 years or so….and he absolutely hates it. The area seems to get a lot of thunderstorms and he feels he constantly has to get off all his mobile devices and his TV–this can happen almost daily in the summer and early Fall. The beaches are lovely but since the oil spill a few years ago the locals there–at least his friends do not trust the seafood or the so called clean up done by the offending oil company. Pensacola is very close and does have good medical care so that is a plus but there are no major airports in the vicinity to go anywhere. He is selling and moving to Nashville, Tennessee for a more moderate climate.

    by Jennifer — May 17, 2015

  46. Sam, when I was thinking about Greenville, SC for retirement and a friend mentioned how much her folks liked it…turns out she was speaking of Greenville NC and a community of Cypress Landing. Not sure if that appeals…it is somwhat remote, but there are also properties on the eastern shore of NC and some give you relatively easy access to VA as well. Might be something to explore as an alternative to your FL home.

    by elaine — May 17, 2015

  47. We are looking at the possibility of renting, 3 to 6 months or longer, at various place around the country or even overseas. We have a base home that we will hold on to in the NE and want to see and experience different parts of this country but during a longer stay rather than 2 week vacations. Does anyone have a suggestion about how to go about this idea? A rental company for the US and for overseas.

    by Julie — May 18, 2015

  48. Julie, I too, had planned to travel around the US and Europe for 3-6 month intervals. I, however, need to identify someone who has the time and desire to do the same. I thought it would be relatively easy to find friends with which to travel, but realized that those who would travel with me are still working and my retiree friends are married and have their own committments. I was hoping that would have a travel group listed somewhere, but I haven’t found one yet ( for example, retired women looking to travel); does anyone have any clues to point me in the right direction? 🙂

    Julie, I do have one resource that you might consider if you wanted to travel in France. I had intended to use this avenue if and when I find some travelling partners :). If you have ever watched House Hunters International on HGTV, you would recognize a realtor by the name of Adrian Leeds who finds apartments for Americans to rent or buy. I was pleasantly surprised to find that she owns the company and provides a pretty thorough service to those looking to rent. For example, once you find a place on line through her company’s list of properties, they meet you when you arrive and keep in touch should you have any concerns or questions. They even have a weekly group get-together that you are free to attend during your stay where you can share a meal, good conversation, try out your french and make new friends from all over. Peruse the website, I think you will find it may be just the trick. Enjoy!

    by Bernadette — May 18, 2015

  49. Looking to buy a GL Home either on the east side of florida or the west side. Anyone out there who is living in a GL Home could tell me the pros and cons of this builder. Thanks.

    by marilyn — May 19, 2015

  50. Hi Marilyn:

    GL Homes is the best builder in Florida. I have a very good friend who made it a project to do his research on who would build his home in southwest Florida and since he is an architect, he knows a lot. He also works with the Builders Associations across the US.

    by Jennifer — May 19, 2015

  51. Thanks Jennifer for your response to my question. Is there a website I could check to learn more about GL Homes in Florida? Or if possible, to contact your friend who is an architect and get more information from him? Thanks so much.

    by marilyn — May 20, 2015

  52. Julie, Bernadette and others

    While I am retired and married I like to sometimes pursue interests that my husband does not enjoy.

    I might suggest Road Scholar. I did a trip with them last year and it was very enjoyable. Road Scholar used to be Elderhostel, which was targeted to the retiree population but now is more available to all generations. That said it was mostly retired people on my trip. The cost is very reasonable and now I receive all their travel information. The last one I got for international travel had a program to stay in Provence for 6 months.

    Also, you might check out websites such as airbnb,com and I have used both frequently as I don’t care to stay in hotels much. Sometimes you can find a room to rent in someones home. I prefer my own little space with a comfy chair, a kitchenette, my own bath etc. These places are usually suites that have been created in homes and they are great because usually you can interact on some level with your host. Recently, we stayed with a couple who had a blended family. It was out own space on the second floor of their large home that they were renovating. We were welcome by croissants, juice, bananas and jelly, Coffee was provided and they were available for suggestions on great restaurants and things we should see. This one was 1/2 a block from the ocean for $100 a day. Not all are like this but many are and I have generally been very pleased.

    Also, you could check out Their opportunities are generally out of the USA but you have lots of options there for planning your agenda.

    by Vicki — May 21, 2015

  53. I second Vicki’s opinion about Road Scholar. I took my first trip with them last year and am planning on my second later this year. I’m single and still working and sometimes my travel companions and I have different interests. There was a good mix of couples and singles on my trip and plenty of people traveling solo. I was probably one of the younger ones but that wasn’t a problem for me. I agree they’re reasonably priced and the single supplement is pretty low. They have a roommate matching service on most trips if you don’t mind sharing with a stranger.

    Another thing you might want to consider is working or volunteering for the National Park Service. They look for people for the summer season. I’ve thought about doing that in Alaska for a summer after I retire just for the experience and to enjoy the beauty of the area. If I retire to Florida, which is the leading contender right now, summers in Alaska sound pretty good.

    by Tessa — May 21, 2015

  54. Tessa,

    Do you have the website for the National Park Service jobs?

    That is something I want to pursue also.

    Some may wonder why I don’t want to spend more time with my hubby? We have been married for 44 years and have decided that at this time in our lives we are allowed to do what we want without breaking marriage vows. This is our time!

    by Vicki — May 22, 2015

  55. Note from Admin: Tessa submitted a very helpful reply (below). But we are SERIOUSLY off topic. If you want to pursue this topic further, please go to (There is also a Blog category – Work and Volunteering). Otherwise, plse stick to Florida on this Blog thread. If you use the Search bar at the top of almost all pages, you can probably find a Blog post to fit almost any topic.

    Try and Cool Works has jobs that might be in a park or a cruise ship port. The NPS site has information about job and volunteer opportunities. I learned about Cool Works from some people that gave a presentation on Alaska. I visited there the next year and would ask people working in the shops, etc, about their jobs. Most were there on their own but some were couples. I don’t know if I’ll do it but it’s always in the back of my mind. I’d love to hear about it if you give it a try.

    Sorry admin, I know we’re off topic here but don’t know where it should go.

    by Admin — May 22, 2015

  56. HI Marilyn:

    GL Homes has a website with all their homes in Florida–all single family. It is a well designed website and they have several locations in south Florida. From what I have seen and heard I am convinced. There are quite a few satisfied clients.

    Good Luck in your search for a home.

    by Jennifer — May 22, 2015

  57. For those looking to move to SW Florida I feel I need to give you some advise. I have lived in Naples for over 5 years but my wife (and best friend) has lived here 39 years. Naples is beautiful, an abundance of golf courses, and gorgeous beaches and restaurants. BUT it is going through a HUGE growth spurt where every piece of greenway is being bulldozed under for some cookie cutter mansion, strip mall, or assisted living facility with the median home price over $420,000. The eclectic quaint atmosphere is gone and will never return. Naples has turned into the east coast but worse. Plus many of the people moving here are self absorbed, arrogant, and noveau riche. Naples is not the sleepy fishing village it used to be 30 years ago where everyone knew each other, people were friendly, and did not need to show off their wealth. There was lots of quiet old money and class. The Yankees moving here (and I am one a Bostonian) seem intent to change what was unique and natural into something so very different. It is sad.

    by Jeffrey Gilfoy — May 25, 2015

  58. Jeffrey – I concur. we also lived in Naples about 12 years ago and observed (what you are saying) the mentioned trend. Yes, nice houses were being bulldozed down for the rich and famous (?). We left – couldn’t stand the traffic, people and bottom line could no longer afford the area. It’s definitely now (in our opinion) for the wealthy. For us “old folks” seems like our options are becoming more and more limited especially when one is on a limited income as we are.

    by Robert — May 26, 2015

  59. Jeffrey and Robert- I agree as well. My parents retired to Naples in 1980 and it was a lovely town. my aunts, a uncles, sister/hubby and nieces live there. We moved to Naples in 2005 and lived there to 2010. We hated it! We just couldn’t fit in with the attitude of entitlement. I’m sure their are plenty of nice people, we just had a hard time with everyone trying to keep up with the “Jones.”

    by LisaJ — May 26, 2015

  60. I too agree with the change in Naples. Although I have never lived there I visited many a times having a winter home in Cape Coral. With that home sold years ago..we are planning to retire to the Fort Myers area in the next couple of years. However, I’m thinking of looking to the north some. Perhaps Sarasota. Any comments between the two would be appreciated.

    by LindaF — May 26, 2015

  61. […] Comments? Do you know some funky or interesting towns in Florida that we didn’t mention. By all means share them in the Comments section below, along with why you think they are interesting. (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle ||[]).push({}); For further reading: Part 2: More Funky Florida Towns to Enjoy Florida 101: The Sunshine State is Bigger and More Diverse Than You Think […]

    by » 10 Funky Towns in Florida for Retirement - Topretirements — May 26, 2015

  62. Jeffrey and Robert–my Aunt is building a home in Naples, Florida as we speak. I have warned her about the traffic and the people. She seems indifferent since they have wintered there for 15 years and yes it has changed a lot. She really complains about the bad drivers and making reservations weeks in advance for dinner at decent restaurants. She is selling a villa to build a larger home with a pool. In addition she is selling a gorgeous lake home in Southern Indiana near Indiana University where she usually summers to buy a home in a congested hot and humid area of Florida. She is building in a gated community on a golf course and my concerns are that she has not fully considered year round living in Naples. I have friends here in Washington, DC who sold a home they built there because they said all the “interesting people” who were there in the winter left at the end of the season….they spent their summers drinking martinis in dire boredom. Once they sold the Naples home they came back here and now spend about 4 months from Dec to April in Palm Beach.. My Aunt is 70 now and she says if they don’t like it in Naples they can move–but how many times can one move in retirement? As one ages I would think that moving over and over again would be difficult. Any comments?

    by Jennifer — May 26, 2015

  63. Bernadette,
    I, too, am single and hope to retire soon. I find it very difficult to find friends to travel with…most married. I live in NC currently but am beginning to look into finding an inexpensive way to retire…probably in Florida. If anyone has any suggestions it would be greatly appreciated. Have friends who live in Century Village in West Palm Beach. I find most condos need updating and the monthly fees are about $400. Meanwhile, i wish i could private message you to find out where you live, etc.

    by Linda Flo — May 27, 2015

  64. Interesting comments on SW Florida. We left Texas in 2011 and started just south of Tampa looking at communities all the way to Naples. We quickly realized Naples was too upper class for us so left after a brief look at headed back up I75 to Estero. Estero is a nice town but a big boom is underway there and there will be many growing pains as that occurs. We liked Fort Myers – there is the old and the new and it seemed spread out enough that “season” each year might not be as crowded as we heard Naples and the Sarasota areas become. We wound up building a home in a 55+ community in Fort Myers in 2012 and are very pleased we retired here. Health care is outstanding, Sanibel and the beaches of Fort Myers are close by and as far as cost of living we are finding utilities considerably less expensive than Texas and property taxes and home insurance about the same. We seriously considered Sarasota – beautiful place but kept hearing how crowded it gets (like Naples) in season and we feel we got more for our money in Fort Myers. It does get crowded here in season but it’s a larger area in miles and that helps spread the traffic out….people are friendly, there is plenty to do here, and we are happy!

    by terry — May 27, 2015

  65. Terry – thanks for your input about SW Florida. Can you tell me which development you built a home in Ft. Myers?

    We are looking to retire either in Naples or Ft. Myers. We are also exploring the east coast. Any suggestions or comments for any of these locations?

    Appreciate any feedback.


    by marilyn — May 27, 2015

  66. Marilyn,
    We own a condo in a beautiful gated community north of Ft Myers. It is called Burnt Store Marina, Punta Gorda FL (but really closer to Cape Coral FL). BSM has golf, an exercise facility, wonderful walking areas, a restaurant on the water, the largest marina on the west coast and a wide assortment of homes, condos. every home doesn’t look the same. You might consider it a little remote but you should take a drive and check it out. Our friends have a condo in Lexington Lakes, Ft Myers and the traffic is UNBEARABLE during season and barely tolerable the rest of the year. I would not move to Ft Myers for this reason.

    by Carol — May 28, 2015

  67. Marilyn, we built our home in Pelican Preserve, a beautiful 55+ community in Fort Myers. We are just on the East side of I-75 and traffic is never “UNBEARABLE” in this area whether it is season or not. There are parts of Fort Myers and any sizeable city where the streets are older, the developments are older, streets not up to par with traffic and traffic is heavier like Carol mentions about Lexington Lakes. A blanket statement about traffic in Fort Myers is really a disservice to anyone looking to move here. It simply isn’t true that traffic is barely tolerable the rest of the year. You just have to do your homework in any area you look at moving to….we looked at Burnt Store but it was “a little too remote” for us but again – everyone has different needs. We didn’t care for the crime statistics in Punta Gorda or Cape Coral so that influenced us not to consider those areas. I highly recommend you do a lot of internet searching for 55+ and regular communities in SW Florida and go visit them all in season and out of season and not go by blanket statements on any particular community.

    by Terry — May 28, 2015

  68. Lots of good feed back on the “NEW” SW Florida and we each need to look and see what we want, what we can tolerate during “season”, and what we cannot live with. Summers are very hot and humid and more humid but if you are an indoor AC person, like to shop or just like hanging at the beach it usually does not matter. If you are a golfer the courses are great though very few public courses but paying $100+ for a round of golf from Sept. to April is excessive for me (why I work part time at a golf course as a starter/ranger – free golf 9 months a year). As you have read I am dismayed by the rapid growth and tearing down the quaint old Naples BUT it is a beautiful safe city with lots to offer. One issue if you are retired military (I am 20+ Navy) health care is a challenge. There is a nice little clinic in Naples, a small facility in Cape Coral (about 60 minutes from Naples) but you have to go to Tampa or Miami for any major medical services. Hope some of this helps.

    Hey does anyone know anything about Murfreesboro Tenn.?

    by Jeffrey Gilfoy — May 28, 2015

  69. Terry, crime in Cape Coral?? Wonder what you were looking at. We leave our doors unlocked most of the time, never a problem. The area I live in is like a small town and I feel very safe there. You sound as if you went by a blanket statement on a particular community.

    by Linda — May 28, 2015

  70. Jeff-Murfreesboro is a very nice town with great shopping, restaurants and excellent healthcare. Cost of living is very good and you get four seasons.

    by LisaJ — May 29, 2015

  71. […] For further reading: Part 1: 10 Funky Towns in Florida Florida 101: The Sunshine State is Bigger and More Diverse Than You Think […]

    by » Part 2: More Funky Places to Retire in Florida - Topretirements — June 5, 2015

  72. […] further reference: State Retirement Guides Retirement 101 Mid-Atlantic States: MD, DE, VA, NJ Florida Retirement 101 Dueling Carolinas: NC vs. SC Dueling States: Arizona vs. Florida California Retirement 101 […]

    by » Dueling Mountain States for Retirement: CO, ID, MT, NV, UT, and WY - Topretirements — June 22, 2015

  73. Does anyone live in the Gulf Breeze or Navarre Florida area? If so, your comments would greatly be appreciated for either one. Any pros or cons…also anyone know information about living in the Holley By the Sea area to rent a home in? We were there over a year ago and it had some pretty trashy homes and yards and then really nice ones. Is it a respectable area? It provides pool and work out which is inviting.
    We want to rent a home the first year. We will be going there to find a rental mid April with plans to move by June 1 at the latest.

    by beisbach — March 28, 2019

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