A generation ago, retiring in Florida was the American dream for many. Palm trees, coastal breezes, a place to just kick back and relax. Growing up in the Northeast, I was one of the many kids whose grandparents pulled up stakes and headed south.
In the 1960s, plane travel was a luxury. It's hard to remember that people got dressed up to go on a plane. (Oh how I long for those days today when I'm seated next to a man or woman in full sweat pants attire eating a burrito.) Every year or two, my parents saved up their money and off we'd go to visit my grandparents in Daytona Beach.
I remember the first time I saw a palm tree; I'd only seen them in movies and it was so exciting. The air smelled different, like orange blossoms. And if we were good, (meaning if I didn't punch my brother after he called me Blimp-asaurus Maximus) my grandparents would take us to Orlando to go to Disneyworld. I have warm and happy memories of my childhood visits to Florida and bringing home big bags of oranges from the airport, not to mention being tan when I went back to school.
In the later part of the 20th century, Florida fell a little out of favor for retirees. My parent's generation wasn't so keen on retiring where their parents had gone. I guess every generation likes to carve out their own path. New places like North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia started gaining favor as people looked for a different kind of retirement experience. Florida, once the go-to place, was now competing with several states directly to its north.
What was once a retirement destination for our grandparents, Florida today has a lot to offer for everyone. Beaches, cities, education, sports, culture. As we Baby Boomers are getting to an age where we are considering our retirement, many of us remember fondly our childhood Floridian experiences and have started re-examining the many pluses of the Sunshine state, and there are many.
1. Climate: While south Florida gets pretty icky sticky in the summer, the north of Florida can be pretty darn nice most of the year. And South Florida is so air-conditioned that even the summer months are doable. Just like we stay inside and play scrabble and watch movies in the north in the winter, South Floridians learn to do their summer outdoor activities in early morning or evening. If you want visitors, your friends and family farther north are more than happy to take a long weekend in Florida in the winter. And if you have grandchildren, Disneyworld and Universal still have the same appeal they did when I was a kid.
2. Cost of Living: In general, most things are less expensive in Florida than places in the northeast. Food, healthcare, and housing can often seem like a bargain compared to New York or Connecticut.
3. Taxes: And this is a biggie if you are on a fixed income or living off of savings. Every little bit helps extend your money. Florida has NO state income tax. It does have a higher sales tax currently at 6%, but when you are retired, you don't consume quite as much stuff. Property taxes are pretty reasonable and there are no inheritance or estate taxes. Another big plus.
4. Healthcare: While this varies widely depending on where in Florida you live, one thing is for sure, there are a lot of options. With so many older Americans flocking to Florida over the past 75 years, there is an infrastructure of healthcare facilities and providers in place.
5. Proximity to airports: Something to consider if you want to travel or if you want friends and relatives to visit you. Florida has an abundance of airports throughout the state.
On our retirement planning website, GangsAway.com, we wanted to identify some popular spots along with other places that can offer the similar features at different price points to give people some new options. Depending on your budget, we created a list of some of the top retirement locations along with nearby alternatives, some of which are less expensive. See which location fits your personality and pocketbook.
Relaxed Gulf Living
Atlantic Ocean Breezes
South Florida City Life
Mid & Central Florida
Tennessee's cost of living is the second lowest in the country, just behind Oklahoma, according to data collected from the Council for Community and Economic Research. And the Tax Foundation puts Tennessee's state and local tax burden as the third lowest in the nation. Tennessee also ranked among the best in the country for access to medical care, and its weather is warmer than average.
Besides jazz and beignets, Louisiana offers retirees an excellent combination of low taxes (the Tax Foundation ranks it as the fourth lowest in the nation) and balmy weather. Louisiana has a 30-year average temperature -- that includes both winter lows and summer highs -- of 66.7 degrees. That's higher than every other state except Hawaii and Florida. It also has better-than-average access to medical care and a relatively low cost of living. One major knock on Louisiana, however, is a crime rate that's among the highest in the nation. The FBI says there are 4,244 property and violent crimes per 100,000 people in Louisiana.
The Mount Rushmore State may not be on many retirement wish lists, but it should be. What it lacks in warmth, it makes up for in a variety of ways. South Dakota has the lowest crime rate in the nation. The Tax Foundation also says South Dakota residents have an estimated state and local tax burden of 7.6 percent, which is lower than every other state except Alaska. Its temperatures are on the chilly side, with a 30-year average of 46 degrees -- about the same as New York and Colorado.
One of the strongest benefits that Kentucky offers retirees is an extremely low cost of living. The Council for Community and Economic Research, or CCER, which collects data on the relative costs of groceries, housing, utilities, transportation and health care in communities across the U.S., found that retirees in Kentucky are paying less than many of their counterparts across the country. Bankrate, which analyzed CCER's data, found that Kentucky boasts the fifth-lowest cost of living in the nation. The Bluegrass State also has warmer-than-average temperatures and a crime rate that's slightly lower than average.
Mississippi is just another Appalachian state to make the list... sensing a trend here? The Magnolia State is not just one of the warmest in the U.S., it also has relatively low state and local taxes and a lower-than-average cost of living. Those factors make Mississippi an accommodating place for retirees, even though its crime rate is a little higher than average. It also has only 178 doctors per 100,000 people -- one of the lowest physician-to-resident ratios in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Virginia isn't just for lovers. It's for seniors looking for an all-around good place to settle down. The Old Dominion is better than average in most categories that Bankrate considered, including cost of living, warmer temperatures and access to physicians. With only 2,446 property and violent crimes per 100,000 people, Virginia has one of the lowest crime rates in the country. Throw all of that in with Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, Colonial Williamsburg, the Blue Ridge Parkway and other gems, and you have one of the best states in the U.S. for retirees.
Retire in the heart of Appalachian coal country? Absolutely. West Virginia ranks No. 7 on Bankrate's list of great retirement states for three main reasons: It has a lower-than-average cost of living, boasts a lower-than-average crime rate, and residents also have better access to hospital beds than the national average. And then there are the intangibles: The mountain ridges that ripple across the state are home to countless trout streams and hiking trails; its vistas look like something sketched by Thomas Kinkade; and temperatures are right in the middle range for U.S. states. Last year, temperatures in Charleston, West Virginia, ranged between a low of 12 and a high of 103 degrees Fahrenheit, and the 30-year state average is about 52 degrees.
Home of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Alabama boasts a trio of benefits that retirees may find alluring. It has some of the lowest local and state taxes in the nation. Its cost of living also is relatively low, especially for a Gulf Coast state. And its temperatures are among the warmest in the U.S.: Its average annual temperature of 63 degrees compares favorably to the national average, which is more than 10 degrees lower. However, Alabama has relatively high crime rates, with 4,026 property and violent crimes per 100,000 people (compared to the national average of 3,253). And access to medical care isn't as good as the national average.
The Cornhusker State ranks at No. 9 on Bankrate's best list for several reasons. Nebraska residents have excellent access to hospital beds, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, and FBI statistics show that its crime rate is slightly lower than average. Its cost of living also is one of the lowest in the country, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research, which tracks the cost of groceries, housing, utilities, transportation and health care in most major U.S. cities. The state and local tax burden is near the national average at 9.7 percent, according to the Tax Foundation. And its 30-year average temperature is about 49.2 degrees, which is colder than the national average.
Yes, it's frigid there. The 30-year average annual temperature in North Dakota is around 41 degrees, making it the coldest state in the continental U.S. If you can handle the cold, North Dakota could be an excellent place to settle down. Consider its access to hospital care. There are five beds available for every 1,000 people in the state, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That's tied for second-best in the country. North Dakota also has the second-lowest crime rate in the nation, and the state and local tax burden, which takes into account income, sales, property and other taxes, is at a relatively mild 8.9 percent of income.
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