Numerous reasons not to retire to Florida
As retirement approaches, you have Florida on your mind. After all, it’s the quintessential post-working world existence. But is it right for you?
Before you take the plunge, try before you buy. Spend some serious leisure time in the Sunshine State.
Skip the hotel and instead rent an Airbnb in a residential area you’re interested in. Introduce yourself to the neighbors, shop and dine locally, and observe the rhythms of life.
Stay a few days — or, better, a few weeks — and you might not like what you see as the realities of Florida living sink in.
To that end, we took a serious look at the downsides of retiring in Florida. Here’s some of what we found.
Crawling with boomers
Do you really want to join the graying crowd that made Woodstock a thing? Face it, your riff to retire in Florida isn’t solely yours. Look at the numbers and consider what you’ll be facing in the coming years.
Florida’s estimated population of nearly 21 million includes some 4.2 million residents 65 and older. That’s up from 3.3 million seniors in the 2010 U.S. Census.
And the upcoming 2020 census is expected to count 4.5 million Floridians who are 65-plus. By 2030, the number of seniors in the Sunshine State is expected to crack 6 million.
That’s a lot of tricked-out golf carts. Other popular retirement states in the Southeast — Georgia, Alabama, the Carolinas — all skew much younger than Florida.
Crawling with critters, too
It’s common knowledge that Florida has a lot of alligators. There are also invasive Burmese pythons, green iguanas and herpes-carrying wild monkeys.
Then there are the rats: on the beach, in palm trees and on your roof. Molly Elliott, who lives in Fort Myers Beach, said beach rats were a big adjustment for her, as was the expense of keeping them out of her house. She pays $300 a year for rodent control.
Other transplanted northerners agree the pests and exotic creatures are an acquired taste. “It’s not unusual to see snakes and alligators, especially on golf courses,” said Trisha Torrey, a transplant who now lives in central Florida. “Neighbors have found poisonous snakes on their lanais and patios three times in the two years we’ve lived here.”
Not so tax-friendly
A big whoop to many Florida transplants is there’s no state income tax, including no income tax on Social Security benefits, pensions and other retirement income. Score one for the Sunshine State.
But don’t confuse no state income tax with no state taxes at all. The combined state and local sales tax averages 7.05% in Florida, according to the Tax Foundation. That’s higher than the combined rates retirees from states such as Michigan, Massachusetts and New Jersey are accustomed to paying.
Fees can add up, too. Florida charges a steep $225 fee to register an out-of-state vehicle, for example, and a driver’s license costs $48 for eight years (versus $25 for 12 years in Arizona, a competing retirement hotspot).
Not such great weather
Let’s put this right up front: Florida earned two spots on the list of the top 10 sweatiest cities in the U.S. Both Tampa and Miami made the cut.
But farther north, while summers are hot, expect winter temps to fall below freezing in parts of northern Florida. And in places like Pensacola, Tallahassee and Jacksonville, it even snows.
After years of being cooped up in an office, you may be looking forward to being outdoors for hours on end to soak up Florida’s eternal sunshine.
But many savvy retirees to Florida confine outdoor activities — from rounds of golf to leisurely walks — to early mornings when the mercury and humidity levels are still tolerable.
On top of the heat and humidity, there are also biting flies, mosquito swarms and columns of fire ants.
Swimming pools are expensive
Naturally, you’ll want a swimming pool to beat the Florida heat. Just be prepared to pay a pretty penny to keep your pool up and running year-round.
It costs $177 a week, on average, to maintain a standard 14-by-28-foot pool. You’ll also spend hundreds — even thousands — of dollars on routine repairs to torn liners and leaky plumbing.
And expect to shell out anywhere from $100 to $600 a month for energy to run a pool heater.
The toll on your skin
Many boomers who grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s slathered on baby oil to enhance the tan. SPF? Who knew?
But now we know too much sun causes premature wrinkling, uneven skin coloring and worse. Prolonged sun exposure and frequent sunburns can also increase your risk of skin cancer.
Sun worshippers are urged to avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. (when the rays are most damaging) and use broad-spectrum sunscreens. And when you are on the beach or poolside, sit under an umbrella.
Hurricanes are a costly menace
The Atlantic hurricane season is a long one. It runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 — fully half the year — peaking from August through October.
Florida is in the crosshairs of many of those deadly and destructive Atlantic hurricanes. In October, Hurricane Michael, one of the most powerful storms to hit the U.S. in 50 years, killed at least 20 people and devastated towns in Florida’s Panhandle.
Retirees who move to Florida are often shocked to discover that deductibles for hurricane insurance often range from 2 to 5 percent of the policy coverage, rather than the fixed dollar amount, say $500, they were accustomed to up north.
And that’s if you can line up any insurance at all. “Homeowners insurance in general can be tough to get when you live on a barrier island,” said Elliott, the northern transplant who now lives in Fort Myers Beach on the Gulf Coast. “No one wanted to insure us, so we had to use the default state insurer.”
Oh, and if you buy a home in a designated flood zone, your mortgage company will insist you buy flood insurance. Typical homeowners insurance covers wind and rain, but not flooding.
You’ll miss your family
Florida newcomers tend to brace themselves for a lot of visitors from the north. After all, there’s the irresistible lure of sunshine, beaches, theme parks and a free place to stay, right? But that may wear off after initial visits to Florida.
“Loved ones are often far away (ours are in New York and Pennsylvania),” said Torrey, the central Florida transplant. “Phone calls and video calls help out, but we don’t spend as much time together as we would if we were still living up north.”
© 2019 The Kiplinger Washington Editors. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.