2017’s Best Places to Retire in Florida
The dream of retiring on a sunny beach in Florida is alive and kicking. Despite more workers expecting to retire past the age of 65, Florida is still the destination that comes to mind when Americans envision their golden years. And the reason is simple: Florida crosses off many items on a retiree’s wish list, starting with cheap living costs, one of the biggest considerations for older Americans who’ve stopped working and rely on a smaller income. And while Florida’s health care needs work in some areas, it does boast high marks in direct primary care and pharmaceutical access, in addition to maintaining relatively good senior health, which is important for lowering out-of-pocket health costs in the state.
Beyond practical qualities, this Southern charmer is teeming with excitement. Here, retirees are likely to avoid boredom and burnout — common problems among this group — with a wide variety of choices for indoor and outdoor activities, coupled with volunteer opportunities and part- or full-time jobs. Throw in the wraparound coastline and foodie-worthy cuisine, and there will be nothing left to crave. Best of all, no one pays income tax, so every dollar goes a long way.
Florida’s unmatched status as a retirement paradise, however, doesn’t rub off on every one of its cities. To determine where retirees can look forward to living out their best years in the Sunshine State, WalletHub’s data crunchers compared more than 100 of its largest cities across 28 key indicators of retiree-friendliness. Our data set ranges from cost of living to health care facilities per capita to number of attractions. Read on for our findings, expert retirement insight and a full description of our methodology.
Best & Worst Places to Retire in Florida
Overall Rank (1=Best)
‘Quality of Life’ Rank
‘Health Care’ Rank
|2||Boca Raton, FL||67.54||2||7||38|
|6||West Palm Beach, FL||62.60||4||9||55|
|7||Key West, FL||62.38||35||3||56|
|8||Fort Myers, FL||62.34||10||10||12|
|9||Fort Lauderdale, FL||62.24||17||6||50|
|11||Delray Beach, FL||56.88||6||16||48|
|12||Winter Park, FL||56.76||16||12||32|
|13||St. Petersburg, FL||54.80||76||8||30|
|15||University Park, FL||53.53||7||21||95|
|16||Coral Gables, FL||53.10||12||19||59|
|17||Boynton Beach, FL||52.87||8||25||71|
|19||Miami Beach, FL||51.02||34||11||110|
|21||Palm Beach Gardens, FL||50.94||15||40||47|
|23||Lauderdale Lakes, FL||50.61||30||33||54|
|25||Hallandale Beach, FL||50.38||24||57||27|
|27||Bonita Springs, FL||50.02||58||31||11|
|29||North Miami Beach, FL||49.38||11||79||52|
|31||Cape Coral, FL||48.85||88||32||6|
|33||Fort Pierce, FL||48.65||52||30||37|
|34||Pompano Beach, FL||48.19||45||39||42|
|35||Royal Palm Beach, FL||48.18||20||44||93|
|37||Lake Worth, FL||47.96||14||29||105|
|39||North Port, FL||47.81||37||106||15|
|40||Altamonte Springs, FL||47.80||32||101||25|
|41||Oakland Park, FL||47.27||42||37||80|
|45||Cutler Bay, FL||46.92||23||85||69|
|46||Miami Gardens, FL||46.82||51||53||67|
|47||Pembroke Pines, FL||46.64||40||63||64|
|49||Miami Lakes, FL||46.61||21||77||92|
|55||Cooper City, FL||46.09||65||24||86|
|56||Port Charlotte, FL||46.00||13||110||40|
|57||North Lauderdale, FL||45.94||68||34||73|
|59||Temple Terrace, FL||45.81||70||50||51|
|61||Riviera Beach, FL||45.69||46||23||108|
|63||North Miami, FL||45.39||44||66||70|
|64||Port St. Lucie, FL||45.25||64||111||3|
|69||Daytona Beach, FL||43.89||102||13||97|
|70||Deerfield Beach, FL||43.74||49||97||53|
|71||Panama City, FL||43.49||96||22||84|
|73||Ormond Beach, FL||43.40||105||27||34|
|77||Town 'n' Country, FL||43.12||73||46||89|
|78||Land O' Lakes, FL||43.02||78||70||65|
|79||Coconut Creek, FL||42.94||60||91||66|
|82||Plant City, FL||42.77||59||76||79|
|83||Pinellas Park, FL||42.73||82||94||35|
|84||North Fort Myers, FL||42.53||91||96||7|
|85||Palm Coast, FL||42.52||77||100||22|
|89||Coral Springs, FL||41.94||50||89||100|
|90||Port Orange, FL||41.93||107||68||16|
|92||Winter Springs, FL||41.67||90||104||23|
|93||Winter Haven, FL||41.66||110||83||5|
|94||Winter Garden, FL||41.63||100||64||43|
|95||Palm Harbor, FL||41.12||57||99||81|
|96||Merritt Island, FL||40.73||72||98||62|
|98||Dania Beach, FL||40.47||63||73||109|
|101||St. Cloud, FL||39.64||92||81||90|
|103||The Villages, FL||39.33||104||109||1|
|104||Wesley Chapel, FL||39.10||79||86||106|
|106||Spring Hill, FL||38.61||95||95||76|
|107||Lehigh Acres, FL||38.24||94||92||88|
|108||Palm Bay, FL||38.11||98||107||58|
|111||Fleming Island, FL||34.56||101||108||103|
Ask the Experts
Florida has consistently ranked as the No. 1 retirement destination in America — and for good reason. To help other states emulate Florida’s success, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:
- Are retirees a drain on state and local budgets in Florida or do they pay more in taxes than they use in state and local services?
- In choosing the best cities to retire in Florida, what are the top five indicators?
- Are there lessons other states should learn from Florida in terms of attracting retirees?
- What is the most important policy that Governor Rick Scott and other state and local policymakers should pursue to better meet the needs of retirees in Florida?
- GI Generation (1901-1930): 521,965
- Mature/Silents (1931-1945): 2,126,410
- Baby Boomers (1946-1964): 4,895,541
- Generation X (1965-1980): 3,893,789
- Generation Y/Millenium (1981-2000): 5,010,355
- Generation Z/Boomlets (2001+): 3,412,740
Are retirees a drain on state and local budgets in Florida or do they pay more in taxes than they use in state and local services?
This is a common myth; in fact, retirees disproportionately contribute to Florida’s economy. AARP refers to this as the “Longevity Revolution,” or the sum of all economic activity that is supported by the consumer spending of households headed by someone age 50 or older.
According to AARP (2013), people age 50 and older represented 39% of Florida’s population, but accounted for 54% of Florida’s GDP ($429 billion). That supported 58% of Florida’s jobs (6.1 million), 53% of employee compensation ($236 billion) and 67% of state taxes ($38 billion). The greatest number of jobs supported in Florida are in health care (1,099,000), retail trade (1,074,000) and accommodation and food services (617,000).
Beyond consumption, and for comparison purposes, Floridians aged 18-64 cost state and local governments a net $818 per person, while those 65+ contribute $2,627 more in taxes than they receive in services -- because older Floridians are less likely to have children in school, and in general, pay higher property taxes.
In choosing the best cities to retire in Florida, what are the top 5 indicators?
Although there are numerous lists and rankings of best places to retire, people should consider factors that are most important to them in making decisions. For example, personal health and family circumstances impact considerations. Indicators that tend to matter among most people are housing (costs, location, little to no maintenance needs/upkeep), livable community features (transportation and accessibility to shops, services and businesses), quality medical care, a wide range of lifestyle activities and opportunities for active healthy living, meaningful volunteerism and flexible opportunities for continued gainful employment, as well as environmental factors (weather, climate, and scenic nature).
Are there lessons other states should learn from Florida in terms of attracting retirees?
Florida has long been a leader in attracting retirees. There is no state tax and it is the Sunshine state -- which is very attractive after years of living long, harsh winters elsewhere in the nation. Due to its sizable aging population, Florida has already established a wide array of active and healthy lifestyle-focused communities and activities.
Florida now has 17 Age-Friendly Communities, which represent collaborative efforts between government, non-profits, businesses and the broader lay community, to support and enhance community features that provide accessible, supportive communities for people at all life stages and abilities throughout the life course. This effort recognizes the diversity of the aging experience, and aims to promote active, healthy, engaged living across a variety of features including: housing, transportation, outdoor spaces and buildings, civic participation and employment, social participation, community supports and health services, communication and information, and respect and social inclusion.
As opposed to some popular assumptions and rhetoric about retirees’ drain on Florida’s economy, the older population actually keeps much of our state and local economies running. First, many who plan on retiring in Florida work until they can, regardless of hitting the golden retirement age of 65. Some need the continued income, but many others simply enjoy working and staying busy, or are unexpectedly still feeling good in their old age to work past their planned retirement point. So, much of the older population contributes to the economy simply because many are still at work. Second, many contribute to state and local taxes more than they use in state and local services. There is also a small sector of the retirement population with much wealth, generating unanticipated consumer behavior at the end of life, and profits for state and local economies.
In choosing the best cities to retire in Florida, what are the top 5 indicators?
- Local government policies that most closely fit the retiree’s needs;
- Access to healthcare and health-promoting resources (e.g., a number of local healthcare providers serving retiree’s insurance plans; a number of local businesses and services honoring a wide-range of Medicaid and Medicare benefits; low-stress, mental and physical health-promoting environment);
- A large network of retirees and elders, age-designated communities, organizations, services, and activities;
- Retiree-friendly transportation and access to public transportation (e.g., affordable transportation options; a large amount of handicapped and ability-varying accommodations around);
- Affordable and safe housing (e.g., housing that is affordable and that is not on land that the city plans to build new projects on; around other residents and near major businesses or services; sidewalks and ramps available).
Florida has no state income tax, which helps retirees get more from their income and retirement benefits than in other states. Florida also has an excellent amount of accessible information for retirees and those reaching retirement, so people are aware of their benefits and their options. Some cities in Florida have very friendly retiree communities and services, as well as many local governments that do vote for retiree-friendly policies. All of these are signs of a positive place to retire.
There are certain places with more specific efforts that help some retirees more than others, depending on one’s health, well-being, and financial condition. For example, Tampa, one of the nation’s capitals of homelessness, also has many efforts (much of which come from non-profit organizations) aimed towards helping those who fall around or under the poverty level. In many cases, organizations help to serve some elders that could use a free meal, sanitary-like donations, and/or specific support (e.g., veteran retirement networks, widowed support groups). However, the larger issue of income inequality and homelessness may hit harder some retirees than others, depending on their financial situations and support systems.
There are some local retirement policies that allow for deferred retirement for those who must keep working longer than expected, as well as some local businesses that actively hire older people and/or ability-varying folks who need jobs. The medical and aging literature tells us that we should stay as physically and mentally active in our old age as possible, so places that integrate the older population into more activities are better. All of these efforts may be important factors for retirees to seek out if relevant to them, and for other state and local governments to keep in mind moving forward.
What is the most important policy that Governor Scott and other state and local policymakers should pursue to better meet the needs of retirees in Florida?
Of particular challenge to Governor Scott and his administration is keeping health and economic decisions that are left up to the state, like aspects of Medicare and Medicaid, retiree-friendly. Keeping in mind the intersection between aging and social class is also important. For example, larger budgets that fund projects of gentrification will not support low-income housing for its residents, many of whom are elderly and struggling. The last thing that a retiree wants to hear is that they are being forced to move out of their home, a place where they have settled into.
There are also many retirees, whether it be out of personal preference or financial reasoning, who are cared for by their also aging spouses, or younger family members. In these cases, caretakers also face many barriers when it comes to paid time off, or time off at all when caretaking. Public and private employers, at every level, are encouraged to make decisions for their employees that remember such family obligations.
Of utmost importance is remembering that mostly all policies affect retirees, and many times affect retirees in unique ways compared to other residents. Healthcare decisions are the most influential to retirees, yet tax decisions, employer-employee benefits, housing, public transportation and other public infrastructure policies are also extremely important to retirees, and to their levels of satisfaction and well-being.
In order to determine the most ideal places in Florida to retire, WalletHub’s analysts compared a sample of 111 cities in the state across three key dimensions: 1) Quality of Life, 2) Health and 3) Activities.
We evaluated those dimensions using 28 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for retirement. For metrics marked with an asterisk (*), the square root of the population was used to calculate the population size in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across cities.
Finally, we determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its total score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.
Quality of Life – Total Points: 33.33
- Adjusted Cost of Living: Full Weight (~3.33)
- Share of Population Aged 65 & Older: Full Weight (~3.33)
- Share of Households with Severe Housing Problems: Full Weight (~3.33)
Note: This composite metric measures the percentage of households with at least one or more of the following housing problems:
- Housing unit lacks complete kitchen facilities;
- Housing unit lacks complete plumbing facilities;
- Household is severely overcrowded.
- Discount Stores per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.33)
- Elderly-Friendly Labor Market: Full Weight (~3.33)
Note: This composite metric measures the following:
- Share of Workers Aged 65 & Older
- Ratio of Part-Time to Full-Time Workers Aged 65 & Older
- Share of Commuters Who Use Public Transit: Full Weight (~3.33)
- Violent-Crime Rate: Full Weight (~3.33)
- Property-Crime Rate: Full Weight (~3.33)
- Air Quality: Full Weight (~3.33)
- Drinking-Water Violations: Full Weight (~3.33)
Health Care – Total Points: 33.33
- Health Care Facilities per Capita: Full Weight (~4.76)
- Home-Care Facilities per Capita: Full Weight (~4.76)
- Family & General Physicians per 10,000 Residents: Full Weight (~4.76)
- Dentists per 10,000 Residents: Full Weight (~4.76)
- Nurses per 1,000 Residents: Full Weight (~4.76)
- Life Expectancy: Full Weight (~4.76)
- Death Rate for Population Aged 65 & Older: Full Weight (~4.76)
Activities – Total Points: 33.33
- Number of Attractions: Full Weight (~3.03)
Note: “Attractions” include, for instance, zoos, museums and theaters.
- Senior Centers per Capita: Full Weight (~3.03)
- Fitness & Recreational Sports Centers per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.03)
- Golf Courses & Country Clubs per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.03)
- Fishing Facilities per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.03)
- Museums per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.03)
- Theaters per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.03)
- Art Galleries per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.03)
- Music Venues per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.03)
- Availability of Adult Volunteer Activities: Full Weight (~3.03)
- Weather: Full Weight (~3.03)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Cities with the Best & Worst Weather” ranking.
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United States Environmental Protection Agency, County Health Rankings, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Charity Navigator, AreaVibes and Wallethub research.
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