7 Best Cities to Live and Retire in Florida

When you hear the word “retirement,” you probably imagine a community of similarly aged people outside in the sun, and maybe even on the beach.  In short, you probably imagine Florida.

A generation ago, Florida was the preferred place to retire. Now the state has competition from other warm states like Texas and Arizona, but Florida is still one of the preferred destinations for older adults to spend their golden years. And for good reason: no state income, inheritance, or estate tax; it has a wide variety of adult communities; the state generally has a low cost of living.

Florida has inexpensive home care compared with other states. And let’s not forget the sand and the sun for which Florida is so famous.  

Here are our favorite retirement destinations in Florida.

A note on methodology: all cost of living (COL) estimates are compared with the national average, which is set at 100. For example, a COL index of 125/100 means that the place has a COL that is 25% higher than the median income in the US, which is $53,086. Sperling’s Best Places provides the COL indices and population data. Average high and low temperatures from US Climate Data.

1. Cape Coral

  • Average Winter High/Low: 75°/54°
  • Average Summer High/Low: 92°/74°
  • Population: 175,229
  • Cost of living: 102.1/100

Cape Coral is often cited as being one of the best places to retire; Forbes listed it as one of their 25 best places to retire for both 2015 and 2016. This master-planned city along the Gulf of Mexico has a booming economy, a lower than average cost of living, and beautiful weather.

2. Clearwater

  • Average Winter High/Low: 71°/52°
  • Average Summer High/Low: 91°/76°
  • Population: 113,003
  • COL: 99.1/100

Clearwater is located on the West side of Tampa near the bay, along with St. Petersburg. Clearwater has a distinct small-town vibe but is close enough to Tampa for those looking for a little city life on the weekends. Money, for one, rated it in the top 25 in 2011.­ It’s a  beach town without the luxury cost. Bonus for retirees: The area is home to a wide variety of active adult communities.

3. The Villages

  • Average Winter High/Low: 71°/41°
  • Average Summer High/Low: 93°/71°
  • Population: 61 ,046
  • COL: 111.2/100

The Villages isn’t technically a town or a city, but a census-designated place that’s billed as a “premier active adult community.” The Villages was built specifically for retirees and includes retiree-oriented activities, town squares, plenty of shopping and restaurants, health and wellness centers, social clubs and many types of recreation for the active adult.

4. Miami

  • Average Winter High/Low: 76°/60°
  • Average Summer High/Low: 91°/77°
  • Population: 441,003
  • COL: 122.8/100

Miami is something of an anomaly – it’s extremely popular with the college-aged partying crowd, and also with those over the age of 65.  The city has an abundance of activities and entertainment to suit just about anyone, low taxes, a great climate, and feels vibrant and alive. It also tops the list for the number of home-care facilities per capita and has some of the best fishing in the country. At the same time, the cost of living is among the highest on this list, and has a below-average physician-per-capita ratio.

5. St. Petersburg

  • Average Winter High/Low: 71°/52°
  • Average Summer High/Low: 91°/76°
  • Population: 257,083
  • COL: 95.1/100

St. Petersburg often top the charts of preferred retirement destinations. In 2013, Money named it one of the top ten places to retire in the nation, and Kiplinger rated it among the top ten in 2016. St. Pete, as it is nicknamed, is clustered with Tampa and Clearwater in the Tampa Bay. However, it has less of a small-town feel than Clearwater and is slightly more urban – think the suburbs of a metropolitan area. St. Petersburg is also well-known for its shopping district and for its bustling downtown district.

6. Lakeland

  • Average Winter High/Low: 74°/51°
  • Average Summer High/Low: 95°/73°
  • Population: 104,401
  • COL: 91.1/100

Lakeland is halfway between Tampa and Orlando, and unsurprisingly, is growing rapidly. The area boasts a number of retirement communities – a Google search will reveal ten separate ones within the first twenty entries – along with several historic districts and some original installations by Frank Lloyd Wright. For now, the cost of living is below average, but with the speed at which the town is growing, that may soon change.

7. Ft. Lauderdale

  • Average Winter High/Low: 75°/57°
  • Average Summer High/Low: 90°/75°
  • Population: 178,590
  • COL: 120.1/100

For those looking for a Venetian feel without traveling to Italy, Ft. Lauderdale is about as close as it gets. Located on intercoastal waters and a sprawling system of canals (sometimes used with more frequency than cars) this city is perfect for those who have always dreamed of a life on the water. Ft. Lauderdale has been a popular retirement destination since World War II, and as such has a variety of active adult communities.

Key takeaways

Florida has been one of the most popular states in which to retire for generations for good reasons: low tax liability, warm weather, the generally low cost of living, and tons to do. Whether you’re not planning on “growing old” and plan to party with the college crowd for years to come, or you’re ready to settle down for peaceful and quiet golden years, there’s something in Florida for everyone.

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