Editor’s note: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace.
— Steve’s Marketplace —
For the normally sunny Sunshine State, storm clouds lurk on the horizon. Maybe it’s not always sunny in Florida after all, particularly for coveted retirees.
In a surprising report from a popular financial website, once-affordable Florida is becoming more expensive. The website, GoBankingRates.com, broke down the elevated retirement costs by household category: housing, healthcare, utilities, groceries, insurance, transportation and entertainment/leisure.
“The dream of a sunny retirement in Florida is becoming less attainable for many,” the report said. “With costs rising across the board, retirees who once flocked to the state for its affordable living and attractive amenities are now seeking alternatives.”
The most-appealing alternatives mentioned in the report are Arizona, North Carolina and Georgia. “These states are becoming popular destinations,” the report said, “offering many of the same benefits as Florida but at a more manageable cost.”
GoBankingRates.com has credibility. It provides useful financial information for readers – like this Florida report. It is visited by 10 million Americans each month.
Housing prices are the biggest obstacle for retirees in Florida. In lockstep, rents have also skyrocketed like a Space X launch.
“The most significant expense driving retirees away is housing,” the report stated. “For retirees on fixed incomes, these costs are simply untenable.” In other words, if you want to retire here, you need pockets as deep as a Florida spring.
As an offshoot, lower-cost developments of manufactured homes are becoming prevalent, especially in central and southwest Florida. Retirees buy or rent lower-priced houses with bountiful amenities like lakes, club houses and tennis. Your taxes and home insurance are also significantly cheaper.
In addition, higher healthcare costs are squeezing residents like a Burmese python. In Florida, these costs are higher than average, particularly for specialized care and prescription drugs – often paid out of pocket.
With Florida’s warm climate, air conditioning is necessary much of the year. Therefore, electric bills are higher, especially in places like Fernandina Beach where smaller utilities provide service. In addition, water and sewer rates are higher than the national average.
Groceries are another essential expense. Since Florida is a peninsula, trucks must travel farther to get to supermarkets, stores, warehouses, etc. With elevated fuel costs, the prices of staples like fresh produce, dairy and meat are impacted.
If this isn’t enough, insurance premiums are choking most of us, not just retirees. Out-of-control homeowners’ premiums are the biggest culprit. These are double and triple the national average.
“Florida’s susceptibility to hurricanes and floods makes it a high-risk area for natural disasters, driving up the cost of home insurance,” the report says. Not only are premiums higher, coverages are being curtailed without residents knowing it.
In another key sector, the costs and needs of transportation weigh on Floridians’ budgets. With little public transportation, residents must have cars to go to the grocery store and doctor’s appointments. Or use Uber or a taxi. Either way, this burdens retirees’ budgets.
And what’s the golden-years lifestyle in Florida without leisure activities, like tennis/pickleball courts and golf and beach clubs? Prices for these amenities in tourist-rich areas are inflated right now. Look or ask around Amelia Island, if you need evidence of this.
The report concludes: “As Florida grapples with these economic challenges, it’s essential for potential retirees to carefully consider their financial situation before making the move (to Florida).” You won’t read this in any travel brochure, for sure. In conclusion, Florida is still appealing for retirees, but it’s going to cost more to move here. A lot more, in some cases.
Steve Nicklas is the managing partner of Nicklas Wealth Management in Fernandina Beach. He is also an award-winning columnist. His columns also regularly appear in weekly newspapers in Northeast Florida and in Southeast Georgia, and on his website atwww.SteveNicklasMarketplace.com. He has published a book, “All About Money,” of his favorite columns from the past 20 years. The book is available on Amazon. He has also done financial reports for area radio stations and for National Public Radio in Jacksonville. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 904-753-0236.)