Places to Retire

PART 2 of 3 covers Places to Retire in Interview with Jan Cullinane, author of "The New Retirement--The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life"

Part 2

"Places to Retire" is PART 2 of a 3-part series of interviews with Jan Cullinane, author of "The New Retirement--The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life." To fully enjoy the interview, please also read the other two parts:

PART 1-Book Review and Answers to Many of your Questions About Retirement

Also do not miss PART 3 - Baby Boomer Women and Summation of Interview on Current Topics


Should I move to a Warmer Climate

BG: Do you think seniors should move to states like Florida that have better climates, and what other climates would be good for seniors.

Jan: Most people rank climate at or near the top when choosing a retirement location - and usually they are talking about no snow, and warmer weather. Oftentimes, climate does influence activity level - with nicer climates, people are often more active year-round.

I happen to like the climates of the Southeast and Southwest. But, summers can be hot - there is no getting around that. It's kind of the reverse of snow - people stay inside when it's just too hot outside. Being near the ocean, though, there is often a breeze. Climate is just one thing to consider, however.

Florida - The number one retirement State

BG: Florida -- do you like it there and why.

I live on the northeast coast of Florida - we've lived there about two years (I lived in the Washington DC area, New Jersey, and Cincinnati prior to moving to Florida.) And, yes, I do love it here. I actually found Palm Coast when doing research for the first edition of the book, bought a lot in 1999, and we moved into our house about a year ago (we rented for a year while building).

I like that where we built is a new community, with people from all over the country. It's very friendly, too, and I am looking to make friends. There are lots of amenities, including sidewalks throughout the neighborhood for walking and biking; tennis, golf, swimming, and tons of things to do. Many of the activities are organized by the residents themselves.

And, in the northeastern part of Florida, the chance of being hit by a hurricane is much less than other areas of Florida - you can look at NOAA's (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) site and see the statistics for various parts of the country.

Our three children (and new son-in-law) also love to come and visit - another plus. For us, the tax benefits are good - my husband is a CPA, so he's always thinking $$, so that is another plus.

BG: What are the advantages for seniors living in Florida.

Jan Well, of course there is the fact that Florida doesn't have a state income tax, but you really need to look at all your sources of income and see how you'll be affected. Just because there isn't a state income tax, doesn't always mean it's the best way to go.

Housing prices are very attractive now, as they are in most parts of the country, and recently it was announced that Utah has the fastest growing population (an increase of 2.5 percent between 2007 and 2008)compared to Florida's growth of just .7 percent.)

Hurricanes are a turn-off for some people, but I recently talked to a woman who moved from California - her reason - the uncertainly of earthquakes! Most people do like the warm weather - and the flatness of the state (for the most part) makes it great for long walks or bike rides.

BG: What areas are best in Florida for retirement or seniors.

Jan: Most people like being close to water - well, in Florida, you're never more than about 60 miles from the ocean!

When checking out a place, of course it's important to look at things like

  • medical facilities (many people don't realize the Mayo Clinic is in Jacksonville, Florida),
  • transportation - is an airport a reasonable drive?,
  • recreation and cultural activities,
  • climate,
  • job opportunities (even if you're not planning on working, it's always a good thing to check out),
  • opportunities for lifelong learning (very important!),
  • and feeling that you belong.

Areas of Florida

The Panhandle area has beautiful beaches, the Northeast has cooler winters, the Central part of Florida has some rolling, lovely land, and the West Coast of Florida has the beautiful Gulf and upscale areas like Naples. Many places in Florida, such as Punta Gorda on the west coast is also great if you're a boater. Many homes are built on canals.

A huge active adult community in Central Florida is The Villages - it is its own city, with prices that can accommodate just about everyone.

Are Prices in Florida Changing

BG: Is Florida becoming affordable again.

Jan: Yes, it is!

BG: Well, that is a plus for retirees.

Other Retirement States

BG:  What other states do you like. Your book reviews several popular states and gives very detailed information that even I had not come across before. I think that is the kind of information my visitors are looking for.

Jan:  When we, Cathy Fitzgerald, co-author, and I wrote the book, we wanted it to be very specific, reader-friendly, and include enough information that people could get a sense of the place. That is why we rated places like a "report card." We figured everyone could relate to that!

BG:  I definitely think you achieved your objective, and that is what makes the book so interesting. I mean that sincerely.

Jan:   We only included places we liked in the book -- all the states, as well as the three countries we included, living outside of the United States (of course, the research was FUN).

We also included a section in "The New Retirement" on each community's "Strengths" and "Weaknesses." Some of this was subjective. Maybe being two hours from an airport isn't an issue for some people, but we thought it would be a negative for most.

BG:  And I have found that not until you experience retirement, do you realize how important these things are that were not important before. You are bringing these things out in the book to help people choose the best area and community for their new lifestyle.

What Is the Best Retirement Community and The Best Places to Retire

BG: I find one of the most frequently asked questions is, "What is the best retirement community." Do you have a favorite or favorites. Since you have lived and traveled in so many places. What about states, do you have a favorite state for retirement or seniors. Are you in Florida by choice or circumstance.

Jan:  I'm in Florida by choice. I get asked that question a lot as well - where are the best places to retire? Well, sometimes it may be right where you live now!

We have a quiz in our book - SHOULD YOU RELOCATE. For some people, the answer is "No." We also have a quiz - SHOULD YOU RETIRE. That answer for many individuals is "no" as well. And, of course, some people like the mountains, some like lakes, some like city living - the huge span of what appeals to people is one of the things that makes life so exciting.

What I think is a strong point about our book is that we not only discuss retirement places but specific communities--how much they cost, what they offer, and how to get in touch with them.

How To Choose a Place or Community

Jan:  Another point that's worth making is that where we live is often dictated by our jobs. Suddenly, if we leave a career, we can move anywhere - it is often paralyzing.

BG:  So true.

Jan:  It's important to start thinking about your non-negotiables - and start formulating a list of what you have to have in a retirement location. Then, it becomes much easier to find many places where you'll be happy.

BG: In other words, have a priority list and make sure you know what is not negotiable on that list and what is. I believe in that also. This helps to narrow down your choices.