The Top 13 Worst Florida Cities for Retirees

INVESTING - SAVING FOR RETIREMENT
You might want to cross these cities off your list.
Updated Feb. 7, 2024
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Florida is a dream retirement location for many seniors — but it spans nearly 66,000 square miles, covers two climate zones, and has cities ranging from tiny rural towns to massive urban centers with almost 1 million residents.

In a space that vast and with such regional diversity, there are bound to be plenty of places you’d be thrilled to settle in. But the flip side is also true: Florida isn’t ideal for everyone, and some of its cities are far less retiree-friendly than others.

Wondering which cities to steer clear of in the Sunshine State so you can avoid throwing money away? The following 13 cities aren’t ideal for most retirees.

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Palm Beach

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe worth ave, west palm beach, florida

As the name suggests, Palm Beach is a beautiful beachside city in Southern Florida lined with gorgeous beaches and filled with luxury resorts. If this sounds nice, we recommend grabbing a great travel credit card and booking a trip.

But while it can be a wonderful (if pricey) place to vacation, the same things that make Palm Beach so attractive also make it less than ideal for anyone living on a fixed income.

Property values in the area soared by nearly 14% over the last few years, and even the city’s recent 4.6% reduction in property taxes likely won’t be enough to make local properties particularly affordable for retirees.

Jacksonville

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe jacksonville, florida, usa city skyline

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Florida’s biggest city consistently ranks as the most dangerous. In 2019, for instance, the city experienced over 5,880 violent crimes, or 647 per 100,000 individuals.

Broadly speaking, it’s fair to take crime statistics with a grain of salt — in no small part because property crime has fallen year over year for the past two decades while violent crime rates are much lower now than 30 years ago. 

Still, if you worry about violent crime, you might want to add Jacksonville to your list of Florida cities to stay away from for now.

Miami

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe miami beach, florida

Miami is a must-see city for any traveler who loves incredible food, picturesque beaches, and nonstop cultural events. 

However, thanks to its location, Miami is the most hurricane-prone city in Florida. 

The fact that most of Miami’s citizens live no fewer than 20 miles from the coast makes the city’s 16% chance of being hit by a hurricane in any given year even more alarming.

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Fort Lauderdale

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe fort lauderdale, florida, usa skyline

Like other southeastern Florida cities, Fort Lauderdale is an excellent site for relaxing on the beach, treating yourself to cutting-edge restaurants, and enjoying luxury beachside shopping.

But Fort Lauderdale’s high cost of living makes it too pricey for many retirees. The city’s cost of living is 21% above the rest of Florida, which makes it about 22% above the rest of the country.

Panama City

Robert Hainer/Adobe Panama City Beach, Florida, view of Front Beach Road at night du

According to one (incredibly subjective) poll, Panama City is Florida’s ugliest place to live. 

Not to be confused with Panama Beach City, Panama City is — per the city’s Reddit users — a poorly designed locale with a horrifying amount of bland, overpriced McMansions.

Unless you want to live in a particularly boring, uninteresting town, feel free to leave Panama City off your list of potential retirement cities.

Lakeland

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Lakeland Florida USA skyline

Lakeland honestly has a lot going for it, including its proximity to Tampa and Orlando. Unfortunately, Lakeland also has the third-worst commute of any city in the United States. 

If you don’t drive much, this might not be a problem for you. But if you do drive, just know that you’ll spend an average of more than 30 minutes traveling at 27 miles per hour just to reach Winter Haven, which is a mere 15 miles away.

Pensacola

Laura/Adobe gorgeous, colorful sunset in pensacola florida

Florida might be the Sunshine State, but it’s also a tropical and sub-tropical state, which means there’s plenty of rain to balance out the sunshine. 

Pensacola isn’t the rainiest city in Florida — Miami and West Palm Beach get slightly more precipitation — but with 65 inches of rain a year, it’s still one of Florida’s five rainiest areas.

Some retirees will love Pensacola’s beaches and gorgeous scenery, but those who dislike the rain should look elsewhere.

Key Biscayne

kmiragaya/Adobe famous lighthouse at key biscayne

Key Biscayne is a tropical island off Florida’s coast with white-sand beaches and crystalline blue oceans that easily qualify it as one of the most beautiful spots in the United States.

Life is always more expensive on an island, but with an average cost of living 97% above the rest of the country, Key Biscayne is even more expensive than most. 

Worst of all, housing costs in the area are a whopping 339% above the national average.

Sarasota

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Sarasota Florida USA

In many ways, Sarasota is the perfect beach city for retirees. But before you go all in on the city, you should know that it had the highest number of nuisance alligator removals in the state in 2018.

Even in the state that more than 1 million alligators call home, deadly alligator attacks on humans are extremely rare in Florida. Still, some Florida cities experience more alligator nuisance removal calls than others, and Sarasota generally makes it into the top five.

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Fort Myers Beach

TSL Photography/Adobe sandy shore at fort myers beach pier during sunset

Fort Myers Beach had the misfortune of being hit by the devastating Hurricane Ian in 2022. Nearly a year later, the city still hasn’t recovered from a record-breaking 15-foot storm surge that damaged most buildings in the area. 

As of March 2023, the city government still operated out of temporary trailers, and only a third of the city’s year-long residents have been able to return to their homes.

St. Augustine

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe St. Augustine

Founded by Spanish explorers in the 1500s, St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied city in the United States. 

Its unique architecture and stunning beaches are well worth seeing, but if you hate humidity, you should hesitate to call St. Augustine home. 

As the second-most humid city in Florida, St. Augustine’s average humidity rate is over 82%, which drastically increases how hot the hottest days feel.

Since your body has a harder time regulating its temperature as you age, it’s worth considering what humidity levels you’ll be comfortable with — especially if you’re moving to Florida from a much dryer area like the Southwest.

Key Largo

lucky-photo/Adobe sunny beach with coco palms and tropical sea

Key Largo’s cost of living isn’t as high as Key Biscayne’s, but at almost 12% higher than the national average, the island isn’t a cheap place to live. 

That’s a shame, because Key Largo is both beautiful and less developed than other more tourist-focused areas, but most retirees will have an easier time living on a fixed income in a different city.

Orlando

lunamarina/Adobe Orlando skyline from Lake Eola

Orlando has plenty of retirement-friendly activities to keep seniors entertained, and its proximity to Disney World is a draw for retirees with grandkids. 

But thanks in no small part to Disney and Universal Studios, Orlando gets more tourists than any city in the United States. In 2022, for instance, 74 million people visited Orlando.

Some seniors might not mind the crowds, but if you’re looking for a quieter retirement with a slower pace of life, Orlando isn’t the right place for you.

Bottom line

Day Of Victory Stu./Adobe senior couple walking on the beach holding hands at sunrise,

You don’t want to waste your hard-earned retirement savings on an expensive move to a city you learn too late you don’t actually like.

Those Florida cities might not be ideal relocation sites for many retirees, but there are plenty of other senior-friendly areas in the state.

If living in Florida really is your dream, just make sure to research your destination city thoroughly before you decide to move. You’ll keep more money in your wallet.

FinanceBuzz is not an investment advisor. This content is for informational purposes only, you should not construe any such information as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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Michelle Smith Michelle Smith has spent a decade writing for and about small businesses. She specializes in all things finance and has written for publications like G2 and SmallBizDaily. When she's not writing for work at her desk, you can usually find her writing for pleasure near large bodies of water.

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