Should You Retire in Hawaii or Florida?
When you picture either Hawaii or Florida, you probably visualize the beautiful beaches, sunny weather, warm temperatures, and a life of leisure. While these depictions may be fully accurate, they are also idealistic. Real life compels us to consider a number of factors when determining where to move, especially for retirement when income may be fixed.
Because Hawaii and Florida are two of the most popular retirement destinations, I will be focusing on these two states in this article. However, whether you choose to retire to one of these states or somewhere else entirely, there are several factors that are essential to consider when you think about relocating. These might include:
- Cost of living
- Availability of housing
- Access to medical care
- Leisure activities
- Proximity to family
Generally speaking, the cost of living is higher in Hawaii, and there is less housing available, while in Florida costs are more moderate and senior living communities are commonplace. Medical care is more accessible in Florida but of higher quality in Hawaii. The two states have very different cultures, with Hawaii focused on family and multigenerational living while Florida is less so. Weather is similar in both states, though Florida has more storms, and there are similar types of activities available.
There is much to think about when you are making a decision regarding where you should make your retirement home. Read on to learn more about how each of these factors might play into your decision to retire in Hawaii or Florida.
Cost of Living
No one will contend that it is cheap to retire in either Hawaii or Florida. Relocating for retirement always comes at a cost - the key is knowing what your costs will be and planning accordingly.
It is fairly common knowledge that the cost of living is high in Hawaii. This is no less true for senior citizens hoping to retire in Hawaii. In fact, the cost of living in Hawaii is the highest of any in the nation at 33% higher than the national average cost of living. Seniors on a fixed income may not be able to afford to retire in Hawaii unless they have extensive savings.
The high expense of retiring in Hawaii comes in several different forms. First, there are taxes. Hawaii has a high state income tax, so if you work, your pay will be taxed at a high rate. Additionally, the income tax applies to private pensions and retirement accounts such as 401K or IRAs.
Then, there are the factors that affect all residents of Hawaii, such as the high cost of groceries, gas, and utilities. Because 85-90% of all food in Hawaii is imported, there is a significant increase in the price of items you may use daily. For example, a gallon of milk can sell for about $9 at the grocery store. Gasoline is almost twice as expensive in Hawaii as it is in the contiguous United States. Utilities such as electricity and natural gas are also increased in price.
There are some ways to save money living in Hawaii. Property taxes are low, so if you choose to own a home rather than rent, your property taxes will not be as significant as in other states. There is no sales tax, which helps offset the higher prices at the market. Social Security income is not taxed, nor are public or government pensions, so if those are your primary income, you will avoid the state income tax. Gardening can save you money on groceries, and solar energy can save you money on utilities.
The cost of living in Florida is more manageable for most seniors. The cost of living is on par with the national average, so transitioning from out of state should be manageable in terms of cost. There is no state income tax in Hawaii at all, meaning there is no tax on Social Security, public or private pension, 401K, or IRA accounts.
There is a 6% sales tax in Florida, and most communities also impose their own sales tax, bringing the total to about 7.5% tax on all sales. Property taxes are high as well, and all property taxes are assessed at 100% of the home’s value, so as home values rise, so do taxes.
The cost of living is clearly higher in Hawaii than Florida, but some who have the means may still choose to make their retirement home in Hawaii, and those with more moderate incomes may choose to stretch their dollars. Others may determine that Florida is a more financially manageable option. For all deciding between Hawaii and Florida, there are several other considerations to keep in mind.
Availability of Housing
Florida is known for senior living and has a vast availability of senior housing options. There are numerous senior communities with a range of price points, and there is always open availability to a number of housing options. With a median home value of $235,000, Florida offers affordable housing for seniors who may be on a fixed income. There is also a large geography available to seniors, depending upon which coastline or cities you might want nearby.
A newer option available to seniors who retire in Florida is the continuing care retirement community. This allows for a continuum of care from independent to assisted living, to nursing care if needed. This housing model gives senior citizens a way to plan for possible future care needs and secure their finances to ensure that their housing and medical care continue.
Hawaii, on the other hand, is not as well known for senior living options. Most people in Hawaii over age 65 live on the island of Oahu, but there are limited options for senior-specific housing and those that exist have waiting lists. Most retirees in Hawaii live in private homes or apartments. The median cost of a single-family home in Hawaii is $992,500, and the median cost of a condominium is $475,000, making purchasing a home in Hawaii challenging for many seniors. Most who retire in Hawaii choose to rent - a small apartment of 600 square feet runs about $1800 a month. There is availability for both purchasing or renting property in Hawaii, but it will come at a price.
Even healthy, active senior citizens need to prepare for the possibility that they may require medical care, whether it be for routine care, emergencies, or new diagnoses that emerge with aging. Adequate medical resources are available to retirees in both Hawaii and Florida, but your access to care and the quality of care you receive may be dependent upon where you live.
In Hawaii, most retirees live on the island of Oahu, largely because of better access to medical care and hospitals such as The Queen’s Medical Center. If you choose to live on another island and an emergent issue arises, there is a good possibility you will need to be flown to Oahu for care.
While fast access to healthcare is a bit challenging in Hawaii, you will receive very high-quality care. U.S. News ranked Hawaii #1 for healthcare quality and #6 for public health in the nation in 2019. Hawaii is one of the healthiest states in the U.S., in large part due to excellent healthcare options.
Conversely, in Florida, you will have access to a variety of hospitals and clinics and will not have to travel far for care. However, ratings for healthcare in Florida are not nearly as good as in Hawaii. Healthcare services are rated average for quality of care, cancer treatment, and routine care in Florida, while ratings are below average for nursing homes and assisted living facilities. This last rating may be quite concerning for senior citizens who may, at some point, require access to these resources.
The cultures in Hawaii and Florida are quite different from one another, unique in ways that might suit any retirees needs. While both states offer a laid-back, relaxed atmosphere for retired seniors, they are different in some very specific ways.
The general culture in Florida is similar to that within much of the United States, with one big difference - the large proportion of the population that is over age 65. Florida has the highest percentage of senior citizens of any state, with 1 in every 5 residents over the age of 65, a full 20.9% of the population. This means that many attractions and activities are very accommodating to seniors.
The culture in Hawaii is very family-oriented, with many families living in multigenerational homes. Elders are revered in Hawaiian culture, so while there may not be specific amenities geared toward seniors, most residents will defer to older people when standing in line or taking seats on transport.
Crime rates are something to consider in terms of the culture of each state as well. Hawaii has a relatively low crime rate, with an average rate of 2.5 crimes per 1000 people, compared with the national average of 3.9 per 1000. Florida has a crime rate right on par with the national average at 3.8 per 1000, but is the top state for fraud. Seniors are especially vulnerable to identity theft and debt collection scams, which are common in Florida.
Both Florida and Hawaii have cultures that revolve largely around tourism. It is important to remember that there may be an influx of tourists in the winter months, causing crowds and traffic. Tourist attractions that may also be attractive to you as a resident may be better visited during the spring or summer months.
The big draw for retiring to Hawaii or Florida is often the warm weather and all of the outdoor activities that may entail. Both states are known for their beach activities, including snorkeling, scuba diving, paddleboarding, windsurfing, and relaxing on the beach. Hawaii also offers great waves for surfing along with mountains for hiking or riding ATVs. Florida is regarded for great fishing and lots of opportunities for boating. Both states host well-known golf courses, and retirees can hit the links in the beautiful weather in either state.
If you are more inclined to relax than seek adventure, Hawaii and Florida both offer more laid-back options for entertainment. Hawaii boasts lots of cultural attractions such as museums, cultural shows, and luaus. Restaurants offer a range of cuisines but of course, fresh seafood and local fruits are prominent on many menus. Tourist attractions that residents also enjoy include Pearl Harbor, the Haraum Bay Nature Preserve, and the Hana Highway, which is a 52-mile scenic drive along the Hawaiian coastline. Florida has more mainstream attractions such as theatre and the Disney theme parks, often offering discounts to Florida residents.
If you prefer to join in on a group activity rather than planning your own, you might consider taking part in planned retirement community activities. These include trips to casinos and theme parks, Bingo games, boating trips, and fishing outings. These are more likely to be found in Florida given how common senior living communities are in the state.
Thoughts of retirement in Hawaii or Florida undoubtedly bring thoughts of sunshine. After dealing with winters for many years, most seniors relocating to Hawaii or Florida are eager to enjoy the warm climate and clear days. If weather is a big factor in your move, you should know some specifics about each state.
In Hawaii, the average temperature is 84℉, with temperatures generally ranging from 78-90℉, making for a comfortable level of heat throughout the year. The humidity in Hawaii is low, and many residents choose to open windows to cool off rather than using air conditioning. On the Leeward side of Oahu, the climate is hotter and drier with constant sun; while on the Windward side, the temperatures are a bit cooler and there are near-daily rain showers.
In Florida, the average temperature is 79℉, but is much more variable, ranging from 60-100℉ depending upon the season. Humidity levels for most months of the year are quite oppressive, making air conditioning a necessity. There are frequent rains and thunderstorms in all areas of the state. In addition, hurricane season runs from June1-November 30, and both sides of the peninsula are equally at risk of being hit by a major storm.
Because both Hawaii and Florida offer warm weather and sunshine, they both also play host to a number of creatures that thrive in warm climates. Geckos, cockroaches, spiders, centipedes, and mosquitoes are constant companions in Hawaii, while Florida has alligators, snakes, and termites to contend with.
Proximity to Family
When you consider moving to a new state, you should think about how far you will be from loved ones and how difficult travel to visit might be. If you choose to relocate to Florida, you will be within 3,000 miles of any family living within the contiguous United States, and you will have access to multiple airports. If you choose to retire in Hawaii, you will be 2,400 miles from the coast of California, and access to air travel will be more limited and may involve travel among islands.
Given the cost of airfare and lodging, retirees in both states report that visits from family begin to wane after several years. If you want to maintain in-person contact, it is important to plan for the time and expenses required for traveling to and from either state.
How to Choose
Your retirement home should be a sure decision. You should carefully consider the pros and cons of retirement in Hawaii or Florida and make the best decision for yourself based on the amenities and climate you desire, the costs involved, your housing and medical needs, and your ability to travel to see loved ones. Either location will offer you gorgeous beaches, warm temperatures, and the life of leisure you choose.