"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Should we retire in Florida?

By on April 22, 2019 in Travel with 2 Comments
Maureen McGinity, Kalin Raible and Mya Archamboult enjoy a moment at the Naples Pier.

By Kalin Raible

In December, my wife and I decided to check out Florida. The reasons for the trip were many but key components were…

•   Find someplace warmer than Wenatchee, where the sun is shining in winter, for our retirement years.

•   Find a place preferably near the ocean.

So we ended up booking flights from Seattle to Tampa via the website Scott’s Cheap Flights.

I reached out to friends about staying with them but didn’t connect in a timely manner, so we booked airBnB’s for the trip.

We flew American to Tampa on a Wednesday with a stopover in Dallas/Fort Worth. We arrived in Tampa after midnight.

Lake Worth Beach walking pier stretches out into the Atlantic.

Thursday morning found us at Mr. B’s Restaurant, enjoying delicious southern food while they were having a food photo shoot.

After stuffing ourselves, we journeyed to Ellenton to meet up with our friends Adrianne and Bob Wiegenstein.

It was wonderful to reconnect with them. It has been years since we have seen them. Bob and Adrianne used to live up the Entiat. Bob worked at Chelan Community Hospital and Adrianne worked at Cascade Medical Center. 

We talked about their retirement. One of their tips: If you decide to move out-of-country, don’t ship all your stuff — it’s expensive and not as important to you as you think. Another tip: Explore those things that interest you. Bob’s has been taking ukulele lessons and learning to paint.

It had taken Bob and Adrianne a bit to sell their Entiat house, sell their stuff, settle their affairs and move to Costa Rica, where they lived for about three years. Around the time Bob turned 70, they decided to return stateside. They had lived in Florida during their working years and thought it would be a good place to retire. 

Adrianne and Bob took us to one of their favorite happy hour spots — The Patio at Pier 22 in Bradenton.

Bars with happy hour menus make for cheaper eats.

Retirement Tip: Happy Hour menus are usually less expensive than the regular menu. Also, live within your means and do what it takes to create the life you want. Adrianne picked up a part-time job working for Meals on Wheels qualifying applicants for meals to have extra travel money.

Friday morning they took us to Bradenton Beach (about 20 minutes from their house) to watch the waves roll in and see the birds. We enjoyed lunch along the boardwalk at a restaurant with that “Old Florida” feel. 

We parted ways at Bradenton Beach and headed south to Siesta Key. I wanted to see the lay of the land after reading some of Blaize Clement’s Dixie Hemingway Mystery series. This is one of the fun things I’ve learned to do — find fiction stories that have a place that is a character in the story, such as Sheila Connolly’s stories about Leap, Ireland (County Cork Mystery series). Found ice cream, coffee and Midnight Pass Road.

After Siesta Key, it was across the bridge to Sarasota.

I had heard varying descriptions of Florida drivers: “bat-out-of-hell,” “they don’t pay attention” and “they feel they have to be first” — and we actually got to experience it.

At one point, the driver behind us decided we were moving too slow (because we were watching the traffic in front of us) and passed us on the right. The driver was driving on the white line and the curb only to be stopped by the accident in front of us (which had caused the traffic slowdown in the first place).

The driver then proceeded to dart to the left across two lanes of traffic to get around the accident and narrowly avoided being hit by another car. In all fairness, we had been warned about Florida drivers. I really can’t refute those statements after this trip.

After Sarasota, it was off to Naples to talk with Maureen (Mo) and Joe McGinity (my sister-in-law’s parents) about retirement.

We discussed how they had set themselves up for retirement — the house in Naples was inherited from Maureen’s mom. They remodeled and updated it a bit but for my sister-in-law, there is enough originality that the house reminds her of good times with her family.

Mo and Joe were consummate hosts. They showed us some of their favorite spots. We drove to Marco Island and visited their historical museum (newly completed). The museum contained everything from the Pre-Columbia peoples of the area (Calusa Indians) to the settlement ads for developers who wanted people to move to Florida.

After that we drove around Marco Island looking for signs of burrowing owls – an endangered bird that means if they move into your unbuilt lot, you aren’t building until they move on.

On the way back to Naples, we stopped at Stan’s in Goodland, Florida to check out the Mullet Festival (as in fish, not hair style but we did see some of both). This stop was one of the highlights of the trip.

The place was hopping, live music, festival people and right on the water. Envision Stan’s and the Mullet Festival is one of Jimmy Buffet’s favorite places because of the vibe and you will have a pretty good idea of what the place was like.

Mo and Joe’s retirement tips: Plan ahead, start saving as early as you can, and have a special dish you prepare for guests when they come to visit (their lamb steaks were delicious).

A gator basks in the sun near the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk in the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park.

Next we backtracked to the west along Highway 41 (aka the Tamiami Trail) to Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk. We had been given a heads up to look for alligators sunning themselves on the north side of the highway. Nothing like seeing a 14-foot gator (about as long as our rental car) to make you feel like you are sliding down the food chain. 

Then it was back to 41 to get to Lake Worth before dark so we could check out the beach. We found our spot, dropped off our stuff at our airBnB and went to sink our toes in the sand on the shores of the Atlantic as the sun set. Finally it wasn’t raining and we were at the beach.

Tuesday dawned with sun as forecast and I chatted with our airBnB host, Larry, about how they had retired and were able to afford a place in Minneapolis (the summer home) and a house in Lake Worth (the winter home). Larry’s advice: Want less.

My wife, Mya, took in the sun and attempted to bake the cold out of her bones. Then we went off to the beach where we played in the waves and picked up shells. We also were inspired to pick up trash by a couple that had walked by trash collecting. Once we started looking, you see it everywhere.

Then, it was time to fly home. An ironic moment — it was 45 F and raining when we left Tampa and when we landed back in Seattle, it was also 45 F and raining.

Things we learned (heard) on the trip:

The east coast of Florida is mostly easterners — New York/New Jersey. The west coast is mostly those from the Midwest.

Florida has no income tax, significant income inequality, moderate property tax, a poor social service network (since there are not a lot of tax dollars coming in), a 2019 minimum wage of $8.46 per hour and a landmass that is suggested to be sinking.

Florida has a lot of ocean access (when there isn’t a red tide or hurricanes) and people from all over.

I’m not sure if Florida is where we will end up in our retirement but it was definitely worth exploring. 

The people we met were welcoming and delighted that we had come to see their adopted state. 

They loved Florida and felt that we would too.

Kalin Raible — who works in the food service supply industry — has traveled to several different places on the planet and is thrilled to be thinking and talking about retirement.

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There Are 2 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Margaret says:

    A quick flight to the Bahamas and you two could have seen how live aboard cruisers retire. We have a strong-boned sailboat and have been living on her x 10 months. We visit all our friends and relatives in Florida and hope to get to Texas. We can return north to get away from heat and hurricanes or take her out of the water. My Ennis home is winterized, cheaper than paying for heat and is now an Air bnb for extra cash and available for us to live in as needed.

  2. Caro says:

    Nice work! And as always, an inspiration. Xo

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