Editor's Note: In response to the U.S. News & World Report “Best Places to Retire in the U.S. in 2022-2023” list that placed 5 Pennsylvania cities in the Top 10, I've turned to one of our frequent contributors, a native Pennsylvanian, for his thoughts. Take it away Andy!
Is Pennsylvania the next great retirement destination?
According to the recently published U.S. News & World Report list of the country’s top retirement destinations, that might be the case.
The top two spots on that list are Pennsylvania towns, both edging out peaceful Pensacola and exciting Tampa. Then Pennsylvania goes on to claim three more spots in the top ten, compared to only four Florida cities ranked in that top ten. (See the full list here.)
Are you surprised by that? I was!
As a native Pennsylvanian, I don’t disagree that these are all great places to call home. But when I am carefully planning for my early retirement, I don’t see how anything could be better than the fantastic retirement cities the Sunshine State has to offer!
So with that in mind, let me break down eight painfully obvious reasons I can’t recommend a Keystone State retirement compared to one of the many options in the Sunshine State.
I Can’t Deal With Snow Anymore
The primary reason that Pennsylvania can’t hold a candle to Florida as a retirement destination is that the weather won’t ever be able to stack up.
I’ve spent my entire life dealing with an abundance of clouds and rain throughout the warm months. And that’s only followed by WAY too much snow in the cold months.
I’m not going to spend my golden years doing the same.
Retirees that relocate to Florida don’t have to maintain snowblowers. They also don’t need to own a separate set of “snow tires” for their vehicles.
That alone is enough to convince me that Florida is my retirement destination.
Pennsylvania weather also means owning an abundance of sweaters, boots, and jackets. Florida residents don’t have to bother with any of this nonsense, and can usually wear shorts and sandals all year round.
Speaking of Wardrobe Requirements…
It’s also worth pointing out that the dress code is “resort casual” just about everywhere in Florida, so I can finally ditch those pleated Dockers and my collection of Geoffrey Beene dress shirts.
I’m a casual guy, and the idea of wearing shorts and boat shoes (or my new Hey Dudes) as “formal attire” is one of the most appealing aspects of a Florida retirement. You just can’t pull that off most places in Pennsylvania.
Housing Affordability is Nonsense
The U.S. News & World Report list cited housing affordability as a critical factor that makes Pennsylvania such an optimal retirement location.
That may be true when looking at the overall numbers, but I have noticed that most of the “affordable” homes up north come with WAY too many stairs.
And while many builders in Pennsylvania advertise low starting prices on new construction, buyers quickly learn that the prices go up in a hurry once you add on all of the features that come standard with almost every new home in Florida.
Florida is the ultimate retirement community destination, and all of those communities are designed to offer floor plans that are perfectly attuned to retirement living. That means you can easily find a home with no steps and minimal maintenance.
That is easier said than done up north.
Retirement Communities Make for Ideal Lifestyles
Not only do Florida retirement communities make it easier to find the perfect home for retirement living, but there is also the benefit of having plenty of fantastic activities and events geared toward the ideal retirement lifestyle.
Florida retirees are also more likely to be surrounded by neighbors in similar stages of life, which means you’ll be able to make new friends in a neighborhood full of people looking for the same lifestyle you seek.
Hershey Park isn’t Disney World, and Lake Erie isn’t the Atlantic Ocean
They say that everything in real estate comes down to location, location, location. And when it comes to location, it’s hard for any state to beat sunny Florida.
No matter where you choose to live in Florida, you’ll never be more than a short drive away from beautiful beaches and world-class theme parks.
Meanwhile, the best that Pennsylvania can offer on that level is a strange combination of Lake Erie, Hershey Park, and driving to Atlantic City for a weekend getaway.
There’s no comparison here.
Florida Offers Just as Many Outdoor Activities
The lifestyle options in Pennsylvania get a lot of hype from outdoor enthusiasts, but just about everything you can do up north can also be done in Florida. Plus, Florida gets bonus points because you can do those things all year round.
Pennsylvania residents love fishing in streams and rivers, but Florida residents get to head out on the open water to chase down deep-sea monsters.
Florida also boasts more options for kayak enthusiasts, and there are walking trails and nature preserves near almost every community we have profiled here at Florida for Boomers.
Outside of downhill skiing, there isn’t much that Pennsylvania can offer that can’t be replicated in Florida (all year round), so unless you are obsessed with snow-covered mountains, heading south is the ticket.
You Have to Pay State Income Tax in PA
Pennsylvania gets a lot of credit for being a great tax state for retirees. That may be true compared to the country as a whole, but don’t forget that there is no state income tax at all in Florida.
Comparing low taxes to no taxes might not seem like a huge deal at first because most people aren’t planning on having a significant income during retirement. But if every little bit is going to help, you absolutely need to make the most of every dollar.
Healthcare Ratings Can Be Misleading
There is no denying that Pennsylvania has outstanding healthcare facilities across the state, which is another reason cited for many of the popular retirement destinations there.
However, Florida is home to a similar amount of world-class healthcare options, and residents will find that those healthcare facilities are even more tailored to seniors than they are up north.
Florida also has the advantage that many of its best healthcare facilities are located right in various retirement destinations. In contrast, Pennsylvania residents will likely have to drive to one of the big cities on either side of the state to get the best care.
Bringing It All Together
There’s no denying that Pennsylvania is a beautiful state with a lot to like about it. But Florida offers slightly better options in almost every single category for anyone looking for the perfect retirement destination.
Once you process all of their reasons, it becomes relatively easy to see why so many Pennsylvania residents are planning to pack up their homes and head south.
Life is better in Florida.