After forty years of kids, college and careers, retirement was suddenly upon us and we found ourselves looking at this next phase of our lives with both excitement and occasional stress. There are so many factors to sort through… financial, health, lifestyle. Let’s focus on lifestyle for a moment though, of course, how we live out these coming years is certainly dependent on financial resources and what your body will tolerate, health-wise. But, let’s assume we’ve got those two issues under control… where and how do we want to live for the next twenty or thirty years?

Escape from the frozen Northern states.

For those of us blessed or cursed to currently call home base in one of the northern states, in our case Michigan, we are fortunate enough to have four or five months of marvelous weather for whatever outdoor pursuit we may to interested in, but the remaining days can be very dark, cold and uncooperative.  We’ve just now escaped the latest Polar Vortex sweeping down from the Arctic Circle as we write this piece.

For many years we’ve watched family and more recently friends make the “snowbird migration” to warmer climates this time of year. Most have chosen Florida because of its relative proximity to the “Mitten State”. We have traveled to Florida almost every year since the crazy college spring break days and later with family to a cottage we owned on the northern Gulf Coast.

The pro’s and con’s of Florida and other points south.

There are so many wonderful aspects to Florida, but also some well-recognized drawbacks. And is Florida even the right choice for us Midwesterners trying to find refuge for a few months for the cold and snowy winters? There are the Carolina’s, southern Alabama, Texas, Arizona, California, even Mexico and the Caribbean.

Like so many of those before us, we are drawn to Florida’s beaches, sunsets, outdoor living and recreation; in our case, kayaking, hiking, fishing, golf and of course, Pickleball. The downsides are considerable as well, with costs rising, traffic becoming almost gridlock and severe weather at times. And of course the traumatic realization you’re now one of the “silver-haired seniors” migrating to South Florida to ride out those final years. We’re not that old yet, right!

 

Don’t rush in!

So, here’s our current plan of attack… let’s ease into this and not throw all our chips on the table right up front. Last winter we rented homes for a month in Florida, checking out the weather and lifestyle in both Sarasota and our old haunts up near Destin along Highway 30a. Both were wonderful as we expected.

This year, we’re making a bigger commitment to continue our exploration with three months scheduled at two different rental homes in the Naples, Florida area.  We have many friends who are retired now or visit family in that area.  It’s almost like transplanting our Michigan-based network 1400 miles to the south for a few months. This will really give us a feel for the area, the crowds, the cost, and so on, before we make many further commitments of time and treasure in future years.

Should you rent or buy your retirement home?

Buying vs. renting is another dilemma that we’ve debated with our friends over the years. Buying your own home offers the benefits of permanence, possible appreciation and investment potential (for your kids!), and a true sense of “home” while you’re down there. You have regular neighbors and a network of familiar friends when you come back every year.

Renting provides flexibility, often less cost, peace of mind when the next hurricane blows in and so forth. We’ve decided to rent in different areas and in different types of housing, (houses vs. condo’s, coach homes, villas, etc.), to “test drive” the whole experience, so to speak. We’ll keep our blog posts going through the winter to let you know how the next three months play out.

 

It’s not all about the weather… but then again, maybe it is!

One thing I guarantee you can count on.  We won’t be complaining about the weather!  It was ten below zero when we left Michigan on January 30th, with windchills climbing into the -20’s and 30’s!  Ouch and brrrr!!!

I trust you are all aware of the resources to find quality rental housing on your travels, but we like VRBO and AirBnB.  We have yet to be disappointed in a rental after many years of using both web platforms. Here are a few more of the higher rated vacation rental sites.  Check out HomeAway, Trip Advisor, Flipkey or Booking.com.

Stay warm and Be Active, Be Healthy and Be Purposeful.