With nearly 20 percent of Florida’s 21.3 million residents at least 65 years old, the Sunshine State -- with its blue-plate specials, senior discounts, over-55 communities -- has been a retirement mecca for generations.
But that apparently doesn’t mean it’s the best place in America to retire.
According to a July ranking by BankRate, that honor goes to Nebraska.
The Cornhusker State topped BankRate’s best places to retire in a listing that had a distinct Midwest flavor, with Iowa, Missouri and South Dakota all ranking behind Nebraska and above Florida in terms of affordability, crime, culture, weather and “wellness” for retirees.
In their ranking, Bankrate, a financial services corporation, considered what factors seniors are likely to weigh when retiring.
“Should you settle by a bright beach and humming population hub? Or maybe in a place where residents wave to each other and green grass grows?” the report asked.
In the end, affordability and health care costs proved to be “the most important factor in deciding where to settle after leaving the workforce,” the ranking states.
The affordability ranking is particularly important to seniors who plan to enroll in Medicare because costs associated with certain supplemental plans can vary widely across the country.
“Affordability was therefore the factor that carried the heaviest weight in the rankings, and was calculated based on the percentage of people in each state who needed to see a doctor but were prohibited by cost, as well as the state’s income, property and sales tax rates,” BankRate states.
Nebraska ranked 14th on the affordability scale while Florida placed 25th. The difference could be significant for many seniors. For example, according to the report, a Medicare Supplement Plan G has a monthly premium around $286 in Miami but costs $90 in Omaha.
Nebraska also ranked higher than Florida -- 8th to 31st -- in “wellness,” which BankRate calculated using the Gallup-ShareCare Wellbeing Index, which assesses elderly services per capita, and in crime rates, where Nebraska ranked 19th lowest and Florida 29th.
Florida out-ranked all but Hawaii in weather and placed 13th in culture, where Nebraska ranked 21st.
Maryland, New York, Alaska, Illinois and Washington are the worst five states to retire in, according to BankRate.
BankRate’s findings both refute and confirm aspects of WalletHub’s best states to retire rankings in January. In that analysis, Florida ranked no. 1 and Nebraska no. 26.
WalletHub’s ranking was based on 46 “retirement-friendliness” factors, including adjusted cost of living, “quality of life” and quality of public hospitals.
Florida ranked no. 1 in affordability, seventh in “quality of life” and 27th in public health care quality, earning it the top spot ahead of South Dakota, Colorado, New Hampshire and Virginia, according to WalletHub’s retirement study.
Nebraska, meanwhile, ranked 41st in affordability, 17th in “quality of life” and eighth in quality of public health care in WalletHub’s analysis.
The vast difference between BankRate’s and WalletHub’s affordability rankings could be in how the financial services firms assessed tax/fee structures in different states and communities.
According to an April WalletHub ranking, Nebraska residents have the 14th highest tax burden in the nation while only Tennessee, Delaware and Alaska residents pay less as a share of their spending in taxes per capita than Florida taxpayers do.
January’s WalletHub retirement ranking also identified some other statistical oddities that could influence policymakers. For instance, while Florida boasts the highest-percentage of over-age 65 residents in its general population, it ranks only 47th per capita in over-age 65 people in the workforce.
According to a November 2018 Smart Asset study, the 10 best places to retire in Florida begin with Naples in Collier County. More than half the city’s residents are over 65 and it has an abundance of medical centers -- 28 per 1,000 residents -- and a tax burden of just 14.6 percent.
New Port Richey, Orange Park, Brooksville, Stuart, Vero Beach, Inverness, Venice, Sarasota and Sun City Center round out the top 10, according to Smart Asset.
John Haughey is the Florida contributor to The Center Square.