Last year we began a year rent free in Tallahassee, as we started our retirement. I had won a contest from a non-profit group called Choose Tallahassee who was targeting retired or soon-to-be retired Baby Boomer couples. (“Baby Boomers” are one of the largest generational groups in the U.S. More than 25 percent of the U.S. population belongs to this generation, born between 1946 and 1964.) They wanted retirees to experience what Tallahassee has to offer and hopefully stay. In doing so, Tallahassee would reap the benefits of retiree’s enthusiasm for volunteerism while increasing area revenues.
Moving while in retirement is a big decision as anyone knows. Some can’t bring themselves to do it for various reasons like family, locale or finances. We had been checking out various places in the Southeastern states during our vacations. We had done our research and had decided we wanted to retire in one of four states, Florida being one. We looked at the data on which states treated our retirement income the most fair and whether the state had other taxes (see below). We also wanted weather that would be mild most of the year, near or on a beach, a college town for the events and learning and ways to get involved.
For us, it wasn’t a difficult decision to move away from northern New England. We didn’t have ties to the area except our jobs and we had hopes our grown kids would follow us south. New England, though lovely, was presenting more challenges to us because of the weather, fuel costs, property taxes and limited cultural/educational activities.
I found out about the contest after we had returned from a trip to Alabama and Florida while searching out retirement areas. In fact, we never made it to Tallahassee on this trip. There were a series of things you had to do to enter this contest and then the winner would receive a rent free year in Tallahassee plus tickets and memberships to many, many events. Why, this was right up my alley!
For the contest, first I did my research on Tallahassee and I was pleasantly surprised by all it had to offer. It is a wonderful size, traffic is not too bad and you will find art, music, three universities, great health care facilities, beaches an hour away and any club you might want to join. The housing prices were reasonable there too.
There was a WEG (Washington Economic Group) report at the time and they rated Tallahassee as the number one place to retire. Boomers were looking for a Southern college town first and Tallahassee was at the top of the top ten list. They want warmer weather with a hint of winter in a mid-sized town, a low cost of living and quality health care. Other factors were supportive senior services, art and cultural opportunities, proximity to a beach and robust opportunities for life-long learning. And of course, Baby Boomers did not want the annoying traffic and congestion. College towns in Southern states, appear to offer the best mix of these many factors.
There was also a Kiplinger’s report on the top 10 states with the lowest taxes and Florida was in that group! Florida doesn’t have a state tax, social security retirement tax, local personal tax, estate tax or inheritance tax! Groceries and medicine are tax-free and Florida has tax relief for property owners over age 65. Utility rates were dropping there as well. Also more recently in June, 2015, Tallahassee was recognized by the National Civic League as one of 10 All-American Cities in the country for innovative efforts to promote positive community changes.
So after checking all that out, I entered the contest. It was a series of questions on Facebook that you had to answer. Their committee and the public voted on the contestants they liked. Surprise, surprise! I got an email that I was in the top 25, chosen from entries submitted from the whole country! A semi-finalist!
In the next phase, the semi-finalists had to create a video about why they wanted to move to Tallahassee. My research paid off. I enjoyed doing this and tried to be creative. Finally I was notified I was one of the top 5 Finalists! After a Skype interview with each of the contestants, I was chosen as the winner! How exciting!
One of the best things Choose Tallahassee did after we won, was to fly us in to see our new city. Several wonderful people showed us around. They assigned us a wonderful (I repeat…wonderful) realtor. She showed us neighborhoods and though we couldn’t make a decision that weekend, she was instrumental in helping us find our “Home Free” home by previewing it and helping us decide long distance. We decided to rent first to get to know our new city and our rent would be covered. We hadn’t rented a home in probably 35 years! We loved the house and the area chosen!