I’ll admit it; I sometimes catch myself in a state of day dreaming. Looking at a wall, but only seeing my favorite theme park attractions, brightly colored paint, images of 3 circles connected to each other, and even the hot Florida sun melting my favorite theme park treat. However, during my daydream it’s different. I’m not thinking about an upcoming vacation, I’m thinking of it on a more permanent basis, like whenever I want to experience it. After a while I have to shake my head or smack my face to welcome myself back to the reality of the office, the daily grind. Oh! And let’s not forget the worst ever winter we’ve experienced in the Midwest and Northeast.
If you really love the Central Florida theme parks you’ve probably caught yourself dreaming of a day when you can jump in your car and visit your favorite theme park, attraction, and hot spot after a short 30 minute drive. A day when, at a moment’s notice, you pack a suitcase and head for the cruise terminal at Port Canaveral. It’s all available to you within a hundred mile radius. The days of trip countdowns, months of planning, and planning a travel budget are over. You now have the luxury of becoming a resident and neighbor of the theme park capitol of the world.
The allure of living close
As a retiree you love the idea of year-round entertainment at your doorstep. Where you decide to live after retirement can be one of the most important decisions you’ll make in your lifetime. You want to choose a location near activities, entertainment, nice weather, and most importantly something you really enjoy. Imagine sitting in your home and deciding at the drop of a hat to visit Universal Citywalk or EPCOT for the Food & Wine Festival. Instead of thinking about doing this from 1000 miles away, you are now only 20 minutes away. As you pass palm trees during your drive to the theme parks, you take a deep breath and exhale and realize how lucky you are to have these entertainment options in your backyard.
It Seems Like a Dream – But don’t be Fooled
As someone who’s visited Central Florida several times, I always associate it with ‘vacation.’ Whenever I’m there, work is an afterthought, spending money is no problem, and my life at home is left behind. It’s hard for me to envision a day while in Central Florida when I have to grocery shop, clean the house, visit my physician, or wash the dishes. The fact of the matter is that these tasks will exist in retirement. They don’t go away at the ripe old age of 65. You’ll still need to balance life’s daily activities with visiting the many Central Florida attractions and activities.
The other major transition point in a move like this is finances. When visiting Central Florida you always had a vacation budget. The budget usually had enough in it to enjoy yourself for a full week. You could spend money on food and souvenirs knowing it wasn’t part of a weekly or monthly family budget; it was a vacation budget. In retirement, like most Americans, you may be handcuffed by a fixed income. Yearly increases are few and far between and you can’t seem to keep up with inflation. Well, with the theme parks in your neighborhood your spending can, and probably will, become inflated. The Central Florida theme parks are not cheap and they will take their toll on your income when you live there. Of course, there are many ways to save money while visiting the parks. You’ll probably want to set an entertainment budget and look for ways to stretch your dollar while you have so many spending options around you.
Working in Retirement
Speaking of spending, a great way to supplement your income while in retirement is to work part time. If you’re like me, you’ve thought about working for one of the many theme park resorts in Central Florida. Not only is it a great way to supplement your income you’ll also receive some great benefits while doing it, like free theme park admission, bigger discounts on food and merchandise, and possibly improved health care benefits.
Another plus is the social aspect. It will get you out of the house working with other people who have something in common with you. It’s a great way to become part of the society you live in.
Even if you don’t need to work part or full time there are many volunteer opportunities. You could spend a few days volunteering at Give Kids the World Village or at a runDisney event. These opportunities are a great way to meet new people and feel good about giving back to your community.
Weather, Weather – What’s the Weather Report?
Florida is the sunshine state after all, isn’t it? Sure it is, but hold on a second. Don’t let the illusion of sun 297 days a year fool you. Florida weather does have some drawbacks you need to be aware of. First of all the months between May and September can be brutally hot and humid. At times it’s very uncomfortable to be a Central Floridian. Leaving your house is sometimes a tough decision when the temps are in the 90s and even 100s. Additionally, storms are more on the severe side, especially the lightening. There are times of drought and then there are times of a rainy deluge. If you decided to retire to Central Florida, don’t think it’s great weather year round.
On the other hand, you do see a lot of sunshine and in the months between October and April you’ll usually get a much more consistent and moderate climate. Coming off of one of the worst winters I’ve ever experienced in the Midwest, a warmer winter with no snow would be something I could support. I always ask myself “would I be ok with very warm summers or very cold winters with snow and poor road conditions?” Typically I answer with, “hot and humid summers are uncomfortable, but single digit temps and sub zero wind chills hurt.” Personally, I’ve had enough of bitterly cold weather and piles of snow. Bring on the hot Florida sun during a long, happy, healthy retirement.
Saving for a Central Florida Retirement
Follow your dreams. If retiring to Central Florida is high on your radar finding a way to save for retirement has to be a priority. The cost of living around the Orlando area, from what I can tell, is rather moderate. Living in Central Indiana where we have some of the lowest cost of living standards in the country I find Central Florida to be on average with the rest of the country. If you currently live in Chicago, New York, or in California you’ll find the cost of living in Central Florida to be very good. It depends on your perspective and where you currently live.
Either way, before retiring to Central Florida you are going to need a decent sized nest egg. The usual rules for building a strong retirement account apply like making your savings automatic, maxing out your 401k contributions (if available), start saving early in your life, etc. Following these basic rules will help you build up enough of a retirement account to allow yourself to make that move to Central Florida and the theme parks.
Central Florida – More than just Theme Parks
The one nice added benefit of retiring in Central Florida is there is more to do than just visit theme park resorts. You’ll have the choice of visiting two coasts – the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Both of these coasts provide great scenery and wonderful beaches. Additionally, you have the Space Coast, terrific hotel casinos, and pristine golf courses everywhere (my favorite aspect). Most of these other enjoyable activities aren’t too far away. At worst maybe a little over an hour’s drive away. Even better you can drive a little further and visit cities like Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and places with a different vibe and culture. It’s all nearby and something you should consider discovering if you live in the Florida peninsula.
I know I’ve given you a lot of compelling reasons why to retire in Central Florida. I don’t want to give you the rainbow and flowers perspective. There are downsides to living in Central Florida in your golden years like I-4 traffic jams, returning to your car when it’s 140 degrees inside, and in some cases a lack of culture. However, the positives certainly outweigh the negatives, especially if you are a big fan of the theme parks like we are in my house. In my opinion, no matter what region of the country you live or retire in you’ll have some sort of elements you’ll need to contend with. With that said, why not retire close to the theme park capital of the world? If you love them like most of us do it would make perfect sense to enjoy your golden years near the place(s) you enjoy most.
Putting yourself in a situation where you can retire in Central Florida during your youth is really the key to making it your home later on in life. We all have circumstances in life that may keep us away from picking up and moving there now like family, a job, children in school, etc. But, later in life when those circumstances are lifted making a dash for the oranges of Central Florida can be a retirement goal worth setting. Just think of it; Soarin whenever you want, visiting Harry Potter on a December day, rocking to a theme park concert, festivals, and a Mickey premium ice cream bar (eaten before it melts) are all there for you to enjoy.
Ok, ok, enough of the day dreaming. I’ve got to get back to work. How else am I going to pay for all of this theme park fun when I retire? We’ll be there and we hope to see you there too. Until then, happy planning and enjoy the day dreaming.
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Category: Disney World