The Dream of Retiring to Central Florida

| March 22, 2014 | 29 Replies

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

Conclusion

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.

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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

About the Author ()

Originally from Northeast Ohio and currently living in Central Indiana, Aaron DelPrince (ADP) is a 20 year theme park veteran who often visits the Central Florida attractions with his beautiful wife and daughter Kim & Anna. From dining, attractions, special events, and even runDisney races Aaron covers all aspects of the theme park and resort experience. In his free time Aaron enjoys working out and spending time with his family. You can follow along by friending Aaron on Facebook or reading more articles on our blog. I hope to see you in the parks!
  • Daydreamer

    This was so timely for me. I am always thinking of ways to retire there. I have even
    contacted a real estate agent. I would love to live in Centennial but I’m pretty sure that is out of my price range. But, I’ll keep dreaming.

  • Bill Manard

    Nice post ADP. Definitely covers some things many people don’t think about when they consider moving. Anyone who has ever lived in a tourist destination can attest that reality gets in the way of tourism – when we lived in Williamsburg, VA, it took almost 3 years for us to visit the old town, and it was only 3-4 miles away from home…

    • walter

      Tell me about it. I’ve lived in Fresno CA, 90 minutes from Yosemite, for 27 years. I have visited Yosemite Valley exactly once.

  • Snauzrgirl

    Very nice post. Actually living in a place vs. visiting with a “vacation budget” is spot on. We would love to live in France, especially around Paris. But we’ve decided being a tourist and not having to deal with the the types of things you indicated about, makes me think it would be a wrong decision. Re: FL — we just can’t take the heat during the summer! Originally from Minnesota, I think we still have Viking blood. Thanks, too, for not doing this is a podcast. I would rather read something than hear a group discussion. I tried it once and that was the only time. I won’t spend my time on them. Thanks.

  • Ed McGowan

    I am considering moving to Palm Coast Florida. About 1 hr from WDW. Looking for a place with good schools for our granddaughter. We would get a resident discount for the Parks I think. Right now i cannot afford the airfare from Philly to Orlando. The heat is something to consider though, I would not miss the winter and shoveling ALL THAT SNOW!

  • Lynn Lorenz

    I was laid off from my job in 2001 and decided to retire to Florida (altho I still work full-time). I finally made the move in 2003 and have not looked back. The summer heat can get a bit much, but being originally from Minnesota, it gets hotter and more muggy there in the summer than Florida. My parents are snowbirds down here in the winters.

  • Carolyn

    We did it and don’t regret one second of moving to Kissimmee! It is wonderful to be able to hop over to Epcot for dinner or see Wishes at a moment’s notice. Since we lived in the DC area and commuted for years, I-4 seems like a walk in the park to us. Also cost of living is a little less, the FL property taxes in some areas are a killer though. We lived in Montgomery County, MD, one of the wealthiest in the nation, and we pay more taxes here living in a much smaller house and less land. Another thing we love is…you don’t have to shovel humidity! Excellent article.

  • http://www.hiddenmesa.com Bonnie Fink

    Nice article. We retired to central Florida about two years ago. Love every day! We’re on Disney Property about 5 days a week. There’s great places there to walk every day. What a great place to exercise. You can’t beat going to Downtown Disney for a cup of coffee and people watch. You do have to remember that your not on vacation, with that vacation budget, we’ve learned to pack a lunch and bring our own water when were out having fun. Once a month enjoy a Disney restaurant. It’s off to a flower power concert at Epcot.

  • Paul

    See you there buddy!

  • http://www.wdwinfo.com/ Corey Martin

    Great blog Aaron!

  • Nancy Jarchow

    We made the move to Naples, Florida last June from Vermont and haven’t looked back. Yes, the summer is hot, but it sure beats shoveling snow, treacherous driving and paying HUGE heating oil bills. Even in the heat of mid-summer, our highest electricity bill was under $100.00. We’re still 3 hours from Disney, but that’s ok – we don’t have huge tourist traffic snarling our roads and the Gulf breezes can’t be beat. Yes, we still have to work, go to the grocery store, etc., etc., but I’d rather do all those things where the weather is gorgeous most of the year and the cost of living way less than in New England. We just haven’t seen the downside of our move!

  • Kathy Williams Mattern

    Aaron,
    This was spot on. We retired/relocated from the mid-atlantic region (just in
    time for the massive snowstorms) and at first, living here was shear heaven.
    But then, after a few months, the “pixie dust syndrome” quickly left. As you
    stated, the bills are still there, general car and house maintenance (even in a
    new house) crops up and needs funds to make right again. Then there is the issue of finding all new physicians, etc. If you are healthy, this is not an issue. But if you had something that was bothering you physically “at home”, it’s going to bother you here too. And ah yes, the traffic.

    I go to the parks now a bit jaded. Because I see people running around with that big “I just got to Disney” grin on their faces. And I want to feel like that again too! Granted, not living out of a suitcase and simply driving back home within 20-30 minutes is wonderful. But, as you said, it’s definitely not the same as being on vacation. The world outside becomes an afterthought while on vacation. Is there something going on in the Middle East? I wouldn’t know until I got to the airport! Disney TV is the only TV you tend to watch when you are in one of their resorts. Mickey and Minnie Mouse are surrounding your every thought, and not only that, but can we get one of the coveted Fast Pass+ today for Soarin’ or Test Track!!

    Then there are the crowds of people who also have or had the same idea as we had. And suddenly parking and walking into a park is an hour long excursion. It’s not like parking at the mall and simply striding in.

    But don’t be fooled. Sure, living in Florida, the “Sunshine” state
    does have its many advantages, so make sure you do whatever it is you want to do before the sweltering heat of the summer months kicks in. And you will find yourself asking if shoveling snow vs. walking to your car in what feels like
    110 degree weather is worth the trade! Personally I will take the warmth and
    sun. Everything in life has its trade-offs.

  • IndyDisneyFan

    That article could have been written by us! I agree with the entire thing! We too live in central Indiana and the winter has put us over the edge (not that we weren’t seriously contemplating it anyway!). We have been Disney annual passholders for years and visit about 4 or 5 times a year. My DH can retire in less than 2 years and as an RN I can work anywhere. Since we spend so much money going to Disney I am thinking it will be cheaper when we move down here (yep here for spring break with our son who is graduating in May!).

  • Mark Anderson

    it was like you were reading my mind after the winter we have had in the Midwest. This is on my radar, and working the plan to make this dream a reality.

  • Mike

    We moved here about 6 years ago and do not regret it for one minute – other than love bugs (a few weeks a year) and the threat of a weather event, this is heaven. Anyone looking should consider Brevard County – about 50 miles east of Orlando – close enough to get there quickly without all the tourists. Look at Viera, FL – home of the Wash Nationals spring training.

  • ebrose

    We made the move last year and now live close enough to the Magic Kingdom to watch the fireworks every night from our front door. Annual passes and Tables in Wonderland make frequent park visits very affordable. Agree about the summer weather. Our answer is to have a second, smaller home in the Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge for hurricane season through the leaf change and holidays. That gives us the best of both worlds, living year round in two fantasylands that others save and wait to visit. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. Live where you dream of vacationing.

  • Dapper Dan

    I’ve lived in Orlando almost 10 years, and my wife and I still have about 20 years more to work until retirement. We love living in Orlando. I live near Sea World, so I can get to Disney without ever getting on I-4, which is a huge bonus. We normally get to the parks at rope drop, and leave around 1 p.m., before the heat is unbearable. Being annual passholders removes any pressure to visit any specific attraction, because we can always see it next time. We also don’t go in the summer, even though our blood is thin. It’s at least 80 degrees at 9 a.m., and I love Disney, but that’s over the line! I’ll stay home and watch Despicable Me again or Phineas and Ferb, thank you very much.

    I’m from NJ, and I have gotten spoiled down here, always being able to feel my nose and ears, and not walking through slush every winter. And snow shoveling? Ugh.

    Sure, sometimes we are forced to drive next to people who have forgotten the rules of the road while visiting our state. But you learn to get by them, just like you do when you’re at Disney, and visitors stop suddenly to read a map or take a picture. It’s an acquired skill. ;)

    Good luck to all of you who choose to live near Disney. I recommend it.

  • Old Doc

    I retired in June 2008. We moved to Central Florida and now I work at Disney World part time (3 days a week). The benefits are terrific, we play a lot, and the “daily grind” of living isn’t so onerous!

  • paula

    really “the ripe old age of 62″. clearly you don’t read aarp magazine. if you did you’d know that 60 is the new 30:-). i relocated to florida for my job promotion 20 years ago. i retired early 5 years ago. i live in the tampa bay area and go to disney with my fl resident annual pass whenever i feel like it, usually 12+ times a year. I go with the grandkids and I go alone. i keep a membership at and frequent busch gardens too. depending on what the grandkids want to do when they visit, i’ll add seaworld or universal to the mix. now that the parks have the monthly pay plans, it’s even easier to budget and enjoy the theme parks in the tampa bay/orlando area.

  • DensiLand

    Aaron: Thanks for this and add me to the list of Central Indiana folks! I’ve been thinking about this for years and the topic seems to get more serious every year. As someone else posted, I’m now thinking about not waiting until retirement. Why wait, especially when you never know what the future holds.

    You made some excellent grounding & realistic points as reminders of real life. While I visit at least once a year, many times have been on business. Yes, I’m annoyed to have to “get dressed” for a conference presentation, etc. but I still simply relish the environment, even if it’s pouring rain or sweltering in the heat. This winter, especially, was and continues to be unbearable; I can deal with heat, but not cold. Having lived here all my life, the personal transition would be the most challenging. Hopefully between next month and 2039 I can make my big announcement. (P.S. I’m also glad this wasn’t done as a podcast.)

  • http://www.tracykingrealtor.com wdwkings

    That’s right, great article! Come on down to Florida. I would be happy to sell you a great house here! I have helped several Disboards members find a great place to live their dream. :)

    • Wes Young

      Tracy, could you send me your contact info. We are moving there in a month or two and we have no realtor.

      • http://www.tracykingrealtor.com/ TracyKingRealtor

        Contact me anytime at my work email: tracy@tracykingrealtor.com
        I would be happy to assist you in any way I can. We just love living here!

  • John Newton

    I find myself thinking about these things daily. Except, instead of retirement, its within the next 5-10 years. Having grown up in Indiana, currently living in Ohio…all I’ve known is Midwest boredom. Florida has always represented the complete polar opposite of what I’m used to. Instead of hills and farmland, I want palm trees and lagoons. Some people like 4 distinct seasons, but I think this recent winter has been the last straw for me. The leaves changing in the fall are beautiful, but I’d give it up without a second thought. The heat and weather of Florida would not bother me in the least, most summer here see heat indexes in the 100′s. And have I mentioned how much I love Publix?

  • Anna Bird

    We moved to Central Florida 12 years ago – absolutely love it! Looked all over USA for the best retirement place. Oh most bought a house in Estes Park, CO. but decided it was too cold in CO. I was afraid Florida was all flat but we live in the hilly part of Florida. I have to run/bike up hills in our community. We have the tallest MT. (387Ft.) in our county. If you sit on my back patio you are looking at grazing cattle in the field just past the 12th hole of our golf course and across from Old 50 are hills filled with orange trees. I am 25 miles from the Mouse – oh most straight North. We can see the MK fireworks from our clubhouse. I was never going to live in an “Active Adult Community”!! It is the BEST! You can be as involved or not involved as you want. We have a golf course, restaurant on the hill, great indoor/outdoor swimming pool, super tennis courts and Bouche (sp?) is very popular here. I am in 2 bridge groups, a bunco group, girlfriend lunch group, and a dinner club group. I knew absolutely no one when I moved here but no one else did either so we’ve made wonderful new friends – there are 18 of us in our monthly dinner club. My daughter moved here and my grandson goes to the best school in Central Florida – Montverde Academy. I volunteer a lot at the school. So I keep busy but not enough so I work for Mickey 2 days a week. Working for Mickey is great for retirees. I am a wedding/convention guide. I meet the most interesting people. I have great bosses and fellow guides. The Disney perks are the BEST! It takes me 40 minutes to get here from my house. I take the roads thru all the orange groves so I never hit I-4 and all the traffic. There is so much to do in Central Florida. We are annual passholders for Universal and SeaWorld. Carr Center has wonderful Broadway shows and the Amway Center is the home of the Orlando Magic. We can get anywhere in Central Florida in 40 minutes or so. I hate cold weather so I love the 8 months of good weather we have. The other 4 months I endure and we certainly go on vacation during that time when we can. Even with the heat it is nice till 9 a.m. and nice again after 8 p.m. so I can get my runs and bike rides in. It cools down unlike Arizona in the Summer. The best part of living here – is coming home. Why? You know how you are always sad to go home after a great vacation. Well, that doesn’t happen here in Orlando, Florida. When we are coming home on the plane everyone is so excited because most are coming to Disneyworld to see Mickey, Minnie and now Elsa and Anna. You can’t help but be excited too about coming to this magical place. Never dreamed retirement would be so good and so much FUN!! I am so thankful for all my joys and blessings!!

    • Steven Mazur

      Just curious. What adult community you live in? My Aunt and Uncle live in the Villages, and they’re about an hour drive to the Mouse I would guess.

  • Annette

    Being from the Chicago suburbs, this winter really took alot of me. I
    was born and raised here and just got completely fed up with the harsh
    winter we experienced this year. My husband and I were going to move to
    FL in 2004, but changed our minds. Now we are thinking about it again.
    The humidity is just as bad here as it is there, but it lasts longer
    there. I know not everywhere is perfect and I certainly don’t have rose
    colored glasses on. The idea of just being able to be outside during the
    months of Dec-March without 3 layers of clothing on would be great!
    There is still dirty black snow piled up in parking lots! If I miss the
    change of seasons, we could drive up a few states and see the leaves
    change and get to see some snow, plus we would come back to visit
    friends here. I know someone from IL who has lived there for years
    and is happy. We are casually looking for jobs and doing some planning.
    It might not happen this year, but maybe in a year or so. Keeping fingers crossed! :)

  • VACATION! VACATION!

    I also would love to live permantly there. We bought timesharing in walt disney 2008 love it. In 2011 bought condo near the beach one hour from disney as
    I love the beach. We cannot move yet as are kids still in school and in Canada cost less about 7,000$. But if i can move there and people tell me how they pay the school fees i would. Right know I rent it out to people who love space coast florida and its been a blessing as people are very nice and respectfull of my little paradis.

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