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With a scary hurricane season already, is Florida the right retirement haven for you?

Michelle Singletary on

WASHINGTON -- I've always imagined my retirement would include a home near a beach, where the weather is warm all year and I can spend hours a day listening to crashing waves.

I love the Mid-Atlantic with its simmering summers, fall colors and warm springs, but I hate the winters -- mostly because the cold aggravates my rheumatoid arthritis.

So with our golden years in mind, my husband and I have been working and reworking the numbers to see if we can afford a second home to escape the cold weather.

Until recently, Florida was the state at the top of our list. Although we did consider -- briefly -- buying a beach bungalow in the Virgin Islands.

Hurricane Irma has dashed our dreams of a Caribbean retreat. Those islands have been decimated, and it will be years before they are back to their glory days. But even before the storm, we calculated that the cost would be too much.

And after Irma, I'm wondering if Florida should still be our retirement destination. Would we have the resources to weather a major storm? Would the cost of housing, insurance and tax hikes in the aftermath of recent hurricane-related damage drive away others like us?

In the U.S., when the question of moving after retirement comes up, Florida is typically a front-runner. The state has two great positives going for it -- beautiful weather and no personal income tax.

"By many measures, Florida -- which has long attracted snowbirds and retirees -- is one of the nation's grayest states," according to a Pew Research Center report.

About 19 percent of the state's population is 65 or older, the highest percentage in the nation. Sumter County, which is west of Orlando, is the only U.S. county where more than half of residents are 65 or older, according to Pew. Coming in second is another county in Florida -- Charlotte -- where almost 38 percent of residents are seniors.

"In Florida, 53 of 67 counties have an above-average share of people 65 and older when compared with the percentage of Americans in that demographic," the Pew report said.

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