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WSJ: Forget Florida, retirees find sweet homes in Alabama

In the American quest to find an ideal retirement haven, seniors often find themselves moving south. A finance podcast from the Wall Street Journal says, increasingly, not as far south as Florida – but Alabama.

The rising cost of living and booming house prices in the Sunshine State have led many seniors to consider Alabama’s appeal, particularly in Baldwin County, as an affordable and serene alternative.

“I was writing about Fort Lauderdale, which of course is a traditional retirement community,” WSJ‘s Cecilie Rohwedder said. “And I was interviewing a professor at Florida Atlantic University was talking about how much that region was changing how much home values were going up.

“The collateral damage is that the retirees and snowbirds that traditionally would come and move to Fort Lauderdale or spend months of the year here, can no longer afford to be here because house prices are so high. And so I said, ‘Well, where are they going?’ And he said, ‘A lot of them are moving to Alabama.'”

Florida’s appeal to retirees lies in its lack of a state income tax, enabling retirees to keep a larger chunk of their retirement income. This includes Social Security benefits, pension income, and distributions from retirement accounts, which are all tax-free at the state level.

Alabama, on the other hand, offers a different set of financial advantages. While it does have a state income tax, it offers tax breaks for pensions and does not tax Social Security benefits. Most significantly, Alabama boasts some of the lowest property taxes in the country.

Many of these retirees are finding their way to Baldwin County. Census data shows Baldwin County was the fastest-growing county in Alabama between 2010 and 2020, largely attributed to its affordability.

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“The largest appeal, of course, is affordability,” Rohwedder says on the podcast. “Houses are cheaper than they are in southwestern Florida or on the southeastern shore of Florida, and the cost of living is lower as well.

“In Baldwin County, the average salary is $49,000, which compares to $57,000 in Lee County around Fort Myers, and $67,000 in Broward County. And so, if the average salary in a region is lower, that means your massages are lower, your dinners, your grocery bills, and your gas. Everything is more affordable.

“Well, if you’re an older American who’s no longer working, you don’t have an income that’s not so relevant. What is really relevant and makes Baldwin County even more attractive, especially to older Americans is that it has one of the lowest property taxes in the country in the nation. All of Alabama and Baldwin County as part of Alabama is no exception.

“Your property taxes are so low that some of the homebuyers I interviewed for the story, when they first bought their home, they couldn’t believe how low it was.”

Grayson Everett is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @Grayson270 for coverage of the 2023 legislative session. 

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