This southern Atlantic Coast county has many ritzy mansions, but also is home to thriving master-planned communities. Retirees here cultivate new talents and engage in lifelong learning.
Iconic Palm Beach frequently pops into the news as it is the setting for The Mar-a-Lago Club, the Trump-owned resort whose sprawling property is anchored by a 58-bedroom Spanish-influenced manor. A mega-mansion a halfmile from Mar-a-Lago set the record in 2019 as the most expensive single-family home ever sold in Palm Beach, going for more than $110 million.
No wonder the nickname for a swath of South Ocean Boulevard is Billionaires Row. In the uber-wealthy enclave of Palm Beach in southeastern Florida, green lawns stretch toward the water, turquoise pools glisten and sleek Bentleys and Rolls Royces transport their moneyed owners.
So, is this region any place for the rest of us to retire?
“Not all people are rich in Palm Beach County,” says Ashley Svarney, the county’s senior director of public relations. “The challenge is to show the diversity of the county and that it is ar affordable place to retire. The Palm Beaches offer a combination of beach life and natural ecological beauty from the Atlantic shores to the Everglades. Don’t be scared away by the name.’
The island of Palm Beach, separated by the Intracoastal Waterway from mainland Florida, is just one of 39 cities and towns in Palm Beach County, the largest county by landmass in the state. West Palm Beach, the most populated city in the county with 111,000 residents, exudes an urban charm. Clematis Street buzzes with cafes, bars, boutiques and live music. The Norton Museum of Art showcases European and American masterworks as well Chinese jade, contemporary art and photographs. Baseball lovers can catch spring training games of the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals at FitTeam Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Shoppers browse for finds at Antique Row as well as at scores of name-brand stores at Palm Beach Outlets.
Boca Raton, the second-largest city in the country with 99,000 people, offers beaches, contemporary works at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, concerts at the Mizner Park Amphitheater and upscale shops at Town Center at Boca Raton.
In the northern part of the county, Jupiter hums with ecological adventures. On a kayak or canoe trip down the Loxa hatchee River, folks pats towering cypress trees and search for birds, alligators ane turtles. Jonathan Dickinson State Park in nearby Hobe Sound has an 86-foot sand dune that is great for hiking, and Jupiter -jInlet has a distinctive red lighthouse with a staircase leading the way to panoramic beach views. For a splash of culture, Broadway-style shows are at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre.
Nina Grody relocated to West Palm Beach in 2014 from West Hartford, CT, to bc closer to her mother in Palm Beach and to enjoy a better quality of life. Soon after moving, Nina, 56, left corporate marketing for a career in real estate.
“It’s not your grandparents’ or parents’ Florida anymore. People are coming down earlier in their life. It used to be people came here in their 60s or 70s to retire. Now there are more businesses here. People migrate in their 50s for jobs or to work remotely,” says Nina, a preretiree and real estate agent with William Raveis Real Estate South Florida in Palm Beach. “People are coming from Boston,
Chicago and New York. They are fleeing the pressure of those cities, their high taxes and cold winters. The change is exciting. I can see it and feel it.”
Nina purchased a condo in downtown West Palm Beach. “I’m single; I’m active. I’m a city person. I didn’t want to be isolated on an island. I want to be able to walk to restaurants, to concerts and to the Kravis Center,” says Nina, who enjoys Broadway musicals, jazz concerts and ballet performances at the venue.
Among Nina’s go-to West Palm Beach restaurants are Table 26 Palm Beach for seafood and Pistache French Bistro. Vendors sell fresh vegetables, flowers and pastries at the West Palm Beach GreenMarket, a farmers market open on Saturdays from October through April.
Nina also has enjoyed classes at Florida Atlantic University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Jupiter. With more than 7,500 enrollees in Jupiter alone, that FAU branch is the largest Osher program in the United States. “I take classes to keep current with what’s going on in the world or to learn more about a particular topic,” says Nina, who has enrolled in courses on foreign policy and the American economy.
People attend classes to be informed, enrich their lives and stay socially engaged, says Kami Batchelder, director of academic affairs and marketing for OLLI in Jupiter. “We get many individuals retiring to this area who do not play golf, tennis or cards and are looking for something to do. Some want to learn about a subject they didn’t take in college. The presentations are more entertaining than in a traditional college.” An Osher program also operates in Boca Raton.
Baby boomers and younger generations all live robust lifestyles, says Jill DiDonna, chief marketing officer for GL Homes. “They want large clubhouses, pools and tennis centers. They do not want a golf course because they don’t want to pay golf club dues. In Florida, golf is very accessible.”
More than 160 golf courses lace Palm Beach County. The county has many private courses, but great public options include Osprey Point Golf Course, Boca Raton Municipal Golf Course, North Palm Beach Country Club and the five courses at PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens.
Risa and Lee Saginor look forward to moving in July from Delray Beach to Valencia Sound, GL Homes activeadult community in Boynton Beach. “Since it’s a new community, we could pick our lot. We have a beautiful lot overlooking a man-made lake,” says Risa, 61, a retired massage therapist. The Saginors decided to stay in Palm Beach County because family and friends are here. Lee, 74, retired from a career as a Las Vegas performer in 1990 to rejoin his family’s investment firm. After the 2017 sale of that company, Lee returned to show business part time, singing and performing in commercials.
Valencia Sound’s 39,000-square-foot clubhouse will feature a gym, restaurant, social hall, card rooms and a sports lounge for communal viewing of athletic games and other televised events. A pool as well as tennis and pickleball courts will be on the grounds.
When Mary Jane and Wayne Poverstein relocated from Morris Plains, NJ, to Boynton Beach in 2017, they purchased a home in Aberdeen Golf and Country Club. Other pluses for the Poversteins: The community allows tvvo pups weighing less than 20 pounds per home, and the couple have relatives who live in the development. “The community is very friendly. Whenever I go out with the dog for a walk on the trails, I meet neighbors and we chat for a few minutes,” says Mary Jane, 73, who retired in 2011 as a human resources vice president for an insurance company. The Poversteins reside in an all-ages neighborhood of Aberdeen, which has sections restricted for those 55 and older.
Special-interest clubs and events create camaraderie. Mary Jane volunteers by teaching mahjong one day a week and Wayne has participated in a current events group. Boynton Beach has plenty of restaurants and activities. The couple’s favorite cuisine is Italian, so they frequent Agliolio and Mamma Mia of Boynton Beach. They drive to West Palm Beach to see musicals at the Kravis Center, and ballgames at FitTeam Ballpark.
“Palm Beach International Airport is 20 minutes away. We wish it was bigger, hut the airport is convenient,” says Wayne, 68, a retired information technology director for a Catholic school. “Sometimes for flights, especially to Europe, we drive •to airports in Fort Lauderdale or Miami. We also go on cruises out of Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Orlando. That saves us money.’
The Poversteins say that medical care here is good; they followed friends’ and doctors’ recommendations for healthcare providers and are content. Some 20 hospitals are in Palm Beach County and dozens more are in nearby Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
One caveat that most folks already understand: Hurricanes are a potential problem here. In 2004, both Frances and Jeanne caused some damage, but the county was mostly spared when Hurricane Matthew hit in 2016. Irma in 2017 packed a punch, causing evacuations and
millions of dollars in damages. And the weather can be quite humid at times.
But for John and Amy Kiernan, retiring to Florida was a given. “We like warm weather, the beach and Florida’s tax situation. We have three pensions. With no state income tax, Florida doesn’t tax pensions, Social Security benefits and income from an IRA,” John says. “There’s also no estate or inheritance tax and property taxes are much lower than in New York.”
The Kiernans, from Floral Park, NY, found their perfect spot in Delray Beach. “The west coast of Florida is too quiet for us,” says John, 60, who retired as fire marshal for Greenwich, CT, in 2019. “Miami’s South Beach has a lot of tourists and young people. I consider Delray a good mix. We like the downtown vibe of Atlantic Avenue and the Pineapple Grove Art District with its galleries and festivals for wine and food.”
Amy, 63, is a former teacher in the New York City public schools. “There are plenty of restaurants in Delray,” she says. They like the French toast at Caffe Luna Rosa and Italian food at Tramonti Ristorante.
Early this year, they moved into Polo Trace in Delray Beach, an all-ages neighborhood with a 26,000-square-foot clubhouse, fitness center and restaurant. It’s near downtown and the airport, John says. “The development is a little farther away from the beach than we’d like, about 7 miles, but we were able to pick out our lot. We’re on a pond.”
“We’re young at heart,” Amy adds. “At this time in our lives, it’s about meeting new people and indulging ourselves.”
Quick Facts: Palm Beach County, Florida
111,398 in West Palm Beach, 99,244 in Boca Raton, 78,050 in Boynton Beach, and 1,485,941 in Palm Beach County
Cost of Living
January: High 76″ / Low 51″
July: High 91″ / Low 71″
72% average humidity
61 inches annual rain
0 inches annual snow
7%, groceries, prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines exempt
Median $359,000, according to Broward, Palm Beaches and St. Lucie Realtors, single-family homes, fourth quarter 2019
State Income Tax
Jupiter Medical Center, Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, Palms West Hospital in Loxahatchee, Lakeside Medical Center in West Palm Beach and Delray Medical Center
A common rate in West Palm Beach is $22,176 per $1,000 of taxable value, with homes assessed at 100% of market value, with homes assessed at 100% of market value. Annual taxes on a $359,000 home, with exemptions: $7,031.
Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Florida Atlantic University campuses in Boca Raton, Jupiter and Fort Lauderdale
Palm Beach International Airport, Palm Tran bus service
Valencia Sound, an active-adult community under construction in Boynton Beach, with plans for a racquet club, pool and sports courts. From $510,000s, GLHomes.com/Valencia-Sound.
Polo Trace, an all-ages community in Delray Beach, with neighborhood parks, sports courts and a pool. From the $550,000s, GLHomes.com/Polo-Trace.
Alton, an all-ages community in Palm Beach Gardens, with a town center, resort-style pool and sports courts. From $429,990, KolterHomes.com.
Sonoma Isles, an all-ages community in Jupiter, with a resort-style pool, fitness center and sports courts. From $737,900, DiVosta.com.
Aberdeen Golf and Country Club, an all-ages community in Boynton Beach, with tennis courts, a golf course and beach-entry pool. Resales only.
Jupiter Country Club, an all-ages community in Jupiter, with a golf course, lighted bocce courts and restaurants. Resales only.
Windsor Park at Abacoa, an all-ages community in Jupiter, with a community garden, fitness center and fire pits. Resales only.
Jonathan’s Landing, an all-ages community in Jupiter, with 27 villages, pools and deep-water docks. Resales only.
Grandview Heights in West Palm Beach, with an urban feel and numerous restaurants, bars and parks.
CityPlace in West Palm Beach, a new-urbanism project downtown with condos and townhomes, built around a town center with movie theaters, restaurants and shops.