Let's retire to Madison. (Let's not.)


Madison, Wisconsin, and Sarasota have something in common today.

They are both enjoying their warmest weather in a week.

It’s 86 degrees in Sarasota and 45 in Madison.

I have never spent a winter day in Madison (I visited in summer once, and found it lovely), but I imagine 45 degrees is absolutely balmy in winter. It was 26 degrees colder on Thursday.

I hear that winter is like that in Wisconsin.

That doesn’t matter much to the folks at the Milken Institute, though. They have rated Madison as the top city in the nation in which to “grow older.”

Under the headline “Forget Florida: The best cities for retirees,” CNN Money published a story on the Milken report last week.

“Sure, spending your golden years on a beach in Florida sounds like a great idea, but that’s not going to cut it for many of today’s retirees,” wrote Les Christie of CNN.

“Seniors are living longer, craving more fulfilling lifestyles and working well into their retirement years and that has upended traditional notions of where — and when — we should retire.”

Ranked behind Madison, a college town where the students are known for the “jump around” ritual during football games, are Omaha, Nebraska; Provo, Utah;, Boston; and Salt Lake City.

Among the 252 smaller metro areas, the top cities, according to the Milken Institute, are Iowa City, Iowa; Sioux Falls, South Dakota.; Columbia, Missouri; Bismarck, North Dakota; and Rapid City, South Dakota. Really.

“The report analyzed a broad range of quality-of-life factors, from employment data and crime rates to stats on binge drinking and the number of doctors in a specific metro area,” Christie wrote.

But back to Madison.

“The city not only has 11 highly rated hospitals in th area,” Christie added, “but, thanks to the University of Wisconsin there are plenty of jobs, cultural events and classes to take. Residents also reported low rates of smoking and diabetes, and that they walked a lot.”

Probably because their cars were stuck in the snow.

“One weakness was that prices, especially some health care costs, are high,” said the report.

Forget the fact the the main drawbacks of these top markets was a high cost of living — seniors really don’t care about the cost of living, as long as they can audit a class on Greek literature at the local university, right?

I am not going to say how idiotic this report sounds. It is as if there is not a doctor, a job or a “lifetime learning” class to be found in the Sunshine State. No, I’ll let the readers speak through the Comments section:
• “I’m not going anywhere cold. I moved from Indianapolis to SoCal. I’m in a tiny apartment at the beach, but my utility bill is zilch. I was spending $300 a month in the Midwest. You need to consider these things, too.”
• “The worst thing for older folks is COLD!!! This list is a flop. Quality of life starts with warmth. Everything else is, well, secondary.”

Of course, Sarasota is full of people from cold climates; I don't see a lot of them moving back.

Here's the testimony of Tom Tryon, the Herald-Tribune's Opinion Editor, on his time as a college student at Wisconsin-Stevens Point:

"When the guys in my dorm learned I was from Florida, they asked if I had a winter coat. I showed them this light flannel jacket. They laughed, and took me to an outdoor-equipment store. I bought a down coat that made me look like the Michelin man.

"What are the winters like? When it snows, it’s 'warm.' Otherwise, it’s freeze-your-eyelashes-and-nose-hair frigid.

"I saw snow for the first time – on my birthday, Oct. 24, a sign of things to come. My first and second winters there were record-breakers. One weekend it got down to 28 below zero.  That’s Fahrenheit, not wind chill. The weather forecasters would usually warn children and old folks not to be outside very long. That weekend, they told everybody to stay indoors. That’s cold."

Sounds like a place where I definitely would not want to retire.


Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: November 23, 2014
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