When I was a child, my family would travel to Mexico Beach where paradise lay. Our annual summer foray south meant a welcome respite from South Georgia’s oppressive heat. Cousins would come and some stayed longer than others. One year we brought our collie, Bow Wow. Another year we broke social norms and our housekeeper/nanny, Willie Mae, came with us.
It was paradise to us, but my grandkids would disagree. You had to cross a floating bridge, the water tasted funny, we never had air conditioning, and our TV picked up a solitary signal, in grainy black and white. When the wind blew from the east, you would catch a malodorous whiff from the Saint Joe Corporation’s paper mill. To my dad, though, it smelled “like money.” When it was too wet to harvest their pulpwood (correctly pronounced “pupwood”), Saint Joe paid through the nose for drier locations, and Pop knew where they were.
Fast forward 50 years. The mill is history, and the rebranded Saint Joe Corporation is selling retirement paradise. Good retirement planners look at worse-case scenario because you don’t get a mulligan. Here are some issues for me. The project is for folks 55 and older. Where will the doctors, nurses, first responders, housekeepers, and maintenance people live? Walton County needs affordable housing and not just for Baby Boomer transplants.
Location rules with real estate. The project is not exactly Watersound Beach nor even very close especially with traffic. During the season it will be an easier trek to Bonifay rather than Blue Mountain Beach. One booster said infrastructure wasn’t important because retirees didn’t travel as much as younger vacationers. To me, the argument is more convenient than realistic and ignores our tremendously overburdened road network. Schools are another infrastructure component. Retirees with no community ties could be disinclined to support schools. Expect pushback. Statistically, financially burdened retirees often have to reduce living costs. On the plus side we have world-class internet service, insert sarcasm emoticon. Let the yellow flies be a surprise, too.
I like the idea of borrowing Jimmy Buffett’s name; I bought his albums before Parrotheads existed. Buffett is a fantastic entrepreneur and does not have multiple bankruptcies. Yes, new homes will bolster tax rolls. But in T.D. Allmon’s remarkable history, "Finding Florida," one recurring theme is how often over the centuries people lost fortunes chasing paradise in Florida. Ponce de Leon, Henry Flagler, De Soto, and even the guy who invented air conditioning ended up broke. The project has a 50-year window so all the players will be dead or waiting around to die. Like the (alleged) Chinese curse, it will be interesting. Maybe my wife and I can grow old watching the wheels go round and round.
You can’t always get what you want, but Buz Livingston, CFP can help figure out what you need. For specific recommendations, visit livingstonfinancial.net or come by the office in Redfish Village, 2050 Scenic 30A, M-1 Suite 230.