By June Fletcher of the Naples Daily News

Posted: March 09, 2016

Naples is the best place in the Sunshine State to retire, a new report says.

Moreover, nationally, Naples ranked third, according to SmartAsset, a New York financial services company.

Using government data, the second annual study rated 4,700 U.S. cities by their tax friendliness, recreational and social opportunities for seniors, and availability of medical care, which it defined as “factors that affect quality of life for retirees.” All the factors were weighted equally and indexed.

For Michael Dalby, chief executive and president of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, Naples’ high ranking is not really surprising news.

“Florida is a great place for retirees, but Naples is a tremendous place for retirees, with a wonderful support system,” he said. “Our senior population is a critical part of our economy.”

SmartAsset gave Naples its highest ranking based on several factors. First was its low 10.2 percent tax rate. Second was access to medical services, defined as number of doctor’s offices per 1,000 people (27) and number of recreation centers per 1,000 people (9.6).

And finally it looked at the percentage of seniors as part of the total population, which in Naples is a whopping 49.3 percent.

On all metrics, Naples was deemed more retiree-friendly than both the nation and the state as a whole. Nationwide, the tax rate is 13.1 percent and has 1.2 doctor’s offices and 0.4 rec centers per 1,000 people and 13.7 percent seniors per total population.

Throughout Florida the tax rate was calculated at 13 percent, with 1.6 doctor’s offices and 0.4 rec centers per 1,000 people. Florida has the highest percentage of seniors of any state, at 18.2 percent seniors per total population.

In the fourth to sixth spots after Naples, three other Florida cities made the top ten list: Inverness, Stuart and Brooksville.

But since SmartAssets’ metrics didn’t include weather, warmth didn’t factor into the rankings.

“We chose not to include climate as one of the factors in our study because of its subjectivity,” said Steve Sabato, public relations associate at SmartAsset. “Everyone will have different preferences.”

Instead, top honors in their best places to retire list went to Wasilla, Alaska, the sixth largest city in Alaska, where Sarah Palin was once mayor — and which has a yearly average high temperature of 47 degrees (compared with Naples’ average high of 85 degrees).

No. 2 was another Alaskan city, Palmer, with a population of about 6,000. It’s the home to the annual Alaskan State Fair.

Although Palmer’s average high temperature is only 45 degrees, several world-record sized veggies have been grown there, because the city gets 19 hours of sunlight daily during the growing season.

So why did the places that ranked highest in the list come from states at opposite ends of the country, with completely different climates?

It’s largely because Florida and Alaska both have very favorable tax climates.

Both states are considered among the most tax-friendly states for retirees, the study pointed out, with no state income tax, which means no tax on retirement benefits from Social Security, pensions and IRAs and 401(k). Both also have no estate or inheritance tax.

Otherwise, there are small differences.

In Florida, property and sales tax rates are close to national averages, SmartAsset observed. However, homestead exemptions lower the tax bill for permanent residents.

In Alaska, however, there’s no state sales tax, though cities and boroughs can collect their own taxes. Although there is no statewide homestead exemption, many cities exempt seniors from paying taxes for part or all of their home’s value.