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A boomer couple left coastal Florida after 3 decades for rural Missouri because the Sunshine State ‘is definitely not paradise anymore’

Sherry Meaders and James Michael Dunne moved from the Florida coast to rural Missouri.Sherry Meaders

  • Sherry Meaders and James Michael Dunne, a retired couple, moved from Florida to rural Missouri.

  • They said they moved because of rising insurance costs, population influx, and political changes.

  • Some former Florida residents are choosing small-town life for a lower cost of living.

Sherry Meaders, 75, and James Michael Dunne, 79, a retired married couple, lived by the Atlantic Ocean for 30 and 45 years, respectively. But after spending decades by the water in Florida, Meaders said Florida “is definitely not paradise anymore.”

The couple decided to move to a very different place: rural Missouri.

Meaders wanted to be closer to her son and grandson, and the couple wanted a small-town feel. They settled on a small city in south-central Missouri with 2,500 residents, purchasing a home on two-thirds of an acre for less than half of what she sold her Florida home for.

“There’s a lot of things we don’t have nearby; we don’t have a lot of the convenience stores and malls, that sort of thing,” Meaders said. “But that’s what you get when you live in a small town, and I think you have to get to a point where you don’t need a city. I always said that you couldn’t take the city out of the girl, but I got to a point where I didn’t need the city anymore.”

Many older Americans have continued to flock to Florida, though some have recently told Business Insider they’ve had enough of the Sunshine State. Some echoed Meaders by saying Florida has lost its feeling of “paradise” amid rising home and insurance prices and political changes. One person who recently moved to Virginia said her move led to lower costs, a slower pace of life, and a break from politics.

The Census Bureau found that from July 2022 to July 2023, Florida’s population increased by 365,200 people, or 1.64%. The 2022 American Community Survey found that 9,758 people moved from Florida to Missouri from 2021 to 2022, compared with 10,919 who did the opposite move. On average, those leaving Florida are unmarried millennials earning almost $48,000 a year moving to Georgia or Texas.

Leaving Florida for Missouri

Meaders was born and raised in Kansas City, where she started her career as a teacher. She moved to Florida in 1995 with her husband at the time, seeking better weather. They moved to Rockledge, in Brevard County, 6 miles from Cocoa Beach and a short drive from Cape Canaveral.

She worked in grant development for nonprofits, public schools, and universities and did grant-review work for national federal agencies. She also served as a dean of a university in Florida.

Dunne was raised in Chicago and enlisted in the Coast Guard, where he served in the Pacific and Alaska. For over three decades he worked for Bell System, and he moved to Florida for work. He moved around the state, settling in Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Volusia County, by Daytona Beach. He worked for nearly two decades as a volunteer firefighter, then spent seven years in Africa.

Meaders and Dunne met in Brevard County after Dunne moved back. They married in 2016 and spent time volunteering at children’s homes, youth camps, and national parks.

They said the hurricanes and bad storms would often bypass their city, and they’d often drive an hour to Orlando or 2 1/2 hours to Miami for weekend trips.

For years, Meaders said, Rockledge had a small-town feel, and it was quiet and calm. But she said that a few years ago many more people started moving in and visiting on vacation. She noticed traffic was intense while prices shot up.

She saw many wealthier people moving up from Miami seeking a lower cost of living, as well as “snowbirds” from the North looking for warmer weather year-round.

“I was just watching more and more people come into the state, and a lot of people that I look at today, they don’t seem to have good coping skills,” Dunne said. “They come in and expect things to be done for them that they should be doing for themselves. Getting back to rural America, you find less people that are having difficulty coping.”

Meaders said she felt that many of these movers were “not as patient, not as agreeable,” adding that many “had expectations of how they wanted things to be.” She said her area became much more radical — the KKK passed out flyers in 2013 by her home — and she felt less respected and accepted in her city.

“It’s just destroying that original, wonderful Florida culture that was down here,” Meaders said. “The whole atmosphere of living in Florida had become very toxic to us.”

Both said their area was also becoming more commercialized, with more hotels and tourist attractions being constructed. Many new homes were built along the dunes, and Meaders said that with every hurricane, many homes were eroded, meaning taxpayers’ dollars were spent refurbishing the beaches.

“Even though I didn’t live on the beach, I was paying for them to live there,” she said.

Moving to Missouri: pros and cons

Meaders and Dunne knew it was time to move, and they wanted to be closer to Meaders’ son in Missouri. She said she wanted to help care for her grandson with autism. Dunne’s two children are still in Florida, and they didn’t want to move to Kansas City, which was too busy and expensive.

“We’re not staying in Florida anymore and left because things had gotten so expensive,” Meaders said, adding that many insurance companies were leaving her area. “For instance, our house insurance had been about $1,400, and we got notice it was going up to $6,000. In Florida, they don’t have a state tax, but you get dinged on everything. We didn’t have tax on food, but taxes were high on everything else.”

In September 2022 they decided to move with their RV to rural Missouri, to a city of 2,500 called Mountain View. Within a week they’d found a house. Within two weeks they’d sold their Florida home for $319,000, about six times what Meaders bought it for in 1994.

“Moving everything and packing was quite an effort at our age, and then we renovated the house to boot, so it’s been quite an ordeal to move back,” Meaders said. “But I feel more peaceful here, and it feels actually safer than being in Florida.”

The couple bought the three-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath home for $150,000 with two-thirds of an acre of space.

In Missouri they pay a sales tax and a higher property tax, which they acknowledged had made some bills more expensive, though car insurance is much less, and the cost of daily expenses is significantly lower. They paid $650 a year in Florida property taxes for a quarter of an acre, while they now pay $1,020 a year in Missouri. In Florida, their water bill was $70 a month, while it’s just $11 in Missouri. Meaders said her electric bill is about the same, while gas is slightly cheaper.

She misses Florida’s weather, though she’s enjoyed having all four seasons in Missouri. She said it’s taken some time to adjust to how spaced out her area is, though she finds herself driving less often and being more intentional about purchases.

They’ve found the hospitality of everyone in their community much improved, noting that many people in the small Missouri city recently moved from California. Meaders said that during a recent brush fire, people stopped their cars to help extinguish the fire before the fire department arrived.

Another time, “we were putting up a new mailbox, and we had no box by the road, and a guy stopped and helped us,” Meaders said. “It was snowing, and it was just a neighbor somewhere, and he stopped and helped us. We’ve met more nice people who just do that.”

Have you recently moved to a new state or left the United States for a new country? Reach out to this reporter at

Read the original article on Business Insider

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