In recent months the state seems to have stabilized, employment-wise. That makes it the perfect time to consider that dream move to Florida. Our 11 reasons:
- Universities are nearly free. We exaggerate a bit but … if your child does well in high school, the Bright Futures program allows them to go to state schools almost tuition-free; it was free until last year. This program does sound too good to be true, and has been slightly cut back, but still, it’s very popular in Florida and some sort of large state discount is bound to survive. Even wealthy parents take advantage of it; it helps them afford top graduate schools for students elsewhere. Even if your kids don’t get the grades, Florida has some of the least expensive college-level education in the U.S.
- Houses are reasonable. Yes, houses are cheap everywhere, but consider that most people plan on moving for retirement somewhere they always wanted to live. Why not do it now. Today, a modest house can be had for $100K; empty dream houses are going waiting. Waterfront in many places is now sometimes under $300K. Florida got hit early with the real estate collapse, and so prices have stabilized. While most believe there are further problems in housing, the worst is over, and are making this a once in a lifetime opportunity. Do be careful about your insurance rates. Ouch!
- Public schools are competitive. Florida has a bum rap when it comes to secondary education. Yes, there are some deficient rural and inner city schools, but what state doesn’t have them? What you should know, however, is that Florida has a liberal program of school choice; parents can usually pick schools within a school district. In addition, large numbers of established charter schools are in Florida. This gives the public schools hefty competition; which they rise to quite easily. Of course there are great private schools in Florida, too. Some that are connected to churches are very inexpensive compared to the Northeast. Another secret is that you can look at a profile of all public schools in Florida online. Before you move, go online to find the juicy details about every public school in the state, including stats on racial makeup, subsidized school lunches and FCAT scores. Realtors can’t give you this information by law but you can still look it up to get the answers. If you have even two children in private school in the Northeast, it might be cheaper to buy a house in Florida and send them to school there than a year’s worth of tuition.
- Daycare is free. Floridians joke that it is the perk of a “Socialist Paradise,” but seriously, Florida offers state-subsidized voluntary pre-Kindergarten, called VPK. This is offered either in a public school, or the state will subsidize your children in a private daycare setting if it is not offered. They also have a state-subsidized health program for children.
- Help is cheap. If you need help either as an older person or you just plain don’t like to clean house, consider that Florida has a wealth of service professionals who do just about everything. Many people in Florida work as old-fashioned sole proprietors in areas that include trees, computers, pests, carpentry, nursing, house cleaning, embroidery, pools, etc. They count on less income and trade it for a better quality of life. You will get household stuff done fast, with no unions.
- The weather is temperate. Huh? The Northeast can get blistering in the summer, with high humidity. The west burns. But Florida stays about 90 degrees. Of course it gets hot, and the sun just CRANKS, but the great thing is that there is a pool everywhere so you never feel it. If you do like some seasons, consider northern bits of Florida, which do see some trees. Or do what most Floridians do and head to the Northeast during leaf season to see the weather change, and then head back to warmth.
- Lots of family. If you move to Florida, your family comes to visit. Often. It’s great; they come for a few days, visit, catch up, and then go home, only to come back the next year. It does wonders for family relationships.
- Beach, beach, boats, boats! O.K., so this is obvious, but if you like the beach and boats, there is plenty of it. And you will be surprised at how cheap the boats are getting in recent months. Because Florida has a tourist economy, there are also lots of public amenities that are free. In most places, things like beach parking and such have fees. While Florida has some of these annoying fees, mostly they don’t.
- Churches dominate. The churches are the hub of life for Floridians. It’s like Mayberry. While Florida sometimes has a randy reputation as a state of troublemakers (just watch CNN’s Nancy Grace any night), the reality is that the large senior population and the large number of young conservative families make for busy churches and church programs that span a wide variety of denominations. Even if you are not conservative or old, you’ll appreciate the fact that every week of the summer, there is a well-run Vacation Bible School.
- Jobs are there. O.K., so there are areas like Cape Coral that have high unemployment and not a lot of industries. Not the greatest place to move if you are jobless. But areas in the Panhandle, Tampa and Jacksonville area are close to defense clusters, meaning great jobs for the veterans and more stable employment. Space is obviously at Cocoa Beach, and will be making some cuts, but still the Atlantic Coast of Florida has many aviation jobs. Other clusters include cruise industry in Fort Lauderdale, light manufacturing and warehousing in South Florida, tourism-related jobs in Orlando (and everywhere) and university-related jobs in Gainesville, Sarasota, Tampa and Tallahassee. In Florida, the average jobs are respectable in the community. For instance, Publix hires college grads for its training programs, and well dressed twentysomethings are quite happy to work in the butcher department because Publix is such a great place to work.
- Taxes are low. Taxes are going up in almost every state. And while the taxes in Florida are trying to inch up, they can’t but so much. There is no income tax, and real estate taxes are regulated if you get a homestead exemption. There are many tax refugees in Florida from places like California and New York. There are bound to be more.
©Black Cow Press, Sarasota, Florida, www.blackcowpress.com