Advisor Divulges Secrets of Tampa Bay Living

December 31, 2021 | Stacy Miller, CFP® | Rethinking65


Stacy Miller, CFP® recently wrote an article titled Advisor Divulges Secrets of Tampa Bay Living. In it she shares stories and data with the national community of financial advisors whose clients want to live well in retirement. 


I love Tampa Bay. I moved here six years ago with my family when we relocated to MacDill Air Force Base for what became our final military move. My husband retired in 2018 after 27 years in the U.S. Army, and we will never leave. I hesitate to divulge all the secrets we have learned along the way, but I just cannot help telling everyone how great this place really is.

You may already know that Champa Bay would make the perfect place to retire thanks to Tom Brady, our Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and our Back-to-Back Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Who doesn’t want to go to a boat parade every few months? There’s more to a retirement community than the Lombardi and Stanley Cup trophies, however. 

Tampa Bay is the fourth largest metropolitan area in the southeast behind D.C., Miami, and Atlanta with about 3.5 million people and has one of the lowest costs of living in the Southeast. Tampa Bay is often defined as the four-county area (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, and Manatee) surrounding the City of Tampa. According to Greater Tampa Realtors, median prices of single-family homes over the last two years have increased 40% (!!) from about $250,000 in the fall of 2019 to almost $350,000 in October 2021 in the Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater area. With low inventories and people moving here en masse, the supply and demand economics are sharply impacting prices. Townhomes and condos are similarly up about 35% for the same period, now at a median price of $230,000. 

Affording Tampa Bay on a $500,000 or $1M nest egg is becoming more difficult, unfortunately. As both real estate and rental prices soar, the number of years your nest egg can stretch is shrinking. Add to that inflation over six percent and the historic 2022 Social Security cost of living increase at 5.9% still will not cover it. 

There is something for everyone in Tampa Bay, however, with neighborhoods rich in culture and history (Ybor City and Seminole Heights), urban and hip (Hyde Park), waterfront (Bayshore Blvd., St. Petersburg, and Clearwater), gated communities (Avila and Cheval), more cost-effective suburbs (Westchase, Lutz, Wesley Chapel, Tarpon Springs, and Apollo Beach), and downtown high-rises (Heron Residences). There are many 55+ communities (Sun City Center, see below) and even clothing optional ones. As you would imagine, you will pay more for water access, views, and privacy, but there are many areas within driving distance that are more affordable. Sun City Center, noted above as a popular 55+ community that is 10-miles from the Bay, claims to be “America’s premier 55+ community” and “one of Florida's most affordable active living senior communities.” has 2br/2ba homes listed for sale in Sun City Center for as low as $190,000 today. The Tampa Bay Economic Development Council has a great tool on their website that allows you to compare the cost of living in Tampa Bay (including not just housing, but also groceries, utilities, transportation, healthcare and miscellaneous) with your current location given your current or future nest egg and retirement cash flow scenario(s). 

With a $500,000 nest egg, you will be looking in the less desirable areas and/or on the far outskirts of Tampa Bay; likely even with a $1 million nest egg you will struggle to find something that has everything you want. If you have the willingness and ability to jump into a fixer-upper, there are some rare opportunities, but it is a seller’s market right now. A pre-retirement client recently bought their future retirement home in New Port Richey, FL; 40 miles and well over an hour from downtown Tampa. They got it for $690,000; a steal! It is on a canal on the Gulf of Mexico, so they see dolphins now and then, and it desperately needed upgrading and renovations. That equivalent home 30 miles closer could easily go for 10x that price! 

One of the first reasons people choose Florida is that we have no state income tax; this includes estate and inheritance income, as well as earned and unearned income (like investment income). Our sales tax rate in Tampa Bay is about 7.5% depending on location (compared with 6% for the state), and our effective real property tax rate is at or just below the national average of 1.1%, again, depending on location. There are several property tax exemptions that help keep our effective real property rate reasonable such as homestead, widower, senior citizen, blind person, disability, and veteran exemptions. Snowbirds, or people who winter in Florida, might like to take greater advantage of the tax benefits of Florida while still maintaining a home in another state with income taxes. To do this effectively, you’ll have to check the residency rules for the other state, but it often requires that you own property in Florida, spend at least ½ of the year in Florida, have a Florida driver’s license, vote in Florida, register your vehicles in Florida, and list Florida as your state of residence on your federal income taxes.

Having no state income tax is also a powerful reason that many businesses are moving to Tampa Bay. Cathie Wood of Ark Invest just announced they are moving to St. Petersburg from New York City, for example. For retirees, this means that maybe you can live near your kids and grandkids as Tampa Bay is also a thriving job market and entrepreneurial hub. Forbes’ just named Tampa #1 on its list of emerging tech cities, so if your children are tech savvy, this is the place to be. Active retirees looking to work part-time (or volunteer) will find many opportunities, especially in the flourishing tourism sector. I have seen many retirees take advantage of part-time usher and docent roles for the major sports and arts events, so they get to see them for free and add a little income to their pockets!

Some of the other reasons you might choose Tampa Bay are (1) the climate; our average temperatures are: spring 77°, summer 82°, fall 75°, winter 60°, (2) our beaches are consistently top ranked in America and in the world, (3) world class museums, art, music, cultural events, and amusement parks like Busch Gardens® and ZooTampa (4) world class healthcare, including Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa General Hospital, and James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital,  (4) J.D. Power Airport Satisfaction Survey’s #2 large North American airport with nonstop service to over 80 national and international destinations that will allow retirees to easily and conveniently enjoy traveling, (5) WalletHubs’ #2 (Tampa) and #7 (St. Petersburg) most pet-friendly cities, (6) WalletHubs’ #1 (Tampa) best place to live for veterans, (7) there are about 100 craft breweries in Tampa Bay (that’s one of my husband’s reasons); and (8) world class restaurants like Bern’s Steak House and Columbia Restaurant, both of which I expect will receive Michelin stars in 2022 when the Michelin Guide makes it’s Florida debut.

My husband and I are not quite retired as he has an encore career, and I am still working hard as a CFP®. We are, however, empty nesters and approaching retirement, so it is on our horizon. We love to go to Buccaneers and Lightning games (locals call them Bucs and Bolts), have dinner and connect with friends at Sparkman Wharf and Salt Shack on the Bay, walk along the Tampa Riverwalk, and paddle board with the dolphins and manatees. We are living our best life here and see no reason to be anywhere else. Now you know the secrets too.

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