Why Are Folks Moving to Florida? (Especially Tech Folks)

I have been amused but not at all surprised by the flood of people from the tech industry who are moving to South Florida, and Miami in particular. Our business is in financial technology, and we were lured to Florida years ago.

What made us relocate?

First, we love Florida’s conservative – libertarian tax code. If you are one of the higher earners in the country, you can immediately save a lot of money by relocating here. And by “a lot of money,” I mean you could buy a new Maserati or a nice boat in cash, every year with your tax savings.

Many people grok that Florida is a major tax shelter, but they do not understand why the state is able to get by without putting much pressure on its tax base.

One answer is money from tourism – which is why no matter how much the “Biden-Harris” administration tries to amp up the fear-mongering and sense of “impending doom,” Florida will never go back to mask mandates and lockdowns. This state is so over the coronavirus bullshit there are no words.

Another answer is a long history of fiscal conservatism generally. We do not have the budget-devouring legacy costs of states and cities that were less responsible with taxpayer dollars across decades. Our government agencies operate efficiently and with strong oversight.

But the real, durable answer is everything in Florida is funded at an aggressively local level. Florida has a lot of toll roads that fund infrastructure. If you want to take a causeway to get to the beach, you get to help pay for its construction. If you want to use a public parking garage, you pay for it. If you want to live in a swanky community with a golf course, clay tennis courts, etc., you get to pay a community development district fee that will go to pay off the bonds used to finance those facilities. No one else is being forced to pay for your lifestyle. Moreover, if a project is nonsensical or does not have enough demand for its use to pay for itself, it either doesn’t happen or the financial risk rests on the shoulders of the groups who want it. That’s between you and your bank.

There is thus no grand distribution of wealth happening in Florida. The middle class is not paying taxes to subsidize infrastructure for the mega-rich. The mega-rich are not bailing out the middle class. Folks in Florida eat what they kill, their incentives are aligned with their environment, and that makes living here relatively inexpensive if you want it to be. It’s also a very interesting way to keep the peace.

If you live in California, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, or any of the other places people are leaving to come to Florida, you are getting gang-banged by several overlapping taxing districts every single year. When we moved here, our accountant physically doubled over laughing at the number of forms our household had to file for personal and corporate income taxes to entities at different levels of government, and that’s before steep property taxes to fund schools we never sent our daughter to. If you are an entrepreneur, you represent one income stream, but everyone has their paws in that pot. And each one of those taxing entities has employees that are drawing a massive pension (with a net present value in the millions of dollars apiece) that isn’t actually funded yet, so there are considerable yet-to-be realized expenses living there. The number of politically connected people who are profiting from all of this waste makes such a political structure incredibly path-dependent too. There is never the political will to destroy entities that don’t serve the majority of people.

(This also means most of these blue cities and states are a lot more broken financially than they seem on paper, because they are all exploiting the same tax base over and over and over, regardless of what they tell socialist millennials and zoomers about how everyone “needs to pay their fair share.” If that tax base walks away en masse, as it has started to do in many of these places, it takes down many different public entities. This is why restoring the SALT loophole in the federal tax code is priority #1 for Democrats. They need to pass the state and local tax bills of their wealthy residents onto federal taxpayers to keep them there, otherwise they are in big trouble in the long run. This is not a problem in states with a long history of fiscal conservatism like Florida.)

Our accountant says every time he gets a new client from out of state, they have an emotional breakdown seeing the annual cost of living in a mismanaged city and state quantified. If you save $150,000 a year by leaving New York, and you have lived in New York for 20 years, how stupid are you really? Do you know how much money that would be if you invested it in the stock market over that same period? Those were the most expensive Broadway tickets ever.

Every time I listen to young person sneering at “flyover country” with their “low” incomes, I want to point out to them that they themselves are not actually wealthy – as wealth and income are not synonymous. A large fraction of their income is blown on rent for a shoebox apartment, on the student debt necessary to get into a professional position, and then on taxes that mostly fund government dysfunction and rent-seeking personalities. Most of the people living in flyover country have objectively higher standards of living than young professionals in major cities in blue states. They look at the glorified camp stove in your apartment from their luxury kitchen and shrug. Tell us more about how “elite” you are in your Buzzfeed listicle.

Second, Florida has a fantastic culture. When I talk to people in other states, they have the “Florida Man” stereotype of Floridians that the mainstream media (read: broke English majors living in NYC) gives them. There are certainly plenty of rednecks with crazy antics that keep us entertained down here, and I wouldn’t trade them and their pet alligators for the world. But that’s not Florida.

Most of the people down here are both mentally and physically healthy people who spend a heck of a lot more time enjoying the beautiful outdoors than watching whatever identity politics poison Netflix is cranking out or getting into brawls with sockpuppets on social media. You need something to do on the weekend? You could sail, snorkel, hike through gorgeous wetlands, birdwatch, build a tropical garden where exotic birds come to nest, kayak down a natural spring, go sportfishing in the Gulf, get a tan on the beach with a good book – there are about a thousand things you can pick from on any given day, and that includes in the dead of “winter.” No one in Florida is complaining about how the last year felt like being in prison.

There are also people from all over the world living here. What do you want for dinner? You have your pick of Caribbean neighborhoods, Brazilian, Argentinian, Peruvian, Mexican (pick which region), Thai, Loa, Italian, German, Polish…. You can get sushi-grade tuna for $5 a pound in the local grocery store and fresh scallops that melt in your mouth. But sure, there are also plenty of people who will sell you boiled bread, pizza on a cracker, or processed meat chock full of chemicals if you want that too. This place is a never-ending feast where literally everyone belongs.

If you are here to raise a child, they are growing up in the ultimate melting pot, at the crossroads of every major empire. You want to learn multiple languages, Florida has you covered. You want to collect incredible art from all over the globe? It’s here.

We know all of our neighbors because they are always outside. If you have a family, you don’t have to listen to some woke asshole tell you about how having children is a sin against the environment and we are all going to be dead in 12 years anyway. There are neighborhoods full of children for your own kids to play with, and Halloween is a total thunderdome. Taking a walk past a spontaneous basketball game on a cul-de-sac is good for the soul these days.

Third, education, education, education. Florida ranks only behind Massachusetts in terms of residents with a college education. If you are a good student, the State of Florida will pick up all or most of the tab for college. Dual enrollment (where kids enroll in college classes in high school and get credit for both) is widely utilized. You can graduate early and have minimal (if any) debt, the state will even pay for your college textbooks (this also applies to homeschoolers, by the way).

The public schools in most Florida cities are competitive and highly ranked. But if you don’t want to send your kids to public school, that’s not a problem. Florida has a litany of voucher programs to support various needy populations, and they are not small.

The state is incredibly flexible with homeschoolers, and there is a huge population of homeschoolers in the state. You do not have to teach your child to the state’s academic standards if you want to do something like Classical Education or Charlotte Mason. You do not have to keep the state’s school day or academic year. This is a godsend in a place like Florida – if you homeschool and want to spend two weeks in February in the Florida Keys, no one is stopping you, have a blast. It’s a sweet, sweet life in the tropics.

This state is simply more sane and healthy than the rest of the US in every way you can think of. It is a great place to play, a great place to start a business, and a great, drama-free place to raise a child.

All that said, this was a fascinating thread to read on Twitter, which the author (co-creator of Farmville, moving from San Francisco to Miami) noted has been seen over a million times:

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