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? But there’s more to a retirement community than the Lombardi and Stanley Cup trophies.
Tampa Bay is the fourth largest metropolitan area in the Southeast behind Washington, 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 of 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. Home prices here vary significantly. I looked recently and saw listings ranging from $100,000 to $24 million.
Affording Tampa Bay on a $500,000 or $1 million 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 6% and the historic 2022 Social Security cost of living increase at 5.9% still will not cover it.
A Range of Housing Options
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 Boulevard, 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-plus 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-plus 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.” Realtor.com has two-bedroom, two-bath homes listed for sale in Sun City Center for as low as $190,000.
The Tampa Bay Economic Development Council has a great tool on their website that allowsyou to compare the cost of living in Tampa Bay (including not just housing, but also groceries, utilities, transportation, healthcare and miscellaneous expenses) 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, Florida, which is 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 10 times that price!
No State Income Tax
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 tax 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 taxbenefits 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 half 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 No. 1 on its list of emerging tech cities, so if your children are tech savvy, this is the place to be.
Plenty of Activities and Attractions
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:
- The climate is mild. Our average temperatures are 77 degrees in the spring, 82 degrees in the summer, 75 degrees in the fall and 60 degrees in the winter.
- Our beaches are consistently top-ranked in America and in the world.
- We have world-class museums, art, music, cultural events and amusement parks and zoos, like Busch Gardens and ZooTampa.
- Our world-class healthcare includes the Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa General Hospital and James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital.
- Our airport is ranked No. 2 in J.D. Power Airport Satisfaction Survey of large North American airports with nonstop service to over 80 national and international destinations that will allow retirees to easily and conveniently enjoy traveling.
- The region is home to two of WalletHub’s most pet-friendly cities :No. 2 (Tampa) and No. 7 (St. Petersburg).
- WalletHub ranked Tampa No. 1 as the best place to live for veterans.
- There are about 100 craft breweries in Tampa Bay (that’s one of my husband’s reasons) and 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 its 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. However, we are 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.
Stacy Miller is a CFP professional and partner with Bright Investments, LLC. She is a fee-only fiduciary wealth advisor and member of the Financial Planning Association (FPA) and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (Napfa). Stacy is also a U.S. Army military spouse to her retiree husband of 27-years. She can be reached at email@example.com or 334-226-8927.