Florida is a huge state and each section has a different culture, economy, and life. If you have ever visited Florida for vacation or business, trust me, your view is not complete. If you want to retire here and have lots of savings, you should be OK to live out the rest of your life in warm weather. However, if you are moving to Florida without a job or money you are asking for trouble.
Let’s get definitions out of the way. I am just focusing on South Florida, which is best known for having Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach (aka Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach County metropolitan areas). [Wikipedia has it wrong again, no one in South Florida actually considers the Keys, Sarasota, Tampa, and Orlando to be part of “South Florida”.]
How much would it cost to move to Florida?
Hiring movers can cost between $442 and $1,232 with an average rate of $25 to $50 per hour. The cost to move across country, or out of state, averages about $1,000 per room, with an average cost of 50 cents per pound. The median cost to buy a house in South Florida is around $350,000 and rising as of summer of 2017. The average rental apartment is around $1300 per month as of December 2017. If you own a condo or townhouse, the average Home Owner’s Association monthly fee is $350 as of March 2017. Of course, actually living in the city Miami, owning beach front property, or high end property in Palm Beach is astronomical compared to those averages.
What you probably don’t know is that most people try to live in the suburbs around the major cities and more than likely that’s where you will end up. You probably never even heard of such cities as Deerfield Beach, Plantation, Pembroke Pines, or Weston. Most of the paying jobs are located in the downtown regions of the Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, so you would need to commute and deal with the traffic.
How is the South Florida Traffic?
The traffic is horrible in South Florida, and has been ranked as having the worst drivers in the United States. There are too many accidents, fatalities, tickets, and bone-headed mistakes drivers make on a daily basis, that I don’t even want to waste time on it. Public transportation is a joke, and it’s not a pedestrian or bicyclist-friendly state either. Taxis charge too much money. If you don’t have a car your life will be miserable to get from place to place. If you are traveling from, say, Tamarac to Fort Lauderdale, it would take 1:40 minutes riding two buses. A bus pass costs around $60 a month. Uber and Lyft are rising in popularity, but it will cost you if you need it to go to work every day. By car, Tamarac to Fort Lauderdale could still run you 30-40 minutes for absolutely no reason besides long red lights, road construction, and not being able to hop on an East-West highway there. Road rage is also a problem, and considering South Florida is loaded with transients, gun owners, nut jobs, meth-heads, and criminals on the run, and drivers with no insurance, you’d best not get into a road rage incident. South Florida is a DUI region.
Florida is the Scam Capital of the U.S.
From identity theft, ID fraud, healthcare scams, phone scams, wire transfer scams, telemarketers, impersonators knocking at your door, and craigslist set-ups, there are many people working to take your money away by illegal means. And even if some methods are legal, they are shady get rich quick schemes, ranging from multilevel marketing, flipping houses, or high pressure, expensive private training schools for entrepreneurship or stock trading.
South Florida Hurricanes are Devastating
The local media coverage fuels mass panic in South Florida, and residents will either pack up and drive north or horde supplies. The gas lines are outrageous, airports are unbearable, Home Depot is swamped, and businesses and government shut down. It’s like every disaster movie you’ve watched. And that’s before the hurricane hits. Your home will probably have some damage and have fun with your insurance claim in Florida or even getting a FEMA check. You may miss a few days of work too, and it takes time to clear the roads from fallen trees and debris and to get power back up.
There is No Real Culture in South Florida
You’d think everyone would be into the Everglades or Florida Gators or beaches or have one a major theme to unify the culture. But it is not to be. Even though Florida is a sports state, the groups are splintered and hardcore fans stick to their groups. Granted the Miami Heat is probably the safest thing to talk about in a group of 10 strangers, but you would be surprised when only 2 of them actually watched last night’s game or even knew it was basketball season. Because South Florida is so diverse with ages, generations, immigrants, religions, politics, net value, status, and out-of-towners, there’s really no common ground. It is a splintered group and not a melting pot. It wouldn’t surprise me if an average Floridian doesn’t even go on a vacation once a year, and if the person does go it is to Orlando or on a cruise. I guess since South Floridians spend so much time on their smart phones, play video games, or get high, they live double lives. Of course, if you live in a Miami suburb you would be engrossed in your Latino culture so you would disagree with everything I said. The same goes for small niche cultures that exist down here. There are also some nice religious communities you could become part of, but for most Floridians their “culture” is their ethnicity, original nationality, or whatever career they are in.
If you are gay, you have many options in South Florida, from Wilton Manors to South Beach to any bar, video store, or hookup app or website. The Keys down south are obviously hot spots as well.
The “Florida Man” Meme
Although there are obvious places you don’t want to be in due to muggings and homicides, a unique feature to South Florida is The Florida Man. The Florida Man commits the most odd, perverted, weird, dumb, sick, outrageous crimes you could imagine. From raping a flamingo to breaking into a fast food dive to drink vats of oil to nursing home abuse to underage rape to holding up a Taco Bell thinking it was a bank to abusing animals to texting a detective for drugs to boyfriend vs girlfriend domestic batteries with chicken and hording dead bodies at home, Florida attracts the dregs of humanity.
Sex and Drugs in South Florida
If you don’t have money, a good job, or partner in South Florida, you have to resort to getting a part time job or hustling for cash. The legal hustling methods are Uber, garage sales, selling items via mobile apps or web, getting some side-work as a Mr. Fixit type (construction workers and painters work at the project level and they dry up), or working from home somehow. If you don’t have morals or ethics you will probably resort to getting into the large, underground drug and sex market in South Florida. There is no end to the exploitation in South Florida. The less said about this scene, the better.
Forget About Government Benefits
You know how conservatives and libertarians like to rally against the welfare state? Although they have some points, I should mention out that the government benefits in Florida suck if you need them. About the only people who really benefit from them are single mothers who keep popping out kids with different fathers, but they are not as many of them compared to the people who really need financial assistance. If you happen to make a barely decent amount of money ($25,000 a year) and are married or pay a mortgage for your home, or have $3000 of savings, you could forget about getting food stamps, welfare, or any State cash assistance. Unemployment benefits are lucky to pay your electric, phone, car, and internet bills. Good luck actually qualifying for unemployment benefits- only 1/8 laid off workers get it. There is no security blanket in Florida if you are middle class or below. Any agency will tell you to move in with a relative, get a roommate, and go to charities. Of course, charities are strict as well and at best they will give you a gift card for one month or free bread and beans at the local church. There’s no real mental health architecture, affordable assisted living, rent controlled apartments, or permanent homeless shelters.
The Florida Educational System is Poor
If you are not in a honors, magnet, AP, or IB program in South Florida, you are getting a below par education. After you graduate high school, you will still barely be able to do arithmetic and have no knowledge about history, geography, or reading and writing. There is crime in the schools and the kids do things that they should be doing in their 20s. If you go to a university, you will realize that you might as well should have got a real license being a plumber, electrician, or mechanic. You will lose money if you come in from out-of-state to go to college. If you were a resident here, your parents probably would have pre-paid your tuition and hopefully you had qualified from a grant or scholarship. If not, you will be sunk with student loans for decades, with a near-worthless BA. Words of advice for majors: stay away from the liberal arts degrees, and it is better to learn programming than graphic arts. If your family is loaded, might as well try your hand in law or medical. If you try that on your own, you will be unable to keep up with the expenses.
Florida Job Problems
Ignore the 3.7% unemployment rate, the reality is that in 2015 almost half of workers had been out of the workforce for over 6 months, and I believe that number is in the 35%-range in 2018, and around 40% of residents are labeled as not being in the workforce at all. The bottom line is that if you have a BA or less, you have to work your ass off just to get $30,000 a year in South Florida, while your cost of living is comparable to a major city. When you get that promotion, you count your blessings that you achieved the $40,000 mark. The joke is if you get $50,000 you are basically expected to be running the entire company and have so much responsibility that you are liable to get laid off since you’re just a middle manager. As a work-for-hire state with no real union presence, you can be rest assured that your wages will be lower than the other big states while your rent/mortgage will be high. I will grant that there have been good trends this past year, but you really need a Masters, valuable professional skill, entrepreneur spirit, or networking skills to make it in South Florida. For many people, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know when it comes to getting hired.
South Florida Political Demographics
South Florida is a 50/50 political war zone. We have outspoken men who support Trump, SJW millennials with their socialist professors at the universities, 99% of black people here were huge Obama fans and are Trump haters, and for the most part Puerto Ricans, female Jews, Haitians, and Jamaicans are Democrats and Cubans and Christians are Republicans, although anyone from a poor demographic automatically supports the Democrats down here, hoping for a handout. It should be noted that there are many closeted Jewish men and Asians who support Trump. Suffice to say, you will be getting into political arguments at school or the workplace.
Good Stuff about South Florida
Again, if you are rich this is a paradise for you and especially if you want to retire or is a dude who loves women. The weather is tropical, but even that is a double-edged sword as it could get too humid and hot with daily summer thunderstorms. If you happen to be naturalist, there are many parks, trails, and waters to explore. If you are rich, be a snowbird and come down here during 6 months or the winter. If you are Latino and speak Spanish, South Florida is a good fit for you as long as you have family or friends down here. Being bilingual is a valuable skill here. There are many Latino communities to fit into. If you are young and want to “party”, there are plenty of places to waste your life away on alcohol, weed, and shallow hook-ups in east Fort Lauderdale, South Beach, and many other places in the cities, but not so much in the suburbs. You could hang out at the malls and Chipotle if you want. Keep in mind you probably would need to live with your parents until you’re 29. If you are normal working stiff, you had better be earning $50,000 or $40,000 to survive if your partner also has a good job. If you aren’t in a relationship, you need your family or friends to be your roommates. If you are single you need to consider a studio apartment or roommate. If you manage to get a job with big company that offers health insurance, 401K, and paid vacation, you are very lucky and you should hold on to that $30,000 job. If you are not working and want to start a new life…you will be eaten alive in no time.
I’d also recommend living as north as you could in South Florida- the closer to Palm Beach, the better. Successful people in South Florida are usually older people with sales or business experience who could land a $70,000+ job based on their resume.