Friday, November 17, 2006
7 News Features: Surviving South Florida
It is a problem affecting nearly every family in South Florida. The cost of living is increasing, but our paychecks are staying the same. In tonight's special assignment report, moving isn't the only option. 7's Tom Haynes shows us how to survive in South Florida.
WSVN -- Between taxes, bills and insurance, it's easy to get lost under a pile of paperwork.
Pam Loudermilk: "Everything is going up, up, up. It's getting unreasonable to even live here in South Florida."
Jennifer Grassia: "It's almost paycheck to paycheck -- and with housing and clothes, it's not affordable."
Tom Haynes: "But if you've dug yourself into a financial hole, you can still survive in South Florida with the right tools. To begin with, you'll need a compass, a pocket knife, a flashlight and, of course, a canteen."
Barry Katz: "It really goes down to looking at your income. What are your expenses, can you make up a shortfall, are there places to save and save significant dollars?"
Financial Advisor Barry Katz knows it can be a jungle out there.
For moms Pam Loudermilk and Jennifer Grassia, he suggests analyzing big expenses starting with your home.
Jennifer Grassia: "It's gone up quick, a few hundred dollars a month for insurance. Especially as the hurricane is more and more intense it increases."
To cut through the red tape, you'll want to get out your pocketknife.
If you're thinking about downsizing -- you might want to cut to the chase -- because that could be downright risky.
Barry Katz: "Your real estate taxes could quite easily increase sufficiently even though you are downsizing."
Instead, shine your flashlight on a program called Save Our Homes.
It guarantees your taxes will not increase more than three percent annually.
Ernie Hartman: "You get that savings every single year, without having to reapply for it. It's automatic."
As for property insurance, accountant Ernie Hartman knows how overwhelming hurricane coverage can be.
To get through it all, you'll want to get out your compass.
The first direction to take is making sure your house is up to code.
The new my Safe Florida Home program offers free home inspections and up to $5,000 grant for structural improvements.
Ernie Hartman: "It's definitely going to save you."
Next, use the compass to find the nearest bank.
Today, a few of them are offering loans to refinance your house without windstorm insurance.
Plus if you did make home improvements, you can call your agent to get a lower rate.
Ernie Hartman: "Make sure you are taking advantage of any discounts that you might have earned already."
It's also worth reviewing your medical insurance.
If over-paying is leaving a bad taste in your mouth, get out your canteen.
For people who don't often go to the doctor, set up a health savings account.
It requires you to pay more per visit up front, but there are no monthly premiums.
Pam Loudermilk: "They do save you quite a bit on premiums."
It's not enough to convince Pam and her family.
They're moving to Tennessee.
Pam Loudermilk: "It's a beautiful state to live in, but you can't afford to live here."
But, for Jennifer, it's survival of the financially fittest.
She's determined to reassess how she's spending money so she can stay in South Florida for years to come.
Jennifer Grassia: "I want to be able to stay here and raise my family, hopefully, not have to leave South Florida."
FOR MORE INFORMATION: