The Stories of Seven Couples Who Lowered Their Taxes & Improved Their Lives
By Kelly Godbey
“What we saved in taxes, we now use to fund our lifestyle.”
~ Leslie Jacobson of Dataw Island, SC
In 2018, the number one reason people were considering a move was to save money in taxes, followed closely by moving to a better
climate. So, we interviewed people to see how much they saved in taxes when they relocated to a low tax state. As I spoke with each one of them, their lifestyles simply overpowered the amount that they saved. While saving money in taxes was wonderful for them all, their stories were more about the new lives they lead. Meet these joyous people who moved from a high tax state and improved their lifestyles.
Leslie and Bill Jacobson of Dataw Island and Logan Homes
Saved $6,000 a year in property taxes
“If you had told me in 2016 that I would be living in South Carolina, I would have told you that you were crazy,” said Leslie Jacobson, formerly from Montgomery County, PA. In the Spring of 2016, they mapped out a trip from Williamsburg, VA, to Savannah, GA, and toured developments down the coast. Leslie says: “On this trip a light bulb went off for me … This is what my life could be? …This is what my taxes could be? … This is what the weather would be? Then Bill said, ‘I want to look at this place I saw in Ideal-Living magazine, Dataw Island,’ so we went there and stayed with a Discovery package. We narrowed it down to two places, then we bought a lot at Dataw Island in the spring of 2017. And, we moved in May 2018.”
The Jacobson’s knew they wanted Logan Homes to build their home. The Jacobson’s home has a pond view and a golf view. “Logan Homes were in our price range, and we love the product. Logan builds quality homes and they have a great design center. They have really streamlined the process. We used one of their floor plans and customized it the way we wanted it. We made a lot of modifications in the kitchen. I tell everyone we live in paradise,” says Leslie.
“The people who we have met have been so wonderful and gracious. We have become a part of ‘Island Friends.’ Dataw Island puts together groups of nine to 12 couples who rotate dinners at their homes once a month that gives us a chance to get to know new people. We were social before, but this was even easier to meet people.”
Leslie loves the beach and Bill loves golf. Bill (64) plays golf three to four times a week and Leslie (56) just isn’t ready to retire yet. Their taxes were in excess of $11,000 prior to moving, not to mention the new SALT tax legislation that would have eaten up all of their $10,000 deduction for state and local taxes. They encourage others to do their due diligence by attending an Ideal-LIVING Real Estate Show, just as they had done. Bill says, “You’ll know the place is right when you see it.”
Larry and Sherry Sherman of the Villages at Citrus Hills
Saved $5,000 a year in property taxes
As an accountant, Larry Sherman did his homework before moving from a small town in Connecticut to Citrus Hills, FL. The Shermans were tired of fighting all of the snow and ice, so climate was a big factor, but so was saving money. By moving to Florida, they saved seven percent in state income tax, as Florida is known for NO STATE INCOME TAX. And, even saved a couple thousand dollars on property tax for cars every year. Larry still works part-time as a CPA and keeps himself busy along with going outside everyday and exercising. They both take much better care of themselves living in Florida than they did previously. He says, “Sometimes I have to pinch myself to see if this is real.” He now loves to golf, as does his wife, Sherry, who has just taken up golf in addition to donating time to various charities. The Shermans are busy every day, from day trips to kayaking and socializing. He says, “Don’t wait too long in life. You only get one shot at life, so don’t hesitate; come down and try. I used to work 80 hours a week during tax season, and you have to think of yourself. You have to enjoy life while you can, even if you have to take a loss in selling your home today.”
Pam Avila of Hot Springs Village, AR
Saved $9,000 a year in property taxes
Relocating from California a year and a half ago to Hot Springs, AR, was a big change and culture shock for Pam Avila, and she loves it! At 75 years young, Pam still runs a consulting business, now working with marketing. She has always been an entrepreneur. In California, she had a tech consulting business that worked with companies such as Microsoft and Apple.
When it was time to partially “retire” Pam knew that there was no way she could afford to stay in California, so she looked at places around the country and found a wonderful cost of living and tax situation in Arkansas. “It’s been an adventure!” Pam says. “I came here on a Monday and bought on a Wednesday. It just felt right! You hear about ‘Southern Hospitality,’ but you really don’t know until you experience it.” Pam now goes to dance fitness classes twice a week, enjoys kayaking, and even goes line dancing.
Just by relocating, Pam saved $9,000 a year in real estate taxes, not to mention a lower cost of living. The home costs in California were approximately three times what she paid for a home in Hot Springs Village. And, all of the costs for services like landscapers, plumbers, and electricians are much lower. And, the property tax for the same car went from $450/year to $27 per year.
Spread across 26,000 acres in the Oachita Mountains, Hot Springs Village is the largest gated community in the U.S. with all of the amenities you can imagine, including nine golf courses, 12 lakes, two marinas, fitness centers, country clubs, and over 20 miles of trails. It’s easy to see why Pam fell in love.
Peter and Susanne Lividini of Heritage Shores, Bridgeville, DE
Saved $15,000 a year in property taxes
When the Lividini’s retired, they made a lateral move from a 2,700 sq. ft. home in New York to a 2,600 sq. ft. home with property taxes of $1,877 a year. Peter says that living in Putnam Valley was just too expensive with high taxes and a high cost of living. He was a school teacher in Harrison, NY, where the average costs for monthly taxes are between $16,000 and $60,000 a year.
The Lividinis now live the epitome of the active lifestyle. Peter retired at age 62 for a different way of life. He says, “When I was working, I had 45 to 50 minutes a day commute, and now I have so much time. The best part of retirement is that I didn’t expect retirement to be like this! At Heritage Shores, there are so many amenities. I bowl every week, play pickleball three days a week, bocce ball on Mondays, every other week there’s water volleyball, and I bike to the gym. This place is scheduled like a cruiseship with something different to do all of the time. I even started golfing and play nine holes two to three times a week.”
According to Peter, living at Heritage Shores is like being at “Cheers,” where everybody knows your name. There are many clubs where residents show up to learn about anything from history to science fiction. They even have groups where homeowners plan trips to various destinations for groups.
In addition, Peter is an artist who works on commissions and has set their new home up like a gallery. But, it’s not all about Peter, Susanne is very active too. They still make time for each other, like going for bike rides, and social gatherings. The pair loves to hang out at the Sugar Beet Market, where you’ll find lots of Heritage Shores residents listening to music or grabbing a bite to eat. Susanne participates in co-ed water volleyball, plays mahjong, and is a member of the “Red Hat Society” that raises money for charities and social issues.
Peter says, “It’s fun! It’s everything we’ve always wanted.”
Jere and Jill Hassberger of Fairfield Glade, TN
Saved $6,000 a year in property taxes
In July 2017, Jere and Jill relocated to Fairfield Glade, TN, from Ann Arbor, MI, for a better climate with four seasons of moderate temperatures with a lower cost of living. While Jere is now retired, Jill still works remotely. They have found their new life in Fairfield Glade quite enjoyable, as have many other Midwesterners. In addition to saving approximately $6,000 a year in property taxes, they have also saved his pension from being taxed, as there is no state income tax in Tennessee. (His pension was taxed in Michigan). Jere says, “When you put it all together, Fairfield Glade was great from the golfing and hiking to the community to the weather to the cost of living.”
The weather is so conducive to outdoor living that Jere now tries to play golf at least two to three days a week on one of the 90 holes and five courses available at Fairfield Glade. They also enjoy hiking and being closer to their daughter in Nashville. Many residents also enjoy boating and fishing on one of the 11 lakes in the community or enjoying the racquet sports from pickleball to tennis.
The Hassbergers had looked at planned communities in Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, and recommend that others spend time in a community and take advantage of discovery travel to help them make a decision.
Dodie and Gary Koch of Waterways, Richmond Hill, GA
Saved over $8,000 a year in property taxes
The primary reason the Kochs decided to relocate was that living in Connecticut was cost prohibitive, in addition to cold winters. They both said, “We don’t have to suffer through this!” And, they didn’t. The Kochs relocated to Waterways in Richmond Hill, just outside of Savannah, GA, in January 2016, and they still have a summer place in Vermont. They started looking in northern Florida, but decided on Savannah for the great culture and food.
Dodie takes classes at the Savannah Learning Center and even works with the Dolphin Project where she counts dolphins in the estuaries around Savannah. Every morning they walk for three miles around Waterways, a 2,300 acre development with boat access. “The community looks like it has been here forever; they love the trees. There’s no clearcutting here!” says Dodie. They also love to cycle around the 12 miles of paved roads and talk to their neighbors.
According to the Kochs, the community is very friendly with new families, young couples, and retirees. It keeps them young at heart. It’s a melting pot with people from all over. Their new home is so well-built that it is incredibly efficient, costing less than half of what they paid in Connecticut for their utilities (they save $1,000/year just for utilities).
“As a New Englander, I always thought of Georgia as the deep South. But, I have embraced the South. I really enjoy the Southern culture,” Dodie says. And, the Kochs agree,“You are never too old to try something new. Don’t be afraid to take the leap!”
Gerard and Jane Sunderland of Brunswick Forest, Wilmington, NC
Reduced taxes by two thirds
Wilmington, NC attracts thousands of retirees each year, and three and a half years ago, it snared Gerry and Jane Sunderland from Wooster, MA. Jane was ready to retire from nursing and Gerry’s job was flexible, so they could move anywhere. Although they already had a second home in Vermont, they wanted to get closer to the sea. They knew immediately it was the right place for them when they reached Brunswick Forest.
The Sunderlands were looking for a lifestyle near a city. They thought they would downsize when they relocated, and did, but then after they built, they decided to add on a huge sunroom with air conditioning and a fireplace so they could host more parties for all of their new friends.
They now have many more friends than when they lived in Wooster, MA.
Jane had never golfed before and now is a self-acclaimed golf-aholic. They enjoy golf, tennis, pickleball, biking, and walking; they are active all day long. They love all the culture that the Wilmington area has to offer, including seeing shows at Thalian Hall and the Wilson Center.
Their taxes are now at least a third of what they were, and their cost of living is so much less, including entertainment and dining options. Even the parking is significantly cheaper than in the Boston area.
The Sunderlands advise, “Try everything at least once. Reach out and meet people. We’ve never regretted it.”