My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

Like you, I am reflecting on the many blessings 2015 has brought to my family and me. I hope your Thanksgiving holiday is full of good food, even better company, and an appreciation of the protection and freedom we’re afforded. Thanksgiving is a wonderful reminder of all we have to be grateful for—we live in a country in which we can celebrate freely, speak freely, and live freely.Thanksgiving Safety - National Fire Protection Agency

While most of us will be carving turkeys, watching football, and spending time with our families, many dedicated members of our armed forces won’t be a phone call or short drive away from their loved ones. They’ll be many time zones, many miles and many missed memories away from their families – standing in harm’s way to defend the freedoms we enjoy each day. For their service, the sacrifices they willingly make, and their selfless commitment to our country, we should be most humbly grateful. There are also many first responders who will spend Thanksgiving in their firehouses, patrol cars, or hospitals. These remarkable men and women sacrifice holidays with their families to ensure that the rest of us can enjoy a peaceful and safe one with ours. As you reflect on the things we all have to be thankful for, include them in your expressions of gratitude, thank them when you see them, and remember that even if they are at the periphery of your thoughts, you are at the center of theirs.

Another hope I have for Floridians this holiday weekend is that they take every precaution possible to remain safe. Thanksgiving often brings with it many distractions, be they houseguests or hectic schedules, and it’s very easy to forget about food cooking in the kitchen or outside. As State Fire Marshal, it bears repeating that according to the National Fire Protection Agency, Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires. Before you fire up the oven, make sure you know where your fire extinguisher is—just in case. If fried turkey is on the menu, remember that oil and water don’t mix, so never throw water on a grease fire. The consequences can be catastrophic. Read through this tip sheet provided by the NFPA to help ensure you, your family, and your belongings make it through this holiday week safely.

And of course, many of us see Black Friday as the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season. Before you hit the stores, I urge you to make a spending plan so your spending doesn’t spiral out of control. Our Department offers many budgeting tools through our Your Money Matter$ website. We offer a holiday budgeting calculator, tools to help manage travel spending, tips sheets on how to entertain on a budget, and more. But the best money management system available won’t help if consumers don’t take a few steps to protect their money from the con artists who tend to creep up during the holiday season. With the rise of online and mobile shopping, I urge you to be prudent with your banking information. More often than not, greater consumer protections are in place when using a credit card to make online purchases, and using a credit card is certain to keep the money in your bank account safe—money necessary to pay the monthly household expenses. Where possible, consider supporting local, small businesses and don’t forget that Black Friday may not provide the lowest prices of the season—many retailers offer Cyber Monday sales and deals throughout the month of December.

There are many things to be thankful for—loved ones, Florida’s beautiful weather, a weekend full of rivalry football games to name a few—but let’s strive to keep those who keep us safe, who can’t be with their families this season, in our thoughts today. I’m thankful for them, for this great state we call home, and for the many blessings that have been bestowed upon us.


Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida

Don’t Let Black Friday Turn Your Wallet Into a Black Hole

As Black Friday and the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season approaches, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and the Department of Financial Services remind Floridians to make smart spending choices to keep from overspending and to heed warning signs to protect against fraud.

Before hitting the stores, make a holiday spending plan. Begin your holiday shopping with a clear understanding of what you want to spend so that bargain excitement doesn’t overwhelm your pocketbook. Many financial planners recommend spending no more than 1.5 percent of your annual income on holiday expenses or $750 per $50,000 of annual income. Use our easy Holiday Budget Calculator to help determine your holiday budget.

As you begin your holiday gift buying, keep these tips in mind:

  • Create a plan: Black Friday isn’t the best day to window shop. If braving the crowds, browse the circulars and determine in advance which specific items are the best deals at each store.

  • Don’t fall for flashy advertising: Remember that retailers offer sale prices throughout the month of December, so Black Friday deals may not be the best time to buy. Don’t forget that many stores also offer online-only Cyber Monday sales as well.

  • Keep security in mind when shopping online: Make sure the website is secure before providing any financial information. Look for a lock symbol in the web browser, which indicates a secure connection, or “https” at the start of the web address.

  • Use credit when possible—for fraud protection: Many credit cards offer zero liability on fraudulent purchases and using credit cards also protects the funds in your bank account—funds that may be needed to cover the monthly household expenses. Be careful not to overspend when using credit.
  • Time is not always on your side: While many retailers offer extended return periods during the holidays, make sure you’re aware of the return options on all of your purchases.

  • Ask questions of callers: Never provide financial information to an unknown telephone caller. Always ask for call back information and a letter in writing that verifies the need of the call. Be wary of any caller unwilling to provide it.

Lastly, the holiday season is a time for giving and many consumers choose to give the gift of a donation to charitable organizations. However, studies show that con artists and fraudsters are likely to prey on consumers’ good will during this time of year. Before offering a charitable donation, consumers are urged to verify the legitimacy of the charity by checking to make sure the organization is properly registered with the state of Florida by calling the Consumer Assistance Call Center at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352), or out of state at (850) 410-3800. You can also visit the online Gift Givers' Guide to obtain information about a specific charity.

Florida: Creating the Opportunities for Success

Randy Berridge, President of Florida High Tech Corridor CouncilWhile Florida may still be known to some as the state with oranges, palm trees and the mouse, rapid growth of high tech industry over the past 20 years may prove to alter that mindset in the future.

Florida has unique clusters of high tech industry and innovation ranging from modeling, simulation and training to aerospace, medical technology and life sciences. Collectively, high tech industry contributes to more than $9 billion of R&D expenditures which drive innovation in the state.

Within the Florida High Tech Corridor, a 23-county region throughout the center of the state, nearly 20,000 high tech companies research chemotherapy alternatives, how to get humans into space safely, the nuances of making sensors smaller and more efficient, best methods to train soldiers virtually, and more. Since the inception of The Corridor by the Florida Legislature in 1996, companies have thrived and new ones continue to emerge in a region focused on collaboration, partnership, workforce programs and entrepreneurial support.

Read more from Randy Berridge in the latest edition of Florida's Bottom Line, plus many more Florida economic articles of interest.

Florida Economic Briefs

Florida unemployment rate hits 7 year low
Florida’s unemployment rate was 5.1 percent in October, down 0.1 percentage points from September (5.2 percent), and down 0.7 percentage points from October of last year (5.8 percent). The last time the unemployment rate was this low was January of 2008 (5.0 percent).
Source: Florida Department of Economic Opportunity

Florida ranks fourth for Business Tax Climate
Florida moved up to fourth in the nation for State Business Tax Climate, according to a new report by the Tax Foundation. Ahead of Florida were Alaska (third), South Dakota (second), and Wyoming (first), all energy states. Florida’s closest peer state was Texas in 10th place.
Source: Tax Foundation