My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

January is Financial Wellness Month, and as we wind down from the excitement of the new year and our new year’s resolutions become habits, this is a great time to squeeze one more item in. Creating a financial wellness plan to help you achieve your goals for the months and years ahead is vital to your financial success, both in the short- and long-run. Now is the time to take simple steps to ensure you’re on the right path to financial success.

Consider these basic questions when assessing your finances:

  • Is saving a priority for you? Having a bank account reduces many transaction fees charged for cashing checks or making payments and encourages you to save. Most financial institutions offer free direct deposit of paychecks, and especially during this time of year, many will offer credits or a bonus for opening a savings account.

  • Have you recently reviewed your credit score? Each year, consumers can obtain a free credit report at www.AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling Annual Credit Report Request Service at 1-877-322-8228. Having a good credit score is important to achieving your financial goals, such as buying a car or home, and it is important to closely monitor your credit activity for potential fraud or reporting errors.

  • Do you have a realistic budget? Budgeting, which includes saving, will help you pay your bills on time, prepare for unexpected emergencies, and reach your financial goals. Take the time to write down your expenses, so you are able to keep track of what you’re spending, and make adjustments to ensure you are saving—even if it is a small amount each month.

Ensuring Floridians’ have every opportunity to expand their financial knowledge Your Money Matter$is a goal of mine, and my Department works toward that end. Our financial education website, Your Money Matter$, offers a variety of financial tools and resources for each stage of life. I hope you will visit the site to learn more. As always, our Consumer Helpline stands ready to help Floridians make more informed financial and insurance-related decisions. Our experts can be reached by calling 1-877-693-5236 or visiting us on the web here.

I encourage you to take time this month to review your current financial situation, and to set goals to become more financially well.

Sincerely,

Jeff
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida


News of Interest

Tampa Bay Times: Florida unemployment rate declines slightly in December, ends 2015 at 5 percent

News 4 Jax: Florida Lottery breaks sales record in January

News4Jax: 'Operation Drop the Hammer' nets nine arrests

WalletHub.com: 2016’s Best and Worst States to Retire

Time/Money: If You Live in Florida, Georgia or D.C., Do This Before You File Your Taxes

Orlando Business Journal: Citizens' policy count passes milestone

Tampa Bay Times: Port Tampa Bay hopes to benefit from expanded Panama Canal

Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Social media key in propelling Florida tourism

Reuters: U.S. consumer, housing data underscore economy's resilience

Kids' Hands for Children's WeekChildren’s Health Insurance a Sound Financial Decision

Wendy Link, Chair of the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation Board, would like to share information about Children’s Week in Tallahassee—a week centered on the health and safety of Florida’s children and families—which is an especially appropriate time to ensure our state’s children are covered with some form of health care.

Children at any age—even the healthiest of children—need access to preventive services such as physicals, immunizations, dental cleanings, and vision check-ups to reach their potential and experience healthy, fulfilling childhoods. Fortunately, the Florida KidCare program covers these types of services for children from birth through 18 through comprehensive, child-centered benefits that are available at little to no cost to Florida families.

However, these resources are being underutilized. According to 2014 U.S. Census Bureau data, approximately 230,000 Florida children under age 18 are likely to be eligible for subsidized coverage through Florida KidCare but are not enrolled. Families eligible for this coverage could pay as little as $15 or $20 a month—or even nothing at all—and families with incomes Florida KidCareabove the eligibility guidelines could receive coverage through a full-pay option. Families simply need to visit www.floridakidcare.org/ to apply online anytime during its year-round open enrollment.

This Children’s Week, let’s continue to focus on protecting the health of our future leaders. It is always a financially sound decision to purchase health insurance, but it is in those life-changing—or even life-saving—moments when its value truly speaks for itself.

Sean Snaith, Ph.D.Florida's Economic Outlook

Florida’s economy ended the year with solid momentum, momentum that will carry over into 2016, but factors well beyond the state’s borders will play an increasing role in determining how the state’s economy will perform in 2016.

Florida’s labor market recovery continues to outpace the recovery in the national job market as it has since 2012. Payroll job growth remained robust in 2015 and for the full year job growth should come in at 3.2 percent. Hiring growth this year will ease somewhat to 2.3 percent, Florida will outpace national job growth over the course of the year by 0.8 percentage points.

Real State Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will continue to expand at a faster rate than the U.S. economy has experienced at any point during the six and a half year old economic recovery. In both 2015 and in 2016 we anticipate that Florida’s real GDP growth will be 3.3 percent.

Read more from Dr. Snaith in Florida's Bottom Line. The accompanying website will keep you updated with the latest statistics on Florida's jobs and economy. Special reports, infographics and past editions are archived on the website for easy access.

Serving Floridas SeniorsThe Florida Rundown - Serving Florida's Seniors

Our department covers a variety of consumer-oriented topics, never losing sight of the people we serve. We answer to every taxpaying Floridian, and we strive to help keep Florida’s families and individuals informed through all walks of life.

The Florida Department of Financial Services launched Operation S.A.F.E. (Stop Adult Financial Exploitation) as part of CFO Atwater’s On Guard for Seniors initiative. Be Scam Smart workshops are open to seniors, their family and caregivers to help inform, empower, and protect Florida’s seniors from financial scams and fraud. If you want to make sure your savings are protected, register for a workshop in your area and get a better understanding of how scam artists and scams work.

The Florida Rundown brings you highlights of the past year for the 14 divisions of the CFO's Department of Financial Services.

Florida Economic Briefs

Florida unemployment rate down in November
Florida’s unemployment rate was 5.0 percent in November, down 0.1 percentage points from November  (5.1 percent) and down 0.7 percentage points from December of last year (5.7 percent). The U.S. unemployment rate was 5.0 percent in December.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Florida’s housing market increases over the year
In December, there were over 23,000 closed home sales in Florida, up 2.9 percent from this time last year. Additionally, the median sale price is up 11.6 percent over the year, to $206,500.
Source: Florida Realtors