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Florida is losing millionaires: fluke or serious trend?

This undated photo made available by Casa Casuarina shows the exterior of Casa Casuarina in Miami Beach. The South Beach mansion was once owned by Italian designer Gianni Versace.
This undated photo made available by Casa Casuarina shows the exterior of Casa Casuarina in Miami Beach. The South Beach mansion was once owned by Italian designer Gianni Versace.
Published Jan. 28, 2014

"Florida millionaire" has a timeless air about it — except the state has fewer of them than it used to.

The Sunshine State fell to 30th from 20th last year in a ranking of states based on their percentage of millionaire households. Florida lost 30,000 millionaires in 2013, leaving 348,642 households with millionaire status, according to annual data compiled by wealth tracking firm Phoenix Marketing International.

That's the lowest number of millionaire households in Florida since 2009, when the stock market collapsed.

In 2006, Florida ranked an impressive 10th among states. By the end of last year, the state had dropped 20 spots, despite an improving economy, no state income tax and low inheritance taxes.

By sheer number, South Florida — from Miami north to Palm Beach — boasts the most millionaire households, with more than 102,000 among this state's metropolitan areas. Tampa Bay is a distant second with just over 51,000 millionaire households among nearly 1.2 million total in this metro area.

But by sheer density, or per capita, the millionaire rankings change. The smaller and more exclusive Naples area comes out on top with just over 9,900, or 7.1 percent, of its households qualifying as millionaires compared with just 4.3 percent in Tampa Bay. Close behind Naples comes the Villages retirement community in Sumter County, followed by the Vero Beach area.

The rankings are not exact numbers but estimates. Phoenix Marketing crunches a number of databases that track wealth to come up with its annual rankings. Those resources include the Federal Reserve Board's survey of consumer finance, financial and demographic databases from Nielsen-Claritas, and the U.S. Census.

For these rankings, a millionaire household is defined as one with at least $1 million in assets that can be invested. Home values are not a factor.

Thanks to its large population, Florida fared better in sheer number of millionaire households, ranking fourth behind California (777,624), Texas (456,949) and New York (429,153).

But why did Florida drop so dramatically in the per-capita rankings?

"It's hard to pinpoint one specific event behind the change in Florida's ranking," said David Thompson, who heads Phoenix Marketing's affluent practice.

Yes, the recession hit Florida harder than many other states. But Thompson noted that Florida lacks what states with the highest concentration of millionaires have: a source of wealth creation.

States richest in millionaires per capita, such as Maryland, New Jersey or Massachusetts — perennial top 10 states in the U.S. rankings — draw their wealth from their proximity to rich, powerful and highly educated metro areas with sophisticated industries. In these state examples, that includes Washington, D.C., New York and Boston. Top of the per capita list is Maryland, which borders Washington, for example, and benefits from federal contracts, defense and consulting.

Florida lacks cities with such high-end capacity to generate wealth, Thompson said, though the Sunshine State's large tourism industry obviously contributes some riches.

"It's easier said than done to create wealth there," he suggested. And most millionaires in Florida created their fortunes elsewhere before moving here.

There are other reasons Florida's ranking dipped.

Other states are starting to generate more millionaires. Case in point: North Dakota. The state ranked 29th, just ahead of Florida, by density of millionaires — a gain of 14 spots over 2012. Why? Because of the energy boom in the state from fracking, a relatively new way to extract oil and natural gas.

Other states that leapfrogged upward in the 2013 rankings are Maine (up 11 spots) and Louisiana (up 10). Both states enjoyed sharp economic turnarounds.

In addition to Florida, Idaho and Michigan also dropped 10 spots in the rankings last year. The biggest losers in 2013 were Arizona (down 13) and Nevada (down 20).

Thompson said Florida's decline could easily reverse itself. But, he speculated, it may not.

"Other climates may be becoming attractive as well to the high-net-worth base of retirees."

Contact Robert Trigaux at