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Where the Rich Reside

33109 - Fisher Island

Rich Populations
Number of permanent residents worth at least $30 million:

Miami - 835

Tampa - 520

Jacksonville - 440

Orlando - 410

Boca Raton - 340

Source: Wealth-X

Power walking on a January morning around Fisher Island, talking on her cell, resident Jill Eber gives her take on life on Fisher Island. “I’ve lived on Fisher Island for 13 years,” she says, short of breath. “I think it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world. It’s always just incredible to be here. The most amazing security. I can walk out of my home to walk my dog at 2 o’clock in the morning and feel fine. It’s a very homey feel.”

As one half of the Jills — the other is Jill Hertzberg — a power duo of real estate sellers of Miami luxury properties (a house they sold in Indian Creek holds the Miami-Dade record at $47 million), Eber isn’t shy with superlatives. But in Fisher Island’s case, superlatives apply. For starters, it has been judged the richest ZIP code in the nation by a Forbes analysis of IRS and Census data. The island, just across Government Cut from South Beach, has the Miami port and Biscayne Bay to the west and the Atlantic to the east. Accessible only by helicopter, boat or a ferry that’s available 24/7, the island has its own beach, marinas, nine-hole golf course, tennis courts, club and spa. Only about 30% of the 226 or so owners, a list that has included Oprah Winfrey, Andre Agassi and Mel Brooks through the years, live there year-round. The island has its own gourmet shop and private school, which also draws children from other bay islands and Miami Beach. Recent home listings topped out at $15 million for a seven-bedroom unit and bottomed at $175,000 for a one-bedroom, 420-sq.-ft. unit. Island property is undervalued, says Eber.

Developer Carl Fisher bought the island from south Florida’s first African-American millionaire, Dana A. Dorsey, in 1919 and expanded its land mass. He later swapped some of it to one of the Vanderbilts for a yacht. In the 1980s, it finally saw major development, almost entirely multi-family. The Vanderbilt mansion became a 45-room boutique hotel. The remaining undeveloped land is the subject of complex litigation chronicled from the local Miami New Times weekly newspaper to the New York Times, featuring a mysterious death, Russian oligarchs and intrigue aplenty. The case isn’t the only trouble spot for the island. Fisher Island Club — equity membership is $250,000 — has sued 14 members for not paying fees. The big-name targets include former ambassador and political donor Paul Cejas, sugar grower Alfonso “Alfy” Fanjul Jr., and Herman Echevarria, whose wife, Alexia, got her moment in the public eye through “The Real Housewives of Miami” TV show. The club just completed a $60-million renovation of the golf course, tennis center, beach club and private marina and spa.

Eber, as a good real estate agent should, is quick to say island life is more than fine. “Everywhere you turn, you get views of the ocean (and) bay, and the service is incredible here. One example: When I lost my phone, I had five security guards helping me find it in the grass, and when I had a problem with my dog, the paramedics at the fire station were wonderful. I love living here because Fisher is one of the most beautiful places worldwide with all the most incredible amenities and security.”

 

The Widow’s Mite

Among residential areas, the most generous ZIP code in Florida is the colorful Penney Farms, a northeast Florida town of 749 where 500 residents live in a retirement community founded by retail magnate J.C. Penney as a refuge for people like his father, a minister who retired with no pension and no home. It later was operated by the Christian Herald. On average Penney Farms residents donated 8% of their adjusted gross income to charity. Those in the $25,000 to $75,000 bracket gave 9%. Those in the even lower $10,000- to $25,000-bracket gave 10%. Cathie Parrott, a resident who volunteers at the town hall, says the community nowadays is a mix of people from all walks of life, including retired ministers, with a common ethic of giving time and treasure. In 2012, residents of the retirement community logged 130,000 volunteer hours at the food bank, guardian ad litem program and a long list of other causes, including Personal Energy Transportation, a project that builds and ships three-wheeled hand-propelled carts to developing countries to provide mobility to victims of land mines, illness and accidents.

Note: Thanks to outsized contributions in the $200,000-plus income bracket, a Homestead ZIP code led all Florida ZIPs in the percentage of income donated to charity with 9%, according to IRS data. 33090 is for P.O. boxes only, so its filers come from a wider region.

32461 - Rosemary Beach

The people of Rosemary Beach, a gulf-front development in Walton County in the Panhandle, will rush to assure you that their community bears little resemblance to south Florida in terms of glamor and glitz. What it has in common with south Florida, however, is to share first place with south Florida’s Fisher Island as the ZIP code in Florida with the highest median household income, at $250,000-plus. Indeed, Rosemary Beach ranks ahead of Fisher Island, and first in the state, in percentage of households reporting income in excess of $200,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It’s also first in the state in median earnings for workers at $212,440.

That said, Rosemary Beach doesn’t sound very south Florida. There’s no guard gate, no marina, no grass lawns. (Codes limit yard vegetation to native plants.) The tallest building can’t exceed 50 feet. Boardwalks and paths make everything in the 107-acre community a five-minute walk, including the stroll to the Post Office. There’s no home delivery. “You walk over and get it and talk to your neighbors. Go get a cup of coffee,” says resident Kenneth L. Gifford, president and CEO of Rosemary Beach Holdings, which manages the community’s commercial space, realty and home rental program. What makes Rosemary Beach special, he says, is “the people. You can sit on your porch and talk to your neighbor across the boardwalk.”

The Mayberry-by-the-Sea is by design — a south Florida design. Utah-based financial company Leucadia founded Rosemary Beach in 1995, creating it out of whole cloth based on a traditional neighborhood design by the famed Miami firm of Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. That means “new urbanism,” approved architects and builders only, restrictions on colors and other design strictures to keep the “Pan Caribbean” theme. Sale listings in January ran from $8.9 million for a six-bedroom gulf-front home to $400,000 for a one-bedroom condo loft.

The community counts among its residents Republican strategist Karl Rove, retired athletes, Atlanta and Texas millionaires and Nashville stars. (Nashville is closer than Miami.) South Florida might have J.Lo; Rosemary Beach is where Kellie Pickler got engaged and Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw vacation. “For some people, this is their second, third, fourth — some fifth or sixth home,” Gifford says.

 

Quincy’s Coke Legacy

When Coca-Cola went public in 1919, raising $25 million, a banker in the small Gadsden County town of Quincy had been tipped off by an Atlanta businessman that he should invest. Rather than keep this advice to himself, the banker also urged his local clients to buy the stock and hold on to it. Eventually, the stock price rose and the stock split, making more than two dozen Quincy residents millionaires. (A single $40 stock bought in 1919 would be worth $10 million today, including reinvested dividends.) This wealth was remarkable for Quincy, a town whose main industry was tobacco farming and most of its residents lived in poverty. Quincy’s Coke millionaires have received spurts of publicity over the years in newspaper and magazine articles, but most preferred to quietly hold onto their shares. Today, most of the wealth has been diluted as shares have passed down through wills or as some of the Coke millionaires moved. It’s become a sensitive topic in a county that is still one of the poorest in the state. One of the few remaining signs of the town’s link with Coca-Cola is a mural in Quincy’s downtown square depicting an old-fashioned advertisement for a 5-cent Coca-Cola.

Lilly Rockwell

32631 - Earleton

An unincorporated area on Lake Sante Fe northeast of Gainesville, Earelton sounds from all accounts like a pleasant little place — lakefront houses, rural, home to prosperous professors, doctors, professionals and their families from Gainesville 20 minutes away. It stands out in Florida as the ZIP code with the highest median earnings for females working full time: $99,667, according to the U.S. Census. (In distant second is Everglades City on the southwest coast at $72,083.)

A “really good lot” on the lakefront costs $300,000, says Ron Blake, broker at C.B. Isaac Realty, who lives on the lake himself. “You have the ospreys, the eagles. You never feel rushed.” At $250,000-plus, Earleton ties with an area west of Boynton Beach in Palm Beach County for highest median non-family household income — households where there is only one resident or more than one but not related by marriage, birth or adoption.

 

ZIP Notes

Fisher Island and Rosemary Beach have very small populations, and ZIP codes with small numbers of households can produce outlier results. The caveat with any list of wealthy ZIP codes — and plenty of analysts come up with a list — is watching for what’s measured and how it’s weighted. One online list ranks a Tallahassee ZIP code as the second-richest in Florida. Problem is, it’s the ZIP for Florida State University. Another online blog has Fisher Island third nationally, Boca Grande 13th and Palm Beach at 20th. The Palm Beach ZIP, with more than 9,000 people over 16 and 5,600 households, isn’t a metropolis but isn’t a fly-speck either. What’s more, 25 people from the Forbes 400 are residents or have a second home there. In 2011, Forbes came up with is own method for determining the wealthiest 64 places in the nation: Fisher Island topped the list with $3.23 million in average income and $57.2 million in net worth. Palm Beach was fourth nationally, Boca Raton seventh and Key Largo 11th.

TAX Notes

If you have to ask, you can't afford…

Fisher Island residents paid the most property taxes in Florida, $47,000 on average. Palm Beachers were second at $18,000 on average.

The tax man cometh:

Fisher Island, which leads so many wealth statistics, also led in total tax liability at $272,000 per return. The top income bracket, $200,000-plus, had a $579,000 average tax bite. Palm Beach was second overall at $133,000. In fact, the 6,100 tax returns filed in those two places represent just seven one hundredths of the state’s returns but 1.4% of the income tax paid in Florida.

There are wage slaves and then there are wage slaves:

Overall, the zip code with the highest average salaries and wages in Florida is Fisher Island at $180,000. But the zip code with the highest reported average salary and wages in the $200,000-plus bracket in Florida is 32830. That’s Disney World. The 120 returns filed from there in that bracket average $608,000 in salaries and wages. Herein lies the difficulty in zip code data. Disney World actually has only a score of residents, but the IRS data lists 572 returns filed there. Tax returns just ask for a current address, not a primary one, so 550 or so individual filers are listing their Post Office Boxes in Disney World as their current address.

The zip code encompassing Brickell Key and the Brickell waterfront condos in Miami and the zip code for Key Biscayne rank second and third in the $200,000-plus bracket. each was fourth nationally, Boca Raton seventh and Key Largo 11th.