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If people can afford to stay, they do. But more and more, people can’t afford it, or they pine for lower cost states, such as Pennsylvania and Florida, when they see how their lifestyle could change for the better.

But not David Machlowitz. He says he’s not going anywhere. To him, New Jersey offers everything for everyone.

The proximity to New York City, as well as beaches and mountains, makes New Jersey a very attractive place to live, says David Machlowitz, of Westfield. (Jerry McCrea For NJ Advance Media)

“It is one of the handful of places where you can get to the world’s most exciting city or the beach or the mountains in an hour. You can find world class restaurants and entertainment of almost any variety here,” he says, noting that he also loves the state’s diversity. “And because in most areas with lower taxes and milder winters, the politicians want to allow guns in schools, but not the teaching of evolution.”

Machlowitz, 60, was born in Philadelphia and he spent a decade in Manhattan before coming to this side of the river to raise his family. He and his wife have two children who are now adults.

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It’s been 22 years of higher costs for just about everything, including property taxes for his home in Westfield.

Now retired from his job as an attorney for a large corporation, Machlowitz says he considered lower cost states, but he didn’t like what he saw.

“I thought, what was the sense of saving money if there is no nearby fun place or good restaurant to spend it?” Machlowitz says. “I also laugh at people when people say they are moving to Florida or Arizona to escape our brutal winters, but have no thought about how brutal summers are there.”

That doesn’t mean he’s not incredibly frustrated by the economy from government waste to growing tax burdens to the public pension debacle but he has found ways to battle the heavy financial pressures that cause many to flee the state by being smart with his money.

“I inherited an eye for bargains from my mother, who, if couponing were an Olympic event, would have won more medals than Michael Phelps,” he says.

But Machlowitz isn’t your typical Jersey retiree.

According to the most recent data available from the Internal Revenue Service, in 2011, there were 87,630 federal tax returns filed in states other than New Jersey by people who filed their 2009 returns from the Garden State. Those 2011 returns accounted for a loss of $5.5 billion in taxable income for the state, according a 2014 report by the financial planning firm RegentAtlantic titled “Exodus on the Parkway: Are Taxes Driving Wealthy Residents Out of New Jersey?”

In mid January, a marketing research firm indicated that New Jersey lost approximately 10,000 millionaire households and speculated that the state’s high tax rate for top earners may have led to the exodus. According to Phoenix Marketing International, the Garden State fell from second to third in the country in millionaire households per capita.

Jim and Teresa Flaherty, who own a home in Tinton Falls, plan a move to North Carolina when Jim retires. (David Gard For NJ Advance Media)

And for four of the past five years, more people have left New Jersey than have moved into the state, according to a survey by United Van Lines. Sixty five percent of its outbound moves were from New Jersey in 2014, compared to just 36.5 percent that were inbound.

Going outbound is Jim Flaherty’s plan. Born in Jersey City, he left for a job in North Carolina in 1981, but when the company closed in 2006, Flaherty and his wife came back to New Jersey, landing in Tinton Falls. Now, the high cost of living means he won’t be retiring here. “It’s a shame, because to me, Jersey will always be home,” says Flaherty, a brokerage firm worker. “I just refuse to pay my savings to a endless pit.”

Flaherty, 60, says he and his wife will move back to North Carolina, where they can buy a $450,000 home and pay only $2,000 a year in property taxes. He pays $11,100 in property taxes on his New Jersey home.

“They will tax anything and everything in this state. In North Carolina, the beaches are free, while in New Jersey, it’s 75 to 100 bucks per beach badge per person. How does the average family afford to spend money like this?”

The temptation to leave Jersey is there for Vince Martorano, as well.

At age 70, Martorano and his wife of 41 years, Rita, pay $12,000 a year in property taxes for their Montville home. But the cost is worth it, in order to stay close to their three children and three grandchildren at least most of the time.

“We own a nice home in Florida on the water and, the truth is, we spend very little time there, only four weeks (in 2014),” he says. “But when I’m sitting on the dock with the Florida sunshine on my back and a cold beer in my hand, I sometimes say, ‘This is the life.’ However, after a few weeks, the Garden State always calls me home.”

Daughter Carla, 7, is the top reason Ben Osborne plans to remain in the Garden State, which he believes is “a great place to raise a family.” (Steve Hockstein For NJ Advance Media)

“I think Jersey is a great place to raise a family,” says Osborne, of Bloomfield. “If I have another child, I think I’d stay. If I’m single, I think I’d consider leaving once my daughter was done with high school.”

He says he would consider going back to New York City, where he lived before Carla was born, or to a warmer climate where he could play golf year round.

Osborne used to be a homeowner and he says that while property taxes were a burden, the cost was well worth the public education his daughter was getting. He now rents and he says costs always seem to be rising, but you get what you pay for.

“I love its (New Jersey’s) proximity to New York including visually. Westchester may be as close, but you can’t see the city,” he says. “I love how many times a week I’m driving/training/walking in Essex County and I’m hit with an amazing view of New York City.”
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