Banking

How to get poor by making more money in a new city

Are you planning to chase a job to a new city? Hopefully you're getting a raise in the process, but are you really coming out ahead? Check out this calculator to find out.

Are you planning to chase a job to a new city? Hopefully you're getting a raise in the process, but are you really coming out ahead? Check out this calculator to find out.

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Of all the major stressors that we face in life, two of the biggest are changing jobs and relocating. So when you're considering doing both, you want to make sure that when all things are said and done, you're in a better place in life. Naturally, one of the main ways is to make sure that a major move is going to result in higher pay. But what if higher pay winds up with a lower standard of living?

Let's say you're a network administrator in Louisville, Kentucky, making $50,000 a year and you're offered a job for $85,000 in San Francisco, California. Sounds like a pretty good deal, right?  Not necessarily.

Location. Location. Location.

Obviously, the difference in pay has to do with the difference of the cost of living between San Francisco and Louisville. Both the East and West Coasts are more expensive to live in than other areas of the country. But the question is HOW much more expensive?

That's where BankRate.com's cost of living comparison calculator comes in handy. In it, you enter the amount of money you're making in one city, and it returns the cost comparison to dozens of other cities across the United States. It will show you how much money you need to make in a new city to break even with what you're making where you are now.

It takes into consideration such factors as:

  • Housing
  • Medical care
  • Electricity
  • Clothing
  • Restaurants
  • Entertainment
  • Groceries
  • Gasoline

So, when we take our $50,000 network administrator from Louisville who's offered $85,000 in San Francsico, you can see that by taking the job, he'll wind up over $6,000 poorer.

Watch out for taxes

The site leaves out one very important area: taxes. Tax implications can have a very significant impact. For example, if you're making significantly more in a new city, you may find yourself in a higher federal income tax bracket, which can erase any gain you've made. Also, state and local taxes vary across the United States.

Let's take Louisville, Kentucky, and Tampa, Florida, as an example. The cost of living comparison calculator shows that Tampa is 2.27% more expensive than Louisville. However, Kentucky has a state income tax and Florida does not. Louisville also has a local income tax and Tampa does not. Therefore, even though the cost of living is 2.27% higher, you immediately save upward of 8% in state and local income tax. Making a move at the same rate of pay from Louisville to Tampa can increase your standard of living by 6%!

You can compare tax rates from city to city at several different sites. City-Data.com will show you tax and other information about cities around the country.

The bottom line for IT leaders

If you're offered a pile of money to relocate to a new city, don't just jump at it. Even a significant pay increase may make you worse off if the taxes and cost of living are way out of line to what you're used to. On the flip side, you may be able to take a pay cut and wind up in much better shape.

The bottom line is: Be sure of your bottom line before you make up your mind.

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