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.

11 comments
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Louisville's a pretty nice place to live. If it wasn't for the taxes, it has one of the lowest costs of living in the country. The climate is usually pretty decent and it's a great town. If I had to move to another city, it would be difficult if for no other reason than how much more I'd have to make to break even. I pointed out the cost of living differences in Decision Central: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/decisioncentral/?p=141 How're things where you live?

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...before taxes and the state legislature ran completely out of control, and ?rolling blackouts? became part of the national lexicon. I have not regretted it. Cost of living is a fraction of what it was in LA when I left, and even less by comparison now. I own a house in-town on more land than I ever could have afforded before. I can now easily and affordably partake of the advantage of living in a large city than were just either too expensive or trouble to do before. I can also escape ?urbanization? much more easily and quickly as well. There are the things I do miss; the ocean view I used to have, sailing, nearby skiing, and the extremely comfortable weather. But overall, I am pleased with the move. My wife, who is currently looking for a job, and I frequently discuss cities that we might consider should she get an offer in a different city. The discussion usually centers around exactly how much money she?d have to be offered in order to make it worth our while. For possible cities such as NYC, Boston, San Fran, or LA, they?d have to offer a hideous amount of money in order to economically justify uprooting, and for us to have a comparable lifestyle.

djl4fzw
djl4fzw

I was relocated to NJ by my company with training and a salary increase. It looked great! In IL my 2br apt w/ water,laundry,trash and central a/c included went for $375/mo. A small 1br in NJ, with no parking, is $870! It took me two months just to find that one! Relocator beware!

pgit
pgit

I'm in Elmira, New York. Taxes are sky high of course, and the pay is well below average. BUT the cost of living is about as low as it gets. You can get a whole lot more house for the buck here. A friend bought her first house about 4 years ago when prices were higher. It's in one of the more posh neighborhoods in this otherwise rusted out town. It's 4 stories, with 3 bedrooms on the 4th, 3 on the third, 4 on the second and a huge living room, dining room and spacious (modern) kitchen on the first floor. There's bathrooms on all floors, with 2 on the second. It has a sun porch on the first and second floors as well. It's getting much needed siding at the moment, but otherwise is sound and quite modern. $35,000. This house would have easily gone for two million in San Francisco. Problem is very few people are paid what they're worth around here. It's been a "lucky you have a job" town for almost 30 years, when the Wall Street Journal labeled Elmira "The Buckle of the Rust Belt." Got that right! But I can go a long way on next to nothing, which is what I make sometimes. There's weeks when 100-150 bucks is all that comes by. But I've never had to worry about meeting the bills or feeding the cats. On what I make in just about any other place I'd be living under a bridge and eating the cat food myself.

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

Atlanta is usally within 2% of the cost of living in Louisville. One of the topics I didn't see you cover was crime. There's a good index at http://www.cityrating.com/crimestatistics.asp on those. Louisville doesn't have our water problems, crime problems and traffic problems. Essentially, Atlanta IS the Los Angeles of the East and we have ALL the same problems they do, we just use Southern accents is all.

CaptBilly1Eye
CaptBilly1Eye

I have no regrets in leaving Detroit and Michigan behind. Well... except that I shoulda done it two years sooner. I followed the direction discussed in the article in reverse. Although technically I didn't leave due to employment, the pay scale is noticeably lower here in South Carolina. However, with gasoline being at least 30? less, Insurance rates being half as much, cigs half as much, taxes less than a third as much and housing being typically more affordable (as long as it isn't ocean frontage), the move has been a good one financially. Factor that along with the better weather, great food and social climate, I couldn't be happier. Well... that is unless someone would finally buy the old house in Detroit. Then I'd be REALLY happy! Which brings up another topic... how much weight do you put on personal happiness over financial gain. With me, the latter is a far second. BTW, I agree with Palmetto's assessment of S.C. except I would include a plus being a less intrusive government as seen by less regulation and lower taxes (fireworks are legal, no helmet law, no no-fault insurance, little or no 'sin' taxes...) as a side note... I have friends who tell me they regret moving to LasVegas and Pheonix for reasons mentioned in the article. While others tell me they are very happy with their move to Houston or Atlanta.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The cost of living is below the national average, gas runs about 30 cents below the average, heating costs in the winter are moderate. Housing costs remained moderate compared to the rest of the nation even during the boom. The only natural disasters are hurricanes, and you can see them coming a long way off. The down side is the public education system remains in the bottom five nationally. The state government is structured so all power is in the legislature, and the governor and city and county governments are impotent. Cutting taxes takes precedence over funding needed education and infrastructure requirements. Stick to Columbia or the Greenville / Spartanburg / I-85 corridor, or maybe Charleston or Florence. Otherwise be prepared to set your watch back 50 years.

cupcake
cupcake

Moved from the heart of all things computer (Silicon Valley) to the Midwest at - what most people would call - the 'perfect' time. Made a boat-load of money selling a house and managed to find a decent job paying decent money in KC and absolutely love my McMansion. Most people would say that I was pretty smart in my move. And on paper, it is good. The only problem? I left Northern California for the midwest! I know, there will be some people who will chastise me for ragging on Missouri, but when you have lived in one of the most beautiful places in the world, with the best temperate climates and the bulk of software and hardware development companies to provide an endless stream of job opportunities - I bang my head against the nearest wall. And the worst part, is that it will be next to impossible to get back there! But I would live in a large refrigerator box in a heart beat to be able to move back.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

You're right. That was a pretty obvious quality of life aspect that I completely left off the list. I guess I was thinking more about the economic impact of making a move, but crime statistics are certainly valid. As would other such things such as schools if you have kids. When we lived in Philly, it seemed like someone (sometimes multiple somebodies) got murdered every day and other crimes like rapes wouldn't be big enough to make the news. In Louisville, there might be one murder make the news every week and you hear much more about 'minor' crimes because there is so much less of other stuff to report about.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

I'm with you, CaptBilly! This life is too short to be miserable over the discretionary.

jsaubert
jsaubert

Quality of life is very difficult to put a dollar amount on and it varies from person to person a great deal, so it probably is best to leave out of the equation. Let people use their own judgement. I'd only need about a 3% raise to be able to move from Vero Beach to Orlando, FL but for me the "piece of mind" factor cost to much. In Orlando there is at least one murder every other week, a rape every other day and a aggravated battery every 5 hours or so. In Vero we might have 1 murder, a rape once in 2-3 months and less than 100 aggravated batteries for the whole county in a year. I have no idea how much you'd have to pay me to leave a town where you can leave the back door open, give cookies to the neighborhood kids and leave your purse/wallet/cell phone in plain view unattended. (Seriously, around here it makes the newspaper if there is a fight after the high school football game or somebody snatches an old lady's purse.)