As I write this, I’m 37,000 feet in the air flying home to my family after an interview with my current employer in Los Angeles, Calif. I currently live and work in Jackson, Miss., but I was approached by my boss a few weeks ago to consider a job opportunity in LA.
The opportunity is a good one, a significant step in my career, and since my wife and I are open to relocation, the thought of moving to LA is exciting. Would it be the right decision though? In my decision-making process I have come up with a few things that I think are helpful to consider when a possible relocation is in your future, especially to a location with a higher cost of living, such as LA. Above all, I suggest putting together a “Pro Forma” budget to estimate what your income and expenses would be in the new area. Here are a few other tips I picked up in my deliberations:
#1: Tax Codes
Every state has a different tax code, which can impact your paycheck. I found a few useful paycheck calculators online that allow you to select the state, input your expected gross income, and set your deductions and allowances, then it tells you what your expected net income will be under the current state tax code. This is the first step in putting together your new budget.
Housing is one of the largest chunks of anyone’s budget, whether you rent or own. The housing market across the U.S. is all over the place. I currently have a mortgage in Jackson, Miss., for a modest three bedroom home with a nice yard for just under $900 per month, including taxes and insurance. The first thing I thought of when considering a move to LA was housing prices. Homes like mine in LA cost three times as much, at least. It is important to know how much your housing costs would go up or down when negotiating salary. If you plan to buy, don’t forget the higher down payment, insurance and property taxes. Renting a home may be a better option. Research prices in your new area on Zillow, Trulia or Craigslist.
#3: Commute & Fuel Prices
Every state has different average fuel prices. Right now, Mississippi is among the lowest in the country for gas prices, whereas southern California is the highest. I currently have a 15-mile, 25-minute commute to work in Jackson. In LA I could expect 45 miles or more for a commute, depending on where I live. Commute.com is a useful website that offers calculators to tell you what your estimated monthly cost and time for commute would be. This helps to get a good idea of your fuel expenses for your budget.
#4: General Cost of Living Adjustment
There are numerous websites online, such as Bankrate.com and Money.CNN.com that have “cost of living comparison” tools. You can select two different cities to compare, input your current household income, and they tell you what a comparable salary should be in the new area to maintain your current standard of living. They also tell you the difference in average prices for various things such as groceries, utilities, fuel, housing, and other living expenses. Do your research with these tools and review your estimated budget before accepting an offer.
#5: Relocation Expenses
Some employers offer relocation packages. If you are so lucky, then these expenses shouldn’t be as much of a concern. But if not, be sure you are ready to move and pay for it. You may need to sell your house, hire a moving company, transport your vehicles, pay for down payments and deposits in your new location, and foot the bill for food, fuel, car rental or lodging along the way. This can all break the bank if you don’t plan for it.
So, to move or not to move? That is the question. There are so many other things to consider in a move that I haven’t listed. Assuming I receive an offer, my wife and I will pray, seek counsel and try to consider the pros and cons of the move before making such a big decision. I plan to offer an update in a future post with the outcome. Stay tuned!