This past weekend I attended a friend’s son’s birthday party. I hadn’t seen them in over a year and enjoyed catching up with old friends. As the conversations progressed and the children bounced up and down in the bouncer and ran back and forth, a pattern developed in the conversations. That pattern focused around moving out of California.
Now, I’ve been researching towns in Northern California lately because I’m ready for a change and increase in quality of life. Southern California is beautiful, but the traffic is insane and the cost of living is high compared with what you get for you money. Though Northern California is just as costly, I’m under the impression the lifestyle is worth the cost.
Yet, within the discussions I had with guests, most of them mentioned moving to Arizona within the next year or two. This makes sense; it’s right next door to California, has plenty of sunny days, and costs a whole heck of a lot less. If it weren’t for the brutal summers, I’d consider it myself. (I secretly dream of Raleigh, NC but that’s another post).
None of us are in the top 1% or even 10%, so living in California is definitely more financially stressful than living in any other state. Though California has plenty of natural beauty and cultural activities to enjoy, the cost of living makes it difficult to fully take advantage of all the benefits. Which is exactly why many of the guests mentioned moving within the next couple of years, the grind isn’t worth it as you get older.
If I compare Los Angeles and San Francisco (most populated Southern and Northern California cities) to a few other major metros, there’s no denying it makes sense to move out of California: (note – salary = median family income)
- Gilbert, AZ (I love Gilbert personally – at least as an AZ town. It has a cute old west downtown area and beautiful craftsman style homes): The cost of living is just at the US standard and houses now average about $167K with most incomes ranging above $50K.
- Tempe, AZ (college area that has lots of restaurants and a high speed rail): Though also a part of the Phoenix suburbs, Tempe costs a little less than the US average. Houses are about $133K and incomes range from about $35K on up to above $50K.
- Raleigh, NC (Okay, so I’ve been planting the seed lately to Mr. LH that Raleigh is hip and the weather isn’t bad, someone please back me up here!): It’s ranked number two on the Forbes best places for business, salaries are a little higher than the US average at about $57K and housing prices are reasonable at about $164K on average. It’s also the number one safest city according to Forbes.
- Austin, TX (Mr. LH once mentioned that Texas seemed like home to him – he lived in Dallas for many years. Of course he recently withdrew his comment due to crummy weather, but I’m making him stick to it!): Cost of living is about at the US average, housing costs average around $188K, and Forbes ranks it number nine on the best places to do business. Salaries average about $50K.
- Los Angeles, CA (I live in a suburb of LA. It’s sprawling and I can’t stand the traffic and lack of architecture!): Cost of living is 44% higher than the US average with salaries averaging about $50K and houses averaging $359K. Note that the salary to house ratio is pathetic.
- San Francisco, CA (I hear it’s the West Coasts version of NYC so I’m sure I’d love it, but couldn’t afford it!): Cost of living is 99% higher than the US average with salaries averaging about $75K. Housing costs average around $648K. Definitely too expensive for me.
- Davis, CA (one of the cities I’m checking out very soon): Cost of living compared to the average US is 58% higher with salaries ranging at about $50K and up. Housing costs are around $427K. Still expensive and really more so than where I live now. Raleigh is looking better and better!
Of course for now, my plan is to stick with Northern California. Once I visit Davis and Sacramento (Sacramento is a lot less expensive than both Davis and LA) later this year, I’ll have a better idea of what direction I’ll be heading – literally and figuratively. If neither of these two towns work out (too similar to LA or too remote or small), Raleigh or Austin are next on my list.
Where do you live? Is the cost worth the lifestyle? Anyone live in Raleigh and can share their experience?