How can we move to California without relying on an inheritance?
March 24, 2011 5:55 PM   Subscribe

How can I move to CA with or without an inheritance and not go broke?

I was looking at some of the answers in this question and it brought up a good point. You can't rely on money you haven't received yet.

Here is it in a nutshell. Me and my DH are miserable living here in Illinois. We both have SAD, lived her our entire lives (40 years), in the same area, and well, we're burned out--done it all, seen it all. And this includes for me, applying to the same companies.

We realized that moving to California can be part of a big solution to our happiness. We are getting up there in age, loved it there, and definately want to move somewhere where it's predomenantly warm. We have thought of FL, TX, AZ--more affordable areas--but for me being the primary earner, CA jobs are where it is at for availability and salary.

Our original plan was to use my inheritance and put say $350k on a house to have a low mortgage and be debt free in other areas (no credit cards, possibly no car payment for myself). DH would find work but his salary would be probably $30k and he would restart his own business. We have a 2 year old.

We were investigating areas to live in and with the housing bust and jobs I was looking at applying to, Thousand Oaks area seemed perfect. Homes are going for about mid $400k and with $350k down, we could do it.

But the issue is that my parents are not gone, no inheritance is to be had, nor is the estate in trust. In fact, the will is from 1970 when I was born so it lists guardians, etc. Most of the inheritance is tied up in IRAs and bonds with parents respective beneficiaries. They both know they have to change this to put it in trust, get it settled but it's a constant fight between them. Dad doesn't trust anyone. Mom is just so indecisive on who to trust that nothing gets moved I'm an only child so there is no one else to give it to. And all they want is to make sure my DH doesn't get it (yes, the buying of a home is part of that problem).

I am far from wishing ill health/outcome of them. But the way their health is currently, it's a reality that they will not live 5 years. In fact, my dad's congestive heart failure is returning and worse. My mom's terminal cancer is getting worse. So this is the reality of "wow, they really are going to be gone of this earth." Which leaves me in a whole reexamination of my life. And my life has been do what is expected. Do routine. Do norm. And do not leave IL because they're here. Well if they go, I have no reason to stay anymore.

However, we don't know what probate will bring nor hospice, etc. so that $350k could be a pipedream.

Our current scenario to do it on our own is this. A home that is probably worth $30k profit if that. $16k debt for myself. Husband has established business here but could restart. I have a good paying job here but I'm miserable. Savings? Ha! Don't have one beyond $1k. Just can't save with something always coming up/his low income to balance things out. With the average house going for $450k in CA, I don't expect to have a salary over what I'm making now (low $90s) but am speculating getting one that could be $70-90k and again, speculation based on market average.

So to me, without the inheritance, we can't do it

or can we?

With my parents failing health, I don't think it's right to pick up and move now. And they won't come with (mom might if dad goes first but lets say it won't happen).

The bottom line is I know I need to get out of here. I can wait for the sake of my parents but I cannot hear that there is no way with an inheritance or without one that we can do it.

Am I just being overly fearful and we can do it no matter what?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Must you purchase a home? I know people who moved to CA for work w/out having inheritances; they rent(ed).
posted by thomas j wise at 5:59 PM on March 24, 2011 [9 favorites]

What? Rent now, which is what you are able to do, and buy later if that becomes a possibility. Which it is not currently, because it isn't your money.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:01 PM on March 24, 2011 [12 favorites]

California unemployment is running around 18 to 20%, not that you'll read that in the press. I love it here, but it's much more expensive than you might think.
You can rent in and around Thousand Oaks.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:05 PM on March 24, 2011

Let's say that your parents do get everything settled with their estate to your benefit. That still doesn't mean that you would get the amount that you have in your head. There could be major health issues and/or they could end up in an assisted living facility or nursing home, and expenses could make that money disappear quickly.

I agree with the others. There are ways to do this without the promise of your parents money. In fact it's probably much better to rent for a year or two before committing to buy in case things don't work out the way that you hope. But really, that money isn't anything that you should count on to make a major life decision.
posted by kimdog at 6:08 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

To be perfectly frank, there's no chance you'll be able to move to California with $1000 to your name unless you have some very understanding family/friends with a spare couch. Depending on your career, you might be able to find a company that values you enough to pay for your relocation.

But I would strongly, strongly caution against planning your future based on what you might be getting when your parents pass away, as I have had a few friends do the same and they have been met with disappointment.
posted by lekvar at 6:08 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

You absolutely have to separate the assumption of an inheritance with your desire to move. Seriously, if you want to move, move. Don't assume moving is going to make you happy. Happiness is a combination of pathology and choice.

I'd be more concerned with the statement that they are determined for your husband to not see any of their money ("And all they want is to make sure my DH doesn't get it."). Work on addressing that can of worms. You buried that statement pretty deep in the question, so wow, what's up with that?!?

Congestive heart failure and cancer can drain your parents' money in their lifetimes and then some. Don't assume you'll ever see any of this "inheritance." If you want to move, move.
posted by juniperesque at 6:09 PM on March 24, 2011 [6 favorites]

I would stop pegging your hopes on an inheritance that may not be as big as you hope, or as soon as you hope, and take a good hard look at why, with a 3-person household and income somewhere north of 100k, you're 16k in debt, with no savings. I suspect there's more going on than just "something always coming up", and if you don't really figure out the root of that problem, it will dog you in the long run even if you do get a nice boost from an inheritance. Because surely, surely it is possible for a 3-person family to live a modest middle-class lifestyle in California on $120,000; the fact that you can't see a way to do it is telling.
posted by drlith at 6:10 PM on March 24, 2011 [14 favorites]

If you're wedded to the idea of buying, you need to find a way to get to a 20% down payment yourself. It's pretty clear that the issues surrounding a potential inheritance are stressing you out, and it seems like it would be a good idea to develop a savings strategy to reach your financial goals without having to rely on anyone else.

You should consider talking to a fee-based financial planner to develop a budget that will allow you to achieve your goals. I don't know the details of your budget, but an aggressive savings strategy can definitely turn a $120k income to $90k savings in a handful of years.

How much work have you done to develop a household budget? What approaches are you taking now to eliminate your debt and maximize your savings? I know it can seem like "something always comes up" when it comes to trying to save money, but there are a ton of resources out there to help you save even in this environment. Take a look at Get Rich Slowly, a MetaFilter fave, for ideas, advice, and encouragement.

But definitely consider talking to a professional financial planner.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:14 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

You should never make any plans based on a hoped-for inheritance. You never know. Especially if they hate your husband(?) and don't seem to want to deal with the money if they haven't changed since the 70's.

Another point to make about moving is that if your parents are in failing health, it will be (a) difficult to manage their health care from halfway across the country, (b) expensive for you because of all the flying back and forth you will end up doing. And you're an only child, so the entire burden is going to be on YOU to do the work of the doctors, figuring out how to get their health care done, etc. when things go bad. From across the country.

And you only have a thousand dollars and want to move to SoCal?

I don't think you're ready to move to SoCal yet, honestly. You need to save up more money (again, CA expensive and the Midwest isn't so much, it'll probably be easier to save there), and it might just be easier for you to wait until your parents die before you flee the area, inheritance or no.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:05 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

You know that old saying, don't count your chickens before they're hatched?

I think your plan has numerous flaws, which I think you can see too if you can look at this unselfishly.

Your husband has an "established business" that he can start back up where-ever, yet it provides such a tiny income that you have no savings? Then either it's not a profitable business, or he's not a good businessman. Why's that something you'd want to continue?

You make a good income, but you don't like your job. Moving halfway across the country with your family and $1000 would not appear to be the best way to solve that issue.

Where you want to move - as far as the information you've provided - is entirely based on weather. It's honestly not the very, very worst reason to move someplace but keep in mind, thousands of people had that same idea. Competition for jobs, affordable housing, parking spaces, lines in the supermarket will bear this out.

If you're determined to move, do so with a firm job offer in hand, something steady and income-producing for your husband, and nothing that will multiply your current debt because as you acknowledge, there is exactly zero guarantee that a windfall is on the horizon to wipe your troubles away.
posted by contessa at 8:46 PM on March 24, 2011

What you'll find in california is that the houses are so freaking expensive they are beyond the reach of the middle class. So many people who would own if they lived elsewhere rent. I guess if I were you, I wouldvcheck out the rental section of craigslist (not just thousand oaks but other areas too) if you see things you can afford then go for iy, but I wouldn't move here without first getting a job offer. And you will either need more money or an employer to pay your moving expenses. $1,000 isn't going to cut it between moving expenses and a deposit. You may be able to deduct some of the moving expenses from your taxes though.
posted by bananafish at 9:04 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Good luck finding a house for $350k in a neighborhood anywhere you'd want to live. The real estate bubble is still hanging on in SoCal, tenaciously so.

Personal Anecdote: My brother got lucky as hell and bought a distressed piece of property for about $500k after it fell from $800k, and it's turning into a money pit and they're having to spend what little money they have after the mortgage/property taxes on repairs to make it more livable. Who knew that a badly maintained pool could cost soooo much to fix?

And they both make in the low six figures. Hope you've planned on that much coming in, with the aforementioned astronomical unemployment.

SAD? Buy a light. I know this winter has been horrible, and I'm close to your age, but your expectations far outpace your realities. Shit, you have a 2 year old? Sorry to be Debbie Downer, but you're not close to this.
posted by Sphinx at 9:39 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

California sucks right now. I've lived here all my life and it feels pretty apocalyptic at this point. Every aspect of our infrastructure is crumbling because people refuse to pay taxes. I'm talking roads, parks, health care, don't get me started on the schools. I LOVE where I live in Northern California - enough I've thought about getting the name of my town tattooed on myself! But I would not recommend anyone move here at this point.

At minimum, have a job before you come and rent don't buy. Also worth exploring other parts of the state that might be cheaper. Sacramento has become a very livable city for example and is fairly affordable.
posted by serazin at 9:41 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm doing this right now. My husband has been out of work since September, and I finally found a job in San Diego that with the "sunshine tax" is less than I was making in Dallas. We had a few grand in cash on hand in savings (that would have gone to taxes if he hadn't been out of work so long) and not much debt besides our mortgage and car notes. I have to deliver a check for $4600 tomorrow (first + last months' rent, security deposit, pet deposit) and we put a PODS on the credit card - which was not cheap, but not a whole lot more expensive than movers - and things may be pretty hilarious for a couple of months until we sell or rent our house in Dallas, but we won't starve. I've lucked out that my husband has pulled together a full time job's worth of freelance work pretty recently, so things are about as good as I had hoped for at this point.

The most important thing you need to do is question your assumptions. I was absolutely sure we had to buy a house, just because we have three big dogs. Well, we got a Realtor and I wrote an impassioned email to the owner of the house we're renting, and between the two I actually only saw 3 houses before I found this one. The house isn't as big as the one in Texas, and there's some other sacrifices we're making, and overall our living expenses are going to take up more than they did in Texas, but we'll cut back for a while and gain back some ground on utilities (our cooling bills in summer in Texas are $400+; our rent in San Diego is $300 more than our mortgage in Dallas). It'll be fine. We'll eat out less, and probably eat more delicious Trader Joe's and general fantastic California-grown produce at home. This is not a hardship.

The thing I finally came to realize is that people who don't make a lot of money still live here. It may be a different standard - and there's a lot of things different here that you need to adjust to - but it's fine and the weather is fucking unbelievable and it can be done. You just need to sit down and think about the numbers and priorities in a real way.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:53 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

You could definitely live in California with an income of $100-120K, with or without the inheritance. You may not be able to buy anywhere close to the type of home you can afford in Illinois, but you could certainly find a place to rent. You probably won't have the same type of life, but isn't that part of the appeal? If you want to do this, you definitely can! Don't lose hope.

You need to be realistic about how you can make this happen. You need a larger savings cushion to afford the move and any unexpected expenses. My biggest concern is that you are moving from a larger income in a cheaper area to a smaller income in a more expensive area, and aren't budgeting well enough currently to have any savings. I would recommend living on a considerably smaller budget to increase your savings and make sure you are okay with cutting your expenses to afford California.
posted by studioaudience at 10:03 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sorry, I think you are in a "grass is always greener" scenario. Why would anything be better if you leave your job, DH has to restart his business (not sure what that would entail), you have no emotional network of friends/family, and you have a house to sell before you can start this new better life? Keep in mind that moving is one of the big stressors in life.

You're making some major assumptions:
- You can sell your current house and make a profit (which doesn't sound very big, from your assessment);
- DH can start his business in a completely different state;
- YOU can get a job;
- You get $350K from an inheritance.... maybe.... someday.

It's interesting to me that you've spent a lot of thoughts/calculations on this inheritance and how you will use it. Have your parents said the $350K number? There could be a lot of different reasons for them to say that.

What's more disturbing, however, is how you've obviously calculated the best case scenario and haven't thought about how much $$ it will take to relocate without the magical money (from inheritance and house sale). Moving is very expensive: if you had a job contract signed right now, I would estimate that it would take you 10K in moving costs. (Movers, first/last/security, childcare, sundries, time before your first paycheck, etc.). If you don't have that amount? You need to get a realistic plan to make it happen.
posted by sfkiddo at 10:45 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

i feel like I have written this askme and then not posted it at least 5 times. message me if you want to talk about it...
posted by ninjew at 10:56 PM on March 24, 2011

The potential inheritance may be less than you think, and may be eaten up by medical costs, nursing home costs, etc. That chicken isn't hatched; don't count on it.

Do you really want to move far away when your parents are in poor health?

People live in California on all sorts of incomes. Check out the job market, start applying and test the waters.
posted by theora55 at 9:35 AM on March 25, 2011

what does "Happiness is a combination of pathology and choice" mean?
posted by indigo4963 at 1:41 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Buying a house in a desirable area of California for a potential $100k - $120k/year plus a potential $350k inheritance, and then being able to afford anything besides the house, is unrealistic, even if both of those potentials come through as you hope.

If you're moving for climate, move to someplace cheaper - the higher salaries in California at best compensate for the higher cost of living (gas, housing, food, all are expensive here).

If you still move here, renting is almost certainly your better option. Property tax on a newly purchased home in my neighborhood is nearly as much per month as renting a similar place, so buying is rarely a way to save money.
posted by zippy at 4:08 PM on March 25, 2011

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