What is a reasonable salary increase to move from LA to NY?
October 11, 2012 3:48 PM   Subscribe

What is a reasonable % salary increase for a move from LA to NY, figuring in cost of living as well as an actual raise in salary?

I'm considering a career relocation from Los Angeles to New York, and trying to figure out what % increase in salary is reasonable to ask for. My absolute minimum is 20%, but that's just COL alone (I want to live in NYC as opposed to the suburbs. Living in Queens or Brooklyn is somewhat of a trek to my work in Tarrytown, NY). A 20% increase would pretty much mirror the increase in living expenses and technically isn't a 'raise'.

All other things job-related are great - the company culture, job content, relocation provided etc. I've always wanted to live in NY. I have very little credit card debt and a car that I'm paying off that I would sell as living in the city wouldn't require it. I also don't NEED this new position as I'm relatively happy where I am now... but it's a huge move career-wise. While career isn't my priority (being close to friends and starting a family are more important to me - I'm single and in my very early thirties), I do have a couple friends and family in New York... but I digress.

What is a reasonable increase in salary for this move? Is 30% too much (20% COL + 10% salary raise)? Salary calculators are giving me different ranges for my current position, so it's pretty hard to tell. FWIW, I'm in regulatory affairs, have a doctorate and about 3 years of actual work experience.

Thanks for your help!
posted by Everydayville to Work & Money (11 answers total)
What I've seen done is a cost of living adjustment based on whatever popular calculator (CNN's for example), plus the company pays your moving costs in total.

The only raise would be whatever comes with a promotion, if applicable. (That doesn't mean you can't ask or receive more than that, it's just what I've seen done.)
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:57 PM on October 11, 2012

Response by poster: I should say that a 20% increase in salary would allow a pretty comfortable lifestyle in Brooklyn/ Queens.
posted by Everydayville at 4:19 PM on October 11, 2012

Is this a move within your company or a change to a new company? For moves within a company, there's generally a geographic pay differential established.

You are asking for a 20% pay differential and a 10% raise. Is that correct?
posted by 26.2 at 4:24 PM on October 11, 2012

Response by poster: It's a move to a different company. Yes, your understanding of the 30% breakdown is correct. The salary number that would put me in is within the salary range for my title, but admittedly on the high end of the range.
posted by Everydayville at 4:35 PM on October 11, 2012

Generally, large companies have a salary guideline that establishes the position in the market range for new hires. For instance, the hiring rate for a particular role may be at 25% or 50% of the market rate. That doesn't mean a position can't be hired at a different rate, but it means higher levels of management will need to sign off. As a rule, companies aren't going to explain the compensation strategy to candidates or even explain it internally to staff. However, there's usually a salary strategy that allows the company to maximize talent recruitment and retention.

As a practical matter hiring above the company approved hiring rate is a nuisance of justification and sign-off. At some companies it's a really big deal; at others it's less of a problem. Often, a small variance over standard hiring range can be signed off by the next level manager, but a larger one needs a fairly high sign-off. That to prevent big internal equity issues which are huge drivers of employee dissatisfaction.

The reason I'm walking you through this is that you need to understand that salary offered is rarely the decision of the hiring manager. The hiring manager probably has a narrow range to offer. Beyond that range, things get stickier. Depending on the company, it's easier to find someone who will accept an offer rather than try to get an EVP to sign off on a hire. Are you in an area of extreme specialization where three years of experience is considered exceptional? That could justify a high salary relative to the normal hiring rate.

This is the curse of being highly compensated. There are plenty of companies who simply cannot / will not pay the salary you demand. People who come out of big consulting usually face this. They either need to take a pay cut or select companies with a compensation strategy that puts hiring salaries at the top of the market range.

All that to say, you can certainly ask for whatever you want. If they don't meet your request, it doesn't mean they don't value you.
posted by 26.2 at 5:20 PM on October 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

No employer is likely to pay a Manahattan vs LA cost of living adjustment for a job in Tarrytown. Most people who work in Tarrytown office parks live in fairly far flung exurbs west of the Hudson or much farther north, where the cost of living is significantly >lower< than it is in LA. Also, reconsider the idea you will be car free working in Tarrytown - you are likely to be miles from the train station with no feasible transit connection, and if your job requires any mobility you'll be expected to have a car.
posted by MattD at 7:37 PM on October 11, 2012 [5 favorites]

Most places I've seen value the COL at closer to 10% increase for NYC from LA, so your 20% while it might be true for what you see, is unlikely to fly. Also MattD is correct, if you are relocating to the Tarrytown office, they are not going to give you the NYC COL just because that is where you want to live.
Worth a shot, because hey why not try, but I would be very surprised if you got 30% or even 20% total.
posted by rmless at 6:53 AM on October 12, 2012

Err yeah, this isn't a cost of living LA vs NYC question... since the job in question is in Tarrytown. This is just a question of how much you'd like to make, so I wouldn't approach negotiations with COL adjustment numbers at all, and just do the regular salary negotiation thing for a number that would make you happy here. And it sounds like you're in a good position to negotiate, since you don't need the job, and don't necessarily even want it if it won't allow you to live in NYC.

And btw, according to CNN Money, LA vs Manhattan (which I think is where you want to live, wasn't clear if brooklyn/queens was "suburbs" in your question) is more like 64% increase. Brooklyn is 37% and Queens is 15%.
posted by Grither at 7:59 AM on October 12, 2012

Yeah unless you live in the most expensive parts of Santa Monica or West Hollywood 20% more isn't even in the ballpark. Expect your rent alone to go up 50-100% for manhattan.

And of course food and everything else is MUCH more expensive. I would probably want at least a 30-40% col increase. You probably won't get that, so if you don't have a burning desire for the job and NYC it's almost certainly a financial loss. Manhattan is just that expensive and for a major city LA is quite cheap.
posted by whoaali at 9:05 PM on October 12, 2012

Have you really seriously given a lot of thought to the fact that this job is in Tarrytown and not NYC? For example, you might not be able to bank on selling your car; it could easily turn out that having a car will make your commute workable. Have you looked at what your commute will be and what would be a realistic place to live? Have you thought about what the quality of life will be, needing to commute outside the city every day for work? Especially since you say your priority is friends and starting a family -- three or more hours a day commuting might not facilitate that.

Similarly, is the assumption on the part of your new employer that you're going to be living in Manhattan? Or is this simply a job offer in Tarrytown, NY, and you've decided that you want to live in Manhattan and plan to negotiate salary based on that? Because Tarrytown isn't New York City, and they have no real reason to think you're going to need to live in Manhattan.

Westchester is actually a relatively swank area and lots of well off people choose to live there. They may be working from the notion that you'll be relocating to somewhere nearby. I'm not saying you should live in the burbs, but that might affect their idea of appropriate compensation.
posted by Sara C. at 2:28 PM on October 14, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you all for your input.

I've been doing a lot of research into location, where I'd live, etc. According to my potential boss, many people at the company live in the city and do a reverse commute. During the onsite interview she introduced me to many of the employees that live in the city, and they seem to manage well. The Metro North train runs from Grand Central or the Harlem-125th stations. I plan to live in a neighborhood close to either of those stations, preferably Harlem (yes, I do know that everyone has a different idea of whether or not Harlem is livable, but I think I have a fairly decent handle on the boundaries of acceptable living areas).

That said, if the company offers me the salary I'm expecting, I should be able to afford about 2k for rent. That may not get me much in certain areas of Manhattan, but may go a bit further in Harlem or the LES. The company will pay for temporary housing AND help me find an apartment through their corporate housing broker, so I'm crossing my fingers that I'll get lucky where rent is concerned.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed! Thanks for the help.
posted by Everydayville at 3:02 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

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