Give up financial stability to move where you'd prefer to be?
April 30, 2014 10:09 AM   Subscribe

My heart says one thing, but my head says another, and I am paralyzed in making any kind of decision. I need help, thoughts, opinions, anything.

My fiance and I are both in our early-mid 30s. We live in Colorado. Right now, we each make enough money that if one of us lost our job, the other could support both of us and pay the mortgage just fine. We save a lot each month, live well below our means, contribute a lot to retirement, are able to donate often, and rarely need to worry about money (I do, all the time, regardless). He likes his job, and mine is largely unfulfilling but more or less stress-free. We live in the best spot in the country for our jobs, and would likely not find the same financial stability elsewhere. My job is permanent.

The only issue is we live 1,000 miles from my close-knit immediate family in the Bay Area. I miss them terribly, and the thought of being this far away from them for the foreseeable future tears me up. I always cry when I leave them, and I am tearing up thinking about this now, even though I just saw them two weeks ago and will see them again in a month. (This is a rare year - usually I see them three or four times a year.) I miss the ocean, and I'd like our hopefully soon future children to grow up around family (he is from the East Coast). I have always loved the area, and would have never left if it weren't for grad school.

My fiance has been unofficially offered a job near my family. The job would be interesting and is a slight career change, but a good change. The pay would be more than he makes now, but not enough for us to have the same lifestyle we have now, even if I were able to find the exact same paying job there (this is very unlikely). I was just looking at housing prices, and I don't know if we could even afford a condo- it would be tight- not to mention not putting as much away for retirement, etc.

I've made a pro and con list, I spend all of my free time obsessing over this, and I am making no headway. I think I need some outside, neutral thoughts. (He is fine with whatever I decide, but he wants a decision so they can start talking officially. He has also said he wants me to be happy, and he knows I am happier there than here.) Please help me get some rest. Is one choice obvious, or what am I missing?
posted by umwhat to Work & Money (44 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Do it, move. Don't let fear dictate your future happiness. You love your husband and you can survive in a smaller house. You will be spending much of the time out of it anyway, with the beach and work and family. Once you have babies, you will be so poor that your current lifestyle will have disappeared any way. This is the nature of children. They are expensive blessings and you will barely mind not being able to afford to eat at nice restaurants any more.

Move! Do it! Jump in, the water is fine!
posted by myselfasme at 10:13 AM on April 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just move. Money's nice, but a close family who loves you? That's even better.

Plus, you won't have the expense of flying out to see them anymore. If you go three or four times a year, it adds up.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:15 AM on April 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


Look into opportunities for a trailing spouse.
posted by caryatid at 10:22 AM on April 30, 2014

I would not do this, personally.

First, given how the economy is and how it seems likely to be, I think it's really unwise to abandon steady, well-paying work with no clear employment plan.

Second, you're going to California, which is really expensive and both economically and environmentally troubled.

Third, you'll lose the "I miss my family" stressors, but you'll gain the additional "now I really have to worry about money" and "we live in miserable, overpriced housing" stressors.

And last, I think people are biased in favor of "chase your dreams". My partner left their unfulfilling, boring and stressful job a few years ago - and it turns out that the "dream" jobs are actually also boring and stressful while lacking insurance and paying much, much less. My household would be like yours - financially stable, able to save - except that my partner took such a giant pay hit in order to work in a "meaningful" occupation. My partner regrets this almost every day, as do I.
posted by Frowner at 10:23 AM on April 30, 2014 [22 favorites]

You make no mention of having or wanting kids. But if you did then the little bit of extra financial head room that you have in Colorado might prove more useful - as would the extra housing space you'd be able to afford.

Something else which might weigh in favour of Colorado is commuting times to your respective jobs. How would that compare and what might the cost differences be?
posted by rongorongo at 10:23 AM on April 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Being near family that you care about is so valuable, especially if you want to have children. Prioritize that and go ahead and move.

You can spend between now and when you move working on your financial plan. You tend to worry about money, so why not meet with a financial advisor to think through how you should deal with money around the move? It will be tough, but all that saving you have been doing is going to help tide you over. Plus the real estate market is pretty hot in Colorado right now, you could wind up with more money than you expect when you sell your house.
posted by medusa at 10:24 AM on April 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Move. The rest will sort itself out.
posted by Shutter at 10:24 AM on April 30, 2014

Do it!

I'm about to move 3,000 miles with less money and stability to a much more expensive city. I hemmed and hawed for a little while but I made the decision when I realized I was just putting off the inevitable. It'll work out. Things will be different but that's a good thing! You want things to be different.
posted by AtoBtoA at 10:25 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I suggest you depart from the Path of Happiness and suggest you take instead The Path of Practicality. I grew up in Manhattan. Most of my family lives in and around Manhattan. I got priced out of my hometown ages and ages ago. I do not live in Manhattan. Sometimes that's just how it works.

If you can't afford housing on two salaries, how are you going to afford housing and daycare? Or a condo and no daycare while one of you stays home? How are the public schools where you are now? Do you know anything about the cost of housing in the Bay Area relative to acceptable school districts, or the cost of private schooling there?

Also let me just point out how very much you will appreciate that nicely paid, unfullfilling, stress free job in early parenthood.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:26 AM on April 30, 2014 [7 favorites]

"Financial stability" is not the same thing as what you're talking about here. Financial instability is where you take a pay cut that could potentially render you homeless. Where you take a job that might vanish in six months after you accrue five grand in credit card debt to move. Where you live in your car to try to accumulate capital to start a business.

What you're talking about is having to have a budget and living more simply and modestly for awhile. Whatever instability there might be is a very long term thing in terms of retirement funds and the like--and you've got time in between to change your minds if it doesn't work out.

If you really have questions here about whether you will be able to keep yourselves fed and housed in the Bay Area, that's a totally different thing, but if it's just a matter of not being as flush, I think I'd be asking--what about the long term? Is this new job one where there are advancement prospects? If you're thinking about kids, how are your priorities with regards to things like schools?

I'm not sure it's a great idea, but don't blow it out of proportion by thinking of this as consigning you to poverty, especially if there's a decent chance that ten years from now it'll lead to bigger and better things. On the other hand, don't move all that way and give up what you have now just for homesickness, because--well, a lot of why you think so fondly of it might be that it's far away.
posted by Sequence at 10:28 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Normally, I'd say to move. There are only two places in the US where I'd say not to move, and the Bay Area is one of them (NYC is the other). The Bay Area is so expensive that if you are not absolutely convinced you can afford to live there... then you probably can't. The replies above are a bit amiss - you won't be talking about "a smaller house", you'll be talking about a small apartment - at a cost of easily 2-3x Colorado rates. Further, the cost of your rent in the Bay Area may very well be high enough that it's cost-effective for you to fly to the Bay Area every month from Colorado.

Family is important. However, being able to afford your lifestyle is necessary. This is especially the case with children. Will you be able to afford child care in the Bay Area (even more expensive than Colorado)? How about their college expenses? What if you find that one of your children has special needs and requires corresponding financial/time expense on your part?

As a person, you need to be happy. As a parent, you need to be able to support your family before your extended family. It's not clear to me you can support your family if you live in the Bay Area. If you could, you wouldn't be asking this question.
posted by saeculorum at 10:29 AM on April 30, 2014 [8 favorites]

beaches versus mountains. you didn't say where in colorado you lived, but a beautiful home in the countryside with two steady jobs counts for something. have you checked housing costs in the bay area? i have come to prefer country living over urban living, and four visits a year sounds like a lot.
posted by bruce at 10:30 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm with DarlingBri and Frowner. Under no circumstances would I trade financial stability away in 2014, particularly if you're moving from an area where you live comfortably to the Bay Area (!) of all places, arguably the most expensive locality to live in the entire country.

You're going to be trading family stress for money stress, and that's not a great tradeoff.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:31 AM on April 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

Normally, I'd say to move. There are only two places in the US where I'd say not to move, and the Bay Area is one of them (NYC is the other).

I came here to say exactly this.
posted by vitabellosi at 10:32 AM on April 30, 2014 [6 favorites]

My job is permanent.

No, it's not. Stop thinking that. I don't care what your job is, it is not permanent. Take that out of the equation and see how it changes your calculation.

He is fine with whatever I decide, but he wants a decision so they can start talking officially.

Let 'em start talking. Let them offer him a job. Let him counteroffer saying, "Jeez, my wife really likes her job and isn't sure she wants to move...". Let them up his offer or throw in moving expenses or hell, maybe even offer you a job too.

Note: I am not advocating moving, or staying. I'm just advocating thinking about it differently in a couple of ways that may help you be more certain of your conclusion.
posted by Etrigan at 10:33 AM on April 30, 2014 [19 favorites]

Do it. I've moved around a fair bit recently and sometimes without a job, and if you're resourceful, things usually work out. Unemployment in the Bay Area is about 5% so I'm sure if you buckle down you'll find something quickly. And hey, if it's too expensive and you can't make it work, maybe you can find another place in California to move that's closer to your family than you are now.
posted by jabes at 10:33 AM on April 30, 2014

I would move. As a parent who lives away from family (but couldn't get a job there at all), I think having family around is really important. You may value this support when your kids get sick, when you get sick, when you need someone to do pickup so you can go to a medical appointment, etc. I have no family around and really wish my life was different. But I am from a small town with no jobs and so is my kids' dad.

If you aren't sure, rent out your house and rent something near family. Would family be willing to help you qualify for a home where you rent out the basement and send the rent to them? See what options there might be.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:36 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

you are me seven years ago. my bf realized how miserable i was in colorado - landlocked state, 1000 miles away from everything i knew (my mom, my friends, my routine, the ocean), and he was also ready for a change. so he found a job, and then i found a job, and we moved back to the bay area.

yeah, we live in shitty overpriced housing. but we also were able to move into jobs that paid us way more than we were making in colorado. it is possible. i don't know what your job is, but it is possible. we're still adjusting a little moneywise, but i am so much happier, every day i thank him in my head (and once in a while, out loud, so as to not be completely insufferable) for making this change for me.

i would do it again in a heartbeat.
posted by koroshiya at 10:36 AM on April 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

i should also mention, i guess, that we live in an apartment, and as it stands, we will probably never buy a house. this is more okay for me than it is for my bf - i am perfectly happy to let someone else fix things and not have to worry about it, but he is set on a house for reasons that aren't clear to me.

it is what it is. if you are set on a house, you will obviously have a different opinion than i do.

but really, the snow was killing me. and it's 30 minutes to the ocean from my house. and an hour to my mom's. and i don't have to worry about her as much. and a hundred other things. the place we were working in colorado kind of went weirdly tits up (we were govt workers, essentially), and when that happened, it sort of cemented what we did as the right decision.

so i agree with whomever above said no job is permanent. it's not. and people here have kids and deal with it all the time, from all walks of life, so you'll figure it out too.

good luck with whatever you decide.
posted by koroshiya at 10:42 AM on April 30, 2014

One thing I've learned about moving, is that it's very rare to make a move that is clearly better in all ways. Every move is a trade off, some things are better and some are worse. So you can never make it look like an easy decision on paper.

It's impossible to give you an answer because there are so many finer details here. What are the chances your family might move out Colorado if you have kids? Are they retired? Do they live in one of the more expensive bits of the Bay Area, or do they live on the outskirts? Could you live further out where it's cheaper, and just be an hour away from family?

I think that your partner should start talking details with the new job offer, because without firm details there are a lot of assumptions, that might represent make or break details.
posted by Joh at 10:46 AM on April 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

On further consideration, I agree with Etrigan. Your fiance should use your current financial stability as a negotiating tool to get a higher salary, a job for you, better benefits, and/or moving and housing assistance. His potential employers have got to know how much more it costs to live in the Bay area.
posted by caryatid at 10:49 AM on April 30, 2014

I would only move to California if I KNEW I would never own a home. You can have most of the lifestyle you want, if you become renters. There are a lot of cons having to do with homeownership, but they double in California in my opinion.

Where in the Bay Area is the job, that has a LOT to do with your housing. It's a lot easier to find places in the burbs than it is to find a place in the city. For sure.

But either way, if you are THAT committed to wanting to be near your family, I would think you'd be willing to sacrifice some things to make that happen, especially if you want children.

You can always find a job, but there's only one Northern California.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:56 AM on April 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Good googly moogly, do it. If it turns out to be that drastic of a mistake you can always move back to Colorado.

But if you don't do it, you'll always wonder. Especially when you get around to having kids.
posted by vignettist at 11:06 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Good LORD, you're CRYING about not being near your family! Start packing! Life is short!
posted by RJ Reynolds at 11:10 AM on April 30, 2014 [8 favorites]

Do what Etrigan says: Have the people offering the job help make the decision for you. They can sweeten the pot if they really want him. If they sweeten the pot, then I think moving becomes a much clearer "yes" since money seems to be the big sticking point here. Money is the main thing keeping you where you are, so if that can be solved, then it becomes a no brainer.

Pick up "Getting to Yes." It's a quick read and research-based. There are meatier books on the art of negotiation but for a quick jumpstart, I don't think you can beat this book.
posted by Michele in California at 11:13 AM on April 30, 2014

If you're already worrying about money despite having what sounds like a stable and ideal situation now, be ready for that to ratchet up considerably in the Bay Area. Housing can be quite unstable (large rent increases and evictions are not unusual) and it's much harder to plan for retirement, safety nets, etc when the cost of living takes most of your salaries - especially once childcare is in the picture. Be ready to find a way to better deal with your existing financial anxieties so that they don't take over.

If you can find a way to live comfortably with a different financial picture, then do it. But, don't trade crying for your family for crying from money stress.
posted by quince at 11:16 AM on April 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

Go! Money can buy you lots of things, but it can't buy you a family.
posted by xingcat at 11:35 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Normally on these kinds of questions I'm against the whole leave your job stuff. But this is different. Will you be as comfortable in California? Hell no. But you'll probably be fine if you adjust your standards. I make pennies so I'm not talking to you from a place of it'll be easy but you'll be much happier. For some people extended family isn't important. But when it matters to you, that's a perfectly good reason.

Everything in life comes at a cost. It's harder to weigh emotional costs, but they can be more important than anything objective.
posted by Aranquis at 11:48 AM on April 30, 2014

This depends on how much you prioritize your lifestyle. I had a 1000 sq. ft. place in DC which I sold and now have a better job but much less space in New York City. But I am much, much happier and am glad to be closer to my family even though my ostensible standard of living is lower.

If you prioritize things like a large sized house with a big yard, you will not be happy in the Bay Area. You likely won't be able to support the standard of living you grew up with unless your parents can help you out with a large down payment on a house. However, the economy is good and you sound like you REALLY prioritize being close to family. Outside of the option of getting your family to move to Colorado, the answer seems to be to move to the Bay Area.
posted by deanc at 12:01 PM on April 30, 2014

I suggest you stay where you are. The Bay Area is so incredibly expensive, and you've said you wouldn't likely find financial stability elsewhere. Save your money, visit your family frequently - six times a year - and have them visit you. Or roll it so you can spend an entire month in the summer, and an entire month in the winter, with your family. This article explains you need at least $80k after-tax income to live comfortably. (So, more like $130k).

If you always worry about money, you're going to worry much more if you're in the Bay Area. Use Bankrate's cost of living calculator, and CNN's, to crunch the numbers.

And let me say I've been taking my own advice. I still have friends and family in LA, San Diego and the Bay Area. We decided to move to Texas. We'd love to be on the West Coast, East Coast, or Chicago, near where my dad is. However, we won't do it until we are certain that we can replicate the same kind of life. I used to get sad about everything I left behind in California. Then I spent a research trip out there recently and saw so clearly how expensive it was, for a life that was not significantly better. That, and I read Marc Reisner's book A Dangerous Place.

If you DO move out there, see if you can't lower the burden. Save your money now. Start sussing out a much lower cost place to live, negotiate the hell out of the package you're offered, look into multiple lines of income.
posted by mitschlag at 12:45 PM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I recently made a big choice along these lines, after agonizing about it for months. Absolutely nothing I did helped me decide - pro and con lists, soliciting thoughts and advice from everyone in my life, etc. - except giving myself an arbitrary deadline and then spending several days acting as if I'd made one choice and then as if I'd made the other.

I ended up choosing proximity to my family over job security (which would have meant emigrating to another country). In a lot of the ways detailed above, this was a stupid idea: I'm much more stressed financially than I would have been; I'm freelancing rather than having a stable income; I have no idea what my future job prospects will be like here; I'm sure not saving anything. That said, I am personally happy with my decision and am certain it was the right one for me to make. (I'm in my late twenties, in the arts, and neither married nor affianced, so I had a certain amount of freedom in this regard.)

I think ultimately there's not an objective way to decide which list of pros and cons you'd rather live with. The advice above re: negotiation sounds great. Beyond that, it may just take you some time to work your feelings out. And I do recommend the "spend a few days imagining..." exercise.
posted by fast ein Maedchen at 1:43 PM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would say move. This isn't about a "dream job," it's about being with your family. For me, being near my family makes up for lifestyle cuts-- it makes my life intangibly much better, while the tangibles get a little tighter. You may know if you're the same.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:15 PM on April 30, 2014

'Unofficially offered' is different than having a job offer in hand. Until that happens, you don't really know if a move is feasible.
Try looking at your life 50 years from now. Would you have rather shared your life with your immediate family close by? Our time here is short.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 3:28 PM on April 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hey there. I live in the east bay with my husband. My parents are here. My brother is in LA. I just had a kid. Last week was the first time I crunched the numbers of what having a kid means. It means that we have no more mad money, and are hard core sticking to a budget. We are going to be hard core sticking to a budget for the next 25 years, I imagine. Sometimes, this makes me very, very nervous.

But I have a lovely kid, and I love being near my parents. And I love the bay area. And I had 11 years of a great job and mad money. I enjoyed the restaurants, the movies, the trips. Now I and my husband enjoy the time home, the netflix, the cooking together, the ability to let my parents see their grandkid, and, of course, my kid. There is no trade off - it is more that we are living optimally in a different stage of life. Lots of people in this world have no choice but to move away from their family.

If your family is meaningful to you, and you have the choice, choose them. The amount of money you'll save in flying a family of four our several times a year to see the your extended family would probably make a big dent in the cost differential.

How much is rent is Colorado, anyway?
posted by anitanita at 3:35 PM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Does this have be a choice between CA or CO?

I would stick with the stable jobs and money for now, but start looking towards CA but not in the pricey Bay area. My parents moved from Long Island to the Philly Burbs when I was 5, it's become a 3 hour car drive to visit family up there and it's totally manageable for family events. (We actually thank them all the time for moving because there is a lot of family drama that we don't get drug into being that far away.) We're only three hours away and it is a huge price difference in property.

You don't have to rush into this decision. Take your time and do some research into more affordable areas that offer jobs in your fields, and if you really want to live closer to your family, with some time and effort, you can make it work where you won't be up nights worrying about money for the rest of your life.
posted by NoraCharles at 4:13 PM on April 30, 2014

Response by poster: Gosh, everyone, thank you. Thank you for taking your time to help - every answer here has been helpful. I've read them all twice, and some of them more than that. I wish I could mark them all as best answer. I will be coming back to all of these responses over and over again in the next few days to digest them. I appreciate it all so much.

There are some things in here I hadn't thought about, or hadn't given much thought to, so I've got some mulling over to do. Thank you, again.
posted by umwhat at 5:00 PM on April 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just because the Bay Area is expensive doesn't mean the OP can't say, move to a cheaper area of NorCal that might be a couple of hours drive to see the family. That's an option nobody's mentioned so far.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:00 PM on April 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Have you talked to your various family members about their finances? I don't know if your family is the type that can talk about this stuff, but you might ask some of your "everyone says..." questions and then ask your family members if that is their experience. Everyone says rent will be twice as much for half the space. Everyone says you'll never afford to live in the Bay Area. etc. Try to figure out how they are making it work, then try to see if your immediate family could make it work.

Also, maybe your family could start the search for more affordable housing to give you some ideas of what you might be able to find. I find that kind of thing hard to do if you are just visiting for a weekend, but as a resident, I would know some areas to look in my city and your family might know too.
posted by CathyG at 7:00 PM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Listen to your heart. Your head can rationalize it later. You already know the right answer.
posted by maryr at 8:41 PM on April 30, 2014

It is easy to underestimate the power of financial stress until its fingers begin to clasp around your throat. As someone who traded boring, ceiling-reached job for less stable income in a more desirable area, I would counsel you to hesitate before throwing away the security you have.
posted by chicxulub at 8:00 AM on May 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think you should do it. Yes, you will not be as financially secure, but you will have the added resources that being near family brings. I'm sure it is way easier to raise a child when grandparents are close by; who else can you call at the last minute for babysitting. And wouldn't it be wonderful for your children to grow close to their grandparents before they pass away.
posted by winterportage at 10:27 AM on May 1, 2014

Interesting question. Last year we moved from Colorado (which we really liked) to Florida (where we really, really dislike it). It made us solidify our ultimate goal which is Northern California, north of the Bay Area. We had originally thought to retire there, but why wait?

We cannot move now but we made a plan-involving finances, self-employment etc. My partner and I have goals for moving and it's kind of fun. Sure, I'd love to move there now but I enjoy looking at real estate online and daydreaming. Also, building a business takes time and ultimately we'd like to move without having to rely on someone else offering us work. At least for one of us.

Only you can decide if this is the right time. If you decide that it is not, work towards your goal to get back where you want. Be proactive, not reactive. I hope you get there!
posted by Kitty Cornered at 10:40 AM on May 1, 2014

Oh, and please come back and tell us what your final decision is once decide. It is always nice to know how these things turn out...even if much later. :)
posted by Kitty Cornered at 10:42 AM on May 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't think I have seen this exact suggestion yet: I will suggest that you might be able to live in Solano County and have hubby commute (depending on exactly where the job is). It is relatively cheap for the Bay Area and, when I lived there, about 40% of the residents who lived in Solano County worked outside of it.
posted by Michele in California at 12:06 PM on May 1, 2014

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