Should we move for more money/career advancement?
July 22, 2014 8:54 PM   Subscribe

My husband was laid off from his job a few weeks ago. We have a toddler and live in Chicago. I've lived here forever, all of my family and friends are here, and I have a job I love here. So far, he hasn't come across any opportunities in this area, but we've seen some great looking job postings in smaller cities in flyover states. (Think Des Moines and Omaha.) Should he consider pursuing these opportunities, or should we stay where we are and struggle along?

I love living in Chicago - my whole life is here. My husband grew up elsewhere and is more eh on it. Realistically, my husband has better job opportunities elsewhere. But we have some complicating factors in deciding whether or not to consider moving.

1. My husband has a chronic health condition and has some complex medical needs. He has a great team of doctors here that he's worked with for a long time. There are doctors in these smaller cities, but they're nowhere near as cutting edge as what we can get where we are. Plus, he has a medical emergency of some sort that requires hospitalization 1-2x a year now - it's a lot easier to deal with that with family right there to help out. (I also worry that he'll eventually not be able to work at all, which would bring it's own set of problems.)
2. Along with #1, he can't drive because of this medical condition. Where we live now, he can walk or take a bus or train to get everywhere he needs to go. In these smaller cities, he'd mostly have to depend on me for rides (since public transit is so spotty there and they aren't really walkable).
3. Our salaries were comparable before the layoff (I make $107k a year, he made around $100k), but we'd probably both see a little bump. Couple that with a much lower cost of living and we'd be quite wealthy.
4. However, we're in different functions in the same industry (he's a lawyer, I do analytical work), and there's not that many companies in this industry where we are now. It could be quite a long time until he finds something here, and it may be at a lower level than where he is now. He says he's ok with that, and he's said he's ok with maybe taking a non-legal job in our industry, but I don't know that he really means it. Since he's a lawyer, and all we ever hear about is how tough the legal field is, I'm not sure he could easily switch industries to a different legal position either.
5. We can get by on my salary for awhile, but we'll have to move and change our son's school and not save much of anything for retirement. I have no idea how we'd save for college, either. We do have cash reserves in the $150k range (emergency fund + house downpayment), and we have $300k saved for retirement, so we can have a bad year or two and still be ok.
6. Because there isn't a ton in our industry here, I don't think we can really move for a couple of years and come back if we don't like it. I've already job-hopped a bit as it is. I love my current job and have been here a year and a half. If I leave this job, take another job, and have another short stint, I think it would raise some red flags to hiring managers.
7. I love big cities. We went to Des Moines for a visit and I just couldn't see myself being really happy there. It looks ok on paper (low COL, great schools, high salaries), but it mostly just felt like one big suburb. Plus, we are atheists, and it felt a lot more church-y there than we're used to. I worry we wouldn't fit in.

So, our options at this point are to stay here in a place we're happy and have a support network, hope he finds something, and sort of limp along financially; or for me to suck it up, expand his search to these smaller, far away cities with more opportunities and possibly better salaries, and not have to worry about money again, but be far away from family, friends, and medical care.

What say you, Ask MeFi? Move for the money, or stay and wait it out and risk less money and financial stability? Or another option I'm not thinking of? I think this would be a very different conversation were it not for his poor health, and I tend to let that cloud my judgement, so I'm hoping to get some good feedback.
posted by GirlLikesBeer to Work & Money (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you considered having your husband start his own business? Perhaps consultancy?
posted by applesurf at 9:13 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Money can't buy a healthy support network and access to advanced doctors who he likes. I think if you like it in Chicago you should find a way to make it work.
posted by bleep at 9:22 PM on July 22, 2014 [32 favorites]

Best answer: There are a lot of really good reasons for both of you to stay in Chicago. I'd say the medical factors and support network you have are strong enough reasons in and of themselves to stay. But it's even more extreme than that: you're thinking about moving to a city you don't like, taking a career hit, having fewer friends and family nearby, and driving him to and from work every day. This seems like a recipe for a lot of unhappiness.

He's only been unemployed for a few weeks. I'd consider setting a time frame for him to throw himself into the job search (perhaps 1 year). At the end of that time you could agree to re-evaluate your options. But I think you'd be crazy to jump now, with all those negatives.

Additionally, I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss his suggestion that he'd be willing to take a non-legal job. You should talk more with him about the types of roles he wants, so you can plan and network. Perhaps he'd take a pay cut but find a role that gave him better work-life balance, while allowing you to stay in Chicago. Could be a win-win-win situation.
posted by leitmotif at 9:24 PM on July 22, 2014 [17 favorites]

There's no answer anyone can give you, but I am super happy with every move that I've made, including the last one across the country, into the country, away from family and friends.

You can always move back if you hate it, really. And no, I wouldn't sweat having a few 1-2 year jobs on your resume. Having a job for a year and a half is a lot different from having a bunch of 30-day jobs. And these days everyone moves around a lot more -- no one is getting 20 year gold watches.
posted by wrok at 9:24 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

With regards to Des Moines being one big suburb, that's true of West Des Moines, certainly (and out into the surrounding towns like Urbandale and Clive). I wouldn't want to live there either.

There is a vibrant downtown, with good food, coffee, and a real urban vibe to it. As a New Yorker, I kind of also love that it's called the East Village. I don't know where your respective places of work would be, but I do know that the East Village is within walking distance of a lot of downtown employers (as well as a pretty fantastic library and museums).

I don't know if it's what you want, but it's so much better than the huge expanses of undifferentiated suburbs of West Des Moines.
posted by yellowcandy at 9:37 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

He hasn't come across any opportunities so far? But it's only been a few weeks!

Look, I was kind of prepared to say, hey, Des Moines and Omaha aren't too bad if you really have to go there, because both of those cities are actually pretty cool, and frankly Des Moines and Omaha have major hip cred. But it doesn't really seem like you want or really need to relocate to one of those places. You have a great job, you have a support network (truly impossible to replace), Des Moines and Omaha are both pretty much Driving Only cities, your husband's medical team is in Chicago - and truly, if you love the big city life, Des Moines and Omaha are not going to cut it for you (I actually love Omaha, but I get that it wouldn't be for someone who really loves Chicago).

I totally get that you're anxious, but it sounds to me from what you've written here that you really don't want to move. So give it some more time, yeah? You say you can weather a bad year or two if you have to. Plus moving is expensive and how easy will it be for you to find a new job?

Don't catastrophize the situation; give yourself and your husband some time. If he can't find a comparable job in a year, reconsider your options.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:40 PM on July 22, 2014 [15 favorites]

Best answer: I am honestly not trying to be snarky but if you think that having $150,000 cash + $300,000 invested AND an income of over $100,000 a year means you have to "limp along financially" while worrying about college bills that are fifteen years away...I think you may have some anxieties about money you need to explore. I live somewhere that has a much higher COL than Chicago and the money you have would be more than sufficient for most people to plan for their next career move strategically, rather than out of fear. Coupled with your anxiety that he hasn't found a job in the legal field after less than a month I think it would be fair to make an appointment with your doctor and look into ways you can self-sooth your anxiety in what is already a tough situation for your husband.
posted by saucysault at 10:01 PM on July 22, 2014 [39 favorites]

It doesn't make any sort of rational sense to leave, given that you've got an excellent job that can support you both, at least in the short term.

This sounds like your husband either a) wants to leave Chicago and sees this as an opportunity to do so or b) has so much of his ego wrapped up in having a great job that he is willing to sacrifice your career and stability to regain that part of his identity.
posted by kjs4 at 10:36 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Not having a car most places in the US sucks so much. I would stay in the city for that reason alone. The stress of having no support network, children, lots of medical appointments (which are always at 11am or 2pm) and having to drive your husband ever single place he needs to go would stress the best relationship in the world.
posted by fshgrl at 10:43 PM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

posted by Gray Skies at 10:45 PM on July 22, 2014

Sounds to me there are a lot more reasons to stay than to move.
posted by Dansaman at 11:09 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Would add to kjs4's reply that c) he may want to retain or regain a sense of control and self-efficacy, if his condition and recent job loss have left him feeling without, and/or d) if he's from a place like the ones under consideration, he might want some of that kind of comfort.

There is no objective or compelling reason for you to leave Chicago, imo.

I hope you hear from lawyers who can speak to switching fields within law (if that's something your husband would consider).
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:15 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is there something you've left out in favor of leaving Chicago?

I'm wondering why that's even being considered. You already make more than him, and are likely to become the sole breadwinner soon. So why would you be uprooting your life for his career over yours? Are you falling into the default "husband's career comes first" mindset? Does husband want to leave for other reasons?
posted by Metasyntactic at 1:33 AM on July 23, 2014 [9 favorites]

Stay in Chicago. He's just barely been out of that job, there are jobs there, maybe they're not jumping out at you from behind bushes but there are jobs there. A lot of it is making a decision to find a job, to not allow yourself to be derailed when he doesn't get a job by Thursday.

You've got tons of bread to fall back on, you're in a city you love, and he maybe doesn't love it but it seems to love him IE medical care public transportation etc and etc. He can go to The Art Institute every Thursday night, free -- that's what I'd be doing, for sure. Chicago is a great town, always some fun happening here or there, and not all of it costs a million bucks.

Maybe in his job search time he'll learn to love Chicago.

Stay in Chicago.
posted by dancestoblue at 1:42 AM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

If it's been months, sure revisit moving but I see no reason to now. As a non-driver in a large midwestern city, let me tell you it sucks. This is true of almost all midwestern cities. Also, there is no comparison between chcago and other large midwestern cities. I think my city is great but if you love a place like chicago...the move could be rather jarring.

I think you're really anxious, and this is the wrong time to make a rash decision.
posted by Aranquis at 4:36 AM on July 23, 2014

You really need to stay. A job will come along. Your husband may need to refocus on another industry, but there are always jobs for talented folks.

Another thought is that he can probably work from home, no matter where the actual job is located. All of the corporate lawyers I knew worked remotely.

Stop fretting, you won't be homeless or destitute. As for college, who knows if that will even be relevant in 15 years.

Give him a chance to regroup and look for work locally. You'll be fine.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:12 AM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Thanks guys.

I've been feeling really selfish about asking him to only look locally (at least at first). I know getting laid off is a big hit to his ego, and I'm worried that taking a lesser job or being unemployed for a long time will be an even bigger hit.

To answer a few points from above:

Yes, I have a lot of anxiety about money. I grew up dirt poor, so that probably explains some of it. My parents are in a bad place now with money - they want to retire in the next few years, but they don't have anything saved. We're in our late 30s, so I don't feel like time is on our side re: saving.

I have a lot of anxiety over the job market as well. All I've ever heard regarding the legal market is that it's awful. Plus, all of the articles about long-term unemployment have me freaked out.

Starting his own business probably isn't in the cards - the hours it would require would probably trump what he is able to do. (His illness exhausts him and working much more than a 9-5 gig is probably not realistic.)

Re: his career taking priority, it's not so much that. Not to toot my own horn, but I have a great resume and a lot of connections, and my field is such that I can probably pretty easily get a job in any of the other cities we are considering since they have many employers in our industry. He's only had the one job he just got laid off from (was there for almost ten years), so he doesn't have a lot of connections in his field, and his resume/background aren't nearly as strong as mine.

Husband grew up in the country, and would like to move somewhere with a slower pace of life. He likes Chicago ok, but I think he'd be happy in a smaller city.
posted by GirlLikesBeer at 7:26 AM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Driving is the most important factor in this list.

Was he able to drive last time he lived in a smaller city? Being a non-driver in a small city without good transit is actually its own big hit to the ego. It really messes with you to have to beg for a ride every time you want to go somewhere. It doesn't feel like being an adult, and it can be really isolating. (Consider, for example, what life would be like if your husband has to stop working and is home all day, unable to go anywhere without a ride.) And everyone who lives in small cities drives, so there are no other non-drivers who understand your situation. In fact, I suspect that even your husband hasn't thought through the situation completely--if he drove everywhere last time he lived in a small city, he probably does not have a good understanding of what it's like to be in a small city and unable to drive.

As a lifelong non-driver, I've lived in both big and small cities, with good and bad transit. Small cities with bad transit are really intolerable. Don't move to a small city. I think that even your husband will regret it, once he realizes how no longer being able to drive will change the experience.
posted by snorkmaiden at 7:41 AM on July 23, 2014 [7 favorites]

To me, the fact that your husband cannot drive rules out anything other than a big city. Having him so dependent on you for transportation just seems like a terrible idea. (Medical team and support network are big factors too, of course, but this alone would clinch it for me.) On preview, what snorkmaiden said.

The terrible job market you've been reading about for lawyers, IMO, applies more to entry-level positions. (I'm a lawyer too, but in a different region.) It seems like he has the option of either switching industries and doing legal work, or staying within the industry and doing either legal or non-legal work. Give it some time -- even in a good job market, it can easily take 3-6 months to find a new job. You can handle this financially. The harder part for now, for both of you, is probably handling it emotionally. Maybe set a deadline after which you will start considering drastic alternatives like moving, say 6 months out, and until that deadline try not to worry about it and see where his job search takes him.
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:46 AM on July 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, the medical stuff and your husband's being unable to drive is reason enough to stay in Chicago far as I'm concerned. Add to that your strong support network, and the fact that your financial situation is really totally fine, and I see no reason whatsoever to move. Give it some time, and if your husband is still out of work in another six months or a year, then you can re-evaluate the situation.*

*Caveat: If this happens, and you do end up considering other cities, I would strongly recommend that you ONLY consider places with good public transit networks. Which means that you would be likely to wind up in a place with a higher cost of living than Chicago. But I wouldn't even think about moving, for now.
posted by breakin' the law at 7:56 AM on July 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Much of what you've read for lawyers is about NEWLY MINTED lawyers emerging on the scene. They used to be snapped up for gobs of money and now it's a much tougher situation. But for someone with a decade of experience, a few weeks of looking for his next opportunity is HARDLY a dire situation. I think you might be catastrophizing a bit - something you might want to look into in terms of trying out some CBT exercises.

There isn't a single good reason why you should move right now. I think all of your stresses are piling on to each other. And now you've got the new stress of being the sole breadwinner for the moment, which can be terrifying and intense to someone used to more security.

Your first step is to take a few breaths, and connect with your feelings. Actually feel them. Cry if you want to, tell yourself that you're both professionals with a lot of security, and you'll figure this out together. Put on your own mask first. You can handle this, I know you can. You know you can.

The second step is to have some frank conversations with your husband AND with a therapist. You're mentally taking on your parents' retirement, where/what they'll do and how they'll figure it out, possibly your inability to pay for their retirement, maybe their resentment or your own guilt about that, your child's future education, a small blip on your own future retirement, and maybe you're worried your husband won't make a real effort to get employment quickly enough? But all of that stress would make anyone crumble -- you or him. Can you imagine him with all of that stress, walking into an interview and nailing it? He has to be in a better mindset without that hanging over his head, and that's something YOU can do to help him out.

Talk to him about why it's important to stay in the area for now. Transportation, hospitals, medical support team, social and cultural connections for you (and you both), etc. If in x number of years you decide to move away, you can certainly do so with your eyes wide open, but right now you're prematurely acting like a gun is being held to your head and forcing you to make a hugely drastic decision without the facts on the table. Do not make a move that will make you hugely resentful just because you think it's your only option.

"Not finding anything" in a few weeks is not a prolonged job search by any stretch of the imagination. But I think it would help if you talked it all out together, possibly with the help of a therapist/counsellor if you think it would be useful to have a 3rd party mediate.

Figure out how you can both be proactive. Get his LinkedIn super polished. Talk to some headhunters (seriously), get his CV updated by other folks in your industry, and keep an eye out in lots of different places. I can imagine him getting poached by consultants or another horizontal-move.

Right now you're overwhelmed and frightened and moving 100000 steps in the future. You're piling hypotheticals on hypotheticals: "what if he doesn't get a job and we don't save for retirement and I can't help my parents and my kid can't afford college and then it means I've failed as an adult and a parent?" That's too many IFs on top of IFs. Focus on what you know. It's been a few weeks. He's got experience. You've both got connections in a great city. You're ahead of 99% of people in terms of retirement and emergency savings.

Your stress is real and it is valid. And it's also not going to help him (or you) and will probably hurt you both. You're not wrong to freak out. But you can make some changes in your approach that will help you negotiate this path.

Best of luck. Keep us updated!
posted by barnone at 8:43 AM on July 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Starting his own business probably isn't in the cards - the hours it would require would probably trump what he is able to do

The goals of a small business are different that the goals of working for someone. Sure, a lot of small business set goals like "bill $50,000 the first year and increase by 20%" each year after but your husband wouldn't. Instead, his goal could be, "work 30 hours a week on paid or pro-bono work for 48 weeks of the year". I get the money anxiety - I was also raised in a financially insecure house - but you will most likely be okay, and setting realistic career goals for your husband might be the difference between him putting in five years of hard work before his health demands an unwanted early retirement, or twenty years of moderate income and fulfilling work. Keep in mind too, as you work in the same industry you are seen as a package deal. If he is contributing meaningful public work, it will reflect well on you, and potentially open up doors (and bank accounts) for you to share. And to be honest, it is HARD to be dual income/high-stress job parents. It does give you a lot more flexibility if you can arrange your lives to depend on your salary for living expenses, and have his income be more of a bonus.

As to the decision between Chicago or a small town, are there no suburbs/towns near Chicago that scratch both itches? (I honestly have no idea but I do live in a small, walkable town that is also just one hour away from downtown Toronto via public transit) I keep hearing that Chicago and Toronto are so similar I wonder if there is a small community like that that gives him the opportunity to work from home at his own business while you commute in to your job and his appointments. Of course, you shouldn't sacrifice your own quality of life for a commute that will kill you.
posted by saucysault at 9:44 AM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

As to the decision between Chicago or a small town, are there no suburbs/towns near Chicago that scratch both itches?

I think you should stay in the city, personally, for the transportation reason alone, but if he's determined to escape city life, consider some place on the train lines further out. I'm really only familiar with the north/northwest burbs, but I've known plenty of people who commute to the city from the ends of the train lines. Places that have an actual small-town feel as opposed to just suburbs: Antioch, McHenry, Fox Lake. Your housing costs would drop a lot.
posted by desjardins at 10:02 AM on July 23, 2014

Seconding looking at places in and around Chicago that might make you happier in terms of scale, price, and culture like Evanston, Rogers Park, etc.
posted by bleep at 10:34 AM on July 23, 2014

posted by lunastellasol at 9:38 PM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

There are approximately 780 words in your post. Approximately 40 of them are dedicated to describing why you should move. Approximately 50 of them are neutral. The rest of them are dedicated to arguing against moving. This isn't a question, it's a setup. You've set up this question so there is no right answer except your answer.

I agree with the other posters that on the face of things it doesn't make sense to move away. Especially since he can't drive.

But it doesn't sound like you really consider moving an option. Where are the non-job positives of moving? You've conveniently left them out because they don't support your case. More importantly, where is your husband's voice in all of this? Other than the job, you don't seem to care about his needs and desires. You blandly mention his desire to get out of Chicago but you don't really discuss his feelings. What does a slower pace of life mean to him mean? Can he get some of that while living in Chicago? Maybe trips out of the city for some peace and quiet? Maybe finding a peaceful place in the city?

If I were your husband I'd feel trapped. Did he know he was marrying Chicago till death do him part when he married you?

Like I said, with his driving restrictions staying in Chicago or a similar city seems the most practical option. But there's a chance that the most practical option is not the happiest option. The way you've phrased this question leads us to the answer you wanted rather than rely considering other options, which makes me think you're not really considering your options here. More troubling, this is supposedly about your husband but there is almost nothing about his desires here. You only vaguely mention his desires and then move on to arguing against them.

So I'd say stay for now. But I'd also recommend considering that there are two people in this marriage and both agree important. Maybe try harder to understand why your husband doesn't love Chicago as much as you. Hint: all of your loved ones are there and it's clouding your judgment. I lived in Chicago and it was nice, but it was also brutally expensive and extremely noisy so I left so I could fund a retirement amount and go hiking in the peaceful woods regularly. I still live in a major city, just a smaller one than Chicago. Think about what can be done to meet his needs that aren't met in Chicago, even if that doesn't mean moving. Or as a compromise, maybe you can live further out on a Metra line for a lower cost of living and shower pace of life? Or maybe you could move to a nearby city so Chicago is accessible without actually being in Chicago.

This doesn't really answer the job question - as others have said, this is too early to uproot for a job. But it sounds like there are longer term issues you are overlooking.
posted by Tehhund at 8:22 AM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

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