Stay for love or move for money?
August 3, 2014 1:36 PM   Subscribe

I have a possible job opportunity (and similar ones in the future, if I don't take this one) at a prestigious institution in my field that would allow me to live a comfortable middle-class life, pay my debts, and raise a family or own a house someday. I love my current job, relationship, home, and community, but I'm stuck at a pay level that's barely adequate to cover my bills each month and that's unlikely to increase much over the course of my career. How do I proceed?

I've been going over pro/con lists in my head for a while now, but these are mostly unquantifiable quality-of-life concerns and I could use either a) a reality check, b) straight-up advice, or c) situations that are/were similar and how things turned out.

New opportunity/ies: in academia, involve a fairly large promotion, a pay raise of $10-15K, an additional three weeks of PTO, tuition breaks for myself and for dependents, tons of other benefits. The work itself seems very appealing. I'd be living and working close to my family of origin, old friends, and former colleagues I keep in touch with. It would be fun! But I'd have to move 3.5 hours away. My partner can't move with me. The workspace is in a cubicle inside a warehouse-like facility. The community is known for high crime rates; most people I know who live there experience break-ins more than once.

Currently: My job is a great fit for me and I've been able to tailor it to suit my skills/interests over the last few years. The daily tasks of my job are, for the most part, extremely enjoyable. My office is in a large room with a wonderful view. There are only a few of us in my department and my coworkers are all fairly tight-knit; we socialize outside of work and there's a strong feeling that we're operating as a team. My company has invested in my professional development and allows me almost full autonomy in my projects.

The area where I currently live is nearly ideal for me. I love the house where I live. And there is my boyfriend, who is so excellent. Our relationship is the best one I've known. He has children, who I consider part of the package--they're great, and I feel sad when I consider being apart from them. We have plans to have children of our own, and if I stay here we will probably get married. But his income isn't enough to cover both of us, and my income is barely enough to cover myself. I'm in my early 30s and still get help from my parents here and there. I have loads of debt that, over time, will be less of a problem--but I'm barely able to make a dent in it right now. There is also very little paid time off. I have so few vacation days that I have to decide whether to take a summer vacation (if I could afford it) or go home for the holidays, or stay home during bad weather or if I get sick. I can't imagine being happy with the current arrangement if I had a child.

My skill set is fairly specialized, and it's not realistic that I could find a similar or better position in the community/region where I live. My partner and I have discussed this at length. One possibility we think we could live with: if I get this job or another one there, I could move, we could go long-distance for a few years while I bank the extra salary money, then return to my current area when I get pregnant and stay home for a few years, then regroup when it's time to re-enter the workforce. It's unlikely that I could return to my current job.

TL;DR: The status quo is bearable, but not sustainable for the long-term and for what else I want in life (a family, a dog, a washing machine, actual vacations, haircuts when I need them, occasional meals in restaurants, childcare, time to spend with my child/ren) Should I stay in a life that I love but constantly feel pinched for time and money? Or should I move to a place where I'd have ample time and money but would be far away from my partner and? How much is appropriate to sacrifice for a relationship? Or for a career?
posted by magdalemon to Work & Money (35 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Go. Go go go go go. Go to a restaurant every month and take a real vacation within the first year. If after a year you and your partner both want you to come back, you will return with $10-$15k and no regrets. Go.
posted by headnsouth at 1:48 PM on August 3, 2014 [15 favorites]

Are you still with the partner from the previous ask? If so, there is likely zero chance his situation will not worsen.
posted by rr at 1:49 PM on August 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Go. I hovered just above the "poverty" (I.e. paying my bills) line for two years, then I moved to a different job and got a 20k bump. I cannot express how much better my life is now.
posted by Spurious at 1:51 PM on August 3, 2014 [6 favorites]

I would take it just for the extra three weeks of PTO.
posted by mochapickle at 1:53 PM on August 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Go. You have a rare opportunity that most do not, in that you'll be taking a risk by moving to an area where you already have an established support network (family and friends) to soften the transition.

3 hours is not an insurmountable distance, either, if you believe the relationship is worth maintaining. People make it work.
posted by Young Kullervo at 1:54 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think you should go. Go, go, go. Go!

Bearable but not sustainable is not a way to build the life you want to live. Live the life you want to live right now, don't just bear it.
posted by sockermom at 1:55 PM on August 3, 2014


The difference just scraping by and being comfortable financially will make to your mental and physical health is amazing. Pack your bags and GO.
posted by Tamanna at 1:58 PM on August 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you go, you can always move back, even if your job isn't perfect. If you don't go, you will probably always wonder "what if?"

Early 30s is too young to be compromising, especially given that this job offers so little money and vacation time.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:00 PM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Go. The world just threw you a lifeline. Grab it.
posted by dilettante at 2:05 PM on August 3, 2014 [7 favorites]


You are trading off you long term financial security for short-term comfort. You should be paying into your retirement accounts now - particularity if it's your plan to take a few years off from the work force.
posted by 26.2 at 2:05 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Moving back wouldn't really be an option unless I had big cash reserves or a total change of career. My current job will not be waiting for me.

And yes, this is the same guy. Sober for a month and a half and very committed to it. People can choose to change their behavior; a period of problem drinking doesn't equate with lifelong addiction.
posted by magdalemon at 2:08 PM on August 3, 2014

If the current situation is not sustainable (and you don't mention retirement savings, but there's that to consider as well), you have no choice.

You have to take care of yourself. Nobody else is going to do it for you.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:12 PM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Why doesn't he plan to move?
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:16 PM on August 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

Go! It sounds like you have a great opportunity.

I was in your shoes about 10 years ago and stayed. It's cost me in terms of financial security and skills.

If the relationship is right, you and your man will find a way to make it work. And nothing kills a great relationship faster than chronic money worries, especially when kids are involved.
posted by Occam's Aftershave at 2:17 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I do have a well funded/matched 401(k), so that's one thing I don't worry about.

And he can't move for several years because he has split custody of his school-aged children.
posted by magdalemon at 2:18 PM on August 3, 2014

45 days of sobriety doesn't equate with changed behavior. You need more time to assess that.

Don't wait around assessing. You will make it work if it can work, but whether or not you stay in town will not be the deciding factor in the relationship's success, I don't think.
posted by sockermom at 2:21 PM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would move. I just got a "real" job with a pay bump, vacation &c. and my life is inexpressibly better.

How devastating is the "several years"? Is this prime time for the two of you to have a baby? If not and you can envision him eventually moving to be with you (if this is something he is comfortable with), that seems like a solution. (I guess in general baby-making is relevant-- if you plan to have a baby soon, maybe the better job is something you're really going to want, even if the timing then becomes unideal.)
posted by stoneandstar at 2:21 PM on August 3, 2014

In the immortal words of the Butthole Surfers, 'it's better to regret something you have done, than something you haven't'.

posted by Sebmojo at 2:25 PM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have a slightly different answer, maybe in part because I may not have correctly understood your question. My answer is: You should consider the move when you actually have a better job [offer].

unlikely to increase much over the course of my career.
Have you negotiated a raise or adjustment of your compensation during your tenure?
posted by sm1tten at 2:45 PM on August 3, 2014

People can choose to change their behavior; a period of problem drinking doesn't equate with lifelong addiction.

Sure. But 45 days sober from a sketchy bout of "Bad situations drove me to drink and be a sort of bad partner" isn't that much time sober either. And I'm concerned (as someone with a lot of alcoholism in my family) that your response here is more for reassuring yourself than you thinking you've told us something we don't know. You don't know. That's fine, but you don't know.

I'd go. I'm in an LTR that works really well for me. They're not for everyone but having a bit of a cash safety net will give you more options whether you decide to stay in this relationship or not. It will work if you guys work on it. This may give your guy a little bit of a nudge to get more of his stuff in order. Moving for an opportunity when you've got some nice stuff lined up there is a neat stroke of luck.

A lot of this depends on your general risk aversion versus what you want to be getting out of life. To me, for example it was worth living somewhere rural where I could walk to work (or work from home) than it was to live near my partner. Other people draw those lines differently. Without doing too much reading between the lines I'm getting the feeling that you may not be certain how much weight to be giving the various things on your Good/Bad lists.
posted by jessamyn at 2:45 PM on August 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

Go, and don't think of returning to a community/region where you'd be unable to return to your current job (that keeps you deeply indebted and partly dependent on your parents), nor find a similar job, nor find a better job.

I have turned down two different guys who would have cost me my career in similar ways. I follow them on social media. They have awesome lives. I would trade places with either of those dudes any day. Their wives' lives suck, and I would be deeply depressed if I had made their choices. It took me a long time to realize that my deep and longterm attraction to each of those guys had been because I wanted to be* those guys, not be married to them.

*not suggesting that I would want to be a man, just that I envy those specific guys' ease in combining an interesting, fulfilling, demanding career with a well-cared-for family and household without personally collapsing from physical exhaustion; the answer is--a wife!
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 2:46 PM on August 3, 2014 [24 favorites]

I am on the side that says go. This sounds like a great opportunity for you, with more to gain than lose. More financial security, interesting work, near family & friends, more PTO are all good reasons to change jobs. Not being able to pay your bills, worrying about money, limited PTO that controls you, no prospect for improvement in current job are reasons to go. Seriously, being able to pay your bills & reduce debt without relying on others is freeing in so many ways. Develop a new status quo with money and what it can provide to make life easier/better.

I am sure my daughter can recite this lecture, but you don't make decisions for your life based on somebody else's situation. If you were married, then the decision would be about you both, jointly made. As it sounds, plans for marriage aren't solid, he's still got a lot to work on, & who knows what will happen with his kids & other issues. This should be about you and your future--what will make your life better and more secure and let you grow personally & professionally.

Plus, 3.5 hours away is totally doable for commuting on weekends/holidays, esp with a lot PTO in the mix. Not to mention modern communication methods that help you keep in touch with him & his kids.

Don't miss out on this opportunity, even if you think there are more to come.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 2:55 PM on August 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

One thing to consider is how much of that 10 to 15k raise would be used up by travel back and forth to keep up the relationship. And if you are currently living together, maintaining two households is more expensive too. Living in a high crime area also has associated expenses, from higher insurance costs, to replacing items or making repairs after break-ins. You might not find you end up with much in the way of savings to bank.
posted by lollusc at 2:57 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Go go go! If you have no chance of ever doing better than "scraping by" where you live, get the hell out of Dodge and take the new opportunity! The peace of mind that comes from being able to pay one's own bills and have a financial cushion left over, versus just getting by and having to take money from your parents, is priceless.

If your relationship is strong, it can withstand a period of being long-distance. And if it isn't - well, it's better to be single and have a good job, than single and just scraping by - which is what would happen if you stayed but broke up with your BF anyway. (And agreeing with other posters that 45 days sober is not a very long time. He really needs to demonstrate at least a year of committed sobriety and self-improvement if he's to have changed for the better, JMO.)
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 3:19 PM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

How much is appropriate to sacrifice for a relationship? Or for a career?

If you choose the relationship and it doesn't work out, you'll be faced with both 1) dating as an older woman, which, nothing wrong with it, not the worst thing in the world, not an impossible situation, but odds are less in your favour, and 2) experiencing reduced quality of life, being in a less optimal position in terms of savings for your later years, etc. Facing old age with limited savings is not an enviable situation.

These are your capital-building years. Upward mobility will be harder later on. That new salary will put you in a better bargaining position for other jobs down the road, and set you up for something better than too many women experience. That seems far away and improbable, I'm sure.

I don't mean to condescend to you about the quality of your current relationship, I have no idea. It might work out beautifully. On the face it, and of course I don't know you, that is less likely than things not working out. If things don't work out, the costs to your quality of life could be huge and very real.

I wish I could talk about this stuff without being dramatic, but all I can say is, I know a lot of women (ahem) who, faced with that kind of decision, later regretted choosing the relationship.

In any case, you do have the third option of the LDR.

Good luck.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:20 PM on August 3, 2014 [6 favorites]

Go, and let the practical details get sorted out as you get there. Don't overthink it before you even go. A few hours is nothing, and it is an incentive for both of you to look at options and priorities. I know it's a super problematic book, but this situation screams for a dose of Lean In.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:24 PM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was going to say go until I read about the big crime rate in your new city. To me, that would be a huge factor in moving, and a warehouse like cubicle sounds pretty awful in terms of job happiness. I would keep looking for another opportunity.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:27 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Have an adventure. Build a cushion. See him on weekends.

You need to do this for you.
posted by heathrowga at 4:32 PM on August 3, 2014

Oh my goodness, definitely go! What an amazing opportunity, and there's no telling if you'll ever get this chance again. If you and the guy are supposed to be, you'll find a way to make it work but for now, you need to think of you. Go go go!
posted by Jubey at 5:50 PM on August 3, 2014

Go! Cubicles aren't the awful soulless prisons that MeFi seems to think they are.
posted by kimberussell at 6:04 PM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Speaking as someone who used to live hand-to-mouth and now has a stable middle-class existence: GO. My life isn't lavish by a long-shot, but seriously, I cannot tell you how much better I sleep at night now than I did 10 or 15 years ago. I have a dishwasher. I have a new-ish, reliable car. I can take a vacation a couple of times a year. I have really good health insurance that covered about half a million dollars worth of cancer treatment a few years ago. I will probably be able to retire in modest comfort.

These are things that -- tragically, criminally -- millions of people can no longer say in this country. Don't let this slip through your fingers. Prioritize yourself, your well-being, and your future -- if you don't, no one else will, and that includes your boyfriend. If this relationship is meant to be, it will survive this AMAZING opportunity you have. And if it doesn't, you will be in a better place to find a new relationship down the road.

As someone upthread said: the world is throwing you a lifeline. Grab it!
posted by scody at 7:54 PM on August 3, 2014 [8 favorites]

If I was in your situation, I would definitely move onto a new position (maybe not necessarily this exact one, but something like it). There's only so far that you can go in your current role.

This article might be of interest to you:

3.5 hours is not a huge distance. If your relationship is secure and is meant to survive, it will. If it's not going to survive that, it's not worth risking your career over either. These are the years that you really need to spend establishing yourself, so that you can feel comfortable starting a family.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 12:11 AM on August 4, 2014

I'm just piling on at this point, but GO.


I feel like I should be holding some kind of firearm and telling you that I'll cover you. RUN! GO! NOW!

Go, sister. Go.

Sometimes it will be tough and sometimes it will be lonely and sometimes it will be uncomfortable, but any journey of importance is. You will go out into the world and find yourself.

It's not just about a career, it's about you and what you want from your life. Go. You will not be sorry.
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 2:28 AM on August 4, 2014

Welp! I guess I was waiting for some permission, or some reassurance that I'm not being greedy or selfish if I take another opportunity. Between these answers and the how is babby supported ask, it's clear what I need to do.

And if this falls through, I might have some negotiating leverage for my current job--it has been hinted that my role could grow and change there, so it's not all hopeless. In fact, I think things will be decent no matter which way I go. But thanks, everyone, for giving me the big-picture perspective on this.
posted by magdalemon at 6:15 AM on August 4, 2014

I'm going to chime in here and dissent, not to say 'stay where you are and do nothing differently,' but to just put forward my own experiences of this kind of thing and say that the grass isn't always greener on the other side.

My story is a little different from yours, because I don't have a romantic relationship so theoretically, I'm free to go where I want without being tied to a partner. But I also absolutely love where I live, it's an amazing house, a great area, an almost perfect fit for me, I'm part of a close-knit community and the quality of life is high while the cost of living is cheap.

Earlier this year, I got laid off from a job I didn't love, but I was comfortable in - I was working for a small non-profit. The pay, as you might expect, was a similar level to yours. I was able to get by each month, but put very little away in savings, and unexpected expenses like car repairs required me to call in help from friends and relatives.

I have a new "dream job" now. I'd developed a skill set that turned out to be quite valuable in the marketplace. I've got a significant pay bump, I work for a much larger organisation at which I have the opportunity to rise up the career ladder, and so on. But I'm not happy. The job is 40 miles away by car, and it's only since I took the job and started planning to move that I've realised that what I really want is to stay in the place I'm living now, and now I'm looking for ways to do that, and treating this 'forever' job as temporary. I'm spending a huge chunk of my pay increase on gas to drive 400 miles a week, for instance, and there are other negatives that are harder to quantify, such as the increased stress and the lessened leisure time that come from having a BigCo job with a long commute. You should carefully check whether your living expenses will increase, and what effect it'll have on your quality of life to move and take this new opportunity. Don't do what I did, and just look at the headline salary.

What I'm trying to say is that you shouldn't throw away what you've got lightly. You have things other people would kill for - a place you feel comfortable, safe and happy living; a relationship with someone you love. If I were in your position, I'd take a look around your current region, your current company to see if there's some way to raise your income where you are now, rather than moving into the great unknown. Personally, I value quality of life, relationships, family, peace over pure financial gain. I get to do that, because it's my life. And only you get to decide what's most important to you. Good luck!
posted by winterhill at 6:22 AM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

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