Author Topic: Choose Your Own Adventure  (Read 3969 times)

AZDude

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Choose Your Own Adventure
« on: August 11, 2015, 11:53:25 AM »
Some quick background before I post the question, and acknowledgement that this is alot of just me putting my thoughts into words and doing some analysis.

I live in Arizona, the cost of living here is dirt cheap compared to much of the U.S. There are plenty of good things about living here. No shoveling snow, housing is cheap, jobs in both my and my wife's field are plentiful. I estimate living here I can start working part-time in a little less than two years and then be work-free in 10-15 years(depending on exactly how much p/t income I make). If I stay full time, then full FIRE is probably 6-7 years away. However, I was living the good life in Southern California not that long ago, but at the time we found it financially unfeasible because the cost of housing plus daycare, plus a much tougher job market. My wife did not want to be a SAHM(also not interested in ER), and given that she could only find a low paying hourly job combined with the ridiculous cost of child care meant she either had to stay at home counting every penny, or we could move back to AZ, where we both grew up.

After coming back she found a job making $40K within a week. A few months after getting back, I had bumped my salary up almost 20%. Life is good here, but nevertheless, I miss the SoCal life. Lately I have been tossing around the idea that now the little one is getting bigger and will start school in a couple of years, that maybe we could move back to California and recapture some of the more fun times I have had in my life. Is this a stupid, mid-life crisis type of idea or should I accept fewer luxuries and a longer working career to live in a preferred destination? Anyway, just curious about your thoughts. Feel free to be blunt.

Arizona:

Pros:
Better job market for both of us
Job flexibility
Low cost of living
Close to family
6 hour drive, 2 hour flight to SoCal
More money than I would know what to do with
lower taxes
Max time until FIRE ~10 years, probably more like 6 or 7.
P/T work possible in ~2 years.

Cons:
Hot
Boring
Rednecks
Close to family
State hates education

California:

Pros:
Weather
Ocean
Culture
More stuff to do
Less rednecks
State hates education a little bit less than AZ

Cons:
housing costs about 2X more
higher taxes
more expensive everything
job market not as goood(for me)
job market terrible(for DW)
Committed to working full time for at least 15 more years
Possible that living here now wont be the same as before, that I'm chasing a dream that cannot be recaptured


forummm

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Re: Choose Your Own Adventure
« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2015, 12:50:20 PM »
Unfortunately, this is one of those personal decisions. It's about what you value more.

I am having a similar dilemma. For me, the HCOL area would have more interesting jobs too. But it would probably cause serious damage to the FIRE date. But if I like what I'm doing more, does it matter if I'm doing it longer? But what if I don't actually like what I'm doing more that much and I've already spent all this money and hassle to move and we quit the old jobs and going back is not feasible?

Obviously I haven't quite figured out the answer for me yet. Good luck with your think process!

Thinkum

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Re: Choose Your Own Adventure
« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2015, 01:01:06 PM »
Count me in the "this is me too" camp. I am originally from SoCal and wonder about going back. Now you inspired me to start my own AaM post. In your case, I would tell you the same thing I tell anyone, do what makes you happy. To me, it seems that your heart wants to go to CA, but you're put off by the numbers. This is totally understandable. However, is AZ really where you want to be or is it just the "purgatory" until you reach FI? You should think about quality of life as well as cost of living. CA is much more expensive all around, so how badly will this affect your life if you move there?

AZDude

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Re: Choose Your Own Adventure
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2015, 01:19:51 PM »
Count me in the "this is me too" camp. I am originally from SoCal and wonder about going back. Now you inspired me to start my own AaM post. In your case, I would tell you the same thing I tell anyone, do what makes you happy. To me, it seems that your heart wants to go to CA, but you're put off by the numbers. This is totally understandable. However, is AZ really where you want to be or is it just the "purgatory" until you reach FI? You should think about quality of life as well as cost of living. CA is much more expensive all around, so how badly will this affect your life if you move there?

Day to day life will not be affected too much, but the flexibility I have here will disappear. I will be working 9-5 for at least 15 years. Its a tough one, and I haven't figured out the answer yet. Thanks for your replies.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Choose Your Own Adventure
« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2015, 02:00:48 PM »
Can you be more specific about what it is about SoCal that appeals so much to you?  Is it the proximity to family?  The more liberal culture? The nicer climate? The beach?  What exactly is this "good life" that you're missing?

Then put it into numbers, and for the purposes of this discussion, I'd focus on the question "how much more disposable* income do I have here in AZ than I would in CA?"  You'll come up with a number. Let's say it's $20,000/year.  That $20k/year is currently buying you a whole freakin' year of freedom. Every. Year.

There's a middle ground here, too.  That $20k/year can give you the ability to take trips back to CA, *plus* retire earlier.  There's also a lot to be said for the emotional benefits of having that financial flexibility.  Having been in both types of situations--getting by with little to spare at times, and having more disposable income in others--there's a lot of stress that goes out the window.  If you're concerned about the education system in AZ, being able to RE or go part-time soon would give you the flexibility to tutor or homeschool or whatever you feel your child needs.

There's one more thing I'll toss out there, and I apologize if I come off like a jerk, but you may be kneecapping yourself by pining for SoCal and not enjoying the place where you are now.  Last month, I was on a week-long camping trip with some teenagers who sorely missed their cell phones and air conditioning.  A wise dude piped up and said "be here, not there."  It doesn't do you much good to dwell on what you're missing by being in another place.  So go out and find things you love to do in AZ.  Maybe even make some redneck friends and go shoot guns some time! :P

So if you're taking a poll, my vote is "stay in AZ, but visit CA occasionally."

* "disposable" meaning everything above your basic needs--housing, food, utilities, transportation.  So all your hobbies, eating out/entertainment, retirement savings, etc.


Blatant

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Re: Choose Your Own Adventure
« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2015, 02:21:16 PM »
Where do you live in AZ that's "dirt cheap" compared to the rest of the country? I may need to move from N. Scottsdale ...

AZDude

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Re: Choose Your Own Adventure
« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2015, 02:48:24 PM »
About 40 miles west of you right along the 101. You can buy a detached single family home in a good area with good schools for less than $200K.

As for zolotiyeruki, I hear what are you saying. You are right in that I should make the best of my situation regardless. I have done the math and made up theoretical budgets for both places, in a post-childcare world(I might cry when my child starts school, and for entirely different reasons than her mother sheds tears).

Looking at theoretical budgets, its probably an extra $1200 a month to live in SoCal. $1,200 a month, $14,400 a year is what it would cost.

Quote
Can you be more specific about what it is about SoCal that appeals so much to you?  Is it the proximity to family?  The more liberal culture? The nicer climate? The beach?  What exactly is this "good life" that you're missing?

This is a good question, and its one I ponder. Certainly the climate, culture, and the ocean were all nicer, but when I lived there it was a different life than I have now. This makes me wonder if I yearn for a less demanding family life(seriously, parenting a toddler is not easy), or I really do miss the city itself. One thing that is underrated was that you can live in the city itself and still feel like you are not in some megatropolis due to the canyons and green space. The Phx area is just not like this. There is cookie cutter homes and strip malls as far as you can see. In SoCal you can go hiking in the city and effectively get away from noise and traffic rather easily.

As for the longer time until FIRE, there is the idea that I could land another work from home job, which would make working more bearable.

Noodle

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Re: Choose Your Own Adventure
« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2015, 11:26:43 PM »
How about door number 3? Someplace more attractive than Arizona, but not as expensive as California? (College towns in flyover states are the first that come to mind.) I read a book about decision-making awhile back and the author pointed out we have a tendency to frame questions as either-or when we should be making them multiple-choice, as it were.

In terms of the life stage--all the studies (and my personal observations) say that the phase of life with young kids is incredibly tough no matter where you are or what you are doing. So in your shoes, I might tough it out for the next few years, accumulate wealth, and work on making plans to move somewhere "in between." The phase of life when you really want a living situation that suits you is when the kids move out. Even though my parents worked to the traditional retirement age, their social lives got much busier once the kids were out and they finally had some free time nights and weekends!

DirtDiva

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Re: Choose Your Own Adventure
« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2015, 12:21:29 AM »
My spouse and I are experiencing the same dilemma.  We recently moved to Colorado from Maine. The housing here is not quite 2x Maine prices.  The pay is the same or a little less.  The cultures are similar--people value family and fun time and education similarly, and the political climate is similarly mixed. 

Pros:  the weather in CO is 1,000x better than Maine (IMHO) and we are now within driving distance of our extended family.

If we buy a house here, we will be consigning ourselves to another 10 years or so of working. Of course, Noodle's point is well taken. We could retire today if we chose to move to a rural area in Kansas near our family, where we could buy a nice bungalow for 60k cash. 

I would rather live in a sh*tty house in Colorado than a nice house in Maine.  Spouse isn't so sure.  We are both certain we don't want to live too near the respective in-laws :)

I would rather work more years and be able to enjoy my preferred location on a daily basis.  The frequency of gloomy days and the months of cold and icy weather were major downers for me in the northeast.  I made an effort to get out and enjoy nature regardless of temperature or precipitation when we lived in ME, but I really don't want to go back.


zolotiyeruki

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Re: Choose Your Own Adventure
« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2015, 06:29:41 AM »

Looking at theoretical budgets, its probably an extra $1200 a month to live in SoCal. $1,200 a month, $14,400 a year is what it would cost.

Quote
Can you be more specific about what it is about SoCal that appeals so much to you?  Is it the proximity to family?  The more liberal culture? The nicer climate? The beach?  What exactly is this "good life" that you're missing?

This is a good question, and its one I ponder. Certainly the climate, culture, and the ocean were all nicer, but when I lived there it was a different life than I have now. This makes me wonder if I yearn for a less demanding family life(seriously, parenting a toddler is not easy), or I really do miss the city itself. One thing that is underrated was that you can live in the city itself and still feel like you are not in some megatropolis due to the canyons and green space. The Phx area is just not like this. There is cookie cutter homes and strip malls as far as you can see. In SoCal you can go hiking in the city and effectively get away from noise and traffic rather easily.

As for the longer time until FIRE, there is the idea that I could land another work from home job, which would make working more bearable.
Does that $1200/mo account for both the lower cost of child care and a better employment situation for DW, or is that based on a single income?

It's good that you're taking the time to examine your motivations.  Life certainly changes once you have ambulatory offspring.  I've got a 2-year-old myself, and they can be a handful.  FWIW, the flat landscape, cookie cutter homes, and strip malls are one reason for the lower cost of living :)

Dee18

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Re: Choose Your Own Adventure
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2015, 06:44:34 AM »
The problem with staying in a place you don't like as well is that in X years you will be more entrenched there.  You and your spose and child(ren) will have close friends; your employment contacts back in CA will have withered; you will feel priced out of the more expensive housing market.  If that is where you want to live, go there now. 

AZDude

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Re: Choose Your Own Adventure
« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2015, 11:34:56 AM »
The $1200 is strictly the extra cost per month of living there. If I did move it would be once childcare was no longer needed(ie: my little one starts going to school). From now until then I would just save, save, save while I can bank the extra money.

Dee18 - You are right, which is why I think this would need to happen either now, or in 15 years when my little one will be out of school and I will be retired. I moved around a lot as a kid, and its tough making new friends every two years. I don't want to do that to my own child.

Thinkum

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Re: Choose Your Own Adventure
« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2015, 11:39:31 AM »
I moved around a lot as a kid, and its tough making new friends every two years. I don't want to do that to my own child.

I applaud this line of thinking. I too moved around a lot as a kid and it sucked. If I ever had a kid, I'd stay put to give them that invaluable stability.

DirtDiva

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Re: Choose Your Own Adventure
« Reply #13 on: August 13, 2015, 07:17:25 AM »
The problem with staying in a place you don't like as well is that in X years you will be more entrenched there.  You and your spose and child(ren) will have close friends; your employment contacts back in CA will have withered; you will feel priced out of the more expensive housing market.  If that is where you want to live, go there now.

True!  I wish we had considered these facts 14 years ago.