Author Topic: Help Me Choose a Job and a City. Please Mustachians, don't let me screw this up!  (Read 5169 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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As a long time reader, but first time commenter, I've made an embarrassing number of terrible mistakes financially. If only MMM had existed back in my undergrad days, before I took out a mountain of grad school debt and made one increasingly bad decision after another.

In an effort to keep from making additional poor choices, I am appealing to the fine readers here to guide me in the right direction. I'm sorry guys, this is a long one....

Here is the rundown of my life thus far:

Debts: $52,202
     -Student Loans (36,810)
     -Car ($15,392)

Cash/Investments: 30,800

Net worth: -21,402

My work situation

Currently, I work as an independent contractor in an allied health field. I live in what I will refer to as Town A - a small town at least 2 hours away form all major cities and airports. I currently make $52 per hour with a $600 housing stipend for the months I am working. I work about 10 months out of this year. I expect to make about 85,000.

I negotiated a raise to a flat $60 per hour for next year. This should be $92,640.

My life situation

I am in my late-twenties. I married badly and did an even worse job of divorcing. My ex-husband didn't want me to work, so I didn't for quite some time. That was a mistake. I have a beautiful child that is just beginning to walk. That was most definitely not a mistake, but the timing probably could have been a little better. If your wondering, no, this is not the life I thought I would have but it's the life I do have and I'm trying to make the best of it.

I live half way across the country from my ex-husband and my family and have no real support network nearby, so that's not a factor in moving. I pay for a nanny which is exorbitant, but it's an expense I can live with. For personal reasons, I have not pursued child support and do not plan to any time soon. My goal at this point is to be (student loan) debt free and own some kind of property by the time I'm 30. Then I can start worrying about early retirement.

Recently, an acquaintance I had contracted with in the past got in touch and offered me a position in a larger city, but it would be about the same amount of money as I am making now and less than I plan to make next year. However, I am tempted to take the job for quality of life reasons. While there are perks to living in a small town (I can see my child everyday at lunch and I can make it to work in three minutes or less) it has major downsides. The town I live in is very conservative. It's been hard to meet people who share similar ideals or parenting practices. There are no mommy groups that I can find, no support groups for single parents, a single library, no museums, limited ethnic food options, and it is two hours to the nearest airport. Sometimes, I feel very isolated. One big perk, however is that it's actually hard to spend money and because of a recent influx of jobs, rental prices have skyrocketed while house prices have remained low.

After the offer from my former employer, I began exploring my options. These are what I have:

Option A: Suck it up and continue in town A. Feel lonely and isolated, but kick ass paying down debts and fixing the mistakes I've made. Buy a duplex or 4-plex for 150-175K, live in it and rent out remaining units at a possible profit of up to 1,000 per month. Gross 92,640. Move on next year and continue to rent out units through a property management company. Then sayonara Town A, Hello bright future!

Option B: Move to City B, a huge city I have lived in before and loved, but a city that holds a lot of painful memories. I cannot afford a property in a great neighborhood, but I might be able to afford a duplex/fourplex in a gentrifying area. Possible Duplex/Fourplex $250-350K and mortgage costs will hopefully be completely covered by tenants. Car dependency goes up somewhat. Expected income will be 87K-89.5K.

Option C: Move to City C, a mid-sized to large city that I have never lived in before, which is exciting - a chance to make some new memories. Duplex/Fourplex within walking distance to parks/cafes/groceries in an area that has already up and came: $250-330K and mortgage costs should be completely covered by tenants. Expected income: 83K.

Other than housing costs, cost of living will probably be about the same everywhere. When I get rid of the rent I am paying now, my average monthly expenses (car payment, Nanny, groceries, minimum student loan payment, occasional travel to see family at holidays, and occasional entertainment expenses (eating out, gifts, the occasional cup of coffee) should be about $2,700. I don't see that changing greatly in any of these cities.

My heart is telling me to start over with Option C - you know, those usual justifications that your heart makes: you deserve to live in a beautiful old house, you deserve to meet people who might share your ideals, you deserve to have more than one library, you deserve to eat Indian food!

But my head says, Shut up heart, you don't know what you're talking about, we could make more money here and then we could stand a chance of retiring at 40! Pick Option A you nitwit!

And my stomach just sort of recoils at picking Option B and driving past all those places I used to frequent with the person I though I would be growing old with, even though realistically I know it's a a good compromise and may be the best decision.

So in the effort of not continuing on the same trajectory of following my heart and making impulsive, willy-nilly, piss-poor choices, I need some wisdom and advice from some strong-stomached, level-headed, heartless(?) Mustachians. How much is quality of life really worth? Please help!


  • Bristles
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My vote is for a time-limited option A.  You've got a good routine as a parent, an excellent job and you're steadily erasing debt.  Just think of it as fixing up your mistakes.  But during this time focus deeply on where you want to go and what you need to have in place to make it successful when you are ready to move.   You'll do so with such surer footing.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Quality of life is worth everything, in my opinion.  I can't think of anything more important.  With that said, you have to decide what that looks like.  Is it all your time with your child? Is it a big fancy house?  Probably not if you frequent MMM.  Like twinge said, if option A can get you a sure footing in a relatively period of time, that might be a good place to be.  However, if you are completely miserable, that's not much of a way to live.  Just make sure you understand why before you make your decision.  There are lots of wonderful cities in this world though, with lots to offer...there's nothing wrong with trying a new place.

Looking at the numbers you provided though... your car seems excessive for someone who's in debt $30K.  And with your cash/investments, if any of that is liquid, is it earning a better rate than your debt is costing you?  If not, pay down that debt and be closer to where you want to be.


  • Handlebar Stache
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Option A seems like it makes short-term sense.  Have you thought about possibly moving to the same city as your family?  If they are helpful and you could work it might be something worth thinking about for you and for your child.


  • Handlebar Stache
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I was once in a similar position:  single parent of a young child in a city 400 miles from my nearest relative.  My advice is to think whether the place you are in is one where there are like-minded people you just haven't met, the climate is fine with you, and there are the things you want available--whether it's great hiking or great museums.  If the answer is yes, stay there and work hard to develop friendships.  (If not, leave.) Having a nanny is great in many ways, but once your child is either in school or preschool with many other children you will meet a lot of people that way.  It is waaaay harder to make adult friends when you are a single parent, but one really only needs a few great friends.  Think about what you would like to do with those friends and try to go ahead and do those things.  In my medium sized city, I would ask if you were interested in a meditation group, hiking, or contra dancing because all of those either welcome children or provide childcare.  Just be sure to make time to have your own friends.  That is the challenge as you may feel compelled--and want to--spend all your non-work time with your child. 


  • Handlebar Stache
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Short term option A.  Childcare is most likely cheaper where you are.  Once your kid is in school that cost drops dramatically and you will be in a much better financial position by paying down debts/getting a mustache.  Good Luck!


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Please take this with a grain of salt...buuut

I'm not sure it would be wise to get into the rental business... It comes with headaches of its own.  It just sounds like adding complications and if you don't see yourself staying in town A or B...I certainly wouldn't want to be a landlord in a town I didn't live in.

It sounds to me as if there are a lot of "emotions" that may need to be worked through before making "big" decisions.  I wouldn't paint a whole town as this way or that.  I would say that you may just not have found a good place to connect with people with similar interests and values as yourself.  My advice (again grain of salt) press pause.  If you are truly miserable I'm not sure that changing locations will magically fix things.  Just the fact that you are thinking about it and reaching out for advice shows a mental ability to question (something that a lot of people say they have... But don't).

Hope this doesn't sound trite ...but keep yer chin up and your mind and heart open.  I have found that things rarely are as dismal as we believe when we are in the "thick" of it.  In short i dont think those are your only options you have one hell of a salary for your age and that opens up alot of choices...good luck.

« Last Edit: May 04, 2013, 09:20:43 AM by seanquixote »


  • Magnum Stache
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I am sorry to hear about your divorce.

Your choices sound complex.  I would suggest you take a look at this:

Good luck whatever you decide.


  • Stubble
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I would choose A, without the duplex (why would you put your money into a town you dont believe in?). I would instead focus my energy and money for the next 2 or so years on spending time with the kiddo, getting out of debt and saving for a down payment in option C or B in an area i actually wanted to be in.

I am not you though, so I don't know how unhappy you are in your current location, or how painful it would be to live in B. But 2 years from now, the painful memories will have faded more, you'll be in better financial shape which = better housing options in the new city.

CU Tiger

  • Bristles
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I would choose A and get out of debt. Then I'd save a bunch of money and figure out what I wanted to do next.

But while I was sitting around town A I would not just vegetate. I'd read books. I'd find some like minded people and make friends. Don't tell me that it's a small town and everyone is backwards and conservative. Lots of conservative folks are super nice and have great values and don't mind if you are NOT conservative. I am from the equivalent of Mayberry and the people there range from staunch conservative to hippy-dippy liberals to free-wheeling libertarians. What people in small towns don't like is being patronized!

I'd learn some new skills, exercise my mind and my body, and process what I went through in my disastrous marriage (that's how you described it). I'd grow where I was planted until I had a POSITIVE net worth and then I'd re-evaluate.


  • Pencil Stache
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Option C, option C, option C!!!!!

Don't worry yet at ALL about buying property, rental or otherwise. Just find a small, nice place within walking distance of parks, library, etc., and create a beautiful life for you and your son. Get out of debt, which shouldn't be too hard for you.

Don't get stuck in option A. Your income is decent, you need to meet new people.

Option C!


  • Bristles
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No matter what you decide, I'd start making some changes now.

Is there a childcare center in your town?  If so, I'd move your child there so that you can meet other parents and start making connections.  That's the only way that we have met other parents in our area who are now our good friends.  Even if they aren't like-minded in their politics, etc., it really doesn't matter if your core values are the same as theirs. 

I agree, you DO deserve ethnic food.  So, learn to cook ethnic food.  YouTube is FULL of great cooking videos.  If you love Indian food, then try this recipe.  It's heaven
It makes a ton, but freezes well.
I saw that Costco carries uncooked chapatis now too.