Author Topic: Move from a HCOL with tons of jobs to a LCOL with fewer jobs (tech industry)?  (Read 4111 times)

littlebird

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We're a couple of early 30's software developers who moved to the Boston area about a year ago. I work in Boston and my husband works remotely from home. We rent an apartment, only own one car and generally live pretty frugally (eat most meals at home, rarely pay for entertainment, etc). Initially we had planned to stay in this area through our working lives because there are tons of opportunities here, but now that we've been here a year and started to look around at buying a house we've cooled on that idea.

The thing about it is, that we don't love Boston. Housing prices are astronomical, traffic is horrendous and public transit (while better than 99% of the country) still sucks. My commute takes at least an hour and up to an hour and a half on packed trains (aka not relaxing at all, work is on the green line for those familiar with the area). We're already paying more than we want to in rent, to move closer that cost would go through the roof. We don't really do any "city things" besides take public transit. We rarely eat at restaurants, go to museums or shows or shop. I think we're really more small town/suburban types given our druthers. To top it all off, we toured a daycare last week (first child due in March) and it's $3000 a month until the kid is 15 months, then $2500 for a couple years after that! That's only one data point and we're looking at other options, but that's just crazy!

Anyway, enough bitching about our current situation. We've started to think about maybe moving to southern New Hampshire where the cost of living is much lower, but there are also way fewer jobs. Has anyone else made a move like this? We're in an in-demand industry, does that matter at all? I think a lot of people live in NH and commute to a job in Boston which I think is insane; we would not be doing that. Husband would hopefully keep his remote job but needs to be ready to work locally if it were to ever end, so we would both be looking for jobs in NH.

Pros and cons of moving to NH as I see them:
Pros:
Could divide our housing costs in half.
Reduce commute times.
Lower childcare costs.
Closer to my family (2.5 hrs vs 4 hrs now).
Closer to mountains/skiing/general outdoor living (aka living more in tune with our values).
Better public schools.
Immediate 5% salary increase for my husband when he stops paying MA income tax.

Cons:
Would need to buy a second car, most likely.
Fewer jobs (One job site I searched listed 150 software jobs in Manchester vs 4,500 in Boston).
Slightly lower salaries (but not by half, I think we'd still come out way ahead even with a pay-cut).
Reduced opportunities for advancement in careers.

What do you think? Is moving to a place with so many fewer jobs career suicide? Is paying so much more for housing in order to have lots of job opportunities worth it?

KaizenSoze

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We have thought about the same things. Though we're older than you. The main concern, What happens if you lose the job? Will you have to move back to Boston? Are the other jobs out there interesting enough and pay enough?

undercover

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Why not just look for a job and try it? There's no way to really know until you actually do it. I wouldn't necessarily move before lining something up though since it's likely you'll take a pay cut. There's less jobs, but also less competition - and you're a more appealing candidate for having worked in a larger company.

I guess you just have to decide if the quality of life impact is worth it since you already know there will likely be a pay cut.

Miss Piggy

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Since your husband works remotely, can he not "take the job anywhere" and keep his current salary?

littlebird

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Yeah, his salary will actually increase because of the lack of income tax in NH. But I'm leery of counting on his job lasting forever and want to be ready to work locally if required.

dcheesi

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I did the opposite: right out of school I took a job in a small LCoL city in the middle of nowhere; 20(!) years later they closed that site and transferred me to an HCoL area. So far I'm finding it much harder to save money up here, despite the pay bump and optimization of my living situation (went from a 1400sqft house in the 'burbs to a 750sqft 1br apt. in a walkable community).

I think it's really going to depend on the job you get (and I don't suggest moving without an offer in hand). If you think you'll be comfortable staying in that job for a long time, and the company itself is stable, then it could work out great. And if you like the area and manage to stay there until retirement, then you don't have to contemplate a post FIRE move just to save money.

On the other hand, if you prefer to job-hop you obviously won't find as many opportunities there. Where I lived there were a handful of employers doing work similar enough to share talent among them. There were several people who seemed to rotate jobs every few years, eventually making their way around the "circuit" and back to the same company every decade or so. Usually it was a mix of voluntary and involuntary moves, as local management changes and corporate reorgs took their toll.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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I'm a big fan of working remotely from a LCOL area; it's what I do. I would wait until the baby is born, though, and figure out what your feelings are then. Maybe you'll be like us and cancel your daycare reservation; maybe you'll feel differently.

bop

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How much do you pay in rent now?  Approximately where in Boston is your current job (e.g., what's the nearest subway station or two)?

vhalros

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I'm from Southern New Hampshire originally, and now live in Boston, roughly in the same age and family situation. Personally, I would not move back. A few things to consider; NH has no income or sales tax, but higher property taxes and (remarkably) even higher electric prices than MA. I'm not sure where you are looking in NH vs MA that has better public schools; where I was from the public schools were crap.

There are not a lot of jobs in NH, so if you have to find a new one for whatever reason, there is a good chance the the only one you find is in MA. Then you end up driving there (although hopefully not all the way to Boston though) and paying MA income tax any way.

Incidentally, the secret I've found to getting around Boston is to ride a bicycle. Its so much better/faster than driving for short trips because it is largely immune to traffic, and unlike the T it lets me leave exactly when and where I want, and go directly to my destination.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2016, 08:03:20 AM by vhalros »

justchristine

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I'm a computer programmer and moved from the Chicago area to podunk Wisconsin about 10 years ago.  Personally, it was the best decision for me.  I love the lower COL, slower pace of life and less crowded everything.  There is one big downside. With my particular skillset, there are no more than a dozen employers within an hour drive that would have jobs I qualify for...if they are hiring.  That is a pretty big risk for a single person. When I first moved here that made me very nervous because I had previously had a very shaky job history because of layoffs and outsourcing.  At first I mitigated that risk by buying a duplex.  My tenant pretty much covered my housing expenses which made the rest of my expenses very manageable with a small stash and/or unemployment insurance should my WI job evaporate.  I've since discovered MMM and amassed an invested stash that would cover me 10 years if my current job evaporated.  It was much easier to build up that stash with the LCOL, which has just about neutralized the only real drawback to living here.

historienne

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Re: Move from a HCOL with tons of jobs to a LCOL with fewer jobs (tech industry)?
« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2016, 10:05:25 AM »
I would move to a LCOL area, but maybe not Southern NH.  There are definitely places that both have a much lower cost of living than Boston, but also have a better tech job market than New Hampshire.  It does seem like you have other reasons for the move, so this may not be helpful to you, but I'd be thinking about places like Pittsburgh, Rochester, or Columbus.

FWIW: We have lived in one of these cities for several years.  My husband is a software engineer. Heworked remotely for one employer, then got another remote-work position (these were both from Silicon Valley companies; we used to live out there, and he still has a network there), then switched to a local employer.  He took a 60% pay cut with the switch, but that was also because he moved to a nonprofit.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2016, 10:08:07 AM by historienne »

jamesbond007

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Re: Move from a HCOL with tons of jobs to a LCOL with fewer jobs (tech industry)?
« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2016, 10:15:36 AM »
I worked in an HCOL area for 6 years and moved to a relatively LCOL area for a bit (within the same company) in hopes of saving money which I did. A lot. But as with the tech industry there's not much happening in any LCOL area. Long term, I cannot risk being out of a job for a long time as that would jeopardize my FIRE plan. Moreover, companies in the HCOL are not willing to hire someone from an LCOL because they have so many people in HCOL itself these days that they don't see a point to pay someone to move. So in a way, LCOL is highly restricting in terms of opportunity. As with any company in Tech, you won't get a good pay raise unless you keep moving around every 3 years or so. Then I made a decision to move back to the HCOL (still the same company), worked for about 2 yrs then switched jobs with a 20% raise. The point is, what are your long term goals? Is it possible to make your commute better by, say, leasing a cheap EV so you get the HOV/Carpool lane? Would it possible to move closer to the job? What if your spouse loses the remote work option? Are you sure you can find a job quickly in the LCOL without putting a huge dent in your savings?

mm1970

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Re: Move from a HCOL with tons of jobs to a LCOL with fewer jobs (tech industry)?
« Reply #12 on: September 23, 2016, 10:30:50 AM »
This is going to depend a lot on your personalities.

I live in a HCOL area of CA which is, at least, lower COL than Silicon Valley.

From a job standpoint...there aren't a lot of jobs here.  It sounds similar to your Boston -vs- NH comparison.

Housing costs here are (currently) about 70-80% of what they are in Silicon Valley.
But salaries are higher there (I estimate we could make probably 63% more there, but we'd be working longer hours and commuting more, and paying more in child care).

Boston is a special part of hell for the cost of child care, I believe the highest in the US.  Infant care around here is more like $1500 a month.

So, how important is your career?  I had to accept a few years ago, in my early 40s, that my career is going literally nowhere here.  If I want to make more money, or get a promotion, I have to leave town.  (Some of that is the glass ceiling.)  Same for my  husband though he gets raises and is content.  So we stay.  Once kids come along, I found that one or both of the jobs take a "back burner" (by choice or not, it doesn't matter).  You just aren't as available at work as you used to be.  As my husband makes more and gets raises, mine takes the back burner.  (Once I hit the glass ceiling, that's when it happened.)

Whatever your decision, it's not irreversible.  It's only career suicide if you let it be.

raspberries

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Re: Move from a HCOL with tons of jobs to a LCOL with fewer jobs (tech industry)?
« Reply #13 on: September 23, 2016, 12:12:46 PM »
We have a lot in common with you - my husband and I live in the Boston suburbs, he's a software engineer (I'm in HR), and we have a little one due in March (we also already have one son, so we've navigated finding a daycare and been through THAT mess already.) I don't have any advice about moving to a LCOL area, but I definitely think it can't hurt to keep looking at daycares - particularly smaller ones that aren't part of chain daycares. We found ours (which we love) by calling every daycare we go past on our daily commute. It's around $1900 for infants, dropping to around $1800 when the baby hits 15 months. Also, does your schedule have any wiggle room for working remotely or dropping to part-time? Your commute might seem more bearable if you only have to do it three days a week. I worked out a schedule where I dropped to 30 hours a week, but only had my son in daycare three days, which reduced both my commute and our daycare costs.

mskyle

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Re: Move from a HCOL with tons of jobs to a LCOL with fewer jobs (tech industry)?
« Reply #14 on: September 23, 2016, 01:29:41 PM »
What about Providence? Or Worcester? Or even Lowell? I am also in the Boston area (with family all over New England) and Southern New Hampshire is pretty low on my list of places I would want to live. Property taxes are crazy in most places, and schools are on average not that great - there are perfectly nice towns in Southern NH that still don't have all-day kindergarten. And if you end up taking a job across the border in Massachusetts you'll end up paying state income tax in addition to those high property taxes.

The jobs issue is actually not that big a deal, as I see it - you don't need "tons of jobs", you only need one job! Well, two jobs. And maybe a new job every few years.

Also, if you're going to change jobs anyway is there a chance of getting away from that Green Line commute? There are plenty of tech companies downtown, in Cambridge/Somerville, in Watertown, Waltham, and all over the 128 belt. (I live in Somerville and occasionally will hear about a cool-sounding job in Brookline but I'm just like, "Oh well," almost the same as I would feel if the job was in Chicago or something, which is crazy, but also... not that crazy?)
« Last Edit: September 23, 2016, 01:33:32 PM by mskyle »

littlebird

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Re: Move from a HCOL with tons of jobs to a LCOL with fewer jobs (tech industry)?
« Reply #15 on: September 23, 2016, 02:01:29 PM »
Thanks for all of the replies everyone!

We currently live about a mile from the Davis Square T stop, so I do bike -> red line -> green line to get to work. Can't bike all the way in because I get too sweaty (it's 7 miles) and because it's not a very pleasant route. I'm a seasoned bike commuter but felt unsafe the few times I've tried it. Parking at my office is $360 a month so driving in is mostly a no-go. Obviously I didn't have this job when we rented this apartment or we'd be living somewhere else. I've only been at the job 8 months so I'm not ready to hop to a new one. I can hold my nose for a while longer, we're really looking at plans for about a year from now when our lease is up again.

My company has historically been pretty open to working from home but lately they've been trying to go back the other way. I think some people must have been abusing it. We'll see if this push to bring people back into our big, empty office works or fizzles out. In my ideal life where I have to work I would work from home. There's nothing I would miss about the office. I'm an introvert and find all the required socializing to be distracting and exhausting. In my ideal, ideal life I would not work at all, my career is of extremely low importance to me and I see it as trading my life energy for food and shelter. Hence wanting to spend less on housing so we can get to FIRE sooner.

chesebert

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Re: Move from a HCOL with tons of jobs to a LCOL with fewer jobs (tech industry)?
« Reply #16 on: September 23, 2016, 03:51:16 PM »
Funny all this talk about moving away from Chicago to LCOL...I remember before moving to Chicago and thinking...should save more now that I am moving to Chicago from another HCOL (think $5k/month for 800sqft). All relative.

bop

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Re: Move from a HCOL with tons of jobs to a LCOL with fewer jobs (tech industry)?
« Reply #17 on: September 24, 2016, 02:48:59 PM »
I live in Somerville

We currently live about a mile from the Davis Square T stop

Howdy neighbors!  I live in the Teele Square area of Somerville MA, about half a mile from Davis Square.  In case you're interested, we have a Boston Mustachian group that meets once a month (the 3rd Saturday of each month).  You can join the Google group: 
https://groups.google.com/d/forum/boston-mustachians.

ender

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Re: Move from a HCOL with tons of jobs to a LCOL with fewer jobs (tech industry)?
« Reply #18 on: September 24, 2016, 03:38:09 PM »
I'm a computer programmer and moved from the Chicago area to podunk Wisconsin about 10 years ago.  Personally, it was the best decision for me.  I love the lower COL, slower pace of life and less crowded everything.  There is one big downside. With my particular skillset, there are no more than a dozen employers within an hour drive that would have jobs I qualify for...if they are hiring.  That is a pretty big risk for a single person. When I first moved here that made me very nervous because I had previously had a very shaky job history because of layoffs and outsourcing.  At first I mitigated that risk by buying a duplex.  My tenant pretty much covered my housing expenses which made the rest of my expenses very manageable with a small stash and/or unemployment insurance should my WI job evaporate.  I've since discovered MMM and amassed an invested stash that would cover me 10 years if my current job evaporated.  It was much easier to build up that stash with the LCOL, which has just about neutralized the only real drawback to living here.

+1

We currently are in a sort-of-lots-of-companies area, but eventually once we're slightly more established want to move somewhere like this for exactly the same reason.

Once we get to that point we plan on having enough money saved that worst case is working a totally different field for less (but ideally with retirement and housing paid for, it's less important).

Syonyk

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Re: Move from a HCOL with tons of jobs to a LCOL with fewer jobs (tech industry)?
« Reply #19 on: September 24, 2016, 07:40:25 PM »
So, I moved from a rather high cost of living area (Seattle suburbs) to a rather rural, LCOL area (rural Idaho, middle of farm country, very close to family).

I took a quite significant pay cut switching from a rather highly regarded, high paying employer with stock options to a previous employer that was happy to have me back, even working remotely.  And I negotiated part time (32h/wk), so the end result is that I'm going to have less than 50% of my previous taxable income.  Though I'm working on some side projects to bring in money (ebike battery pack rebuilds are more popular than I expected).

I've almost certainly pushed out my retirement date by a few years - substantially less income post-tax, I gave up a lot of stock options, I sort of had to buy the house cash (mortgage companies don't really like manufactured homes, and they don't like people taking three months off between jobs) and no real promotion opportunities working remotely.

We couldn't be happier.  Life is too short to live somewhere you don't like living - and we didn't like Seattle.  We rather hated it.  So I'll push out retirement a few years, be radically happier, spend more time with my family (both local and extended), and build a more self sufficient property on our few acres.  The horrors!

To be fair, my planned retirement path is a bit different than most here.  I certainly have things in index funds and the like, but my path towards "early retirement" is a paid off house, productive property, and the ability to provide for most of our needs locally - so solar, gardens, aquaponics greenhouse, chickens, etc.  I've got plenty of years to work on those, but that's where I'm going.  Plus random project work and investment income.

So that sets a bit of the background for where I'm coming from.

The thing about it is, that we don't love Boston. Housing prices are astronomical, traffic is horrendous and public transit (while better than 99% of the country) still sucks.

Sounds like Seattle.  You have public transit, at least.  I ebiked in the Seattle area because it was less awful than driving.

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My commute takes at least an hour and up to an hour and a half on packed trains (aka not relaxing at all, work is on the green line for those familiar with the area).

Wowzers.  I lived 5 miles from work, driving took 20-45 minutes, and ebike took 20 minutes.  That's a lot of your day wasted.  My "commute" is now roughly a 30 second walk.

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To top it all off, we toured a daycare last week (first child due in March) and it's $3000 a month until the kid is 15 months, then $2500 for a couple years after that! That's only one data point and we're looking at other options, but that's just crazy!

Sounds about right.  Are you planning to stay home with the kid?

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Has anyone else made a move like this?

See above.  Yes.

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Husband would hopefully keep his remote job but needs to be ready to work locally if it were to ever end, so we would both be looking for jobs in NH.

You're looking at this the wrong way.  If he's working remotely now and is in demand, he should be able to get another remote position if his current setup ends.  Set up for remote work, don't bother trying to go back to local work!

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Would need to buy a second car, most likely.

Perhaps.  Probably not the end of the world, especially if one of you is working remotely and not having to travel much during the day.

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Fewer jobs (One job site I searched listed 150 software jobs in Manchester vs 4,500 in Boston).

Look at the remote positions, not the local ones.

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Reduced opportunities for advancement in careers.

There's certainly that.  I don't expect any more promotions.  I'm fine with that.  If I keep getting paid what I'm getting paid for another 5-10 years, I'm set.

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What do you think? Is moving to a place with so many fewer jobs career suicide? Is paying so much more for housing in order to have lots of job opportunities worth it?

I view urban/suburban areas as a circle of hell, so I was happy to find a way out.

But I'm leery of counting on his job lasting forever and want to be ready to work locally if required.

I don't see why you think that because he works remotely now, he has to work locally if something goes wrong with the remote position. :p  Remote work is a thing, especially in the web industry.

Can't bike all the way in because I get too sweaty (it's 7 miles) and because it's not a very pleasant route.

Consider an electric bike.  Solves the "sweaty" issue, gives you more range and more speed.

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In my ideal, ideal life I would not work at all, my career is of extremely low importance to me and I see it as trading my life energy for food and shelter. Hence wanting to spend less on housing so we can get to FIRE sooner.

Can you set things up so your husband brings in enough for you to stay home, raise the kid, and work on FIRE from the "spending less" side of things?  My wife stays at home with our daughter, does the shopping/cooking, is amazing with thrift stores and cooking from scratch, and keeps our expenses down far better than I can.