How Much It Really Costs to Relocate for Work

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I'm sure at some point during your life you have asked yourself the question: how much am I worth? Am I paid enough? Well I just might have the answer.

Usually, when this question pops up, the next question is: should I move? On the surface, it makes sense to move to a bigger city. More opportunities and better-paying jobs. Is that all there is to moving, though? Are there any hidden costs, unseen financial burdens and obligations you will have to deal with when relocating to a different city? Or will your path to better compensation be clear skies and uncongested highways?

Although this article will not concentrate on this next matter it’s something worth mentioning: beyond the financial cost of relocating, there is an inherent emotional cost. Moving is a taxing process for anyone involved, including spouses, partners, children and pets. I’m not a pessimist, but you might want to take that into consideration when weighing your options.

Cost Comparison

I doubt that this fact is lost on you, but the cost of living can fluctuate wildly from coast to coast. It can even vary a lot within state borders. Let’s take two college towns as a baseline metric: Lafayette and Bloomington Indiana. Both are home to Big Ten universities the former to Purdue University the later to The University Of Indiana. They are also rivals which will seem all but irrelevant to anyone but those that studied at one of these schools. But I digress, in Bloomington a Lafayette salary of $50,000 is only worth $48,940. Although $1,060 annually might not seem like a huge disparity in the grand scheme of things, it does undoubtedly illustrate that even within small geographic distances salaries can vary, even nominally.

The reason I used college towns for the example is because of the increased jobs they offer and property inflation due to increased demand (from students and faculty) making them relatively unique to other areas someone might relocate to. If you are curious as to what your salary is worth in other regions of the United States, you can use CNN’s salary calculator.

With Or Without Job

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The most sensible choice of moving with a job offer or without one is obvious, but sometimes you might not have the option. If you find yourself out of work and needing to relocate, then keep in mind that employment rates might also differ from area to area. Although according to the Muse employment in the United States has increased by 5%, if we take a much more focused look at the tech and tech startup mecca of San Francisco the growth is 5.4% and in Austin, Texas another rising tech mecca it’s an astounding 8%. For more information regarding current employment growth across the U.S. take a look at this amazing interactive map on USA Today. Use the sliding bar on the bottom to choose the financial quarter and year you would like to learn about.

Although this doesn’t necessarily have to do with the cost of relocation, a smaller period of unemployment or a lack of transitional unemployment will have huge financial benefits. You can further minimise your risk of being unemployed, if this is applicable of course, by moving to an area that has a concentration of companies that match your own qualifications and credentials. For example, many regions of the Midwest rely on agriculture as a source of income, which would be a good place for anyone that studied agricultural sciences, horticulture or biochemical expertise. Of course, since we are talking about economies and job markets keep in mind that growth comes with a caveat, sometimes its stable, consistent growth and other times it’s a huge unsubstantiated bubble, that will probably burst in foreseeable future. So do your homework, research the reasons and why it might have seen an increase in job openings. Another effect might be due to a temporary influx of individuals during the period employment data was measured, skewing the results in a positive manner, so be weary of the sources you get your information from.

The Obvious Costs

No matter how you spin it, moving is expensive. How expensive? You might want to take a seat. Moving from a three bedroom house in Austin, Texas to a similar house in San Francisco (in this scenario I’m hypothesising that a person in the tech industry is moving from one tech hub to another) would cost you a budget crippling $5.336 - $7.126. That doesn’t include any packing. If we were to add full packing, then the price would shoot up to between $7.608 and $10.306. Curious to see how much it would cost to move from one region of the U.S. to another, use this calculator to find out.

Of course, there is hope as 59% of employers still offer reimbursement for relocation. If your future employer doesn’t offer it, you might be able to negotiate it into your signing package.

The Final Decision

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Money is very important to sustain a high quality of life in this free market economy, but there are other very significant factors that you need to keep in mind when relocating. Quality of life also has to do with safety, feeling of community, tolerance and access to quality education for you and your children (if you have any). Although some larger urban hubs will undoubtedly offer more job opportunities and higher salaries, they will probably have a noticeable deficit in the other factors.

For example, the average salary in the Upper East Side is $75.000, and although it’s the safest neighbourhood in Manhattan, it still sees approximately 1 crime per 1.000 residents according to official New York City municipal data. On the other hand, there are regions in the United States that have a zero crime rate. North Andover MA has a tiny crime rate of 0.27 per 1000 population; it also features great schools and a quaint small town feeling. OK, I’m starting to sound like a real estate agent, but you have to admit that it sounds pretty appealing. Oh, it's also close to shopping and amenities.

Although most people will move and average of 11.4 times in their lifetime, it's never easy. It is extraordinarily draining emotionally, physically and financially. You can take steps to minimise these stresses, but I don’t think leaving a well-lived-in home can ever be a stress-free experience. Taking a mental and emotional inventory before moving can help you avoid regretting a decision made during a tumultuous emotional period or as a reaction to toxic circumstances. Making sure that your only motivation is to increase your quality or station in life. Otherwise, you might have to go back to your previous employer and beg for your job back. If you need any more help trying to decide, then check out this great Forbes article on the subject.

Have you relocated for work before? Did everything go smoothly or could it be part of the “the top ten worst” lists? We would love to hear from you in the comments section.