Moving can be an adventure, a surefire guarantee you’ll conquer new challenges in an unfamiliar environment. It’s also taxing, difficult, and expensive. If you’re leaving a longtime home, it can even be lonely. Changing jobs can be more financially rewarding than staying put. Changing up your zip code is often even more beneficial. The question of how much salary increase to relocate you’ll need is complex. Here are some things to consider.
Should You Stay or Should You Go?
People aren’t moving like they used to. In 2019, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that fewer than 10% of Americans had changed residence in a single year –– the lowest since the organization began tracking relocation in 1947. The number has been declining for years. Over one-third of those who had moved long distances cited employment as the motivator, with housing and family-related reasons trailing at just over 25% each. Even during the Great Recession of the late 2000s, less than 15% of the population traded one county for another. That’s one reason states with consistent job growth like North Dakota and Texas had trouble attracting employees even as unemployment rose in places like California.
The pandemic changed everything. Cities seemed to empty out as newly remote workers traded cramped studio apartments for spacious rural homes. Through October 2020, nearly 100,000 more people were changing the address of their residence compared to the year before.
Although younger people are the most mobile, millennials have often felt “stuck-in-place” –– hamstrung by high rents and debt. Still, they are more likely to change jobs or begin careers in urban areas. If you’re open to changing your scenery, the best opportunities may be in the cities that lost the most people –– places like New York City, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. Although their rents have dropped considerably, it’s still more expensive to live in L.A. than most places. That means no matter what the offer, do your research. Try to have a number in mind so you’ll know how much salary increase to relocate.
This is a huge factor. Generous relocation packages means not having to factor in the move’s financial cost. Some firms even provide assistance with selling your current home, along with short-term housing in your new city. If you’re considering moving for a new job but the company is offering an inadequate relocation package (or none at all), you’ll have some serious numbers to crunch. Is the position really worth it? The pay may be more than you’re earning, but do you really want to start a new job with new debt? More than half of all large companies offer relocation packages; it’s never a good sign when a prospective employer is stingy.
Of course there are some solid reasons to accept the offer. You may be gaining skills you’ve always wanted. It could be the chance to work at a sought-after company. Perhaps the location is more desirable. If you were focused on the region not the job, then the package is a moot point. If you relied on a family member’s address and a local phone number, it will be tough to come back with a demand for relocation assistance.
Discussions about whether or not to relocate often leave the intangibles for last. That’s a mistake. You’ll never get your twenties back (or your thirties or forties for that matter). Do you really want to spend years in a place that makes you miserable for a paycheck or an opportunity? If you are used to spending active winters in Miami Beach, there probably isn’t enough cash to buy contentment in a town where you’re snowed in six months out of the year. If you adore the beach, how great would an opportunity have to before you’re willing to live in a landlocked locale? After the Kellogg Company bought SoCal cereal-maker Kashi, employees who wanted to keep their jobs had to relocate from sunny La Jolla, California to company headquarters in Battle Creek. Michigan. Many of them decided not to trade flip flops for snowshoes.
Besides location, other factors include changes in commute and transportation. Long commutes are usually stressful and connected to everything from poor health and weight gain to relationship issues. While you might romanticize taking a train to work, if you’re used to the freedom to eat, smoke, and sing loudly in your car it can be a huge adjustment.
Cost of Living
This is one of the most basic considerations. Numerous websites offer up-to-date information. If you’re trading your small hometown for San Fran or NYC, you know the rent will be more. Yet it’s only when you see how tiny the spaces are that you realize exactly what you’re giving up. Reading that a pizza costs over thirty bucks is different from actually paying for it. If you’re in a negotiating position, whatever you think you’re worth, ask for more.
In the end, all the math and research in the world won’t change your gut feeling. If you want to make the move, make it. At the very least you’ll gain some experience –– that word we so often use when we didn’t get what we wanted.