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Places Rated, Skeptically 125

Readers left more than 500 comments on yesterday's post suggesting that, after accounting for local price differences, the best-paid tech jobs aren't in Silicon Valley or other areas well known for computer jobs, but rather in smaller cities around the country. Quality of life is overall more important than salary, though, and it isn't an easy thing to measure. Several readers pointed to reasons why the most expensive places to live get to be so expensive, and why (for those who can afford to live there in the first place) locations like Silicon Valley are often worth their premiums. Read on for some of the most interesting comments from the discussion in today's Backslash summary.
The discussion of just what sort of lifestyle is worth living is at the core of any discussion of "best" places to live:

Reader nick_davison has some thoughts on the cost of living:

  • Job A: $50,000/year, $10,000 annual rent.
  • Job B: $100,000/year, $40,000 annual rent.

Relative to the cost of rent, Job A is phenomenal: You're making five times the cost of rent. Job B sucks: you're only earning 2.5 times rent. By this measure, job A is far and away the better option - by a factor of 2.

The thing is, once you've paid the varying rent, where do you spend the rest of your money? The decent spec new PC will be $2,000 in Rancho Santa Fe, Manhattan or BFI. The new $25,000 car will be $25,000 wherever you buy it. The big TV is the same price wherever. And, most important of all, the internet porn subscriptions run the same wherever you are too.

At that point, would you rather the job that's 5 times "cost of living" but only leaves you with $40,000 or the one that gives a sucky 2.5x but leaves you with $60,000 extra.

Next, on the simple level, let's look at that cost of living. Assuming you get on, buy and pay a mortgage off, in 20 years time the place with the poor salary relative to cost of living will leave you with a $500,000-$1,000,000 home vs. the $200,000-$250,000 place in the "better" area. Now, aged 40, you can up and move to the cheap place, selling your home, buying one of the nicest places in the cheap area and having a nice large nest egg lfet over to let you get to retire early. My in-laws have just done exactly that and apparently a lot of people in Texas are getting seriously pissed at all the Californians coming in, buying huge homes after selling up smaller places in CA and pushing up the Texan cost of living for people who're still paid no more.

And, finally, there's a reason rent and property are so expensive in some areas. Go to California and look out of the window. Rumor has it that other parts of the world have a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder. Land is expensive in California because you never shovel snow, you rarely deal with crazy humidity, you rarely have the insane heat of Arizona, you rarely get mosquitoes the size of Volkswagens and you can sit on the beach on New Year's Day. In short, supply and demand means that when there's a crazy price, there's generally a great reason for it.

So, yes, some areas have high costs of living and lower salaries in relation to that cost. But I.T. is famous for the fact that we out earn most other professions and, once you get past earning about three times cost of average rent, everything else is gravy. Sure, you reach that point faster elsewhere — but once you do reach it (and you do in I.T.), you keep going even further when the numbers are bigger.

I've watched a lot of friends leave California because they're in other fields and it's just too expensive to live here if you don't earn well. But once you get to the kind of salaries I.T. tends to pay, the cost of rent becomes a relatively minimal part of the total cost of living a great life.

Job mobility (voluntary or involuntary) plays a big role, too: razvedchik writes

The biggest factor for me is to consider the possibility that if your job goes south (project ends, company folds, you don't like your boss), then you are stuck in the middle of nowhere. If you are relocating, you need to understand that at some point you will need to move again.

If you are used to an environment where you can lose your job today and have a new one by the end of the week, then you will be shocked when you spend 6 months unemployed.

Similarly, reader osho_gg highlights the difference between a high salary in local terms and possibilities for advancement in the future:

One could go for one of these highest paying jobs in obscure locations where few companies are there. However, what is the growth potential in such locations? How many companies are there to work for in such locations that can pay high salaries for specialized skills? How many companies can pay more than 100k in places like Idaho Falls, ID? And, what happens if that company goes bust/one is laid off in such areas?

I dislike the high cost of living, traffic, unaffordability of houses etc. in places such as Silicon Valley. But there are lot more companies where one can work for with decent salary. One's chances of finding another job with close to maximum salary in one's field are lot higher there without having to move.

These are not just idle concerns. I have been asking many such questions to myself recently as I am not in high-tech area such as Silicon Valley. There are no easy answers to such questions. These become even more difficult once one has family, house etc. and has established roots in one place.

Several readers contributed endorsements for (and critiques of) locations around the United States and Canada:

"Go to Alberta," says reader Easy2RememberNick:

If you want to know where high paying jobs are go to Alberta, Canada it's insane!

McDonald's workers are getting $15/hour, signing bonuses and $100 extra pay if you show up for all your shifts that week.

Housing is a bit of a problem, there's a booming business finding old homes, ripping them off their foundation and dragging them to Calgary.

Calgary is sprawling outward at an incredible rate, it's bigger in area than NY city.

It's all from oil, tar sands that is, Canada exports oil since we make more than we use. The U.S. gets about 10% of its oil from Canada and that will probably increase due to the U.S. public's of growing concern about "foreign oil."

People are going there by the thousands every day, it's crazy!

Reader NoHandleBars wasn't happy with a move from expensive California to Texas:

I once oversaw moving a firms's HQ and IT functions from Silicon Valley to San Antonio, TX because of the "math" some white collar genius put together like this Forbes nonsense. Sure, the "average" wage was one-half of what it was in Palo Alto, but because of the "quality" of local talent, we ended up hiring THREE TIMES as many staff to do the same amount of work. (For the math-challenged, that meant productivity sucked by 50%.) This wasn't just a drain on company resources, but on the few people who DID know their chops and had to hoist it in for the dullards. Those that made the move and saw the disaster had to in turn move completely out of the area to restore sanity to their careers. And the "icing on the cake" is that San Antonio is the only place I've stood hip deep in mud and had sand blow in my face. No thanky-thanky.

That comment drew some spirited disagreement from reader DaFallus:

That's odd. Southwest Research Institute is based in San Antonio and although they primarily do a lot of government funded research they have a lot of talented people working for them. There are also a large number of smaller technical companies based in San Antonio. I have a number of friends who still live there working in various tech jobs.

San Antonio is a great place to live if you don't mind the slow pace of the city. It is one of the few cities I've lived in where you can do pretty well for yourself making around $30k. There is also a lot of cultural diversity, and I'm not just talking about the Hispanic influence.

I myself would have been happy to stay there after graduating but I just couldn't handle the slow pace that everyone lives at there. Also, the city itself is pretty poor and the roads are in horrible condition, there is a large gap between the rich all bundled away in Alamo Heights, Olmos Park, etc and the rest of the population. The crime there is also relatively high compared to what I've experienced while living in Houston and parts of Southern California. I've had my car broken into at least twice, witnessed a robbery at a gas station, and saw my friend get pistol whipped in the face and pulled out of the window of his car by would-be thieves. So, if you're thinking about moving there, buy a gun and stay in well-lit areas.

And reader kabocox says

This just tell's me that your firm doesn't know how to hire people. There are plenty of talented people in Texas. Heck, there are plenty of talented homegrown people in the Litte Rock, AR area. If your company can't find them, don't blame the area. I personally believe this applies to all of the US. There are plenty of trainable college grads in most major US cities. If you think the talent/gurus are much better in a tech hot spot, then you are willing to pay a premium for equal talent, not better talent. I'd think that most businesses that move to area's where the cost of living is lower end up hiring more people not to do the same amount of work. They hire more people because its cheaper and can get more done if the organization is properly run.

Tink2000 wrote in with comments on a few of the places picked out in the article, specifically Idaho Falls and the state of Alabama:

As someone who lived in Idaho Falls, Idaho, I strongly advise against it unless you think man-made falls are cool and love a few of the Temple at night, and like the idea of living in a city that has nothing around it for miles except scenery, where the tallest building is nine stories tall and it's a hotel.

I lived there for a year and pretty much loathed every moment of it. Of course, I came there from Atlanta, Georgia, so ... it was a bit of culture shock for me.

If you're going to live in Montgomery, you might as well consider Huntsville as well. Although it might be slightly harder to get a job there as everyone has some sort of technical background for the most part, it's a fairly agreeable city and not at all representative of the rest of Alabama.

Burdell wrote to agree with that analysis of Huntsville verus Montgomery:

As someone who lives in Huntsville (born and raised here) and also does some business in Montgomery, I'd have to agree. I'm not aware of a whole lot of tech jobs available in Montgomery; there's always demand in Huntsville (especially as another 7-12 thousand Army and contractor jobs come to Huntsville in the next few years). I don't know how the cost of living compares (Huntsville is a good bit lower than the Atlanta area though). The "metro" areas around Montgomery and Huntsville are about the same size IIRC, but Huntsville has a lot more "outside" influence (German rocket scientists in the 1950s and people from all over the world since).

Huntsville can be an odd place sometimes; mixing rocket scientists and rednecks has interesting results.

(See also everphilski's description of Huntsville as an interesting, affordable place to live.)

Reader Hoi Polloi isn't quite so happy with Huntsville:

I had to travel to Huntsville a few times for NASA work. It got barren pretty quickly when you drove anywhere and it was brutally hot. People who lived there said it was too hot in the summer to do much of anything and the lack of any pedestrian features (like sidewalks) encouraged a lot of the waistlines I saw. One local even said he felt safer visiting Boston than being in downtown Huntsville after dark. Most of the jobs and companies down there are dependent on government which means that they are at the mercy of politics. The focus on the military also means there is little variety in the types of jobs available.

Not everyone's stab at rating places seemed entirely sincere: reader nick_davison decided to stick up for Iowa rather than the hellish coastal regions:

It's the coolest place ever. I'm in California and it's awful here. We have to walk up hill both ways and the hills are steeper here (the land's scrunched up by our daily earthquakes). And hot? Like you wouldn't believe. Don't believe that stuff about coastal areas being cooler — it's hell here. No one should ever move here because, high salaries or not, life's too expensive. Iowa's the place. Des Moines is just super awesome. Off you go!

Further afield, at least for American readers, several comments described the pros and cons of living in poorer parts of the world:

"Good morning, Vietnam!" writes wisebabo:

Well, that's the time here as I post this. Anyway, it's very interesting living in Ho Chi Min (rated the #12th best major city in the world to live in and the best in Asia)*. I've got to say that, in a country that has a per capita GDP less than a tenth that of the United States a dollar goes a long way.

The key is how to make it. If you can make it by working for a major foreign corporation here (read: oil company) and get a Western salary, you will live like a king. Unfortunately local opportunities to make that kind of money are otherwise almost nil. Even if you can speak Vietnamese you will find that even a very high salary here (doing a job like coding) in not much relative to the U.S. Also you may find yourself thought of being overqualified; I do very high end media and some people here told me they were afraid to contact me after seeing my CV because they thought I'd charge a fortune.

While you can make a good living here teaching English I doubt that would appeal to the skilled professionals that make up Slashdot's readers. No, the best job is one in which you can work "at the end of a wire," that is live here but work for some U.S. company via the internet. The internet infrastructure is just sufficient to do that (which is one reason why I can't live in Cambodia). Internet telephony here is good (at least from my location). If your job is portable so you don't have to physically see your clients more than once or twice a year then this might "work" for you!

the way, the cost of living here is not going to be one-tenth that of the U.S. unless you live like a native. Instead if you insist on all the perks of the U.S. it's probably about half the U.S. cost of living (more if you want a car!). On the other hand, wealth is relative; compared to the natives you WILL be very rich and will be treated as such. That has its own perks. ;)

This recent study (which, to my traveled eyes cannot possibly be true) was based on a bunch of factors including how much (or little) the average person "impacted the environment." Since Vietnamese people are still very poor they don't impact the environment very much which led to a inflated score. Still Ho Chi Minh City has its charms; zero violent crime (it's a police state), pace of life (you can actually meet people and develop friendships), scale of the city (more like one giant neighborhood than a forest of skyscrapers). But act soon, things are changing fast and in 5 years it'll be unrecognizable.

Reader owlman17 reports from Manila:

In other third world countries where these tech jobs are being outsourced to, $USD400-$600/month is very high. I live in Manila, and the minimum wage is roughly less than $USD 6.00 daily. Those who work in outsourced tech-support call centers make $300 monthly and they're very happy about it. I had a short web-design stint making about $450 monthly and I was really really happy about it, to say the least. Single people here could live like kings on that.

Not everything's rosy on distant shores, though; phantomfive briefly describes life in El Salvador, and adds adds a few caveats about life in Central America, including a fairly tough psychological challenge:

[...] I would like to mention, COCKROACHES FLY!!!! I just tell you that to lessen the shock that we all feel when we see one of those monstrosities flying straight at us. They don't fly well, but the shock of seeing that the first time is something that can give you nightmares. And don't drink the water. Get bottled water from a reliable company. You might even want to test your bottled water. I am serious with this one, get bottled water. For a while I was purifying my water with chlorine, then I found out that the town water had LEAD in it, and I was drinking lead. I found out that no one in that town drank the water. So boiling water and stuff isn't good enough. Get the bottled water. Also, the two most important things that will keep you from getting mugged: learn to pay attention to your surroundings, what is going on, etc; and secondly, learn to look in someone's eyes and understand what he is feeling/thinking.

Many thanks to the readers (especially those quoted above) whose comments informed this discussion.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Places Rated, Skeptically

Comments Filter:
  • by ivort ( 993299 )
    I Live in Lynchburg and you can do pretty well here. I work in the city and then live in the outer parts. ; ) yer/index.php?id=9f72b0fbe5bde711a0696cac5b339a5e [] []
    • Um, just as an alternate point of view from a Lynchburg neighbor: that town is a scary-ass hellhole (headquarters of the crazy-ass hypocristian nationalist Jerry Falwell.) Plus, it makes 60's South Africa look like a Rainbow Coalition conference, i.e. it's the best named town in America.
  • by TheFlyingGoat ( 161967 ) on Friday August 04, 2006 @04:12PM (#15848614) Homepage Journal
    Many small towns are pretty close to medium sized cities as well, so the comments about not being able to spend your money after your rent is kind of silly. I live just outside Milwaukee, WI (grew up in Waukesha, which was recently ranked the 36th small city in the US). Besides the fact that Wisconsin is one of the best states in the country for outdoor activities (hiking, boating, fishing, camping, biking, etc), close to Milwaukee you also have professional sports teams, theater, festivals, malls, and a lot more. We also have Chicago relatively close in case we need even more to do. The only major negative is the winter weather.

    I'm sure many other cities like Minneapolis/St. Paul, Cleveland, Pittsburg, etc are similar in that they have small communities around them that give you all the benefits of inexpensive living combined with the benefits of city life within 30 minutes.

    Those types of small towns are the ones to focus on if you're looking to relocate. How many people really relocate JUST to relocate anyway? Don't you normally move to a specific job or family?
    • I grew up 40 minutes north of Milwaukee. Gotta agree with you on Wisconsin being a great place to live. Grew up in the country, lots of stuff all year round. And GO PACKERS!!! Especially appreciate it after spending 7 years in Alabama. (although as I've said if you gotta do it, Huntsville is the place to be).

      Wisconsin is a little low on the tech/engineering type jobs though.
      • I agree with you both, Wisconsin is a great place. I lived in Eau Claire all the way through my undergrad years, and since then I've bounced between Urbana-Champaign, IL, and Washington, DC. I'm obviously extremely biased, but I still hope to get back to the Chippewa Valley after
        I'm done with school. There are a few tech jobs in that area, but they certainly don't pay as well as those in the Silicon Valley. I worked at Cray for 2.5 years, and my dad has worked there since I was born. Cray is an incredi
    • The small towns immediately surrounding NYC have become rediculously expensive to live in. Even those living an hour and a half away from Manhattan are seeing their real estate values skyrocket. Pretty soon, to see a real drop in your cost of living, you'll have to live 2+ hours away (and probably in NJ, ugh). I don't know about the rest of the country, but there's no cheap small-town living near NYC.
      • Yeah, I was more referring to the small towns surrounding smaller cities. Even though the prices have gone up in recent years, you can still get a decent house for a lot less than houses near NY, Seattle, San Fran, etc. My wife and I bought our house last year for around $150K, and it's in a great neighborhood and location with many parks and things to do nearby. On a decent amount of land, too. I'm sure you could get the same thing in a rural town for a lot less, but we do have the benefit of being abl
      • 2+ hours away parks you square in eastern Pennsylvania. I know a decent amount of people who commute from eastern PA over to NYC. The cost of living is absurdly lower.

        That said, northern NJ is actually pretty nice. I grew up in a small suburb out there and there was lots of greenery, tons of parks, very little in the way of crime, and it was something like a 20 minute commute into the city without traffic. Cheaper than similar accomodations in the city itself, too, although still expensive. Of course, now
        • Good point. I'm back in northern Jersey after being away for about 12 years and the sprawl is quite a lot to take in.

          I'm living in the small town bordering the small town I grew up in and the changes are incredible. Or maybe scary is a better way of putting it.

          Forest land is disappearing. Watershed and park land is being built right up against. Nothing like hiking with a view of a big McMansion development.

          I think the worst though is that developers have actually ground down the tops of some of the sm

  • Given:
    Job A: $50,000/year, $10,000 annual rent.
    Job B: $100,000/year, $40,000 annual rent.

    So, Product X, where X is a car, xbox360, etc., costs the same in both locations. In Job A, you have to work longer to be able to buy X, despite things like rent.
    Also, despite rent, you net 60K a year from Job B vs 40K a year from Job A.

    Also, the weather is always nicer in the bay area, but that doesn't mean we want you moving here and further increasing the population ;-)
    • First off, I'm not sure I believe that the guy who gets $50k elsewhere will actually make $100k in the high cost-of-living area. If you're in the Valley, for example, you're competing against a ton of other highly talented individuals. With this glut in potential employees, what's forcing the employer to offer such sky-high salaries?

      I'd be more inclined to believe you if you'd said, say, $50k versus $75k. But that defeats your point, since the cheaper place wins. :)

      Plus, you aren't taking into account ot
    • I can see some specific products having a neutral regional pricing, but I can also see other products having a higher regional pricing in an area like the Bay Area, especially items tied closely to fuel costs or transportation or Kalifornia's often more highly regulatory laws. And then there's taxes, which absolutely vary by location and are often lower in states with smaller populations.

      My gut instinct is that the market works pretty well to neutralize any easy ability to arbitrage the higher wage regions
    • I think these numbers a little off but lets say that there is a 40k surplus wherver so there is no argument (A 50k job - 10k rent and B 80k job - 40k rent). Now if you have a remote chance of getting laid off for an extended period of time then the higher rent location is more of a risk. However, you really need to look at buying a house if you plan on staying a few years. Now we are paying 10k a year at Job A vs 40k a year for Job B. I would much rather "own" the house at Job B because you will pretty
    • Given:
      Job A: $50,000/year, $10,000 annual rent.
      Job B: $100,000/year, $40,000 annual rent.

      So, Product X, where X is a car, xbox360, etc., costs the same in both locations. In Job A, you have to work longer to be able to buy X, despite things like rent.

      Also, despite rent, you net 60K a year from Job B vs 40K a year from Job A.

      Not true. First, salaries are not twice as much in the bay area as other places. You might make 80K in the bay area, for the same job that pays 70K in Portland, or 60K in Boise

    • Given:

      Job A: $50,000/year, $10,000 annual rent.

      Job B: $100,000/year, $40,000 annual rent.

      So, Product X, where X is a car, xbox360, etc., costs the same in both locations. In Job A, you have to work longer to be able to buy X, despite things like rent. Also, despite rent, you net 60K a year from Job B vs 40K a year from Job A.

      Although this simplistic analysis is true, one must keep in mind that in Job A, your extra money goes a lot further than with Job B. When other variable expenses, such as food,

      • For example, one of the biggest variables outside of rent/mortgage is auto insurance. It's really easy to see the difference between Los Angeles and your pick of small town. Granted, the following numbers are just quick and dirty rate quotes, but the point is clear. I am a 26-year-old single male with a clean driving record. For me to insure a 2006 Chevy Cobalt 4-door base model with AllState, the 6-month premium in L.A. is almost 1600 dollars. In Arlington, Virginia, comprable insurance would be one third
        • Well, to me it makes sense to prohibit zip code based insurance premiums. After all, the entire point of insurance is to spread the risk - and if the companies can get granular enough with their pool, you will be better off self-insuring.

          Of course, I'm also opposed to mandatory insurance. If the state is going to require insurance, the state should have to provide said insurance. It's criminal to require me to give money to a private insurance company to guarantee their profits.
        • It could be worse, they could charge a 1% tax on every prepared food item to fund a damn stadium...
    • It's called income tax. Specifically, Federal income tax. If you make 100k rather than 60k, you pay more than 100/60 = 1.67 times as much tax.

      How much more? Well, that depends. Are you married or single? Kids? Do you own your home? Do you give to charity? Way too many variables to give a simple answer.

      But the simple fact that the federal income tax is not a flat tax blows the parent's math out of the water.

      Oh, yeah. "The weather is always nicer in the bay area"? Really? Quoting Mark Twain: "The
      • San Francisco is not the Bay Area.

        As we like to say around here, if you don't like the weather, drive a bit. On extreme days, we can sometimes have a 40 degree temperature spread within the area. (Usually with less than 60 miles between the highs and lows.) The area has tons of microclimates.
      • There are lots of ways to lower your income while still reaping tangible benefits. Maxing out your 401(k) drops your income by $15k per year. Various homeownership expenses are tax-deductable, many of which add equity to the house. FSA accounts can pay for medication/treatment co-payments with pre-tax money. Commuting expenses can often be paid pre-tax.

        All told, my $100k+ salary drops down to about $55k in taxable salary.

        And, as others have said, when it comes time to retire, my 401(k) will be quite lar
      • Oh, yeah. "The weather is always nicer in the bay area"? Really? Quoting Mark Twain: "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."

        This really is a misnomer; the Bay Area is 5% San Francisco, and 95% everywhere else. The everywhere else is where the weather really shines. The peninsula in particular has fantastic weather nearly year round. I moved the the central CA valley, and as I sit in 100 degree weather, I really miss the 80 degree summer days in the Bay.

    • Given:
      Job A: $50,000/year, $10,000 annual rent.
      Job B: $100,000/year, $40,000 annual rent.

      Should be more like:

      Job A: $50,000/year, $10,000 annual motgage.
      Job B: $100,000/year, $36,000 annual rent.

      Given Job A only gives you $40,000/yr vs. $60,000 with Job B.
      Assuming you spend the remainder of your salary with 5% sales tax at job A you can spend $38,000 with 8.5% (Bay Area Taxes) [] taxes at job B you can only spend $54,900.
      With Job A you have utility costs of $1,000/year and job B has costs of $
    • 'Cause as your income goes up, so does your tax rate. Sure you can deduct the interest, but the $45k that isn't is taxed at about 5% net (after deductions,exemptions and such) and the $85,000 is taxed closer to 15-18%. Add to that the local real estate taxes - which are usually not just a percentage of home value, but a increased percentage of home value in bigger cities (.6% in rural areas, vs 1.5-2% in populated areas), and the differential keeps dropping.

      OF coursem you do have the home-value nest egg. A
      • I live in Florida, where the state income tax is 0%.

        I live neither in the boonies nor in a big city.

        I live in Bradenton, pop. 60,000, a 1-mile walk from
        downtown, a 3-mile bike or car ride from a mall, 30
        feet from the nearest art/crafts gallery (my wife's),
        and 25 feet from my office.

        Nearest launch ramp for my little sailboat: 1.5 miles

        Nearest salt water launch ramp: 7.3 miles

        Nearest award-winning little theater: 1 mile

        Nearest bar: .4 miles

        Nearest live music coffeehouse: .1 miles

        Nearest more-or-less major mus
  • 1. Get tech job
    2. Move to Idaho Falls
    3. Buy rifle or fishing pole
    4. Become Mormon (optional)
    5. ?
    6. Profit!
  • I don't know. I moved out of San Diego, CA a couple months back to go back to my home state of Colorado.

    I make more than I did when I lived in CA. So instead of that theoretical 40/60 quoted above, when I moved it tipped in the other way.

    I was surprised to not see any Colorado cities on that list. You can make a very respectable living in IT out here, the cost of living is lower than CA by a longshot, life is at a much more reasonable pace...oh..and we have JOBS.

    If you have a brain, you can get a job in Den
    • Colorado is ugly, square, and flat.

      Quote from a friend of mine who lives out there while I was visiting:

      Her: Can you see all the [Rocky] mountains?!
      Me: Uh, yeah, there's definitely nothing blocking my view. No trees. No hills. Nothing.

      Oh, and don't forget the snow. And the THUNDERSTORMS IN THE MIDDLE OF JULY (wtf?!).

      But I never laughed so hard as I did when I saw the bathrooms at Denver Int'l double as tornado shelters.

      It's one thing to say that there are good jobs, a lower cost of living, etc (and hey, De

      • Did your friend live in Limon, for god's sake?!?!?

        And ohno, thunderstorms! :O

        Seriously, I missed having, you know, WEATHER.

        72 and sunny gets freaking OLD after six years. Especially when you know that you'd be dropping a half mil on a condo because it's 72 and sunny all the time.
        • Did your friend live in Limon, for god's sake?!?!?

          Colorado Springs, but we were in Denver.

          And ohno, thunderstorms! :O

          Dude, I like thunderstorms as much as the next guy, but it's just weird when you're out in shorts on a sunny July day and then out of nowhere... Thunderstorm. I feel like scolding those clouds like I would a small child: "Look, man, there is an appropriate time and place...!". Then I would beat the clouds.

          Seriously, I missed having, you know, WEATHER.

          I know of nowhere else where

          • Dude, I like thunderstorms as much as the next guy, but it's just weird when you're out in shorts on a sunny July day and then out of nowhere... Thunderstorm. I feel like scolding those clouds like I would a small child: "Look, man, there is an appropriate time and place...!". Then I would beat the clouds.

            Hey, at least storms in the center of the country move in predictable patterns. When I lived in Minneapolis, we knew the day before that a front was cruising in from the Dakotas.

            Here in Atlanta you don't

      • Yes, Colorado is ugly square and flat. Citizens of the other 49 states: please don't bother coming here! Also, we get 6 feet of snow a day, even in the summer. Our winters see lows in the negative 80s and our summers highs in the 120s. Also, wild Indians roam the plains, scalping tourists. So you might as well stay in California.

        Please, stay in California.

    • I totally agree, only I am NOT tellin where I moved to. I may want to upgrade my house, my car my xbox, or my girlfriend and I do NOT want to have Valley refugees bumping the prices on me...
    • by wximagery95 ( 993253 ) on Friday August 04, 2006 @05:43PM (#15849095)
      I went to college and started my IT career in Silicon Valley (San Jose State) back in the late 1990's. Right out of college I was making 70K/year and couldn't afford to live in the area. My rent in a somewhat "nice" part of San Jose at the time was costing me $1831/month for a 711 sqft apartment (yes, I remember it to the dollar because I was living month to month, dollar by dollar). When I got notice they were rasing my rent to $2050/month, I had had enough. I tried every single option I could think of to qualify for a jumbo home loan (because the median home price was around $400K), but simply couldn't due to "not enough credit history" and "my debt to loan ratio being too high" (car, student loans). I basically had two options ...

      1) Buy a cheaper house in Gilroy or Tracy and commute 1.5 hours to Sunnyvale each way to and from work.
      2) Roll the dice, take a job in another state, and hope I like it.

      To my surprise, I found positions that paid more than what I was making in California elsewhere in the country where the cost of living was considerably less. The smaller cities don't have the same talent pool to pull from when it comes to local IT professionals, so I think they are willing to dish out a bit more to lure in a good experienced candidate. For example, the position I took in North Carolina (Research Triangle Park) offered me a 20% raise and paid all my relocation expenses. I figured what the hell and left the state. After two years, I found another position in Colorado that offered 10% more than what I was making in North Carolina plus total relocation expenses. I've been here in Colorado Springs (less than 1 million population) for 4 years and can't believe how much it sucked working in Silicon Valley.

      I travel back about 2x a years on business and visit college friends who are still living with roommates in apartments. Just seems like time stands still there. I ask them why they still in the area and their argument is "you can't make this kind of money elsewhere in the country in an IT position." I tell them you can't look at the salary number by itself. You have to compare it to cost of living and quality of life for gods sake. The difference between salaries in other places compared to California are not all the much different. He is paying $2200 for rent. I tell him he can buy a house 3x the size of his apartment with a mortgage payment $1000 less than his rent. Not only is he paying $12K/year less in "rent" but he gets to write-off the interest on the home (not to mention home appreciation). That's like another $6K. Car insurance, gas, registration are all much cheaper. That's like another $2000 a year difference. Add it all up and your cost of living makes a difference of about $20K/year. Salaries here in Colorado don't differ by that much compared to what you can make in a comparable position in California.
    • Would you just be quiet about Colorado! We really don't need any more people who can't drive in a brief snow shower *cough*Californians*cough* moving here. I'm actually quite happy to see many of them leaving lately.

      Here are some quick facts about Colorado for anyone considering moving here:

      Sun Microsystems continues to lay off people in Broomfield. HP and AMD are laying off people in Fort Collins. First Data had a big layoff in Denver. We have the highest mortgage repo rate in the nation; propert

      • Whoops, my bad. Though the cat is really out of the bag, man. I went to get my license plates reinstated, and the clerk told me she'd had no less than a dozen people from CA coming in for new plates. Oi.
  • My in-laws have just done exactly that and apparently a lot of people in Texas are getting seriously pissed at all the Californians coming in, buying huge homes after selling up smaller places in CA and pushing up the Texan cost of living for people who're still paid no more.

    It's mostly because they bring their 'fruits and nuts' politics along with them. ;)
  • Taxes? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lockefire ( 691775 ) on Friday August 04, 2006 @04:33PM (#15848739)
    So how do you feel about tax differences in these areas? Any comments from people in Alaska (no income or sales tax) or New Hampshire (only tax on dividends/interest and no sales tax)?
    • Re:Taxes? (Score:2, Informative)

      From my experience here in the state of Washington, lack of an income tax can be both a benefit and a burden. We pay no state income tax. Sales tax is 8.8%, but it's zero for basic food items. My property tax (in a suburb of Seattle) is about 1.5% of the assessed value of my home. Right now I'm paying about $3/gal for gasoline (I'm not sure how much of that is tax).

      While that's great for keeping money in my pocket in the short-term, I've been disaoppinted with the lack of state spending on basic needs

    • You're only half right about Alaska. While we have no state income tax, many cities do have a sales tax. One major exception is Anchorage, where I live (along with about half the state). Instead, we have some of the highest property taxes in the country. The cost of living in Anchorage is not much higher than the lower 48, but anywhere outside of Anchorage is typically 20-30% higher.

      The salary for IT jobs is not that great either. My first job out of college I started out making $40k; I have friends
    • by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Friday August 04, 2006 @07:14PM (#15849537) Homepage Journal
      Yes, taxes should be considered. A $55,000/yr job in one place is NOT the same as a $55,000/yr job somewhere else, if the net cost to you after State taxes, County taxes (Multnomah County, OR, has its own taxes for example), -and- Sales Tax are different. Taxes are hard to figure in, because paying less on State taxes but more on Sales tax can end up far more expensive if you spend a large percentage of your income.

      (This is why poor people are generally screwed with sales taxes, as they spend a much higher percentage of their income just to keep going, and therefore get taxed more heavily. Rich people generally get screwed with State taxes, as they get taxed even on the income they're saving. Being your typical left-leaning Brit, I tend to take the line that the rich can afford to get screwed a little.)

      However, we've only factored in the costs here. What about the benefits? A State that has more money to play with can have better roads (so you spend LESS on expensive car maintenance), can have better schools and Universities (so you're not limited to sending the kids to some fundamentalist haven so that they're at least capable of adding correctly), can have decent public transport (saving you gas money and usually time), and can have some excellent public museums, public art galleries, etc, which gets you direct access to stuff only the world's megarich can even think of affording.

      So, if taxes are spent by Government wisely (yeah, like that happens!), the net cost can end up being lower than the hidden and not-so-hidden costs of living in areas with lower taxes or no taxes at all. This does, however, require wisdom. High taxes that don't benefit anyone at all are simply a drain on the pocket.

      (And, yes, I deliberately said anyone, not just you. If high taxes produce a good schooling environment, then it doesn't matter if it doesn't benefit you directly. Better educated kids will produce a better quality workforce. What does it matter if you're a richly-paid genius, if the rest of the company can't figure its way out of a paper bag and goes under? The brighter your co-workers, the more profitable the company and so the better your job security. Oh, and the better your pay.)

      So, to correctly factor in the REAL cost of the taxes, you must factor in the real cost of what those taxes buy you, both directly and indirectly. Let's say your income is I, the total direct tax over the same time is T1, the total average indirect tax is T2, the total direct benefit to you because of superior infrastructure and/or superior facilities is B1, and the total indirect benefit is B2, then your actual salary S is calculated as follows: S = I + B1 + B2 - T1 - T2.

      B1 and T2 are extremely hard to calculate. B2 is virtually impossible to know. However, without knowing those values, you cannot say how the real cost of living compares to your effective salary.

      Is this the end of it? Uhh, no. Each State, each county, has an effective rate of inflation which is dictated by the change in the price of those goods that have a floating value across the country. Gasoline is an example of something subject to local inflation. When businesses move in, there are more people with disposable income, so prices will rise to what the market will bear and local inflation goes up. When businesses move out, there are fewer people buying, so to conserve profit margins prices must rise and local inflation goes up.

      This is why you do not want to be in an area that is undergoing a boom OR a bust. It's expensive. You want an area that has a fairly stable economy and is growing at a fairly steady, gentle pace. How steady and gentle? Well, it needs to grow faster than the population, but not by very much.

      You also want an area with superb social welfare. No, I don't mean people get paid for doing nothing - that's what politicians are for. I mean you want to ensure that those who are unemployed are retrained and th

    • Re:Taxes? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by kimanaw ( 795600 ) on Friday August 04, 2006 @07:34PM (#15849628)
      Here in Nevada we have no personal income taxes, and corp. taxes are nearly nonexistant (unless you're in the gaming biz...but since they mint their own money, its not too big an issue). Sales taxes may be considered high (7+%) and gas taxes are pretty high (which I consider a great idea).

      Not to mention that, despite severe rises in the past few years, real estate prices are much lower than those for our neighbors to the west in the People's Republic.

      Which may explain the significant stream of both small and large businesses escaping across the border to Las Vegas or Reno-Tahoe. In fact, there are a number of small s/w outfits just across the border from CA in the pleasant surrounds of Lake Tahoe. And that short trip from CA to NV usually comes with a massive decrease in insurance costs.

      And from Northern NV, I can be in SillyCon Valley with a pleasant drive of a few hours (well, at least up to SacraMoscow).

      As someone who lived in LA, CA for many years, and has done biz in SillyCon Valley, I can't imagine why people still consider the Bay Area so damn great. Since it costs the same, but the weather and lifestyle in SoCal is much better, why not get a life while you work ?

      Other things to consider:

      • Bill Gates chooses to live in Seattle, WA
      • Linus Torvalds chooses to live in Portland, OR
      • Microsoft maintains its Licensing operations in Reno, NV
      • Apple just opened its own "capital management" firm in Reno

      wrt "what happens when you lose your job", keep in mind that being unemployed in Reno-Tahoe for 6 months - esp during the winter - is often something people look forward to!. Plus the savings from living outside of SillyCon usually mean a 6 to 12 month vacation is actually affordable/survivable. If you make US$120K/year in SillyCon, but lose your job, you damn well better start humping for a new job. If you make US$75K/year in NV and lose your job, you can usually wait until ski season is over.

      I guess its a matter of choice: "live to work" vs. "work to live".

      In closing: The FOX channel here in Reno is just a feed from the Bay Area. So when I get up in the morning, I turn on the news on FOX...and just laugh and laugh..and laugh!.

  • Internet porn subscriptions run the same wherever you are too
    I [] beg [] to [] differ [].
  • by Temkin ( 112574 ) on Friday August 04, 2006 @04:54PM (#15848854)
    Prop 13. Seriously. That's the key.

    Prop 13 limits property taxes to 1%/yr. of the assessed value, and limits reassessment to sale or major renovation. My parents are paying 1% of the value of their house as assessed in 1978. Ok.. So what, right? Voter revolt and all that... Kali has income tax, and a geek salary will loose 10% for that and another 1% for a nice car registration... But... Those go to the state. Property taxes fund the local schools and municipalities.

    The net effect is that cities and towns in California are hostile to housing. They get a bigger take via sales taxes from strip malls and retail operations. Housing demands services that cost money. This hostillity is obvious when you look at permit fees for new houses. One city I'm familiar with slaps almost $100,000 worth of planning & permit fees on a new single family home. That in turn means that every existing house with a valid occupancy permit is worth $100k in that city, no matter what kind of shape it's in or what kind of location its in. That's why housing is so expensive. You're just paying the city all the taxes up front, while the banks laugh at you paying them APR+% on the taxes. You probably thought it was all those green belts surrounding Silicon Valley, and "smart growth". Nope. Those are just the political tools used to refine the system. The tree huggers are played like fiddles out there. They're just a means to an end. It's the perfect "screw you, I got mine" system too. Utterly unrepairable. No existing homeowner is going to willingly give up their tax protection or their obscene capitals gains. Voting to end prop 13 will never happen. The housing market has to implode first.

    I made the move to Texas some time ago... Texas has no income taxes, and steep property taxes. So steep that most Californians show up here thinking they can plow all their equity take into their new house, and have a for-real mansion on acreage. And then they find out what the property taxes will be! The result... You can still buy a house 5 minutes from Dell HQ in Round Rock for just a bit above $100k. Not much of a house mind you... But 3bd/2ba on 1/4 acre, and that's enough for most. One of the local high schools has a jumbotron screen on their football field. Yep... I'm hearing tax revolt noises.

    • Tax revolt over a high school with a jumbotron screen on their football field? In Texas? Pwah. Maybe if they start handing out Corvettes to players on teams that *aren't* going to go to state. . .

    • The housing market has to implode first.

      5.. 4.. 3..
    • Your remarks about greenspace as a tool to manipulate shows some pretty extreme land use ignorance. The USGS have studied this and found that the remaining open space is an extremely small fraction of available land that would be quickly swamped by traditional development at great cost to the environment and little benefit to housing at low densities. Much of what looks like useless undeveloped land to you is actually critical functioning watershed subject to frequent landslides. There is no conspiracy,
  • I think this depends on what sort of life you want to live and what sort of climate you want to live in. If you like fast paced surroundings, you'll naturally enjoy a big city more than a small one. Personally, I like where I live (Dayton, OH). It's a decent sized city with a good amount of decent paying jobs, relatively low cost of living, within 45 min to 1 hour of a larger city (Cincinnati or Columbus), and we have just about everything you could want to do within a short driving distance (well, except f
  • Every place has a different balance of attributes, as do people. One man's Nirvana may be Manhattan, while another's is Napa Valley. We also change with age. Personally, I started my career living in the city, and as I grew older moved to the suburbs, and now find rural living to be more and more attractive. There is a time and a place for all of us, the adventure is finding it.
  • And, finally, there's a reason rent and property are so expensive in some areas. Go to California and look out of the window. Rumor has it that other parts of the world have a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder. Land is expensive in California because you never shovel snow, you rarely deal with crazy humidity, you rarely have the insane heat of Arizona, you rarely get mosquitoes the size of Volkswagens and you can sit on the beach on New Year's Day. In short, supply and demand means that when the

  • Montgomery (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by brood ( 126904 )
    Speaking as someone who lived and worked in Montgomery for 2-3 years as a programmer, I wouldn't recommend moving there. The tech jobs are mostly government related (Gunter Air Force Base) and there's an incredible amount of racial tension. If you're single there's little to nothing to do. If you have kids you're going to have to pay for private school if you want them to have a half-way decent education. If you're going to move to Alabama at all (depending on if you can stomach all the Baptists and har
  • I think there was a chapter in Peopleware about companies like the one mentioned that relocate from Silicon Valley to San Antonio. An employee's willingness to relocate is generally inversely proportional to their skill. Your best people know they can find another job without relocating, your worst people won't want to risk being unemployed. As a result, the people who open the new location won't be as good as the people at the old one. You also lose a lot culture and experience. You can hire good peop
  • You are being sold a bill of goods. When your 'employer' sends you to West Gopher where the median salary is $10/hr you better be prepared to spend the rest of your life there because any other employer is never going to give you a 100% raise to come work in a place with sidewalks and mass transit. Assuming of course you actually get sick of doing fun things like cow tipping and hanging at the DQ.

    This is a typical Forbes "Isn't it great to find a place that pays third world wages in the US!!!" column.
  • Some of the value of a place has to do with herd mentality. Take a look at the rise and fall of the SUV. A few movie stars start driving them and everyone wants one. Now the dealers have to practically give them away. And gas is not even that high.

    Many of the places people want to live is the same way. I live in a particular area of town where everyone want to live, so prices are very high. OTOH, there is a bunch of land not far from where I live that is completely undeveloped, and has remained so for

  • WTF? I had to leave Boulder because it's too expensive! It's one of the most expensive towns to live in Colorado, especially on the Front Range (it's one hour from Denver)

    When I saw the red dot on the map, I thought they were referring to Fort Collins, as it was named the Number 1 city to live in under 50K population. I almost spat coffee on my monitor when I read 'BOULDER'.

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva