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Midwest vs. L.A.

July 8, 2010

I want to update my thoughts on living in Los Angeles versus living in the Midwest, because a very dedicated (or OCD) blogger read my archives and commented on my initial thoughts.  In this old post I talked about the huge rent change and how it didn’t make up for my income change.  In the very short term, it seemed clear that staying in the Midwest would have been better financially.

But I don’t think that post told the whole story.

Did I need to pay that much for rent?  Of course not – but I’d never apartment hunted in a large city, didn’t know the area, and made a much more expensive choice than I had to.  Had I not moved in with T, I still would have moved to a cheaper place in which my salary increase would have made up for the difference.  I think I could have found a studio in a livable area for $1000 or so if I knew what I was doing.  (See here for example, though prices were softer in mid 2009 than early 2008.)

So in the very short term, yes, the midwest was better financially.  But in the long term, I think it was not.

When the recession hit, the company I left behind froze salaries, canceled promised bonuses, and at least one of my good friends got totally screwed:  a promotion (title change) with no monetary compensation.    Switching companies delayed my title change a bit,  butI have gotten good raises each at salary review plus moderate bonuses.  (But… my last job was more generous with bonuses in the good years, and also gave me an extra week of vacation, from which I have never adjusted.)

Then again, taxes are much higher here, and I don’t know how to factor that in, lacking detailed records from the midwest.  Anyway, I came to the conclusion that it is impossible to make a fair comparison between the two lives any more than what I’ve said.  The path not chosen – staying in the midwest – is full of too many questions.

After just 1.5 years on my old job, my boss started talking to me about exposing me to management stuff.  So maybe I would be on that path.  Or maybe I would have a house.  Or maybe I would have had a house that got flooded.  Or maybe I would have been laid off.  Or maybe I would have decided to move elsewhere.  Who knows?

So I won’t venture further, but I will say this:  I’m so so happy to live here right now, but the midwest has a special place in my heart!

7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 8, 2010 5:43 am

    Well, the problem is that there’s never one place that’s more perfect than all the others. Yes, the midwest is less expensive, but you pay for it with lower salaries, possibly fewer opportunities (at least in certain fields), and a lack of access to certain cultural experiences. LA (and DC too) have lots of companies, higher salaries, but you pay for it because it costs more to live there, in addition to non-monetary drawbacks (e.g. traffic).

    I think I’d like to move back to a small town eventually, but right now I’m young and have no kids, so this is the time to focus on my career, and cities let me do that.

    • July 8, 2010 7:22 am

      There were definitely fewer opportunities – if I were to get laid off, I would have basically had to find a new city (and state maybe) to live in. Can you imagine that if you had a whole family and life built?

      I don’t know where I want to end up long term either – it may not be here. I don’t like the idea of a small town, but then again, my mind will probably change. I do like the idea of no town, out in the country. 🙂

  2. July 8, 2010 6:49 am

    I love that hay bale picture! 🙂 Thanks for the shout out. There are drawbacks and upsides to living in any place in the country. Traffic may be awful in DC, but they have a fairly reliable public transportation system. Knoxville traffic is definitely manageable, but the only other option we have is to take a bus. And it’s true that large cities have an exciting vibe. I’ve never visited LA, but I loved just the feeling of being in DC when we visited. And Paranoid Asteroid is definitely correct about the cultural experience. In Knoxville, almost all the people are the same – white, Republican, Christian. Not that there’s anything wrong with white Christian Republicans… Unless you don’t meet any of those criteria, and then you’re the person eating alone at your desk while the rest of the office spends the lunch hour bashing Democrats. I’m just glad that you’re enjoying LA. And you may not have gotten married when you did if you lived in the Midwest! How different our lives could be over such “small” decisions! – The OCD Reader 😉

    • July 8, 2010 7:26 am

      Exactly – I just wanted to point out that it wasn’t as dramatic financially as it was in that very first year.

      LA (in my opinion) has a very different vibe than most big cities. It has a ton of people, but it is also so spread out and sprawly. Tall buildings are only downtown (and a few other neighborhoods). I always said it wasn’t like a “real city”. But you’ll never be lacking in things to do, no matter what your scene is.

  3. Bonnie permalink
    July 8, 2010 9:53 am

    Thanks for the post, SP. (I’m the one who recently requested an update.) My BF and I love our friends and the cost of living in the Midwest, but when we visit LA, Chicago, etc.–you have to remember that there is a REASON why the cost of living is so much higher in big cities. Of course rent isn’t $1500 a month where we live–there’s nothing to justify that cost. Whereas in LA, you have amazing weather year-round, beaches everywhere, laid-back people, endless shopping, incredible food, concerts and art events that the rest of the country is jealous of and, not least, as you mentioned, opportunities. When I look for jobs in my field, where I curently live, I’m lucky if one or two decent listings appear. I really like your quote, “The path not chosen is full of too many questions.”

    • SP permalink*
      July 8, 2010 11:11 am

      Very true. of course, there are certain places in the midwest which have more to do than others. And in the south, Texas has tons of tech jobs combined with a lower cost of living. There are so many options and I could be happy in a lot of places, but it is impossible to know the “most ideal” place.

  4. Sara permalink
    July 19, 2010 2:19 pm

    As someone who grew up in San Diego, lived in Chicago for 9 years and is now back in San Diego, I can say with certainty that I’d happily PAY for the weather alone. But really, our rent is the same as it was in Chicago, so I think sometimes the costs of living aren’t “fair” to compare from big city to small town or vice versa, because the big city like everyone has mentioned can give you so much more that’s not really a set cost. Moving from Chicago to San Diego I have to say we really only gained and didn’t lose much of anything, aside from a bit more culture just because Chicago is so darn big and has so many people!

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