As you may know, Mrs. SSC has been looking for teaching jobs, so every week she gets emailed new postings and if she sees something that looks interesting for me, she will also forward it along. I had an interesting job opportunity forwarded to me from Mrs. SSC that we both would seem to fit, and the company wanted both a geophysicist and a geologist. Double bonus! We figured it could fit our needs if we both got an offer, so we applied.
Last week, I got an email from that company saying that they would be interested in talking with me about the position. I returned the email and gave them some open dates and they responded with, “Would you be free tomorrow morning around 9am?” I was excited because who doesn’t like getting picked, but the down side was that Mrs. SSC hadn’t been contacted, bummer…
During the call, I found out about the position, job responsibilities, office setup, and more and it sounded great. Better yet, I qualified to start on the upper end of the pay spectrum, around $95k/yr! My schedule would stay the same with 9/80 style, and there were some other Lifestyle Change perks as well, but it was looking pretty good.
Then, reality struck, hard and heavy. We had already vetted some cost of living (COL) increases in this area, assuming we would both get offered positions. Even then, we knew that with 2 salaries it would be tight, because I haven’t mentioned this part yet, but this job was in California… GAH!!! We thought it would be worth it though, because we could start our Lifestyle Change a bit early, but just take a different path than we planned. I mean who wouldn’t want to live in California for a few years? This would be in Camarillo, which is near Ventura and Oxnard, and has topography, and well a milder version of seasons, but at least different from Houston. Also, there are a lot of parks and hiking around there, as well as the beach, and other fun stuff to do with the kids. You can even see snow on the surrounding mountains in the winter! Oooohhhh….. Based on those types of things that we want in our Lifestyle Change, we thought it would be fine to go there for a few years, even if it would delay things a bit. We’d have better work schedules, and be living in a better geographically pleasant area.
I started doing some rough calculations based on what we spend now per month on essentials to see where how good or bad it might be. Since we’ve got a solid year plus of tracking that info, it was easy to ballpark the COL in California. When I started adding these up we were left with about $265/mo left over. This was assuming no daycare costs with Mrs. SSC staying at home, and other minor adjustments like no maids, no cable, no gym, etc… When I got to the end of the month, I had very little left over… It was depressing, as you can see in the chart below.
Between taxes (27%), 5% contribution to 401k, and housing which was about $2600-$3600/month for a 3 BR house, we were left with enough to survive and that’s about it. This would mean that we wouldn’t be able to add anything to our “extra” retirement savings, no college savings for the kids anymore, no allowance money, no replenishment of the emergency fund if/when something happened, and no extra money for anything. It’s good we’d be in beautiful CA, because we couldn’t afford to leave to travel anywhere else. With realistic tweaking of the budget averages from last year we would only have an extra $3100/year. Per year… That was not adding in the real adjusted COL to our averages, rather assuming we could cut ~10% and the rest would take care of itself in the wash.
I looked at our highest spend categories to see what other cuts could be made. Our car insurance is about $182/mo for both cars, but we have another year of $323 car payment on Mrs. SSC’s vehicle. So even if we paid it off before we left, which would be entirely doable, that still only frees up another $3900/yr to buffer the budget. Also, I asked Mrs. SSC, “What’s the house and misc. shopping, do we spend that much just shopping?” She said, “Well, that would be your clothes, my clothes, the kids clothes, light bulbs, toilet paper, stuff like that… You want toilet paper right?” Hahahaha Not a whole lot of wiggle room there either, especially since our allowances wouldn’t exist and they used to cover our clothes. We don’t want to derail our FFLC plans this close to the goal, so I ultimately had to turn the position down because it would put us in a negative/neutral financial position.
Thinking about this from a standpoint that we’re in now though brought me back around to the positive side of things. First, it’s good to know that in a few years, this position might be open again, and I would be an effective shoe-in to get that spot. Second, since we’d be at our FFLC number, we wouldn’t have to worry about whether we have extra savings to add to it, because according to our plan, we’d be living off of it solely without any extra income. A position like this would effectively allow us to live in CA with the only real expense being me working for a year or so. Since we wouldn’t be touching our savings, they’d just grow too. Now that’s a win! Third, this is exactly what Mrs. SSC has been talking about in the sense that if a geologist job or other random teaching type of position opens up, it’s fine if it only offers $30-$40k/yr if it’s somewhere that we would like to live for a few years. We could live somewhere fun and interesting, explore around there for a few years or more, and then move on to the next cool place.
This whole exercise did make me realize that our budget for FFLC is looking pretty nice though. Even with it re-adjusted since we’ll be renting for a couple of years, and then possibly buying in a more long term area, we should be doing well and living fairly comfortably without a lot of worries about needing extra income. Also, I realized that if any unexpected expenditures that come up, we have our allowances to use as a buffer, which is comforting too. In the end, it did end up with me feeling a lot better about our numbers, plans, and expectations of our Lifestyle Change. I’m even more excited now, knowing in another year or so, we’ll be in full control to do what we want, and not have to be constrained by the thoughts of “Can we afford to live there on that salary?” That is a pretty cool feeling. Until then, we’ll just keep sticking to the plan and counting down days. On the plus side, we’re under 850 days to go until then…