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New job, New state, New Lifestyle! Maybe not…

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.

Even with big unrealistic cuts, it's tight.

Even with big unrealistic cuts, it’s tight.

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…

breakdown from and their tax calculator

breakdown from and their tax calculator

31 thoughts on “New job, New state, New Lifestyle! Maybe not…

  1. TheMoneyMine

    Living anywhere else than Houston will likely be more expensive.
    Last time I looked, if I had to move to NYC, my salary would have to be 30% more just to keep up with the COL, so an offer would have to be at least 50% higher to be interesting.

    But sometimes it’s not just about the money. A colleague was relocated to Norway a few years back and I remember how he wasn’t overly excited over the idea: 50% of his salary would go to taxes so he would technically take a pay cut. But the experience there was so great (outdoors, food, safety, new culture, vacation days) that he couldn’t stop telling us about how great the experience was.

    If the job is great and you think it’s a good fit, ask them if they could consider adjusting their offer so that it compensates for the cost of living. You know the COL difference between Texas and California and you may get more info on Glassdoor for similar jobs. If they are interested, they should be flexible.

    1. Mr. SSC

      Since it’s a gov’t job, there isn’t much wiggle room in salary negotiations and ceiling even. 🙁 When I did some comparisons of COL with that salary from CA transferring here, it was in the $60k/yr range. To get my equivalent salary out there, it would be about 3x that salary and the most it could go up would be about $10k.

      However, I would be fine taking a pay cut for a better lifestyle, geography, and experience, and we’re close enough that if the right position came along, I’d do it even if it extended our “FFLC” date, because it would be worth it. Until I find that position though, we’ll keep doing what we’re doing. 🙂

  2. Fervent Finance

    It seems like that job would be a pay cut for you AND in a higher COL area. When I moved to NYC friends/coworkers was saying how expensive it was and how I would go broke. Quite the contrary actually happened. I ditched my car and all the related expenses. I walk to work so my commuting costs went down to zero. I found a very reasonably priced grocery store (TJs). The issue for you guys would definitely be the housing costs because of your family. Different then me all by myself. I’m glad you realized it wouldn’t be a good fit, but are keeping it in mind for down the road! Take care.

    1. Mr. SSC

      Exactly! Which is why we would need 2 salaries to make it work, lol. If I was single, I’d be doing background checks and going through that right now, because I know I could make it work for me, just not for a family of 4. 🙁

      Until something comes along that does fit the bill though, we’ll be here and keeping an eye out for that “perfect fit” opportunity.

  3. Naomi

    Hi there! Funny you mentioned Camarillo, California – I went to school there in the last century – and currently live on the other side of the mountains in yet another California community.

    The downside of California is expenses. Property is high, and a nice place to live can cost. Renting might be an option, but if you decide on a 1-bedroom apartment, in general, the cost is 1400-1700 / month. Houses are expensive. A car is a necessity to get anywhere. Camarillo is on the eastern side of what they call the Oxnard Plain, which is a vast, flat former seabed, but it is tucked into a sort of V. When I lived in Camarillo, it had only 15,000 people in it; now there is about 65,000. There is not a lot of great culture if you need that, but there is “easy” access to other places, of course by car. The congestion in the area is traffic, but Camarillo itself is not consumed by freeways.

    The upsides of living in Camarillo is that it has a pleasant climate – cooler than the inland valleys, and warmer than the coast. There are swaths of farmland that are pleasant, and there are mountains and places to hike, which is very nice. There are some schools, such as CSU Channel Islands, the 3 Ventura County Community Colleges (Moorpark, Ventura, and Oxnard), California Lutheran University, and UC Santa Barbara about 60 miles away (but a dreadful commute).

    Altogether, it depends on how you want to spend your earnings if one person is the provider. There are schools out here, and government at federal, state, and possibly local levels which might need a geologist or a teacher.

    California is a really unique place – it is expensive, laid back, beautiful, ugly, green, dry, full of beaches and mountains and urban sprawl, and the Channel Islands to visit. There is such a variety here you might find it to your liking, though the lack of really clear seasonal changes might be hard to take . . . if that is the case, look at the sky and watch how the light changes as the seasons change, watch for the lupines and poppies and sourgrass bloom and fade . . .

    1. Mr. SSC

      The area and climate seemed amazing, as well as all the state parks, and those kinds of outdoors opportunities around. As far as the lack of seasonal change, we’ve been dealing with that here in the Gulf South for almost 9 years, so if it’s a milder climate and not 4 seasons of Hot, Really HOT, Hot, Coolish, then that is an improvement, lol. The biggest hindrance for us is needing at least 3 BR and wanting a house vs. apartment. while we may bea ble to find a good deal on housing, even then, we wouldn’t be able to put money towards our other savings like emergency fund replenishments, kids college savings, our outside of the company retirement savings.
      In a couple of years, if it comes back around, it’s definitely an option then to get to live there and not worry so much about that savings because we won’t be putting money towards it then.

  4. Maggie @ Northern Expenditure

    I’m always trying to jump the gun on the lifestyle change, as we’ve discussed. But you’re right… waiting allows you to be more flexible and more in control. I’ll hope they both open up for you guys when you’re ready because it sounds awesome!

    1. Mr. SSC

      Haha, same here. We are close enough that if a position came along that didn’t put us cash negative, or just above cash neutral, we could take it, but this one wasn’t that position.

      Until we find that perfect fit job for where we are in our plans, we’ll stay here and keep grinding it out. 🙂

  5. Tawcan

    Can you ask for higher salary? It’s definitely more expensive to live in California.

    What about Oregon, would there be any job opportunities for you two?

    1. Mr. SSC

      Definitely! We’ve seen a few in Oregon, and other places, like Vernal, UT, a middle of nowhere teaching gig in MN, another one in MT, and even a BLM job in Couer D’Alene! They have all been like this position in that we’re not quite there to make the transition yet, for the $$ we would need to stay on track.
      By 2017, these opportunities become more realistic, and by 2018, we can pick anywhere we want, regardless of pay, if we even want to move to a job at that point, and not just move and decompress and enjoy not working for a few years first. 🙂

  6. Brian @ debt discipline

    We love California. My wife is from the West Coast. Even moving from the East Coast to CA the COL is questionable. The housing market in CA is crazy. The beaching, mountains and general outdoor activities are very tempting.

    1. Mr. SSC

      So tempting, I agree. If it had worked out and we both got offers, we’d be scouring for some housing right now, and prepping our house for sale, or rent. 🙂

      Alas, not this year though, not this year…

  7. Our Next Life

    Even though you had to turn it down, I’m sure it was a nice feeling knowing you’re a desirable job candidate! And I can definitely see why you had to turn it down based on numbers. SoCal is SO expensive in ways that can be hard to anticipate, like every form of insurance is crazy high. Groceries are a lot more, even though the farms that grow the food are so close. Gas is expensive, etc., etc., etc. So I’m glad you didn’t make the leap capriciously. But yeah, it’s always an option in the future — hooray for that!

    1. Mr. SSC

      Yeah, even those numbers I ran were not adjusted for the COL inflation out there, and that wasn’t even taking into account that car insurance most likely would have risen, and every other thing… It was a fun exercise, and good interview keeping those skills polished, and like you said, it was nice just knowing I was a good candidate. I’m sure there are lots of people out there applying for these types of jobs, but maybe not since they know they couldn’t make the numbers work.
      It was even better realizing that in a year from now, something like that could really be an option, and in 2 years from now, we can choose to move for work, or just move to enjoy the time off and not need any job… Oh, the possibilities!

  8. amber tree

    From the numbers, it is clear that it is not yet the right time to make the change. I like the positive ending you get from the story:you now feel better about your plan! that alone is worth the exercise.

    I have no idea on the COL in California compared to other parts of the US. We actually have the post feeling. When we were there on honeymoon, the EURUSD was 1,55. IT felt more like everything was at a discount to us… Nowadays, it would be very different .

    1. Mr. SSC

      That was definitely clear that it jsut wasn’t going to work. The cost of living there vs here is about 75% higher all around based on different websites but the killer was that housing is almost 180% higher than here, but the salary was about half of my current one. Yipe!!!
      We ran numbers before we applied, just to make sure it could work, but again that was assuming 2 salaries.

      It was totally worth it to feel better about our plan and opportunities in the future though.

    1. Mr. SSC

      Everyone needs toilet paper! Hahahaha It’s too bad that it wasn’t able to work now, but we’re still open for that right opportunity that would work, it just most likely won’t be in CA. 🙂

      We definitely appreciate what we currently have, and if things pan out right, we’ll be down to 1 income soon, and just enjoy being here and saving and having more free time. We do have a pretty good situation in a LOT of ways around here, and if works chedules got adjusted, it would make it that much sweeter. 🙂

  9. Erik @ Hippies de Land Rover

    Ohhh, if numbers do not add-up then, no sense for changing. Moving the kids and Mrs. SSC would make no sense at all. Your final goal is more important. keep open to listen to job opportunities (both) the time will come when you both get the right one and move on, so that sooner you can achieve your retirement. 🙂

    We wish you all the best guys!

    cheers! Erik

    1. Mr. SSC

      I totally agree, no need to be cash negative just to have a new-horrible budget strapped adventure. 🙂
      If the right opportunity comes along though, I’m fine with relocating to a better lifestyle, climate, and geographical area even if it slows our “ultimate retirement” a bit.

      Until then, we’ll keep working towards the goal, and sticking with the plan, but keeping an eye out for an opportunity that would allow us to jumpstart our lifestyle change, and still keep saving a little.

  10. Tyler

    The Wife and I have been talking about moving out of state for some time now, we live in Florida which has no state income tax which is nice, I also looked at other state taxes where we want to move (the Carolinas) and well we are unsure if we will be moving for some time. Thanks for this article it’s a good way for me to get an idea of how to count the costs of moving.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Paying state income tax when moving is definitely something to consider, however, we found that it is kind of a wash, at least between TX and LA. While LA had state tax, their property tax was reasonable, but TX has no state tax, but the property tax more than makes up for it…
      I googled “cost of living difference between Houston,TX and Camarillo, Ca” to get some rough estimates, and did the same search on state and federal taxes for different income brackets to use as an estimate as well.
      Glad the article helped you get another way to estimate cost of living differences. We’ve done this same sort of comparison with the different towns and locales we have been interested in as well just to get a better idea of cost breakdowns. And no, we don’t have much of a life, lol.

  11. Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor

    I’ve always wondered how in the world people transition to jobs in California from lower-cost areas. That’s great that you could have an opportunity there in a few years when the cost of living transition would be less of a barrier.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I agree, because when we first evaluated whether we could make it work, it was still assuming 2 salaries in that range, to be able to keep our savings a little close to where they are now. Daycare may reduce some, but with both of us working, we’d still need before and after care for our oldest who starts school in the fall. It would be tough for sure, and to make it work, we’d just have to make too many concessions for us to be comfortable making that leap.

  12. JT

    CA will be more expensive, for sure. But 27% in taxes? According to Turbotax’s taxcaster tool, a family with 2 kids making $95k and contributing 5% to 401k would only owe about 7% in federal taxes. Then, there are state taxes, but no way will it even approach 27%.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Well, most of the federal rates I found for that salary range as a married person were 9.3%, at every site I checked. There’s also FICA, and on the graphic I added from using their tax calculator they put FICA contribution at another 7.65%. Add in state tax, and you’re right, that is only 21% or 10.6% tax burden. Looking at the estimated fuel tax 46.6 cents per gallon and property tax, the estimated burden would be at 26%. We probably wouldn’t buy, so that would get us back another $1987/year. That’s still nowhere near the number we would want to be able to contribute to college savings, retirement savings, additional emergency fund savings, or just free money.
      So, yes, it does approach 27%, but still nowhere in the range that we would like to put ourselves which would effectively be cash neutral, and possibly negative when you addin the additional 7.5 % sales tax or additional COL expenses that we marginally accounted for.

  13. Ditching The Grind

    Sounds like it could’ve been a neat opportunity but the numbers just didn’t make sense right now. I went out to Camarillo a few times for work a while back and liked the area.

    I actually drove through Houston last weekend and thought of you guys. I’m still hoping we can meet before we head out to the UK.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Yea, the numbers don’t make sense at all… Right now anyway. We hope to meet up soon too. I’m going to be going through that area in 3 weeks, because I’ll be running the half marathon in Luckenbach on April 9th. If you’re coming through, we’re on the NE side of Houston, not too far out of the way from 10 and generally, pretty free… 🙂

  14. Prudence Debtfree

    As someone looking in from the outside, it seems so clear to me that you should keep sticking with what you’ve been doing – simply because it’s working so well. I wonder if you will find, just as Mrs. ONL is discovering, that there’s an unsettled twitchiness that comes with the approach of FIRE (or FFLC – I like that term). My vote is not to let it win. Hold on steady for a little while longer – and then you’ll have all kinds of freedom of choice.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I know, but it could have been fun, if the numbers worked out, or the scenario was different. There is definitely an unsettled sort of feeling around, at least with Mrs. SSC., compounded by the lack of fulfillment at work. Unless something magical comes along, we’ll just keep at it and when we get to 2017 or 2018 even, then like you pointed out, we’ll have all kinds of freedom of choice. Especially the choice to say Nuts to it all and just decompress somewhere for a year or two. 🙂

  15. Investment Hunting

    Welcome to California. Us residents are taxed highly and everything is expensive. But the weather is amazing, the culture is vibrant, and opportunity abounds. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

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