MA->CA... Move or not? (San Jose, San Francisco: to rent, health insurance, condo)
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I've been reading this forum for a long time. Nothing matches my question exactly, so I've decided to post. I'd really appreciate some help...
I currently live in a suburban town in MA... I own a house, and work at a place that pays around $110K-$115K. I have a stay-at-home wife and 2 kids (one is 1 year old, and one is 4 years old). I also have a large extended family within an hour of my house.
I've an offer to join a company in Foster City. The offer is $130K, and they offer variable bonus every year (about 10% of salary). The company didn't really do much of a Cost of Living adjustments, and just gave me a 'raise' to move from my present position. They do offer lump sump relocation package (about $10K)...
To make matter more interesting, if I stay around MA, I think I might be able to get $120K at a different company...
I'm hesitant in accepting an offer in CA. We're mentally prepared to move from a relatively large house in MA to a much smaller townhouse in CA, but we are not sure if we would have the same quality of lifestyle in CA (discretionary income, going out for meals once in a while, etc.).
Some of the pros in moving to CA: Good career move; more tech companies and future opportunities in bay area; much much more diversity for kids schools in bay area; better weather; now or never (i.e. kids are still young, so we're not pulling them from their schools, etc. If we let go of this opportunity, we're probably letting go of ever moving to CA).
Some of the cons: Will miss the extended family; much more expensive to live; no known friends or known established community; slightly worse education and healthcare in CA compare to MA (or so I've heard).
Unknowns: Different Lifestyle (smaller living space, less privacy, more urban and crowded, etc.) I think initially, we might enjoy the more livelier and urban environment since we ourselves did grow up in urban areas and only moved to suburban/rural area in the last decade; but we're not sure how long the 'initial high' would last...
So, my questions:
- Am I missing any pros/cons?
- Can a family of 4 enjoy a lifestyle in CA with household gross income of $130K? I think my take home net income (after removing health insurance, 401K, taxes, etc..) would be about $6800/month.
- Though it might be a good career move, does the move make any financial sense? From budgeting perspective, it seems the only savings I would have (besides 401K), would be the bonus that I'd receive.
- this is a tough one: Would we enjoy the 'change' and the lifestyle for a year or so, and then feel 'lonely' without our extended family?
- If we were to accept an offer, we would probably rent for a year and then would want to buy a 3BR townhouse for max of $850K. I would prefer to rent in a town/city, where we would eventually own. So, we would want great school district and not too far away from Foster City (or general vicinity)... Which town fits our profile?
From reading bunch of threads in this forum and looking at great schools website (looking at rating of 8+), I came away with the following towns in the peninsula: Belmont, Burlingame, Foster City, Menlo Park, Millbrae, Palo Alto, and San Carlos.
Apparently, it doesn't look like I would be able to find a 3BR place in Burlingame, Menlo Park, Millbrae, or Palo Alto for $850K. What do you guys think of the other towns (Belmont, Foster City, San Carlos)? Like I mentioned, schools are no. 1 priority (I assume all these towns are safe). Other lower priorities: young families town (preferably with kids), bunch of restaurants, close to large grocery stores, some downtown area, close to Caltrain... Are there any other towns that I'm missing out? I don't think I would want to commute via bridges from East Bay. Also, we would probably not go north of Millbrae (to avoid fog belt), and schools are not great in those areas anyways... From what I understand of commute times, I probably don't want to go south of Palo Alto due to heavy traffic in Route 101. Is that correct?
For the first year, would we be able to find something for max rent of $2500 in any of these towns (or would I be looking at spending 1/2 of my take-home monthly paycheck into rent)?
Sorry for the long post. Really appreciate any help...
That was a long post and I can't address every aspect of it. But be aware you're unlikely to live a true urban lifestyle in any of the towns you listed. Outside San Francisco, Daly City, parts of Oakland, downtown SJ, and Berkeley, most of the Bay Area is crowded suburbia...sort of the worst of both worlds...lots of traffic, but not enough density for good mass transit or walkable neighborhoods. This does seem to be changing, but it's been a sort of gradual thing, not something that will happen in a year or two.
Thanks for your reply, mysticaltygear.
Yeah, the post did get out of hand
I'm definitely not looking for true urban area, because public schools are typically not great in those areas. But I wouldn't mind living away from country-like town (towns where you can count the number of signal lights with one hand)... I assume none of these towns are country-like, right?
Are any of these towns (Belmont, Burlingame, Foster City, Menlo Park, Millbrae, Palo Alto, and San Carlos) affordable with the salary mentioned? Is it safe to assume that taxes+insurance would probably be $1000/month?
But I wouldn't mind living away from country-like town (towns where you can count the number of signal lights with one hand)... I assume none of these towns are country-like, right?
There is no way to tell that you are in San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Menlo, Palo Alto.....all the way to San Francisco, except for the little sign that says "you are now entering San Jose".
I'm really confused about the offer though. Should I take this offer?
Is the area really affordable with net income of $6800/month? I'm afraid that half of take-home income ($3400) would be gone in rent or mortgage+tax+insurance+hoa of 3BR/2BA house/townhouse.... Utilities + Phone/Internet/TV/Cell would probably take another $500. Fuel would take about $400, plus groceries for 4 would take another $500. So, left with $2000, and I haven't even calculated other insurances (life, auto, disability, etc), health co-pays, clothes, basic maintenance/repair to house or autos, going out to eat once awhile, etc.
I know this sounds like a crazy question, but would I be living paycheck-to-paycheck with $130K household income for the family of 4?
I did read the thread "is it a good idea to move from Boston", easybay. Your responses in that thread do give me some idea. Thanks for that.
The major difference between us and the other couple is that that couple actually live in Boston, which is obviously very expensive. I live in a tiny suburb where cost of living is less than Boston. We haven't lived in apt/condo/townhouse in more than 15 years... Also, I wouldn't be worrying about daycare, and such, since my wife won't be working for at least another 3 years... But we do have an extra kid
So, if that couple is questioning accepting offer at $150K, I probably should be as well, right? I'm guessing $130K won't go that far in that area, right?
Personally, I don't think 130k goes far here in the Bay Area. Others disagree with me. I came from TX, no state income tax, great public schools, Low COL, and we are doing well. If our salary was going to go up by 20k, there would be no way we would have made the move. The taxes and COL eat that up. I don't see it as an advantage for you. Also factor trips home to visit the extended family. You were only offered 10k to move- consider shipping your cars (1000+ per car), the move itself, and your one way flights, flights out here to find a place to live, and temporary housing, it should be more like 20k (and don't forget it's taxed).
I agree with jaypee, MA is a better bet. According to one well-known site for cost-of-living comparison, you'll need about $160K/yr for your income to be comparable. My favorite statistics to help you judge your situation is the per-capita median income. In Santa Clara county it's $40,698 based on 07-11 numbers, in San Mateo county it's $45,346. Your $35K/person (assuming full 10% bonus) will be well below median for the area you are interested in. Schooling here is a major issue as well, areas with good public schools are quite expensive. Private school tuition is roughly 20K/year. Make sure you look at it from all angles.
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