Migrating To California From The Midwest Or The South For A Better Life

For the past 10 years, traffic for the post, West Coast Living: Yes It Really Is Better, has been increasing. In the past, people landing on this post would come mainly from the East Coast. However, this year, I'm seeing more people coming from the Midwest and the South. Migrating to California is picking up steam now that the end is in sight for the pandemic.

The topic of migrating to California from the Midwest or the South is not a common topic in the mass media. Usually, it's people from more expensive California trying to see whether it's worth migrating to a Midwestern or Southern state to save money.

However, when the weather gets cold and people are locked inside for longer periods of time, it's natural to long for warmer places to live. Instead of enjoying the great outdoors for only 7-9 months a year, why not enjoy the outdoors in California for 12 months a year?

When you can go skiing three hours away after a major powder dump and then play tennis in sunny 68-degree weather a couple of days later, perhaps spending more money living in a place like California is worth it.

Further, migrating to California sounds more appealing when there are more career opportunities that pay more money. After all, there's a reason why the most number of billionaires live in California. Billionaires can live anywhere, which means living in California must have a special appeal.

Staes with the most number of billionaires

Thoughts On Migrating To California

Although I am long-term bullish on the heartland of America, I'm noticing a slight change in sentiment happening due to the pandemic. Here is some feedback from readers living in Austin, Sioux Falls, Des Moines, and Jackson. They are all considering migrating to California for a better life. I've edited the feedback they gave during the heart of the pandemic for better flow.

The reasonings revolve around job opportunities, weather, diversity, children, and politics. With Joe Biden and Kamala Haris as President and Vice President for the next four years, more people want to live in states that are politically aligned with their philosophies. The same is happening in reverse.

California is the #1 state economy in America. California is also the fifth-largest economy in the world, outperforming Japan, Germany, and the U.S. GDP growth rate over the past five years. With so much opportunity in California, no wonder why more people are considering migrating to this western state.

Top five economies in the world by GDP - California is one of the fastest-growing economies

Why I Want To Leave Austin, Texas

Sam, I'm currently living in Austin, Texas. I've been here for 10 years. I think it's time for me to go. I make $170,000 as a software engineer and my wife works in sales. We can work remotely and we only have a dog. We are considering migrating to California for the following reasons:

There are only two months a year in Austin that are nice: April and October. Every other month is either uncomfortably hot or too cold. The humidity here is a killer!

Back in 2012, we broke a record with more than 69 days with a temperature of 100 degrees or higher. Your one or two-week “heatwave” of 80+ degrees a year in San Francisco would be a dream.

The traffic in Austin has been getting worse. Further, the cost of living is rising a lot due to the number of people moving to Austin from places like San Francisco. And most of the people coming here from The Bay Area are rich, white, men.

I figure, if I'm going to live in a more expensive city with lots of traffic, I might as well move to San Francisco or Los Angeles where I can get paid much more! In San Francisco, I should be able to make $250,000 a year.

Finally, Austin is still Texas. Texas is a conservative state with harsh drug laws and strict views about marriage and abortion. Such views go against our family values.

COVID-19 cases by territories - Migrating to California feels safer

I Don't Feel Safe In South Dakota

Although one can buy a really nice house in South Dakota for $350,000, my family and I don't feel safe. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), has vocally opposed mask mandates. She thinks masks are not effective against the spread of the virus and we clearly disagree.

If we can't feel safe due to deeply ingrained beliefs about personal freedoms, then we feel it's kind of pointless to live in South Dakota. Wearing a mask when we're out in public is not a problem for any of us. Even our 4-year-old happily complies.

But when we see so many people out and about mask-less, it's infuriating. We're so close to getting a vaccine, I don't understand why so many people are acting so carelessly.

I think it would be nice to relocate to a state like California where its citizens have a mask mandate and seem more respectful. It just seems like common sense. I make $150,000 a year and can work remotely. My husband is a stay at home dad to our two boys. But he does some handyman work here and there to bring in an extra $20,000 a yar. My boss says I'd get a 20% salary increase if I were to relocate to San Francisco.

Finally, it is not unusual for the summers here to climb above 100 °F several times a year. Winters are the worst with January high temperatures averaging below freezing and low temperatures averaging below 10 °F in most of the state.

Midwest, including North Dakota and South Dakota have highest cases of COVID-19

The Downsides of Des Moines, Iowa

My family and I have lived in Des Moines, Iowa for 25 years. Go Hawkeyes! We like it here, but we're thinking about moving to California for our daughter. I make about $120,000 a year and we have an office in Santa Monica, California.

But it's hard to leave because the education system here is great with a 99% literacy rate. We also have the highest high school graduation rate in the country at about 90%. Bet not many people know this.

However, the winters often get below freezing, especially when you take the wind chill into consideration. You can get a lot of great steaks here, but not much else. It's kind of a bummer if you are a foodie like Gavin Newsom.

The thing that makes us wonder whether it's a good idea to stay in Des Moines is the lack of diversity. We are a white family living in a predominantly white city.

The racial makeup of Des Moines is about 82% white, 8% Black, 0.35% American Indian, 3.50% Asian, 3.52% from other races, and 2.23% from two or more races. We feel like we're in this bubble.

We're afraid the world will pass my two girls by given how competitive and diverse it has become. America doesn't look like Des Moines. I wonder if it's better to relocate to our office in Santa Monica.

Oh, and my wife and I are both Democrats. With Joe Biden winning the Presidential election, we thought it would be nice to move to a city and a state where we can openly celebrate for the next four years.

Des Moines is a quiet and inexpensive place to live. But we're looking to change things up.

Migrating to California because COVID-19 cases by temperature are higher in cold weather

The Mississippi Governor, Tate Reeves (R) Is An Idiot

As a Mississippi resident, I'm shocked and dismayed Reeves along with Texas Governor Greg Abbot (R) would drop the mask mandate and fully open up the state as of March 2021.

We are only two months away until every American adult who wants a vaccine will receive a vaccine. To fully open up our economies right before full vaccination is completely irresponsible!

I had never though about migrating to California until I heard the announcement. Although California has plenty of issues and higher costs, the way state is balancing safety and economic is more pragmatic.

With roughly 40% of Republicans unwilling to take a coronavirus vaccine, even after all the testing and data, I'm not comfortable living in a Republican-dominated state any longer.

A large percentage of Republicans are unwilling to take the coronavirus vaccine

Arkansas Has The Lowest Vaccination Rate

In Arkansas, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation, with only about 33% of the population fully protected, cases, hospitalizations and deaths are rising. In fact, more than 99% of COVID-19 deaths are coming from unvaccinated people as of summer 20021.

The Good And The Bad Of California

Although COVID-19 cases and deaths have come way down in all regions in 2021 thanks to the vaccines, many people are still scarred from the experience. They won't soon forgot how their politicians governed during the height of the pandemic.

I've lived in San Francisco, California since 2001. For the most part, I think the city and state provide for a high quality of life. If it didn't, California wouldn't have the largest population in America with ~38 million residents. I would have also voted with me feet and moved long ago.

Before migrating to California from the Midwest or the South, here are some pros and cons about California you should know.

COVID-19 pandemic numbers increasing in the South

Pros Of California

1) More career opportunities

2) More opportunities to make more money

3) Better weather in coastal cities

4) More diversity

5) Sunsets and beaches

6) Well-regarded public universities, e.g. UC Berkeley, UCLA, UCSD

7) Plenty of professional sports teams, e.g. GS Warriors, LA Dodgers

8) Blue state if you are a Democratic who supports Joe Biden

9) Plenty of nature that's well-protected, e.g. Big Sur, Lake Tahoe, Muir Woods

10) Nice variety of easily-accessed landscapes: deserts, mountains, coasts, farmland, rolling hills, giant misty forests, and volcanoes.

11) Entrepreneurial culture: general embrace of new ideas/tech without a lot of dogma or soul-searching, an openness to experimentation, and a willingness to fail.

12) More immigrant-friendly

13) Closer to Hawaii and Asia

14) Much lower coronavirus positivity rates

15) More networking and investment opportunities

Sunshine and beaches

Cons of California

1) High housing costs

2) Higher taxes

3) High energy costs (gas and electricity)

4) Bloated and poorly-run government with frequent examples of corruption and hypocritical politicians

5) Lots of traffic pre-COVID due to bad urban planning and a large population

6) Blue state and identity politics if you are a Republican

7) Poorly funded infrastructure

8) Natural disaster threats like wildfires, droughts, and earthquakes. Please make sure you have the appropriate amount of homeowners insurance, especially since prices have also increased dramatically.

9) Farther away from Europe

10) A lot more competition

11) Densely populated in the major cities

12) More stress and faster pace of life in the major cities

13) Harder to live a normal middle-class lifestyle and raise a family

14) Stricter lockdown restrictions during a pandemic

15) Crime and homelessness in the larger cities

Things To Do Or Know Before Migrating To California

If you've made up your mind about migrating to California, here are my recommendations.

1) Come with a job.

If you are considering migrating to California, I encourage you to first have a job opportunity lined up. Unless you're single with no debt, don't just come out here with no job and expect to find something relatively quickly.

Competition is fierce in every California city. Despite the perception of a laid back atmosphere, many type-A people from great universities like to come to cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles for the best jobs. With so much competition, life can become unpleasant.

Without connections or a star-studded resume, it's very difficult to just land a high-paying job you enjoy. Due to the high cost of living, what savings you come with will quickly be exhausted if you don't have a job.

If you do have a job opportunity in California and are coming from the Midwest or the South, I recommend you accept. Despite the higher cost of living, you will likely have a greater chance to make more money and build more wealth in California.

Once you've made your fortune, then considering leaving if you no longer enjoy the state. Even if you don't make a fortune in California, you can still go back much sooner if you don't like it out here.

Most people leaving California are lower income and middle income people due to the higher cost of living in California. The people who are migrating to California mostly consist of higher income people.

Who is migrating to California by income

2) Know the median rent and home price.

The biggest shock for folks coming from the Midwest or the South is the cost to rent or buy in California. San Francisco ($1.6M median home price) is the most expensive city in California followed by San Jose ($1.1M), Los Angeles ($788K), and San Diego ($650K).

Before buying, rent for at least six months to test things out. Renting is often cheaper than buying in the bigger cities, which means renting is also better value in the short-term. Once you've rented a place, spend some weekends driving around and visiting open houses in your ideal neighborhoods.

So long as you can spend less than 30% of your gross monthly income on housing costs, you are good to go. Spend any more and you've got to really be bullish on your income growth.

People migrating to California from the Midwest or South are the perfect candidates for my favorite real estate investing strategy: BURL. BURL stands for Buy Utility, Rent Luxury. The idea is to rent in an expensive city and buy in a cheaper city to earn higher cap rates. If you know you'd eventually like to move back to your cheaper city, BURL is the best strategy to follow.

3) Know your key state tax rates.

The California sales tax rate is 7.25%. This rate is made up of a 6.00% state sales tax rate and an additional 1.25% local rate. However, the San Francisco sales tax rate is 8.5%. The high sales tax rate is one of the reasons why I hardly ever buy anything in California. Buy things elsewhere and bring them over.

The average effective property tax rate in California is 0.77%, compared to the national rate, which sits at 1.08%. But don't be fooled. You'll likely have to pay a property tax between 1.25% – 1.5% a year on a much higher home price than in the Midwest or South. The San Francisco property tax rate is 1.25%.

Below are the latest California state income tax rates. The median Californian income-earner is paying roughly 6% in state income taxes each year. The threshold for paying a 9.3% marginal state income tax rate is quite low at $57,824 for singles and $115,648 for couples.

Before migrating to California, know the state income tax rates

4) Learn about Hispanic and Asian culture

Roughly 39% of the California population is Hispanic and 15% of the population is Asian. The percentage of Asians is 36% in San Francisco.

To better assimilate, it's worth learning as much as possible about various Hispanic and Asian cultures. Try to learn some Spanish, Cantonese, and Mandarin. If you do, you will make instant friends and have a better experience.

5) Learn about the history of California.

If you can read this Wikipedia page on California in its entirety, I'm sure you will be more knowledgeable than 90% of the population. Wherever you migrate to, it's always a great idea to learn as much about the place's history as possible.

Knowing a state's history shows you care. You'll be able to better understand where people are coming from and what drives people to do what they do.

I also encourage you to become familiar with our NBA and NFL teams. Californians are very proud of our championship heritage.

Focus On Income Growth To Get Rich

People have been coming to California since the 1849 gold rush to get rich. I don't expect this trend to stop, despite the growing work from home trend. The desire to live in a big city will always be around. I fear how bonkers things will get again in places like San Francisco and Los Angeles after there is herd immunity from the coronavirus.

Migrating to Los Angeles or San Francisco is like focusing on growing income to get rich. Staying in a smaller city like Sioux Falls or Des Moines is like focusing on savings to get rich. It's easier to grow your income to achieve financial freedom.

Of course, you can still significantly grow your income in a smaller city. However, there are simply fewer opportunities to do so.

What people who don't live in California constantly get wrong is looking at housing costs in a vacuum. The main reason why housing costs so much is because incomes are so high.

If you are a college graduate who is offered a $120,000 a year job in California, take it! You can control your cost of living and save a lot of money if you're willing. As a San Francisco landlord since 2005, I've seen plenty of six-figure income applicants willing to just rent a room for less than 10% of their annual gross income.

Just be careful. Once you make or have enough money to afford living in California, you may never want to leave again.

California revenue per employee is 45% higher than the U.S. average

Migrating To California For More Opportunity And Lifestyle

Before migrating to California for a job opportunity in 2001, I spent 10 years living on the East Coast. Four years were in McLean, Virginia for high school. Four years were at an in-state public school in Williamsburg, Virginia at The College of William & Mary. And two years were in New York City for my first job in banking.

Once I got to San Francisco, I realized there was no way I wanted to go back to the East Coast. I even turned down a big two-year guaranteed pay package to relocate to New York City in 2010. I loved San Francisco for all the things I mentioned above.

However, if there was no job opportunity for me in California, I would have grinded things out in New York City, a city I also love. If I remained in NYC, I probably would have gained 50 pounds, lost the majority of my hair, and suffered from intense allergies every year.

In a big way, California saved my health and my sanity because the work life balance culture is better. With less stress and better health, perhaps I may even live longer. Who knows for sure. The one thing I'm sure of is that California gave me a better life.

Thinking Leaving California For Hawaii

However, after 20-years of paying California taxes, we're thinking about relocating to Hawaii by 2023. We simply long for even warmer weather year-round and a slower pace life. I can run Financial Samurai from anywhere in the world. Honolulu is also cheaper than San Francisco. Most importantly, my parents live in Honolulu.

I'm tired of the California hustle. Everywhere I go, even at my weekly softball games, people are telling me about how much they're making in XYZ stock. Just last week, a fellow softball player told me out of the blue he and his wife are making $700,000 a year, which is why they are buying a $2.6 million house. Cool. I'm trying to focus on fielding, not finances.

The YOLO Economy post-pandemic is real. I think the majority of us are tired of being cooped up. We want to spend more of our money on living a better life. We also want to spend our precious time more wisely.

If you're very focused on making money, come to California. California is where dreams are made. However, once you've made your fortune, perhaps it's time to leave.

Real Estate Investing Suggestions

If you're considering migrating to California from the South or Midwest, you may want to hedge your bets. Come to California for the employment opportunities and lifestyle, but invest in the South and MidWest using my BURL investing methodology. BURL means Buy Utility (cheaper areas with higher rental yields), Rent Luxury (rent in high cost of living areas). 

My favorite two real estate crowdfunding platforms to invest in the heartland of America are:

Fundrise: A way for accredited and non-accredited investors to diversify into real estate through private eREITs. Fundrise has been around since 2012 and has consistently generated steady returns, no matter what the stock market is doing. For most people, gaining real estate exposure through an eREIT is a smart way to go. 

CrowdStreet: A way for accredited investors to invest in individual real estate opportunities mostly in 18-hour cities. 18-hour cities are secondary cities with lower valuations, higher rental yields, and potentially higher growth due to job growth and demographic trends. For those with more capital, you can build your own select real estate fund with CrowdStreet.

Both platforms are free to sign up and explore. I've personally invested $810,000 in real estate crowdfunding to diversify my holdings away from San Francisco real estate. Further, I want to earn as much 100% passive income as possible as a father of two young children. 

146 thoughts on “Migrating To California From The Midwest Or The South For A Better Life”

  1. I’m surprised at the number of comments related to California’s handling of the pandemic and praising it as opposed to that of other states. The response in the United States has been horrific everywhere. One only needs to look at China, Taiwan, Australia, and New Zealand to understand how pandemics can be controlled. If your primary reason for moving to California is to feel safer during a pandemic, then you are simply fooling yourself. You should be trying to relocate to parts of the world that truly have mastered pandemic responses. California’s response continues to be horrific as daily flights continue to arrive from India; the state has done nothing more than recommend quarantine for 14 days but with zero enforcement. These passengers are bringing the Indian variants to the state; an Indian friend of mine living in San Jose, just had distant relatives arrive in the US and after 3 days they tested positive for covid. When a flight arrives in Australia from India, all passengers face mandatory quarantine. There are many reasons for moving to California but pandemic response if not one of them. It would be like moving from the Bronx to South Chicago because the murder rate is lower.

  2. Gee, higher taxes AND a bloated, incompetent government that wastes that money. Sign me up.

    Being concerned about COVID is one thing. Making a serious decision to move, based on mask-wearing? Has this person been out and about lately? We just completed a multi-state trip through Arizona, New Mexico, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. Based on what we saw, I can tell you that South Dakota is not the only state that isn’t that thrilled about mask-wearing…

    Even Fauci is talking about wearing masks seasonally — in great part to combat flu and other diseases besides Covid…


    1. At least California recorded a $75 billion budget surplus today. That was quite a surprise. Maybe the money will be used to support public schools, help the poor, and keep tax hikes at bay.

  3. I knew I wanted to move to California when I was 18. I’ve been here ever since college and couldn’t be happier. So it doesn’t surprise me that more people want to move here too.

  4. As always very interesting perspective. There was one lie that seems to be repeated from the left at this time. As an independent voter, both the right and left have been getting their vaccines. So to claim its political issue when its not is a lie. You have no data to back that up only repeating the media which is left. Please stop encouraging politics on the issue on vaccines.
    Its tearing our country apart.

    1. Data is from Johns Hopkins University and the CDC.

      I think it’s always healthy to look at different perspectives. Just like it’s very healthy to travel internationally and speak another language.

      We shouldn’t discredit the experiences of others. And if you’re willing, please share your background and where you live. That’s the goal. Thanks

    2. Sam is showing actual graphs of opinions of people who said they wanted to be vaccinated or not. I hope that everyone gets vaccinated, but most Republicans at this time are of the type that followed Trump, and the folks at Fox News have not exactly been encouraging or talking about the importance of public health.

  5. Hey Sam, great post man, thanks for all the effort you put in! So Austin is totally not worth it anymore – it’s honestly not substantially more expensive for housing in SoCal than Austin currently. Additionally, Austin is honestly so similar to California in terms of how people act and political ideology, the density of tech employees, ect. So you’re essentially paying almost as much as cali (but not state income taxes) and getting a similar type place without the great weather and scenery. I wouldn’t do it.

    But other parts of Texas are really great. I moved 2 years ago from Orange County CA to Fort Worth and it’s been the best decision I ever made. I lived in the east bay also in the past. Part of my bias is that I’m a business owner with a warehouse and employees. I rent a warehouse for 2500 a mo here and the same space in Cali would cost twice as much. So that’s 30 grand right there. Income taxes for us if we had stayed in Cali would have been 65000. So just between office space and taxes, that’s 95k for the privilege of being in Cali.

    I asked my wife, do you think california is worth 260 a day in extra costs? She said heck no. However, she does miss California and felt like she fit in better there since she’s a workaholic and a director at a company and here in Fort Worth, there’s not a ton of insanely motivated career women here. It’s a lot more traditional overall than California. But I happen to like it better here. The weather isn’t as good but that’s the only downside for me. I like the people better here – they are infinitely more laid back and less type a.

    Everyone is a little less self absorbed and selfish (men and women always hold the door open for you) and superficial here than they were in orange county. Plus it always rubbed me the wrong way going to the store in California and at least half the cars in there are Teslas, Mercedes, BMWs, with a handful of bentleys or ferraris sprinkled in. That just seemed like a bazar world to me. I’ve made a ton of friends here and I just feel like I fit in better.

    My wife has made a lot of friends too but she still slightly prefers California in terms of the people. Lastly, we both really like that we don’t have to be closet republicans any longer. We are both very moderate republicans and are not die hard at all. But in Cali, it feels like you get social shaming if you’re not a democrat. Anyway, all of that has just been my experience. I grew up in Irvine in Orange County and have moved around to a bunch of other places then spent 8 years in Cali as an adult. For employees who don’t earn more than 300k a year, I think Cali can be very appealing.

    But if you have a business or make much more than that, you better be hiking in the mountains or going to the beach several times a week otherwise the cost ($260 every single day of the year for us) just isn’t worth the benefit. But there is less diversity here which I don’t like for once we have kiddos. But the people are less superficial which I do like for kids.

    1. Thanks for sharing! Glad you and your wife like Forth Worth. Being able to make friends and plant some roots is what makes anywhere better.

      $300,000 is an interesting household income. It’s something I’ve written about in the past: Why Families Need To Earn $300,000 To Live A Middle Class Lifestyle Today.

      Texas does seem much more business friendly. But what about property taxes in Texas? As a real estate investor used to Prop 13 in California, paying more than 1.2% in property taxes a year that adjusts rapidly would be a bummer.

      I think California is really laid back. The weather makes it so. But there are plenty of agro people in SF and LA for sure. Just got to choose who you hang out with.

  6. Very interesting discussions! I remember when I was in the military, I went down to CA for 30 days for schooling. The weather and food were amazing and there was so much to do! The beaches were beautiful. But everyone complained about how expensive it was and how high the cost of living was then, just as they are now, 14 years later. While there is so much talk about people leaving CA due to politics, high cost of living, poorly run government, and quality of life (homeless people, traffic, crime), I am interested in how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has affected people’s decision to move, specifically the provision that SALT deduction is maximized to $10,000. As I understand it, this means people from higher tax states will be “double taxed” on any state and local taxes over $10,000 whereas before there was no cap on SALT deductions. I am surprised not more people are talking about this and was wondering about Financial Samurai’s take on this! I am an Oregon resident and this year I will surpass the $10,000 max deduction due to state income tax and my property taxes. As I understand it, CA is a higher tax state so this SALT provision of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will greatly increase tax liability for people. Again, I’m no tax expert but just wanted to point out the SALT max deduction does not make any sense to me!

  7. Hey Sam –

    “If you do have a job opportunity in California and are coming from the Midwest or the South, I recommend you accept. Despite the higher cost of living, you will likely have a greater chance to make more money and build more wealth in California.”

    That is me! I just accepted an offer in San Diego, moving from Midwest. I used to earn 140k in midwest and am offered 170k in SD now. For a single guy, is this move few steps backwards in earning potential? The increase in base pay will partially cover the rent. But not other utilities and taxes.

    I need to know how much gross pay is a great benchmark to live stress-free daily life in SD? Is it 200k? or 250k? I am far from it!

    Again, 40 yr old single guy, no kids or GF etc. wanting to increase net worth from 0.4M to 2 M at least.


    1. I’d say a big part of it is how big of a place you rent and what the new rent cost will be. As long as it’s not insane you should be ok in SD on that salary. You def won’t be high on the hog and you will be exposed to plenty of people earning a lot more but SD is pretty amazing. I’d say try it out and see how you like it. Even if you only stay a year or two, then 170k is your new benchmark which you can leverage to get a diff job somewhere else making a little more than that. Seems like a good move.

    2. I lived in SD for over 10 years and I moved away from it in a heart bit. I’d rather take 140k in midwet than 170k in sd. 1. your state income tax will be around 10%, also federal taxes increased. 2. property taxes!, I’d rather take 1.4% on a 300k house than 0.8% on 650k house in SD. 3. you don’t get much land for your property, and often you’ll need to pay HOA (for life) and mello roos (30 years.) for new constructions. 4. Traffic is getting bad because most people from LA and SF are moving down for jobs, and people in Mexico or US are moving to Tijuana across the border for cheaper living and work in SD or shops there. 5. Gas, electricity, gas, water prices are all through the roof. Even if you buy electric vehicle, your electricity price will go up, and the state will always come up with ideas such as making you pay higher registration fees for Car battery, etc.
      Rich people live in california because they can make more money compare to living in other states and they can write off on their taxes.
      we are paying for the weather (ransom from the state), like SAM said, I’d only consider california if I have much higher than normal salary, or business opportunity or young and wants to party. California will always be a place to visit and not to live.

  8. My wife and I have thought about migrating to the coast. For us, it would be Vancouver instead of San Francisco the only reason is to stay in Canada. However, San Francisco is a beautiful place we love to visit (was actually stoped there on our HoneyMoon). I actually went to University in Vancouver and then moved to Edmonton to get experience and planned to move back. As it appeared it would be easier to get experience in Edmonton and then go back and get a really good high-paying job in Vancouver. While I was getting the experience in Edmonton I met my wife and we are happy where we are now.

    One item I found very interesting was how many times politics was referenced in reasons to move. I know there is a division but if people start to move due to politics it will have further repercussions. Think about how Trump already used red states vs. blue states. With that being said, I do hope Biden can start to bring everybody back together.

    1. Vancouver is nice, however, I wonder about the job opportunities? The median house price is similar to SF’s, but the pay is much lower. I can’t name a single company that pays six figure for new graduates. Whereas making $100K+ is common here in SF for new graduates.

      What would you guys do? And will you get bigger pay?

      1. I don’t know of a single company that pays six figures for new graduates in Vancouver either, that is unless you have connections but it is not typical. That was one of the main reasons I moved to Edmonton after university.

        If we moved to Vancouver I would continue to work in finance/IT and my wife would probably look for some sort of municipal job around legislation. I might get better pay, as there HQs there that will pay good money, but that isn’t even guaranteed and if I did it would not be significant. While my wife would probably be on par for salary but the house prices are much more expensive. So it isn’t something we are pursuing but it is something we like to think about.

        What is intriguing to me is how people purchase real estate in Vancouver or San Francisco and have plans to retire there. That is something we may do as that makes sense financially and even if our plans change it is a great investment.

        One thing I have looked at was how Edmonton has both cheaper houses and higher salaries, on average, compared to both Vancouver and Toronto. However, I have not run the numbers on if the appreciation of your house would more than offset the pay cut or perhaps your pay being on par. Have you done any analysis or have any thoughts on the appreciation of a house vs. salary? Of course, there are many downsides but it is an interesting perspective.

  9. IdiotCalifornian

    Sam, I’m glad you posted the marginal tax rates in CA. What are your thoughts on the very large gap between those earning $57,824 and $295,373? I have been making between $150k – $200k for the past several years in CA and I find this heinously punitive.

    Born and raised in Los Angeles, live in Pasadena, just turned 40. This state is going to hell.

    1. High crime, specifically robberies. Recently enjoyed a drive-by shooting and police chase in my “safe” neighborhood.
    2. Homeless situation is out of control.
    3. Let’s get back to taxes. Anybody in CA who lives in an area with more renters than owners knows all about voter-approved indebtedness. My property taxes far exceed the 1% of the value of my estimated property because renters keep voting for bonds supported by home owners like me. The public schools are among the worst in LA County and are dangerous, anybody with any money sends their kids to private school. So what am I paying for?
    4. Lockdown BS – movie studios can still film and have catering but local restaurants can’t have outdoor seating? Give me a break. My gym of 20yrs had to close down. Also, thought about going to Death Valley to camp/hike this holiday. CAN’T because of state “stay-at-home” orders. In LA County, public libraries have been closed since March but Best Buy can operate successfully. Schools are completely locked down, teachers refuse to go back. Most pertinent to my life, HIKING TRAILS are closed because of the state/county claiming that they are “too narrow to enforce social distancing”. So Walmart can stay open but I can’t go HIKING OUTSIDE BY MYSELF?!
    5. CA is anti-small business. Great if you have a tech job but what if you are a personal trainer or a hair stylist or a retailer, you are barely making it (and in Covid, you aren’t making it at all).
    6. The most corrupt politicians outside of possibly NYC and Chicago. Most don’t even live in their districts (talking about you Maxine Waters!!!). Also, extremely strong unions (see above: why kids are still at home, because of the teacher’s union).

    I truly hate this state now. Pre-lockdown I could justify the BS with a lot of the points that Sam made: great weather, can go to the beach/mountains/desert, lots of diversity (food, culture), great education opportunities (night classes at UCLA, Art Center, etc…), world-class museums but now, in lockdown, YOU CAN’T DO ANY OF THESE THINGS!!! And haven’t been able to do so since March. So I’m stuck at home writing angry responses to blog posts and playing video games. I can play video games in a lower cost of living state just as well as I can here in this hellhole…

    You may say that lockdown is a once in a lifetime event but I could see this happening again and again. Whether the virus was natural or man-made, I think it is overly optimistic that this won’t ever happen again. And California has displayed such an appetite for authoritarian measures and the sheep that live here haven’t fought back so I could easily see them arbitrarily locking the state down for whatever reason. Why stop at covid? Why not lock things down if fire danger become too high? Poor air quality? {insert reason here}?

    Sam, I love your blog and have recommended it to everyone I know but I can’t help but wonder if your (hard-earned) wealth provides you with a vastly different Californian experience than the vast majority of Californians…

    1. I’m an optimist overall. Instead of focusing on the negatives this year, focusing on the positives. I think by the second half of 2021, things will be almost back to normal again.

      As more people move out, the livability improves, which is really great. And maybe taxes will start going down if more big corporations leave.

      I have really always been an optimist, whether I’m a Virginia, NY, or growing up overseas. There are so many opportunities every day. And so many people show me that so many things can be done.

      I plan to take it easy for the next couple of years in California, pay less taxes, enjoy life more, and then hopefully moved to Hawai’i.

      And yes, The taxes paid have been painful. But I think about it as a form of giving back.

      1. IC and Luis have good points. I too am an optimist but – I am worried that California lawmakers double-down. Also, a lot of California voters think that the state is full, or two populated, so they like seeing people leave (but, they don’t think more broadly about what that means for budgets, etc). Also, many of the people leaving probably would vote for more business friendly and financially viable policies, so the departures might make more extreme views more mainstream.

        But, I do hope cities like SF, which are going to lose a huge amount of revenue, realize they need to change.

    2. Hi IC,

      Bullseye regarding your comments. I’ve lived in SoCal since I was stationed in Camp Pendleton for three years and then when in the Reserves also drilled there for five years.

      In my opinion, (due from being raised by parents who fled communism and had family members jailed as political prisoners – one for over 25 years) your penultimate paragraph. Forget the politicians, but look at what I call the “tiny tyrants” of state, county, and local health officials who now have the power to bring their respective population to their literal knees and all in the name of “safety.” With my family being from a communist country, I find the parallels striking with how Covid is being weaponized against the populace. I think you’ll find the Barrington Declaration a good read:

      Again, just like the communist “five-year plans,” the multitude of “tiny tyrants” will maintain lockdowns. Just remember that the lock down was to be in place for a couple of weeks so the hospitals would not be overwhelmed – look where we are now.

      Oh, and the vaccine, some “issue” will occur to negate lockdowns from being lifted.

      Best of luck IC.

      Semper FI

      1. IdiotCalifornian ('cause I still live here!)

        Hi Luis!
        Thank you for your service! I have never posted on any blog before but this article lit me up! Thank you for sharing your family’s experiences and for sharing gbdeclaration – I signed it immediately. I truly believe Newsom intends to extend lockdowns well into past the 1st part of 2021. I know a lot of people thought that if Biden won the election restrictions would miraculously be lifted but I thought the opposite- as you rightly say, the “tiny tyrants” have had a taste of absolute obedience and they like it. Looks like I was right as LA County just mandated a complete closure of all outdoor dining, again!

        Back in April, they shut down the Rose Bowl loop because the city was concerned about social distancing not being observed (and all gyms were closed so a lot of people took to the outdoors). Pasadena PD actually drove around with bullhorns and would ticket people running BY THEMSELVES. One of my favorite hiking trails was closed early on during lockdown because the trail itself is “narrow” and leaders felt that social distancing couldn’t be observed. Additionally, more trails have been closed due to the severe fire damage we experienced this past Fall thanks in large part to California’s mismanagement of the forests.

        Hiking is one of my true passions and I truly do not understand how small groups/individuals are at greater risk outdoors than at BestBuy. Somebody explain it to me, I don’t get it. Surfers have been arrested as well- explain to me how somebody on a surfboard is more pestilent than 2 people filling up at a gas station next to each other. The cynical part of me wonders if this is a cash grab by state employees who are now paid to sit at home. And within the private sector, there are egregious abuses of federal and state money where companies are allowed to bill without performing any services- a cost which is passed down to taxpayers!

        Just remember how many “temporary” taxes you may or may not have voted for in the past which soon become permanent. And as you rightly state, weren’t we told “3 weeks to flatten the curve”? Yeah right. The government rarely reduces their power voluntarily….

        1. spaceassassin

          Get outside, go surf and hike–pretty sure no one is going to stop you. Politicians can say what they want on TV and put policies out there, but very few local jurisdictions are going to interfere with your outdoor activities.

          The random surfer or hiker arrested by some bone-headed enforcement agency isn’t the norm. Trust me, there are thousands of us out surfing and hiking all week long.

          I wouldn’t let these few random cases and temporary rules deter you from your true life passions.

          1. IdiotCalifornian

            Really? I’ve been turned away (thankfully not ticketed) three times. Once in the forest, once at the beach, and once at a local park. I guess I’m just unlucky…but I really want to go snow shoeing so I’m planning my next civil disobedience. ; )

      2. IdiotCalifornian

        And I have a final comment. So people can “protest” in large numbers but it’s not safe for me to hike or for my Mom to go to church? Give me a break!

        Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely…

        1. Let’s be honest. You are never going to leave California. All you like to do is complain. 10 years from now, you’ll still be in California enjoying all the state has to offer, but complain.

          Complainers are never happy and satisfied with what they have. Deep down, you know this, but yet you refuse to do anything to change your life for the better. That is sad.

          1. IdiotCalifornian

            You don’t know me and I find your post highly insulting and rude which, let’s be honest, was your intention. Plus I pay extremely high taxes for the “privilege” of living here, I have few deductions as a single non-parent, and subsidize many state/local initiatives that I do not personally benefit from. CA will miss my tax dollars and if they are able to pass their latest brilliant idea of taxing people up to 10 years after they have left the state, well obligations be damned I will get out of here before that law is effective.

            I’ll be happy to write a guest post here once I’m satisfied my elderly parents are taken care of and I can move on (or CA successfully finds a way to tax people after they have left the state in which case I will accelerate my timeline).

      3. What is the benefit to state governments to shutdown? Name a single benefit economically? Less income, means government pension losses and government furloughs and layoffs eventually. They need those sales tax dollars and business property taxes to keep the books balanced.

        Sure, those who think it’s all about control can say it makes sense. But what does control really get you? Newsom might get recalled because of these lockdowns… I’m sure he doesn’t want that headache.

        I’m not for extending lockdowns if it’s no necessary. But they aren’t going to be able to plug state budget holes with higher taxes on an out of work population. So your logic that they want to extend lockdowns doesn’t work..

        1. IdiotCalifornian

          I agree with your statements- you’re right, it doesn’t make sense. However, I’ve lived in California long enough to personally experience many of the nonsensical, short-sighted positions that CA politicians take that end up costing the state dearly in the future. I remember when Gray Davis was recalled and one can argue he didn’t do nearly as much damage as Newsom. Also, I really don’t think CA politicians make any decisions with the long-term in mind but they do so love control….

          Sam mentions in his article that people leaving the state could result in higher quality of living for those who remain. Well, I suppose if you are retired and live off of your investments that could be true but people/companies leaving are taking their tax dollars with them. I think CA will experience a massive budget shortfall in 2021. I wonder if they expect to make up the difference via tax hikes on the rich/middle-class and corporations? But at some point, there won’t be any money left to tax.

          I don’t believe that shutting down benefits state governments economically and I am not proposing that politicians are even considering the economic catastrophe they are courting with continuing to extend lockdown. Why did AOC discourage Amazon from having an HQ in NYC? Do any of these people think about economics or the future? Doesn’t seem like it to me. All of modern American governance has been about robbing the future to pay for the present.

          Having said that, you said my “logic that they want to extend lockdowns doesn’t work”. I didn’t say it was logical.

            1. IdiotCalifornian

              Not sure- where do you think? I’m highly interested! Possibly Texas with so many companies moving there. I like good weather just as much as anybody but I work 60hrs+ a week so honestly, I can work and play video games in Dallas just as well as I can in LA. And perhaps retire earlier so I can just camp/hike all of the time, all over the world, wherever I please. : )

              Unless of course lockdown becomes a recurrent theme…

              1. Got it. I’m excited that you are taking action and moving! So many people just complain and years later, end up doing nothing about a suboptimal situation.

                Do you have kids as well?

                I’d love to get some feedback once you make the move. What is the ETA for relocation? A guest post about the logistics of moving etc would be great too.

                1. IdiotCalifornian

                  I am single, no kids but unfortunately I have elderly parents that I must take care of so I will be stuck here for a little longer. Most of my friends have already left CA to go to Texas, Colorado, and North Carolina and they are all happy with their respective choices (and these are people who were born and raised here like myself). I like the beach but I like the mountains even more so my fantasy list in descending order is Montana, Wyoming, Utah (would be ranked higher but I like to drink and I’m not religious), Idaho, Nevada, and Colorado (would be ranked higher but the state seems to be following CA into the abyss). Oregon used to be on my list but I don’t want to live anywhere that has autonomous zones.

                  One of the things that I would have to overcome would be missing Asian culture. I studied Chinese and Japanese in college, grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, and home to me has always meant signs in Chinese + mountains. I think I would have to move to Vancouver, Canada to get that same feeling. Also, I would miss the international exposure I currently get in Los Angeles. I recently took a road trip to Las Vegas with some colleagues and I was the only person in the car who was born in the US. I’ve found that people who have immigrated here often have a valuable perspective on various things.

                  My job is location-independent but I must live in the US and live close enough to an airport as frequent travel is required once Covid-restrictions are lifted. I’m a little tempted by Georgia as I have many colleagues there and they love it but I’m not a fan of humidity. The only state that I immediately discarded was Washington DC, because screw those people. : )

                  I’ll let you know if/when I finally escape and would be happy to write a blog post. The most interesting thing to me would be how much I would financially come out ahead because my base pay would likely be reduced by a geographic move but the bonus potential would remain the same. I had a colleague who was paid his CA wage in CO with state income taxes at 2%! He was able to buy a very nice house, wife could stay home, and support small children- something even with his good salary he could not do in LA…

                  Well, I suppose the grass is always greener but covid has really made me question stubbornly staying in CA…

        2. Hi Bluestater,

          Travel to countries, if you can, that are socialist/communist. The bureaucrats in charge don’t care about budgets, government furloughs and layoffs. They have the power so they don’t need the tax revenue.

          As for the lockdowns, in my opinion it was a trial run that wildly exceeded their expectations in how pliant we’ve become as a people. More to follow…

          Another motivation of the tiny tyrants is their obsession in punishing their perceived enemies. I think part of the reason for the lockdowns was to annihilate the small business owner – the ones that can’t work from home. Those individuals don’t need local government, in most cases, the local bureaucrats are an impediment. And, many of government employees know in their heart of hearts they could never make the kind of money or run a business. Their government job (23 million and counting of federal, state, county, and city employees) will be the pinnacle of their professional development as compared to the small business owner – most who built something from nothing. In short, Envy is at the root of these punitive dictates.

          Again, just look at history. A classic example was the Stalin’s decimation of the Kulaks – the wealthy peasants. Or, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia

          I recommend you read Camp 14, Harvest of Sorrow or if you want to watch a movie, see “First they killed my Father.”

          I hope I’m wrong but history bears otherwise. However, all is not lost. There are many things you can do in case the situation deteriorates. Just a couple of suggestions, first be in the best physical condition possible and don’t be in debt. Also, avoid danger – don’t poke the bear.

          Well, I hope this gives you an understanding regarding man’s lust for power and how it’s manifesting itself like never before here in the US.

          Semper Fi!

          1. IdiotCalifornian

            Spot on Luis- great post! These people don’t care about budgets- they can tax/borrow their way out of trouble (although I suppose eventually you end up like Venezuela). You explained expertly what I was attempting to convey in my original post and thank you for the book recommendations.

    3. Robert Ruschak

      I have been reading this blog for a long time and I find it funny the author listed Joe Biden as a positive. The high income earners will have to pay more taxes, however, it is politically popular to raise the taxes against the extremely wealthy!


      1. Why wouldn’t Joe Biden be considered a positive for California if 65% of the California voters (~11 million) voted for Joe Biden? Kamala Harris is from California as well. These are just facts as California’s electoral votes went to Joe Biden. What am I missing?

        It’s similar to saying Joe Biden is a negative for residents in Texas, South Dakota, and Iowa.

      2. IdiotCalifornian

        All politicians, but especially Democrats, have learned how to get people to vote against their own self-interests. Even high earners don’t necessarily understand math. I’m a high earner but I do my own taxes so I really understand how much I am paying (only deduction I get is mortgage interest). In CA, every dollar over $48k for a single filer is taxed at 9.3%. The effective tax rate for people earning $70k in CO is 3.82%. Also, gasoline and energy are taxed heavily in Los Angeles and restaurant food costs more than the equivalent in a place like Nevada. Lastly, vehicle registration for my 2016 SUV is $320 (and insurance is high!). I used to wonder how people in Alabama could own like 10 cars and then I found out car registration was $23…

        Frankly, REALLY wealthy people (like Bezos, Trump, etc) don’t pay high taxes in comparison to their overall wealth. The tax code is extremely punitive towards high earners, which is why people like Joe Rogan moved to Texas and Tiger Woods moved to Florida. They still have to pay high federal taxes but clearly moving to a state with low/no income taxes is highly beneficial.

        Even in hell, I mean LA, you only have to go 1 county over to pay 2% less in sales tax. Sales tax is north of 10% in most of LA County but you can go to Ventura County and pay 8%. They’ve cracked down on people buying cars in Ventura but you can still go buy a big screen TV, save a couple hundred dollars, and spend 45min more in the car.

    4. Speaking of drive-bys, I was almost shot in the head by an AR-15 a couple of years ago while in a business meeting in Arcadia. I was sitting next to a window facing Great Oaks Blvd. when I heard a truck rumble up to the light, then the shot came over my shoulder. The bullet went 1 foot directly above my head. 1 foot lower and I would no longer have a head. The bullet went across the room and lodged in to the wall. 7 LA County Sheriffs came out and questioned people around the area but it was too little….too late. Now, 4 years later, with Communist DA George Gascon now in place….they would not even bother coming out.

      Fk LA. I am out of this Socialist Hell Hole in less than 60 days after 20 years here.

  10. I worked my way from growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma to living/working in the Bay Area. Growing up in the middle of the country, the success dream for many includes living on the coasts. I dreamed of some day living in California.

    I moved to Colorado Springs for college. Married a girl from the Bay. Mostly love; a little strategic knowing where the family roots lead to. After graduating, we moved to Denver to start our careers and we bought a fixer upper in 2011 which exploded in value. Then last year, we finally rolled that equity into a new build in California.

    I couldn’t be happier out here. The increase in income has significantly made up for the cost increases. I’ve never felt more well off. We’ve never invested more in retirement accounts. Nicest house we’ve both ever lived in. I bought a convertible and visit the beach twice a month. We drive or take cheap short flights to other parts of the state for three day weekends. Prior to the pandemic, my commute wasn’t any worse than my Denver commute. Both my wife and my main negative of living out here has been people seem very close minded compared to Denver. At work, people talk over each other and don’t listen to each other’s ideas. People disregard others very easily, both at work and in public daily tasks. Hold the door for someone at a store so that it doesn’t hit them in their face after your entrance and they will be very confused by your basic kindness. Also the racist comments people are willing to make to each other feels even worse than it was in Oklahoma. However, I was young in Oklahoma so I wasn’t privy to adult conversations. Still a shock though.

    Denver my negatives were jobs expected so much for what felt like too low of pay for the increasing costs of living. I’d get the winter blues every January through end of March. Hailed all the time in the summers damaging our vehicles. Traffic is bad. Nobody will zipper merge or let anyone in front of them. Commuting is mostly along i25 and took an hour and a half to get home every day just across town. Add another hour when it rains and another two hours if it’s snowing. Traffic to and from the mountains to hike or ski is also stop and go. Becoming very California in politics. So felt it was time to stop living in “Calirado” and move to the real deal. I’d still buy a retirement second home in Vail, but Denver is not a place I’d want to spend my working years.

  11. I am having a tough time with this article and, more so, the commentary/inconsistency with previous articles.

    My husband and I make a bit over 1 million/year with only the potential for growth and have considered a move to California for the weather, hiking, proximity to close travel. Though we cannot work completely remotely and it would require some travel back to where we work it would be doable. Even on a 1million+ income per year we cannot justify how much housing is and feeling house poor. If I remember correctly, you once posted an article about living in NYC on a 1million+ salary and how much it didn’t make sense if you wanted to save money. Why would this be any different if your compensation can’t even come close to 1million+ a year.

    After watching the housing market for sometime, even with the current low mortgage rates, a house that we would consider decent, which is a 1500 square foot fairly redone 3 bed shack, is 2million+. Of course the areas I am speaking of are on the coast. Something that would be around 2500-3000 square feet easily puts you in the 3million+ range.

    How on earth can someone who makes 300-500k a year afford anything remotely close to this on the coast when decent 1 bedrooms are +/- 1million? Even if they could swing it, why would this even remotely be a smart financial move? Could we afford a 3+ million house on our salary, yes. Would it make any financial sense, most likely not.

    Would truly like to hear your thoughts on this.

    1. IdiotCalifornian

      Most hiking trails are closed because of Covid. I haven’t been able to hit my usual mountains/trails since February. Was planning on going to Death Valley for Christmas to hike/camp. All campgrounds and RV hookups are closed due to the governor’s “stay at home” mandate. Covid may be a once in a lifetime event but it may not, so keep that in mind if you enjoy the great outdoors- because you won’t be enjoying them here during lockdown.

      1. IC – I hit the send button to fast. The penultimate paragraph of your original article is on the money. Good luck to you. You seem solid. Semper FI

  12. Love all your articles. I find this post interesting that all the replies were moving for political reasons, not necessarily financial reasons. They all quoted weather or traffic and then let the cat out of the bag. They want to live in CA, as the epitome of their Political beliefs. Seems contrary to all of the financial Samurai articles I have enjoyed reading over the years.

  13. The Great Lakes states are best! Low cost of living (except for perhaps Chicago) and reasonably good incomes in many of the cities like Detroit and Minneapolis. Plus, we can buy homes that don’t bust our budgets, taxes are lower so we can save for retirement. This is totally subjective, but I find the culture more down-to-earth and less superficial.

    We don’t get stuck in traffic all day. Best of all, we have fresh water! Lots of natural beauty, activities, and easy road trips to other cities and Canada (when Covid restrictions are over.) Tough people can handle cold weather and make the most of it. Skiing, snow-shoeing, fat-tire biking are all fun things to do. I could save more money by living here in Minneapolis and flying to other cities every month for mini vacations than by living in those east and west coast cities.

  14. I enjoyed the thoughful, fair, and accurate comments from Sam and several of the posters.
    I lived throughout northern California for most of my life and now live in Orange County. For me, the major drawbacks of California are overinflated prices, the corporate automaton lifestyle, and the horribly run government. For those that arrived in the 1970s or before and bought a home, they don’t have the expenses and are less likely to be corporate automatons. Once those people pass, it will feel very hollow, and I’m not sure there will be any joy left in living here in California.

  15. I can tell you that Georgia is getting flooded from people in northeast. Similar to other large cities the quality of life just isn’t that appealing. I live in a upper middle class area that was traditionally conservative north of Atlanta. The state flipped blue in last election primarily due to the Influx of northeasterners. I feel like in 5 to 10 yrs ill be sitting on a gold mine with my modest 3200 square foot house worth 450k. Good schools are only helping the situation, along with work from home an lower taxes. The time of suburban living is getting really attractive. My 2 cents

  16. Born and raised in the Bay Area. Wonderful memories of my childhood; whale watching at Point Reyes, the exploratorium, Lawrence hall of Science, General Sherman, Monterrey Aquarium and sitting at the edge of the runway at NAS while the Blue Angels took off over head and flew around the Bay. My entire family still lives within a 50 mile radius of each other in the Bay Area.

    I tell many people had I never left California, I never would have. I am aware this smacks of Captain Obvious but the point is relevant.

    Due to my career path following college I had to leave (Uncle Sam dictated my locale). I spent the next 5+ years with a singular focus of getting back to CA. But then something funny happened. After living in several other places, I began to notice things more acutely during my trips back to visit family friends. Traffic seemed worse, things were more expensive, people seemed less tolerant of opposing views regardless of how trivial it was, There were more rules around what you can/cant do and when, a sense of entitlement and/or arrogance was palpable. At the same time, I came to appreciate that there are other truly amazing places to live and experience in this country. That appreciation, for me, was further punctuated by my time outside the US.

    I still think of CA “home.” It is place dear to me. My family, many friends and memories remain there. That said, California and I have both changed substantially since I left 20 years ago. I am more than content to live elsewhere so that my family can enjoy a high quality of life that also enables me to aggressively save for the future. I still visit periodically for both work and pleasure. I love those trips but am always happy to leave. Visits provide my fix. I won’t ever move back.

    1. Well said BW3 ! After living in Bayarea for 20+ years I thought I would never leave,BUT, the uncontrollable cost of living , the phony politicians and their phony agenda, job situation changes, all led to my exit CA in 2014.
      I thought about moving back to Bayarea earlier this year, but the consistent raging wild fires, the water shortage , aging infrastructure, uncontrollable homeless situation , high taxes and housing cost, all prove to be a deal breaker for me.
      Just like you, I’d love to go back and visit SF from time to time, but I am done with CA for good.

  17. Frugal Bazooka

    I give you credit for being contrarian on this issue – always a good thing in my book.
    Statistics tell us that more people are leaving California than arriving so if you believe in economics – supply and demand tell us that Calif’s value is dropping.
    You mentioned a lot of reasons in your “Cons” list why people are leaving so I won’t rehash them. Having said that I think you glossed over a few important realities of the past 20 years. Twenty years ago a middle class type person could move to a major city in Calif and build a foundation for a decent life. Working hard and following the rules paid off for many people and they were rewarded with houses that skyrocketed in value, portfolios or pensions that were the envy of the nation, suburban neighborhoods that were safe and friendly and state and local gov’ts that, while somewhat “progressive”, more or less stayed out of the way of the general population.
    That Calif of 20 years ago no longer exists. There are still plenty of high paying jobs for highly educated elite workers, but not so much for the middle class and working poor to aspire to. The state and local Gov’ts have become a hammer to slow economic growth with high taxes and regulations that hamper the middle and lower classes from being able to start legit businesses. Working hard and saving money is not enough to afford a house in any major city unless you can figure out how to get 100 or 200k cash for the down payment. Taxes are high but we never seem to get much of a return for those taxes with mostly terrible public schools, and gov’t budgets that are long on socialist utopian boilerplate and short on efficient functioning public policy.
    I feel lucky to have been in Calif for it’s heyday, but those days are no more. I have lived in several parts of the US and yes Calif has great weather, but it’s not enough to make up for what it now lacks.
    For anyone thinking of moving to Calif, think long and hard before you pack up the Uhaul. Consider moving to Calif for an entire summer before making the big move and make sure you fully understand what you’re getting yourself into. When I moved here rent was $500 a month for a one bedroom Beverly Hills adjacent. Now you would pay upwards of $2500 for the same apt. Gas is $3, leasing a house is $4000-$6000 for a 3/2 single family home. I could go on, but do your research. Probably the most unfortunate change is the crime rate. When I first moved here it was very high. Street/gang crime was a huge problem in SoCal and then 3 strikes was enacted in the 90s and crime plummeted. Not content with low crime the geniuses in state and local gov’t have slowly but surely rolled back preventive crime measure (no cash bail are you f*cking kidding me?) and sure enough crime is starting to surge again.
    Calif used to be an exciting, creative destination for libertarians, rebels, artists and entrepreneurs who would not take no for an answer. For newcomers with more ideas than money, Calif has become a dystopian tale of 2 cities made up of wealthy and poor and not much else.

    1. I always laugh when Americans refer to the great weather in California. Growing up in Ohio I dreamed of living in California to avoid the harsh winters. When I graduated I moved to LA and lived there for 4 years. During the same time frame I began traveling in Mexico and Central America and quickly realized why California was sparsely populated when it was part of Mexico. By comparison to many locales in Mexico it has cold winters and beaches with freezing cold water. Had the US taken all of Mexico during the war, I suspect California would still be sparsely populated – I doubt the aqueduct would even have been built. One’s perception is often based upon limited experiences. Maybe that helps to explain why the US has been a country content with choosing lesser evils every 4 years. When California is the best you have for weather and beaches, you really do have a problem.

    2. As far as taxes go, it seems most people in Cali who long for a decent job angle toward getting a state job. I have a neighbor who is “proud” that both his kids got state jobs. Many people I know who have such jobs don’t have a high regard for what they do (although they LOVE the salary & benefits), so it seems they are “make-work” jobs. That’s where a lot of your money is going.

      It has gotten worse in the last 20 years, but a large part of that is there are more people and the infrastructure (including the schools) hasn’t kept up.

    3. Another point of view, we made middle class income and worked some overtime and side jobs in order to save. We don’t make a lot of money for Los Angeles standards. But, we saved our brains out for many years, became millionaires and financially independent. So it’s possible. I worked with gangs and high risk offenders, even lived in sketchy areas, but it was fine. People are people everywhere, some are kinder than others, regardless of location. It’s a personal preference. I love CA and the vacations we take within the state. Also, there are tons of places to live that don’t have gangs. But, it ain’t utopia anywhere.

      Traffic does suck if u have a long commute and there is a major homelessness problem in the city, which I’ve seen in other major cities, but it’s possible ours is worse.

      Guess you would have to define wealthy and poor. I feel wealthy but tons more have more than we do.

      Sam hit many of the main points.

  18. We lived in Palo Alto while my wife did a fellowship at Stanford and I couldn’t be happier we left. Looking at jobs for the both of us, pay was not close to higher enough to justify the cost of living difference between the bay and the Dallas burb where we moved. We have a household income of 330k, which cost of living calculators tell me would need to be 1million to give us the same standard of living in the South Bay. We paid 440k for a 3700 sf house here, very nice. The cheapest listing I ever saw in Palo Alto was a million, for a 1 bd condo. Our comp house in the South Bay would cost us 4.5 million. In TX, we have excellent public schools where we live, no income taxes, and the roads are brand new and not crowded. Texas is great if you can take the heat for 3 months a year.
    San Fran itself has a lot to offer in the way of culture and entertainment, but it’s a crime ridden mess. We genuinely feared for our safety every time we went out in the city, day or night. There are drug addicts and homeless people everywhere. Right outside the Asian Art Museum we watched 5 guys doing needle drugs in broad daylight, on the sidewalk, at 11 am. There are people who are obviously deranged and reek of urine and feces all over the place. I saw rampant shoplifting, drug dealing, and other petty crime everywhere. It’s not a place I’d want my children to live.

    Love your blog Sam.

    1. It’s unfortunate so many folks equate San Francisco to the poorest and much dangerous blocks of the tenderloin district. Few people live there. Maybe I should do a post to help improve the city’s reputation.

      If you guys bought a house in Palo Alto when you guys were there, what would it be worth now? I have friends in Menlo Park close by who seem to have made a killing.

      Glad you enjoy Dallas! One of my favorite books is Michael Lewis’s Liar’s Poker. Famous line in the book is of analysts not wanting to get stuck doing “equities in Dallas” bc they wanted to be in NYC.

      I met a gay white man, about 26 years old this past weekend. He was new to our softball meet up. He said he relocated from Dallas to Oakland and he couldn’t be happier. He felt ostracized in Dallas And was not comfortable there. He has an airline attendant.

      He has three other roommates and found the cost of living to be fine. He never wants to leave the Bay Area. So I guess, different strokes for different folks right?

      1. I originally thought this was satire before realizing it was actually meant to be another pro left wing/Cali apologist opinion piece. The day the 2nd wealthiest man in the world flees Cali (just a few days after HP bailed) and four contrived stories are delivered about people wanting to leave red states for Cali because the following things are against family values:

        – Strong drug laws
        – Protecting the sanctity of marriage
        – Not allowing babies to be murdered



        – “We thought it would be nice to move to a city and a state where we can openly celebrate Joe Biden for the next four years.” LOL…okay!

        – The search for a place with “mask mandates.” LOL…okay!

        – Gay male flight attendant happy with the decision to live in the Bay Area. Okay…surprising development!

        – Fear of getting passed up by living in a predominantly white area.

        Been force fed that white privilege provides an unfair advantage. Framed as a disadvantage now to be in the middle of white privilege. Such confusing messaging.

        Definitely prefer the financial stuff. I’m reminded of Lebron and Hollywood floating out their lanes. Many of the examples given are the reason for the mass exodus which is why I originally thought it was meant to be satire.

        1. White, Republican, successful men are the most common types of people to migrate away from California. Keith Rabios is another.

          And frankly, many Californians are happy they have left.

          1. Haha exactly Andy.

            Sam you bring up a good point about the LGBTQ community feeling less ostracized in CA. Similar for people seeking diversity.

            1. Yeah, Andy, I’m sure people are thrilled with Tesla, Oracle and HP leaving at the same time. Good take.

              “LGB… feel less ostracized” in the Bay Area. Another great take and definitely takes precedent over keeping Tesla, Oracle and HP in the state. I mean, as long as that segment is happy with the radical liberal policies, who cares about billionaires taking their business elsewhere.

              1. It’s interesting, b/c Larry Ellison is a close friend of Elon’s and a big investor in Tesla. I’m sure they talk all the time and have the same ideology and outlook.

              2. I have a friend who works in the tech industry in the silicon valley. He was looking at positions within netflix and even on their application they ask your sexual orientation and if you have had any transgender experiences. Personally I would have thought that is private information but my only assumption is they are using it to meet some diversity goals.

        2. Pete! Great comments! Statistic are impossible to ignore! People and companies are leaving in huge numbers over the pas TEN years! Sam it’s hard to argue facts. So you go to soft “facts” / opinions. I get it it’s your home, but you have lived in only two areas of a huge wonderful country that is WAY less expensive and a greater QUALITY of life. Everyone one has a right to their own opinion but facts are facts. Cali is losing population!

          1. Did you want me to write another post on why people are leaving California? I find it to be less interesting because there are already so many post written about the subject.

            I personally believe there’s going to be a boom in big cities in California starting in the second half of next year. And all the smart money people that I know are buying up prime properties at least in SF now.

            Only time will tell who will be right! And in the meantime, I’m enjoying the increase livability with a lower population.

            You didn’t tell me where you live. Thanks

            See: https://www.financialsamurai.com/its-time-to-focus-on-big-city-living-again/

  19. Thanks for an interesting post. We live just outside New York City and are trying to figure out where to retire. We like city life, but want better year round weather, as well as staying with a liberal city. There aren’t many options where we can reduce our cost of living, California was definitely on our list, though your last comment “…once you’ve made your fortune, it’s time to leave.” connects with my main concern about how expensive California will be and we won’t be building careers anymore. Difficult to determine if it is worth taking the bigger hit on our cost of living or compromise and choose a less than ideal but cheaper city (though there aren’t really any other solid options that offer liberal cities, not tiny cities, with great year round weather.)

    1. Why the concern about being in a “liberal” city? Most often that implies higher poverty, crime, homelessness, etc. Rather than worry about having to be concerned about your neighbor’s politics you could undoubtedly find much better choices outside the United States where these issues are much less widespread.

  20. spaceassassin

    Something about that grass always looking greener…

    Whether coastal to Midwest or Midwest to coastal, things often appear better, especially when visited on vacation. I have lived in Huntington Beach, CA the last 13 years within 1/2 mile from the beach and the first 8 of those years we were Oceanfront.

    Having travelled numerous times to Mississippi, Missouri, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Utah and a handful of others, there is always a sense of how great it seems when we are there and we consider alternative life plans, but then I remember that I’m not working, we timed the trip for ideal weather, we are typically ignoring our normal budget and we are spending lots of time with friends and family and constantly experiencing new places, people and food, even if I have been there 6 or 7 times already.

    So then I picture myself working a new job there, living in a normal neighborhood and experiencing the cyclical weather and I become less convinced the grass is that much greener–in most of the Midwest its actually much browner much of the year.

    Sure, our weather in So Cal is less temperamental or extreme than many other places and there are tons of positives like Sam mentioned (shhh about Big Sur), but we pay for it dearly whether it be taxes, home prices, politically, etc.

    1. Really good self-awareness. Going somewhere new with a loose budget definitely makes the place feel much more exciting.

      I wonder if people Who have lived in one place for the past 20+ years are conflating their boredom of the same with something that’s agitating them about a place they would have been fine with in the beginning years.

      I got bored of living on the north side of San Francisco for 13 years, so I migrated to the west side of San Francisco in 2014. It really helped change things up with new parks, new restaurants, new scenery and so forth. I am pretty sure by 2024, I will be anxiously longing for a new environment again.

  21. After 20 years of living in Southern California (Redondo Beach and Brentwood/LA) I am going to soon be locating to Las Vegas. You and your readers political views (Socialist Democrats) have DESTROYED this state. It has become a run-down, corrupt cesspool largely under Democrat leadership. Newsom, Garcetti, Pelosi, that Socialist SF DA, the new Socialist DA here in LA Gascon…make life unbearable for anyone who is not Far Left. Far Left politics and corruption have destroyed CA. In LA there are trash and homeless everywhere, including a tent city less than 1 mile from my Brentwood home. Garcetti does not care. He and fake “Dr” Barbara Ferar make millions in tax payer salaries and provide nothing to the residents of LA other than Trash, Homeless, Woke Virtue Signaling and FEAR. There is NOTHING to fear about Covid. I know…I had it in January 2020, catching it on a cross country business trip and back. I got over it in 5 days resting, taking vitamin C and D. No problem. Hey guess what Fear Mongering Lefitsts….the Average Age of True Covid Deaths is 76. 76! The same as the average life span. 99.5% of people recover from Covid. Most do not even know that they had it. Your fearful writers from South Dakota are imbeciles. Idiots like that who voted for the dishonest, senile puppet Biden and Socialist Horrid Kamala DESERVE to live in California. Enjoy your 20% tax rate (including all taxes) and your housing which is 6X the national average. You cant find a good house in LA for $700K btw. Need 1.4 million for anything decent. CA is trash, crime, homelessness and taxes. Enjoy your woke take on illegals. I am moving to Vegas to be tax free for a few years. I still will work in CA though and take advantage of the fact that my customers there in a very essential industry are killing it, and I make a killing selling to them. Bye bye Socialists! Enjoy raping the state for whats left of it. You guys deserve your fate.

    1. PS Masks do not protect you from Covid. Either do lockdowns. They KILL far more people than Covid ever did.

      1. Ed, it’s ok, you cannot wake people up if they want to stay asleep, the same way you cannot help people if they do not want to be helped.

        Californians voted for all of the terrible policies they are leaving behind, and it’s actually most proper that people suffer for their own bad decisions. Only then they may actually want to wake up and do something to correct the sorry state Commie-fornia has become.

    2. But tell us how you REALLY feel Ed. Once you stop foaming at the mouth.

      So according to you, COVID isn’t that bad – except for all the people who actually have died from it – and they weren’t all 76. But they don’t count, right? A sliver of statistics, although their deaths were 100% for each of them.

    3. Ed, I’m sorry for destroying California. I hope you will forgive me. Sounds like we have lived in California for the same amount of time (20 years).

      What are some things you did to help make California great?

      Thank you and go LV Raiders!

      1. If we’re being honest, Ed brings up some very valid points.

        Also, I think Sam should do a companion piece to this which discusses the mass exodus of people from California into states like Idaho, Texas, and Colorado. This is worth bringing up as well.

        The irony is that many of those people emigrating from California do so because of the political policy. Yet when they go to Texas and Colorado, they bring their far left ideology with them, evidenced by those states becoming more blue. That would seem hypocritical and non-productive to me. Just my .02

        1. I agree that Ed brings up some valid points. But many unlike Ed as you point out many move to other states and bring along the same ideology that caused the problems that prompted them to move in the first place.

          Unfortunately in today’s America it is nearly impossible to have a conversation with someone who does not share the same political views. I remember sitting on a beach in Lake Baikal in Russia with a group of Russian friends who were engaged in a heated conversation. One of them approached me and asked me if it were true in the USA that one could not discuss politics or religions. I pointed out that it was true unless you both had the same viewpoints. So sad that the one country which both liberals and conservatives trash is actually one where differing perspectives can be discussed among friends without ruining friendships. Americans could learn something.

        2. I welcome a guest post from you on the subject if you wish. The people who leave higher cost areas are due to:

          * Family and relatives
          * Desire for lower cost
          * Do not make enough
          * Other opportunities

          What’s more interesting are the increasing number of people who have moved back after leaving because they didn’t realize how good things were.

        3. spaceassassin

          It’s less ironic and more indicative of the root cause of “the problem.” Its like any relationship (in this case its a relationship between a person and place), you find what you are looking for and there are two sides to every breakup.

          I can drive within a 30 mile radius of our home, photograph for hours and show you some of the ugliest trash, homelessness and crime, or I can drive within the same 30 mile radius, and photograph some of the most beautiful people, prosperity, and nature around. You choose what to photograph.

          I’ve said it before, perspective is everything.

          And everyone that bitches about the homelessness and drug use, just curious if they actually care about the people? Things start getting a little messy and people start running for the hills–I’ll stay, continue to pay a massive tax bill, wear a mask, enjoy the beauty and work to better the state and help the people where I/we can.

          It’s fight or flee time, and the runners are quite boisterous

    4. Minneapolis is seeing the same fate – car jackings up 537%, shootings up 64% – and all the Mpls city council wants to do is cut the police budget even more, after realizing that their failed “defund the police” agenda wasn’t going to happen. The liberal democrats that have run this city for decades are ruining it, and it makes me so, so sad.
      I’ve lived here my whole life and I love Minnesota. I love the 4 seasons, we have beautiful lakes and forests to explore in spring and summer, in fall the trees are GORGEOUS, and winter and all the cold weather activities make it my favorite season.

  22. Some great points here. I have a hard time seeing myself leaving California any time soon. You really can’t beat the weather in the Bay Area–and the options to experience different climates within driving range. Reminds me of The Big Island a little bit in that sense. But yes… taxes… and eventually buying a house… not as conducive. It will be interesting, as politics seem to become even more polarizing than ever (maybe that’s just what everyone always thinks of the political climate throughout history), if that becomes a major factor in where people choose to live. I guess it already is a little bit.

    1. The longer everybody stays locked down and restricted, the more agitated we all get.

      So if we do not see our politicians suffer alongside us, we will rage. In the past, we could let hypocrisy go. But now, no more.

      Gavin Newsom’s French Laundry eating cost him further political advancement. But at least I’m sure the food was good.

      1. Frugal Bazooka

        You raise a great point here Sam and I’ll take it one step further. For the first time in my life (and I suspect many others) i have been able to verify with my own eyes what I have suspected all along…that our govt leaders are not just hypocrites, but they are almost completely worthless when it comes to handling real crises that require them to be creative, tough, resourceful and honest. Turns out they are moronic cowards who have no clue what to do and they are the last people who should be running the show. This is what happens when a state becomes a one party machine and their is no competition for our votes.

  23. I’ve lived in almost all major cities in CA for at least 2+ years (LA, Bay Area, Sacramento, OC, San Diego). I grew up in SLC, Taiwan, and worked in metropolis Shanghai for 2 years. I frequently visit all the major west coast cities for work (Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Phoenix/Tuscan, Las Vegas, SLC, Albuquerque/Santa Fe), so I have a good idea of what each city looks/feels like.

    I currently live in Orange County, CA and I really believe it’s one of the best places to live. Fantastic weather, great diversity, great food (authentic ethnic food from all over!), close to the beach, slower pace, great public school, plenty of parks, 15 min away from Ocean, safe (#1 safest in the country Irvine and Mission Viejo), big clean roads… etc. and if you want the big city vibe – LA is only 40 min away!

    And unlike Santa Monica / Culver City – crowded, depressing, awful traffic jams, and full of hippies and visitors, and you pay 1.5+ million for a place to live, it’s turning into SF. Although Orange County isn’t cheap either, but you can still find great SFR 2000 sqt+ For ~$700k in Brea, Buena Park, Lake Forest, and Mission Viejo.

    Sure, the taxes are higher, but our relatively higher wages make up for that. Every time I come back from a work trip and see the Palm Trees and great sunny weather, I am thankful that I live in OC. My wife’s best friend grew up in Hawaii and worked in NYC, she moved to OC reluctantly for her husband’s job, and now she loves it so much that she won’t consider leaving.

    To the above poster that’s traveling the world – I am doing that as well and still living in a great neighborhood! You can have both! LAX is only 40 min away!

      1. Adding to perks to living in Orange County:

        – 4 small airports nearby (SNA, ONT, LGB, BUR) in addition to international gateway LAX

        – you can enjoy all outdoor activities less than 2 hours away: snowboard at Big Bear, plenty of beaches, Joshua Tree national park, Palm Springs, San Diego is only an hour away. Even Tijuana, Mexico is only 1.5 hr away.

        – in my 10 years in OC, I’ve never felt discriminated.

        – plenty of high paying jobs available. Most of families I know in OC make $150k+. My friend who works at Cisco make $500k+. Not to mention a lot of entrepreneurship opportunities

    1. Taiwan is pretty cool,,, If you have an outside source of income or can work remotely Taiwan is a great place for someone to spend some time…

    2. Show me some valid examples of “2000 sqt for $700K” in Brea, Buena Park, Lake Forest etc. I looked and found 2 listed and both were pieces of garbage needing a ton of work. Every other listing was $900K + easy.

      I am glad that you are happy in your OC bubble…but what you state, is not the truth…..I’ve lived in LA for 20 years and know OC well. You can get a moderate small condo for $700K which is basically an apartment with a higher monthly payment. So Orange County folks…enjoy the balcony flower pot and community pool which they can not use due to Gavin Newsom’s Covid.

  24. Long time reader living in Bay Area moved here 12 years ago from Austin . I’m a stay at home mom of 2 boys . Yes it’s very expensive living in Bay Area but you learn from the best if you are willing to learn . Schools in Cupertino where our kids go are super competitive usually 2 or more suicides per year each high school . But kids learn very early in life some good lessons . People are very arrogant and competitive in every way . You can still save money if you stay below your means but most ladies don’t want to sacrifice anything and they want everything now . Most of them are so busy to spend they don’t have time to properly manage their finances. I have not met a single housewife interested in managing money well and investing it for future they are all talking about clothes, dramas , kitty parties , complaining about not having enough money to spend and when I bring finance they look at me like I’m an alien . Oh I have so many stories .

    1. What’s a kitty party? Kiddy you mean?

      The competition definitely does wear on you, especially once you’ve left the race.

      More laid-back lifestyle is definitely why I want to move to Hawaii. I really could care less and don’t want to hear about someone’s promotion or 100% return in their stock etc. It’s really like that here in San Francisco, and it is the antithesis of the lifestyle I want to lead right now.

      1. It’s basically a tea party for ladies where they gossip and brag about their kids .
        I have attended some but to me it’s a complete waste of time .
        All I wanted to say is ladies are not interested in financial knowledge and/or investing. It’s very frustrating .
        I have created my own happy bubble .

        1. Got it. I wonder if the family had a small family business that enable the parents to do whatever they want would be considered interesting. Or whether it’s all about working at a prestigious company with a fancy title. Hmmm.

  25. People often cite the weather as a reason to move to the bay area. I have lived in the bay area 25 years after growing up in New England. The weather here used to be superior every month of the year to where I grew up. The effects of climate change are now being felt pretty strongly in CA and I fear it is only going to trend in the wrong direction. Now the bay area is hotter and much drier than it used to be. The fire season is almost never ending and the air quality is atrocious for long periods of time. I do not care for the increasing heat waves accompanied by sometimes weeks of cloudless scorching, hot sunny days. I guess if you really hate snow the bay area will still seem superior, but from May through the end of October outside of urban centers, I think the Northeast on balance has better weather.

    IMO the nature is the best part of CA, but increasingly the congestion getting to, and at the natural wonders of the state have really taken their toll on my enjoyment of what the state has to offer.

    And yes the taxes are awful (IMO largely because the state is too dependent on sales/income taxes and has too many giveways in the residential and commercial property tax code) and in contrast to the northeast, the services you receive in return for your taxes are poor. Public elementary schools in the “good” districts can have 30+ kids per class providing a pretty mediocre education (no art, music, languages) when compared to the “good” school districts in the northeast.

    Career opportunities for my wife and I have kept us here. But I am definitely looking to geographically arbitrage to someplace a little cooler, wetter, more seasonal with a little bit lower cost of living when we are financially independent.

    1. The weather does seem a little bit warmer, which is really been beneficial to residents living on the western side of San Francisco, which has historically been cooler.

      San Francisco averages about 62 to 64° a year. I find that to be very comfortable for Tennis, for softball, for hiking, for anything really. Because when the sun is shining right on you, it’s more like 72°. And just yesterday, it was 71°. Not bad for a December date where we went to the playground in t-shirts.

      Warmer weather is also making cities like San Diego nicer as well.

      1. For the western part of San Francisco (a tiny part of the bay area) indeed the warming will be welcome. 20 years ago July and August used to be nonstop dripping wet fog and 58 degrees (temperature of the ocean) in that part of the city. Just 15-20 mi south of you things are quite different. The heat is even more extreme in the east bay, north bay and to some extent the south bay with many 100+ degree days every year to punctuate average days in the 90’s.

        One other point, access to the UC system for undergraduate degrees at in state tuition is not necessarily a reason to move here from the south or midwest. The UC prestige comes from its graduate programs especially at the 3 schools you listed. Equivalent (or better) undergraduate education can be had at numerous schools in the south and midwest for less money if you are paying in state tuition there. Back in the golden days when the state supported the UC system it was a great deal (free or nearly free tuition). For example less than 20%, (maybe even less than 15%) of UC Berkeley’s (the state flagship!) budget now comes from state government support. It is yet another example of the poor return on taxpayer investment one gets in this state. At the end of the day there are worse places to be than in CA, but for things other than making money in certain sectors of the economy we are long past its prime.

    2. I used to live in Bayarea ( 20+ years) and then moved to Eastcoast for 5 years. Then 2 years in OC/Newport Beach and now in Seattle.

      I concur the weather in Bayarea was much more enjoyable 10-20 years ago. I heard the uncontrollable wildfires started like 6-7 years ago and has become a norm.

      OC was alright , a lot of flashy OC housewives which were absolutely not my type, and can get really muggy and hot in summers. Beaches are always crowded.

      I do miss Bayarea a lot , especially Marin, Half moon bay and Santa Cruz. Not to mention the quirkiness only can be found in San Francisco.

      I am slowly liking Seattle, it’s still really pretty even when it rains all day. Fresh air and very very green.
      The only complaint I have is the darkness in winters. It feels like evening starting around 3pm already due to thick clouds and drizzles and sunset is around 415pm.
      If you like boating, Seattle has a great selection of Marinas to choose from.

      1. Seattle is beautiful during the summer and fall. I like the no state income taxes as well!

        But when I visited during the winters for business, I didn’t like the dreariness.

        It’s about 65-70 degrees everyday this week and sunny in SF. Played a tough 1.5 hour tennis match in 70 degree weather yesterday. It feels like SF has gotten 1-2 degrees warmer on average since I first arrived in 2001. It is tough to leave, especially with less traffic and people!

        What did you think about the OC/Newport?

        1. Newport Beach is a very strange place. There are full of “unreal” people. Let me elaborate a little bit.

          So I went to a rather swanky gym there — btw I also went to the same gym ( starts with E ) when I was in Bayarea, so I can do the comparison of the clientele.

          I talked to a personal trainer and was told some B/C-list actors, retired NBA players also workout in that particular gym, along with the Real housewives of OC cast members. I saw some of them there myself. I personally knew a couple plastic surgeons and dermatologists in that gym too. Botox parties are a norm.

          On top of that, self proclaimed Youtubers, instagram influencers would pop in the gym wearing their latest trendy outfits ( Lululemon was so last decade btw , they are way ahead of us ).
          The parking structure was like the dealership of BMW, Mercedes,Porche and italian muscle cars. One day a Mclaren parked right next to my Toyota hybrid. Even my trainer drove a Maserati !

          I felt completely out of place in that gym, and a total misfit in the whole area.

          But I went to the same gym when I was in Bayarea and saw couple famous tech CEOs there too, though everybody there was very low key and kept it to themselves. So the mentality in OC is very different from that in Bayarea.

          Not to mention the keeping up appearances mentality in OC — I often wondered how they could afford to live in that pseudo rich life style ?

    3. Not that I want global warming to keep occurring, but weather has been significantly more mild in the last few years here in New England. I wonder whether we will have warmer winters moving forward due to climate change. That being said, it is slated to be 23 degrees F in the next day or two!

  26. At what point should one stop nickel and diming when moving to CA? I am told not to trust COL online calculators – but what’s the realistic equivalent salary in CA for a single or couple (no kids) who make combined income of 135k in a midwest city?

    1. The biggest difference will be real estate for rent or purchase and possibly income taxes. Here it is important to compare apples to apples. For example, even though the bay area is a tiny part of CA, it is still a pretty big place with massive congestion making large parts of it not commutable to other parts unless you don’t mind sitting in traffic for hours everyday. On the SF peninsula (in a decent dense suburban town, a very modest house on almost no land by the standards of the rest of the country will run $1.5 M at a minimum. 2 bed 2 bath condos start around $1 M. You can probably rent that $1.5 M house hasn’t been updated in 30 years for $4.5 K+ per month.

      1. No way! Not going to buy anything there….pro renter here. what about savings on a monthly basis? Rents are 2k-4k for condos/1BR. WHat should be the bump in salary to maintain same lifestyle as in midwest/south regions? COL calcs indicate 53%-79% increase….seems insane but looks to be true..

        1. Sounds about right. Someone mentioned 129k/year is the cutoff for low income in SF. What is the cutoff for your area? That would shed some light. Of course, the rest of CA is not as expensive as SF.

          A lot of jobs offer 20-30% more by moving to CA, but that won’t offset the COL in some areas, especially in SF.

    2. Probably about $200,000. The thing is, if you want to save money, you really can in California.

      I’ve been everywhere and the lifestyle really is nice in California. Obviously, it becomes nicer the more money you have because you can live in nicer accommodations as well.

      There’s a reason the entertainment industry is based in California and not in Iowa.

      1. Thanks FS! That is what I was aiming to meet 200k. If not, give myself an year or two to meet that magic number. 200k combined salary will attract lots of CA taxes even with a couple with no kids. Almost 40% is gone in taxes and deductions.

        I am guessing you may have posts on how to have tax deferred avenues (other than maxing 401k and HSA).


        1. And also the federal government doesn’t give you a tax break for living in CA so your 12% marginal rate that you probably currently pay in the midwest will become 24% and in 2025 it is scheduled to increase to 28%. I don’t think CA gives a tax break for HSA contributions as other states do. So in CA HSA money is sort of like a health-Roth. In terms of income tax CA treats all dividends and capital gains (in taxable accounts) as ordinary income. If you come and your car is newer (i.e. can pass CA emissions testing) don’t sell it, bring it. In many bay area jurisdictions sales tax is 9.25% and you don’t get an adjustment to your cost-basis when you trade in so the best way to minimize your sales tax is to buy a cheap new car and drive it until it is no longer safe to do so. That said, if you find yourself susceptible to the competitive keeping up with the Joneses mentality that pervades the bay area, you will pay a lot of sales tax buying a new tesla every 2-3 years.

          1. Oh man! So no tax breaks for HSA? That sucks! Also, I have 15 yr old car that I plan to have it shipped to CA. I don’t know if it will pass the emissions testing or not (how do I find out?).

    3. Frugal Bazooka

      I would say a multiple of at least 3 and if you want to live the good life you’re looking at 5 – 8 times what you’re currently making. Here’s a strange thing to ponder…in many upscale Calif communities over 90% of the homeowners are multimillionaires. I’m from the East and it took me a while to fully comprehend how ass backwards and decadent the social fabric is here when it comes to money. What’s most strange and unfortunate is you eventually get used to the massive wealth that is all around you and then take it for granted. It’s also endlessly ironic that so called progressives have found a home in a state that has huge disparities in wealth and income. This definitely a state that clearly proclaims: do as I say, not as I do

  27. When people say the weather is great in California they are referring to the Southern California coastal areas where homes are over $1 million for a shack. If you live inland it’s insanely hot and often with hurricane force Santa Ana winds and it’s still expensive. You will need to earn $700k to get a nice coastal home without being house broke. However, you will be working so much to earn $700k that you will never get time to actually enjoy the beach or the mountains.

    My advice is don’t move and save enough money to take nice trips all over the country and the world.

    1. Christine Minasian

      Love your honesty.
      My uncle has lived in Santa Barbara his whole life (60+ years) ….he wants to move. Politics, taxes, corruption, etc. In the words of my teenagers- he be gone!!!!!

      1. I live in Santa Barbara as well. I have been here for 30 years. Still love it, but not as much as I used to. I am 53 and have lived in California my whole life. I dont like Cali much anymore….has turned into one big turd(pardon my English). I recently went to Santa Fe, New Mexico and if I could do it all over again….that would be my paradise. In fact, I may invest in property there some day. Majestic place. Big lover of the Big Island(and Kona) as well, but would rather be in NM if I could pick between them. Cali was a paradise 50 years ago.

    2. I know each person needs to make their own choice, but Eric’s advise is darn good. Stay where you are, and travel the world(in a post-pandemic world of course).

    3. My house in Santa Barbara is 850 square feet on 1/4 acre lot…essentially a cottage/bungalow, and it was valued at $805,000….go figure. My closest friend just bought a house outside Charlotte, NC. for $600,000….3,550 square feet on a 1 acre lot….go figure.

    4. With rates so much lower now, you don’t need to make $700,000 a year anymore to afford a decent home. Somewhere between $300,000-$500,000 is enough now. Which is still a lot of money.

      However, when you can get a tech job or a finance job for $120,000 as a 22 year old, Getting a household income over $300,000 by the time you’re 30 is relatively easy to do.

  28. I’ve lived on the both the east and west coast for roughly the same amount of time. Once I left the east coast, I knew I’d never go back. I love west coast living in California. Sure I don’t like the taxes, but the lifestyle and weather so much more. Living by the ocean was always a dream of mine and I feel so lucky that it’s come true. I won’t ever live land locked again if I can avoid it.

  29. I was lucky enough to live in SF for a few years when I was younger. Loved the city at the time. On more recent visits though, it seems a lifeless husk of what it once was (and this pre-covid). Any city that needs an app like ‘snapcrap’ to warn you of all the human feces laying around shows the incredible amount of decay that it’s suffered. I worry that many left coast cities (I live in Olympia) have become ‘pied pipers’ of the homeless, simply throwing money at the problem, attracting even more homeless from across the country.

    1. Ugh, I’m sorry to say Olympia is not a great city to live in. Few opportunities, no diversity, and the weather makes things depressing for 5 months a year. What big employers are in Olympia? San Francisco is 5X better than Olympia.

      1. Fellow Oly native here: the biggest employers in Olympia are the government. State, City, Federal & Tribal governments make up 4 of the top 10 employers. Three of the top 10 are in healthcare. Costco & Walmart make the top 10, and finally, St. Martin’s University rounds out the list.

        The successful friends I grew up with typically earn their livings in the Seattle Market, which is about a 90-minute drive with traffic. Big employers there who pay well include Microsoft, DocuSign, Amazon, Boeing, Nordstrom, T-Mobile, Zillow, Redfin, etc. Many of these companies offer work from home, particularly since April.

        The opportunity to earn a Seattle wage while paying an Olympia cost of living is quite compelling. Particularly when Olympia has better access to the Olympic Peninsula while still retaining use of the Puget Sound. The biggest downside is that all the dining and entertainment available in Seattle becomes less accessible. The weather is pretty much identical.

        My wife and I lived and earned our livings in Seattle until we’d had several children. After which we stopped going to sporting events, fancy restaurants, or enjoying all the things that Seattle has to offer. Everyone I know in Seattle with the means sends their children to private school. Our costs were exploding up, and our enjoyment of the big city was waning.

        For someone like me raising a family, Olympia was a much better financial and lifestyle choice compared to staying in Seattle.

        Perhaps San Fransisco would be better, but many people would prefer to stay close to their friends & families making such a move impractical.

        1. Snohomish county is still somewhat affordable which is just 15 miles north of Seattle.
          Olympia seems to rain a bit more than where I live near Edmonds which is in the rain shadow.

          1. Edmonds is definitely a lot closer to the city, but you’re still looking at a $675 median home price vs. Olympia’s sub-$400k.

            It does rain slightly less up north.

  30. Great topic, Sam. Thank you for justifying my location decisions that I made in the last 3+ years. :)
    It does seem appropriate to point out that $129k/year in San Francisco for a family of four is considered ‘low income’ now according to the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. (huduser-dot-gov)
    Something you didn’t mention that I saw a fair amount of in your area is that since the housing and property taxes are expensive, many people making the relocation decision end up doing some interesting math and decide to ‘super commute’. I had one such person on my team that did this to Missouri and his little kids were very confused every time he was home for a long weekend then gone for a couple of months. The planes that I flew many Friday afternoons and Monday mornings were oversold with those of us that owned utility somewhere less expensive and were renting ‘luxury’ in the Bay Area. While many people do this, I can’t say that it is a sustainable lifestyle, especially if you’re raising kids.
    Also, I ran into many people that did not do sufficient research and/or did not get good advice before accepting their job offer so they were living paycheck to paycheck, just scraping by on low six figure incomes. For those considering the move, do the math on your income/expenses/taxes a few times, research places to live more than you think you should, try to get a relocation package and use every ounce of the benefits. And, do your compensation research early. Consult professionals if you don’t have anyone in your network to ask. Many companies do not like to negotiate very much so talking your ideal numbers early can work in your favor if you have the right, calculated numbers in mind.

  31. Why wait to move to Hawaii? It sounds a little like the OMY syndrome, but I’m sure you’ve got good reasons.

    Since moving to my “happy place,” which for me is in the mountains, my stress level has gone way down, and there isn’t a week that goes by when I’m not on top of a mountain somewhere on foot, bike or skis, and just taking a moment to myself to appreciate the beautiful place where I live. I had to put in several years and long hours in a bigger city first to save money and build my credentials, but now I’m in a secure enough financial position where I will never move from a place I love for work, and it feels great!

    1. Sure, bc SF is still a great place to live. We’re timing it when our son is eligible for kindergarten. In fact, we will probably go wherever we think the school fit is best between SF and Honolulu. Once both our kids our over 5, we plan to do a lot of living in both cities. Before 5, hard to remember much.

      I should clarify, we aren’t stressed here. Maybe a 4/10 on the stress meter versus 6-7/10 when we were working.

      Do you have kids? If so, how many and how old are they?

      1. Makes sense. Both great places to live!

        I have 2 kids- one in Montessori preschool and the other in public elementary school. Part of what I love the most about where we landed is raising my kids in a smaller mountain town with great amenities. I’m very satisfied with our public school system and I love the outdoor/sports opportunities for kids that are unique to mountain living. I am grateful that we figured this out pre-Covid or we’d likely be priced out of our community.

  32. Zhaidarbek Kunguzhinov

    Move to the Bay Area, where people non-ironically wear jackets in July, because it is a “warmer place to live.” ROFL!

    Id rather sweat my ass off in 100 degree temperature than walk around in 60 degrees during the summer.

  33. I kept looking for the perfect US location to have it all. California failed in too many ways, as did Hawaii, despite the fact I spent a good chunk of my childhood there. I finally decided it wasn’t really doable on my terms except, maybe, as a double-digit millionaire. we likely won’t hit that until we’ve been retired twenty years or so, health willing.

    So find a place to be 7-9 months a year, with good weather, no state income tax, and that’s pretty nice in many other ways. Establish residency. Spend at least six months a year there to establish and keep residency.

    Then get a second place for 3-5 months a year where those are not the best months to be in the primary home (or maybe you really love snow). Put it out in the country or up in the mountains if you primary is pretty urban. Or put it near some major metropolis if your primary is a fairly rural place and you feel the need to occasionally scratch your culture itch.

    One of the two should probably be near family if that’s a doable and desirable thing.

      1. Heh, that’s what I was saying. There is no such place in the US that I could find. Is why I finally realized a second home was a requirement, one in a place that gives you the things you can’t find in the primary.

        The main requirements for the primary are that it be in a place with three nice seasons, a relatively low cost of living, and very low or no state income taxes.

        Then, aside from at least a season of desirable weather/climate (when your primary is having its off season), your secondary can be placed so that you can get your annual “fix” of the things not offered in your primary location.

        Personally, I favor Eastern Tennessee for the primary with a condo in Westchester County. This also offers us the advantages of zero state income taxes (important for Roth conversions and capital gains), as well as being near my family, and hers. (We may resemble the couple in the TV show Green Acres a bit.)

        The point being, everyone can find their own solution, relative to a few basic stipulations, unless they are seriously rich and then those don’t matter. If I was a deepish double-digit millionaire I would probably consider a third place on the West coast. I am crazy in love with the Stahl House, but there is no place in the East really suited for a home like that.

        I’m not counting the family cabin in Highlands, NC that will eventually fall to me, but the weather there tends to run 10 to 15 degrees cooler than anywhere else in the South in the summer time. It’s a fantastic place, but kind of expensive (rich people’s playground) and too far from a large airport.

        Then too, all of this is just for people that can work 100% remote or are retired. People that have to go to an office don’t get to pick where that office is unless they are incredibly lucky, own the business, or are willing to work a non-optimal job.

  34. I considered moving to CA when I graduated in 1996, but I got a job in Portland and moved up here. I got used to the slower pace of life and a relaxed attitude. We still visit CA frequently to see families and friends, but I wouldn’t want to live there long term. It’s too busy and too expensive now.

    Also, I don’t want to move to the Midwest or small towns either. I think politics will be too much for me.

    Good plan with Honolulu. I’m looking forward to seeing how it’ll work out.

  35. Guy in Des Moines with a family on $120k a year will get smoked in Santa Monica. You want more diversity, good public schools, no more snowy winters and still be able to live off $120k a year then come to Texas. Yes Austin is getting crowded and more California like but it’s a huge state and plenty of opportunities in other cities. I was in Omaha for 6 years and felt the same way as this guy. Great place to live but it’s definitely a cultural bubble and the winters are brutal. Moved to Dallas 1.5 years ago and it’s been great. Slightly more expensive but no more winters and much more diversity in the people and activities. Plus no state income tax!

  36. When I saw your reasons against living in CA, I thought this article was sarcastic. I’m not sure how people can read that list and even consider moving to CA unless like you stated all you care about is trying to strike it rich in the tech industry.

    NorCal weather is good, but not perfect by any means. SoCal is where the weather is basically perfect.

    1. I would say most people care to get wealthier, and certainly most people reading Financial Samurai and personal finance sites are seeking to get richer. Are you not?

      Where do you live? Not sure why you think people moving to a state that has created a lot of fortune is sarcastic. Would love to know your background.

      1. These days, and especially in the last several months, tech work via remote work is the real deal and will continue to be. You can live practically anywhere on this planet and with a good wifi connection and a relevant skill set, be very successful professionally and financially. I work in information technology for a major university in California, and some of my co-workers have not even been to California…at all. They make a very good living and are successful. Location is starting to become very irrelevant. On a side-note, I find this web site to be the best financial resource of information anywhere. The hell with CNBC and all those clowns….Sam has done a seriously amazing job with this site….and location doesn’t even matter in this case either!

  37. Sam,

    Everyone really needs to be clear, not all of California has weather like the Bay Area. I’m in the Central Valley, and although I have never seen snow here, we have just as many hot days as Austin – although with less humidity. LA gets hot too, once you move inland a few miles.

  38. I’m a 28 year old engineer working at a large tech company in SF with income in the $300K range and while I will agree that there is no better opportunity in the US (or maybe the world) for growing income while you are young (even more so if you get into a high growth company early) & the outdoor activities area plentiful, close and offer a huge variety. To me those are the only 2 redeeming qualities.

    SF’s reputation as a homeless Mecca is not undeserved and it is baffling to me how backyards the govt here is about not doing anything. In addition with these recent COVID restrictions it is clear that Newsom and Breed are out of touch with reality with their extremely heavy restrictions (despite much better # as you point out) as well as their hypocritical nature of their favorite French laundry which you have pointed out.

    In my opinion it is a good place to be if you are in tech and are young w/o a family to support. You can certainly make more money here than anywhere else & enjoy the outdoors. At least for me I will be moving out once I am at a difference place in life where I felt I have made a decent amount and want to start a family. Govt & politics are simply too bloated here and I dont see any path to improvement in the future. There are other areas in the US which offer similar outdoor activities w/o the poor infastructure & inefficient public spending which you get here.

  39. It is almost as if those readers who have asked for advice about relocating to California do not read your articles! Imagine thinking about living in the Bay Area with a family on a salary of $150,000 or less.
    I lived in Los Angeles when I graduated from college in 1984 and lived there for 4 years. I have visited a couple of times since but would never consider moving back. The congestion is unbearable and everyone has the same idea about escaping over the weekend to nearby mountains, beaches, parks, etc.
    As for diversity, if you can work at home, rather than considering California, start thinking about temporary moves to other countries which will be much more rewarding for children. During this pandemic, the choices are obviously fewer but they still exist. As an example, Mexico, where I reside, allows entry to everyone.

  40. A well thought out post as usual! As a type-A hustler, California has long intrigued me as a possible next stop to grow my career (I am a software engineer), however I think 2020 ruined that for me as I’m not really comfortable moving to a state where the government mandates how you live your life and regulation is basically the norm rather than the exception.

    I would be curious to see how the relative flux of California vs a state like Florida (where I currently reside) will be impacted over the next few years, as they are both warmer states (although admittedly Florida can be unbearably humid in the summer). Florida also respects personal freedoms much more (which aligns with my political beliefs), so Texas, Utah, Idaho, Montana, etc may be better options for people like me.

    There are pros and cons to any state you live in and that’s what makes the US so great!

    Thanks for all of your great insights for many years!

  41. Excellent post to express the counter argument of leaving California like HP. The views expressed by the three readers show that we are a Republic and not a homogeneous nation–by design. Their sentiments about where they currently reside and their fears make them a great fit for the lovely weather of California. It’s tough to make a move, but often that is the only way to improve your quality of life.

  42. Thanks for an interesting post. We live just outside New York City and are trying to figure out where to retire. We like city life, but want better year round weather, as well as staying with a liberal city. There aren’t many options where we can reduce our cost of living, California was definitely on our list, though your last comment “…once you’ve made your fortune, it’s time to leave.” connects with my main concern about how expensive California will be and we won’t be building careers anymore. Difficult to determine if it is worth taking the bigger hit on our cost of living or compromise and choose a less than ideal but cheaper city (though there aren’t really any other solid options that offer liberal cities, not tiny cities, with great year round weather.)

    1. I guess it depends on how big your fortune is. If you can make a really big fortune, then you can overcome the higher cost of living in California. However, if you’ve made a small fortunate, then relocating to a lower cost state/city may make more sense.

      For all the complaining that seems to go on about SF and California, life is good here. It’s just recently, the poor leadership that has really got to Californians.

      1. Thanks, we will have enough to afford California and our income during retirement would be at the higher end of the scale, but given that it is more expensive on multiple dimensions as you highlighted (housing, taxes, other expenses), we will have to be more careful and manage things a bit more closely. Accepting that trade off for the improved lifestyle and being surrounded by people that are more like us, vs living somewhere cheaper and being able to be more flexible with what we spend is the key question. The more I think about it, and read articles like this, the more it feels like it will be worth it.

    2. You may honestly want to consider relocating to another country. You can substantially reduce your cost of living and easily find better year round weather.

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