Sep 27, 2007

Why We're Not Moving

This post over at My Two Dollars, Moving Is Going To Save Us A Ton Of Money And Improve Our Quality Of Life, is fascinating to me because I also live in Southern California and have periodically (briefly) thought about moving. After all, as FMF is fond of pointing out, relocating can have a hugely beneficial impact on one's finances. And David makes some very good points: moving to New Mexico will allow him and his wife to buy a house and his wife to be a stay-at-home-mom. He also notes that the LA school system is a nightmare and that he's not comfortable with "LA people."

Moving might increase our net worth, but Marc and I have decided against it. For one thing, we really like LA. Sure, there are plenty of "silly" people like David described. But I think the vast majority of people in LA are very average and that like any place else, you can find wonderful people who share the same values. In fact, I've made some fantastic friends at work and from the breastfeeding support group I attended after Alex was born. And I like living in a big city where you can find just about anything you can think of.

Although David is right about traffic in LA being terrible - as bad or worse than you would think just from news reports if you weren't familiar with it personally. Fortunately, Marc and I are both able to work flexible hours that usually enable us to miss the worst of rush hour. And neither of us is particularly fond of driving or road trips, so we are content to spend most of our time within a 10-mile radius of our house (and that's actually an advantage of living in a huge city - everything you need is pretty much right there).

Speaking of house, we also already own a house. Granted, it's a townhouse, not a single-family dwelling. But since we've been in our house for over five years, our mortgage payment is low, and we have a great property management company, which means we don't have to worry about maintaining a yard or a pool and yet we are surrounded by beautiful landscaping and have a pool right outside our front door. Our commute is also quite manageable. A single-family dwelling actually doesn't appeal to us that much because of the added maintenance, although we would love to have a small fourth bedroom. But we certainly don't think that fourth bedroom is worth relocating. (I think David is exaggerating a bit, by the way - there are certainly areas of LA where a 2-bedroom condo goes for $1M, but there are many condos in affluent areas that are in the $500,000 range. I'm just saying that David doesn't need to move all the way to New Mexico to find (comparatively) affordable housing.)

If Marc and I were to move, it would be for the second reason that David mentioned: the public schools. They are terrible. But Marc and I have decided that instead of moving, we'll be sending our kids to private school. (More on that soon.) Most of the families will probably have more money than we do, but we're okay with that. Yes, I will have to keep working in order to pay for tuition, but I enjoy my job and my identity as an attorney, and it sure seems a waste to have gone to law school if I'm not going to practice law. (I can say that because I still get to spend lots of time with my kids.) And I'm skeptical about whether we would get paid enough if we relocated to maintain our current comfortable lifestyle while still being able to sock as much money away for retirement as we do. Thus for us, staying put is simply the right choice.

I think it's interesting that two families with relatively similar values can reach such different decisions about what's right for them. (I hope I'm not being presumptuous, but from reading My Two Dollars, I feel that we have quite a bit in common.) I look forward to reading more about David's preparations for his move and next year, about his life in New Mexico.

Note: I just noticed on David's page the David Money Network, which is made up of pf bloggers with the first name David. I love it!


Tiredbuthappy said...

Great post.

In our case, the decision is about NOT moving. We live in Philadelphia and enjoy extremely low mortgage payments. We've talked about moving closer to family in Boston or San Francisco, but there's no way we'd be able to maintain our current lifestyle in either of those places. I currently work part time, and we're even contemplating having BOTH the adults in the household work part time at some point in the future, probably about the time our son goes to kindergarten, when we will stop having to pay for preschool.

Public schools here are pretty terrible, but there are ways to work the system, and they'd be no better in the neighborhoods we could afford to live in if we moved to another large city.

MetaMommy said...

You make some great points. We live in a townhouse and, like you, have a mortgage we're comfortable with. We've considered selling and purchasing a house with our condo's equity, but the property taxes alone are enough to make us reconsider.

While we haven't really started to consider schools yet, I have magnet schools in the back of my mind. Have you considered them at all for your kids?

Anonymous said...

I hate moving. It involves a lot of time and effort. If where you stay now gives you what you want, stay put. There's no point you move for the sake of moving.

Anonymous said...

We would move to NM in a minute (if only I didn't have to take the bar again). The biggest thing keeping me at my current job is the insurance, which we can't mess with right now. Also, with the housing market how it is, we might lose money on our house.

NM is an amazing place and we have looked at property there. We will get there one day.

ChiefFamilyOfficer said...

@TiredButHappy - I really like the idea of both adults working part time!

@MetaMommy - I have looked at magnets and will be writing about that soon. But the short answer is, it won't work for us.

@Abel - I would move if the monetary benefits were substantial. That's why David is moving and I can understand his reasons. If we didn't already own our house, I'm sure we'd consider it quite seriously. The price of houses here is just insane!

@Michelle - I forgot how much you love NM. I hope you are able to get there sooner rather than later!

Anonymous said...

I got out of LA. I grew up in the Bay Area and returned happily after a decade. I think what neighborhood someone lives in depends a lot on whether they like or hate LA.

My friends who had kids but not a lot of money enrolled their kids in the Beverly Hills School District though they didn't live that district. Supposedly it's pretty good. Also if you live in Santa Monica, their public schools are also really good, but Santa Monica is pretty strict about letting in only those who live in the area.

ChiefFamilyOfficer said...

@Anon - I'm sure you're right about LA. Interesting about BH - I'll have to look into that. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I would love to say I was exaggerating the price of housing, but the building next door to me has a condo for sale for $899K...two bedrooms, two baths. So for us to stay in the only area tolerable to us in LA, it would be impossible to buy!

Great article though, you make good points that work for you guys! It's rare you hear from someone happy in LA, and it is nice to hear something positive about this place once in a while. :-)