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Should You Leave Your High Cost State

Should You Leave Your High Cost State


Since I was raised on the west coast it’s a common question for Californians “Should I leave and move to a lower cost state?”. The fundamental underlying factor is not even trading a high cost state for a low-cost state. Plenty of docs have found cheaper states to live in, which naturally pay a little less, just to buy supersized homes and spend lavishly on vacations and buy expensive toys. When I say ‘docs’ I’m generally referring to lower-income physicians (yes, us lowly primary care folk). If you are a specialist or a 2 physician income household this likely won’t apply to you. If you live in California and are making $650,000 per year you are not going to benefit radically by moving to a low-cost state.


The Life That Was Chosen For Us

So what is the ‘underlying factor’? It’s what you want or more specifically what you are seeking (hint, it’s not higher income or a bigger house). In today’s society where children are raised by schools and nannies and are educated by bombarding them with a barrage of facts, there is no opportunity to develop a sense of our true selves. I was born in 1978 and I was raised the same as kids today, inundated with facts, tested on recall and not comprehension, taught nothing about finance, personal psychology and never given an opportunity to develop a taste for life. Life has been a compilation of places to go visit, things to watch on TV, clothes to buy, hobbies to take part in and debt to pay off.


Figure Out Why You Are Unhappy – It’s Not The Income Nor What You Can Afford With It

If you are only looking for your money to go further then you will get lost in a sea of numbers and facts which in the end all blur together. “State X has lower state income tax but higher real estate tax. State Y has no state income tax but to live in a good area the housing prices are same as state Z and the pay is less. State Z has only 2 medical groups worth working for but their patient population is so sick that work would be exhausting.” It’s not much different when you look for another job even in the same state. Therefore, searching simply for “something different” will only leave you confused, more unhappy with your current scenario and in the end more frustrated than when you first started.


Look Beyond The Income And The Schools And The Home You Can Afford

I am going to make a very bold blanket statement: When it comes to the US all jobs, all benefits, all income, all homes and all quality of life are essentially the same for us docs. They are different in very minute degrees but not different in kind. You can go to Oklahoma and find a posh neighborhood, with top-notch schools, fancy homes and high paying physician salaries all to be had with a slight commute. You can stay in California and live in a very nice house, in an upscale neighborhood with access to beaches and a good school district not too far from the clinic that will pay you an above average salary. You can even live in a state that’s hot like Saudi Arabia but you will likely just go from an A/C’d building to your A/C’d car to your A/C’d home to your backyard pool and maybe to you A/C’d gym. A longer commute, a few more years worked, a few extra hours a week worked, some overtime shifts is all that sets the different places/jobs apart. 


Search For A Community Rather Than The ‘Right’ Job/State

In my opinion the only thing that sets your living situation apart is your community which is made up of the people who you befriend, the kind smiling faces you encounter, people who are willing to question the status quo, family that you can visit and be merry with, streets that aren’t paved with cars, families out with their kids enjoying the parks and beautiful sidewalks and a life pace that doesn’t mirror the urgent care you left.  


Job Benefits Don’t Add To Your Prosperity

If you find such a place will you care about the $30,000 less that the medical group pays you? Will you care about working in a little busier clinic setting? Will you care that you only have a 401(k) benefit but no other tax-deferred benefit plan? Will you care that there is no pension? My answer is no. I say this because those are things you can easily make up for or create for yourself. A genuine community filled with enlightened people, good friends and close family you cannot create for yourself.

I’ve lived in 2 different countries in my life and have moved 2x to change jobs. I left Los Angeles for San Diego and left San Diego for Portland. I feel at home in Portland for the first time in a long time I have a sense of community and I feel at peace here. For someone else this place may be the definition of hell so it should be your mission to search for where you will find your peace. Not happiness. Happiness you can fake until the day you die, happiness is ephemeral and comes and goes, joy and peace come from within and are nurtured to the surface by your community.


Have you moved for your work in the past?
 What are your priorities when searching for a new position?


2 replies on “Should You Leave Your High Cost State”

Very good thoughts here man. We all want true happiness in life. We need to stop hiding behind salaries, defined benefit retirement plans and nice weather 11 months out of the year. Those things don’t bring us true happiness. At least they haven’t for me

And we are all so afraid that the move we make might be a ‘bad one’. But if you move somewhere with the intention to find peace, be among good people and family and enjoy a positive life then how is it ever possible for that move to be a bad move.

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