East or West? Which is Best?

Posted on July 10th, 2011, by iMinerva

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East or West?  My friend Betty retires next year and is trying to decide if she should move to California to be near her daughter – or Florida to be near a bunch of her friends.  That’s a hard decision packed with both emotional and financial issues.

While it would be terrific to be close to her daughter in San Diego, Nancy travels a lot on business and the grandkids are all off starting their careers.  Florida is miles away from family but next door to Betty’s old book club pals and bridge buddies who have left Chicago winters for the year-round sun and sand of Sarasota.  The pros and cons of family and friends will be one of the hardest considerations and, no-doubt, the ultimate driver taking Betty to one of the coasts.

The financial analysis is much easier to figure out.  CNN has a handy website that allows you to compare the cost of living in a variety of cities.  For instance, I plugged in Betty’s current information for an indication of costs on both coasts – $80,000 salary,  living in Chicago, IL and planning to move to San Diego, CA.  Then I did the same search to move from Chicago to Sarasota, FL.  The results were pretty staggering – and will probably play a role in Betty’s ultimate decision.

Betty’s current lifestyle in Chicago based on an income of $80,000, will require $90,500 in San Diego, mainly due to an increase of 44% in housing costs over Chicago.  A West Coast option would be Palm Springs with only a 14% increase in housing resulting in a base annual income requirement of $83,287.  However, this choice would require a two hour drive to get to her daughter – and put her in the desert vs. a beachside community.

Turning to the East Coast, Betty can cut $10,000 off her annual income requirement with a move to Sarasota.  Everything is cheaper – utilities, transportation, groceries and housing.  Compared to a 44% increase in the price of housing in San Diego, Sarasota offers comparable housing for 24% less than Chicago.  To cover her $80,000 Chicago lifestyle, Betty will only need $69,452 in Sarasota.

Obviously, all of this is theoretical and should only be used as an indication of the general cost of living in various communities.  Betty could go to Sarasota and fall in love with a five bedroom house with a pool just steps from the beach….a considerable upgrade from her current Chicago condo.  In which case, I’ll be visiting her a lot in February and March.  I’m sure I can learn to play bridge – and I always read books.

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