07 July 2008

Employment but Really Relocation

Assumption. Great jobs are opportunities that should be seized. When they come with six-figure offers, there's no discussion.

Expectation. Things will work out. Sure, Manhattan is different from Texas. But we're resourceful, and we're still somewhat flexible.

Reality. Things don't always work out. I remember blinking, repeatedly, the first time I priced Manhattan rentals in the 2500 square foot range... $7,000 per month. No, not rent... yes, that's rent.

Relocation Packages. The job offer I accepted and then sadly walked away from a month later was located in mid-town Manhattan. The relocation package was modest, only enough to move part of the household but allowing for some large works of art, 3 or 4 walls' worth of barrister bookcases, a couple of favorite desks, antique table and chairs, and what would be some tough decisions about which of the 3 leather couches would make the move. (There were other 3s to consider: which of the 3 vehicles in the driveway... and which of the 3 refrigerators.) Of course, we still hadn't dealt with the reality of finding affordable space in New York for even the trimmed list of household goods. It wasn't the best relocation package we'd ever seen. Tom Bold had that one from an aerospace company 20 years ago: that company bought our house in the old town, paid the closing costs on the house in the new town along with new carpet and window treatments, and for two years paid the difference in our mortgage interest from old house to new house. Even in his two less-supported moves, we always had the moving vans covered, regardless of cost, and a couple of months' living expenses until we purchased a house. The 2008 relocation for my upcoming job was simply not in that category. But I wanted to take the job and we thought we could make it work.

Relocation Trade-offs. Most of life is about trade-offs and this move to the New York job would be, too. We would pare down. Down-size. Peel away. Discard. The trade-off would be access to a vibrant city and a rewarding job for me with a company I liked. So, we wouldn't live in Manhattan. That's OK. People around me recommended Brooklyn, Harlem and northward, and New Jersey. All places where we could find acceptable (to us) 1200-square-foot apartments starting at $2500/month. For $3500/month, we could be assured of in-unit washer and dryer, a few of the luxuries of our Texas home, and at least availability of a parking space (for additional charge of $100-$150/month).

Cost of Living. Having visited New York in the past, we knew to build in extra costs of living. Still, some web sites served up horror stories about heating costs and we were properly advised. My hairdresser snickered as she pointed out that I had only a few more $45 hair colorings with her. And when I made consulting trips in spring and summer, I intentionally ate at McDonald's (OK! Lunch came in at $8.50!) and shopped at the local grocery store (oh, my, bagged salad really is an extra $2). These are the costs we fully expected to ignore and allow to consume the entire salary. After all, we weren't coming to New York to save money; I was coming for stimulating work.

Trade-Offs. As boomers with 36 years of marriage, we have become quite spoiled in having close at hand nearly everything we have acquired in our adult lives. At least, we thought that's what we were spoiled about. We saw the move to New York as needing only discipline to sort out what we loved most. What we learned is that we have come to love space. We haven't needed the increased square footage that has come with each house purchase and we certainly haven't needed the furnishings of those houses. But we have become accustomed to the spaces between. Two rooms between my office and Tom's TV room. A floor between my bedroom and the guest room. An acre of land between our walls and the nearest neighbor's walls. A 3-car garage between...well, nothing beats a 3-car garage, in any city.

Too Many Trade-Offs. And somewhere in the consideration of trade-offs we realized that relocating in New York would be akin to living in that 3-car garage (sans cars, of course, because we couldn't really imagine renting a parking space). Add to the space problem the expense of the rental with the prospect of supporting the Texas house, too, due to a remarkably bad housing market. Add to all of that the scarcity of really good ice in the Northeast. I know you have wonderful museums and Broadway, but you don't have the crushed ice of Sonic drive-in's.

Coming to Terms with Passing on the Job. First, we looked for the work-arounds. Expect to pay considerable moving costs that would not be reimbursed. Expect to rent, not own. Expect to not be able to sell the Texas house. Expect to spend the entire salary on just living expenses. View it as a 5-year commitment. View it as a 3-year commitment. And, finally, admit that we were making too many trade-offs, giving up too many things we love, and not making financial sense at all.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

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