First Person: I’d Go Bankrupt Living in Another City

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When my husband's job situation became more flexible, we realized we could move to any state in the country. With telecommuting, we could live virtually anywhere. At first we were excited because we are ready to begin our pre-retirement planning. Our enthusiasm quickly died down when we found out how far our household income would go in another city. We used the CNN Money cost of living calculator which allowed us to compare where we live now to where we would want to live. We could consider the price difference of living in Tampa, Florida and a new city with regard to groceries, housing, utilities, transportation and health care. In many cases, we'd go bankrupt if we moved to another city since we live in a less expensive part of the country.

Making it in a more expensive city

I decided to find out what it would cost to move to the Frederick, Maryland area since I'm originally from Maryland. According to the cost of living calculator, our $100,000 household income would not go very far. We'd need a comparable salary of $140,000 to live the same lifestyle. In fact, the cost of housing was 132 percent more. Groceries would cost us 13 percent more. We'd be paying 28 percent more for utilities, 6 percent more for transportation and 9 percent more for health care. Our solution would be to earn more money. At the age of 40, I don't have the energy to get a second job to make ends meet in a more expensive city.

Making a lateral move

I also wanted to see how much it would cost if we moved to the Tucson, Arizona area since I have relatives living there. According to the calculator, we'd need just a little bit more or $103,485 to have the same lifestyle we have in Tampa on $100,000. For us, it would basically be a lateral move. In Tucson, we'd pay 1 percent less for groceries, 10 percent less for utilities and the same for transportation. We'd be paying 9 percent more for housing and 7 percent more for health care. Even though our income would give us a similar lifestyle in Tucson, we'd have to settle for a less expensive house.

Making an unpredictable move

Another idea was to pick a city that was less expensive than the Tampa area. We discovered we'd only need a comparable salary of $94,008 to live in Ardmore, Oklahoma. If we lived in Muncie, Indiana, we'd a comparable salary would be about $98,000. Unfortunately, we couldn't find many parts in the country that are less expensive than where we currently live. I don't want to trade the known for the unknown at this stage in my life. Also, I'm not willing to trade my preferred climate for the savings of just a few thousand a year.

I recently read an article about the best cities for boomers to "pre-retire." Even though I'd like to maximize my dollars as I grow closer to retirement, I would use the cost of living calculator and consider other factors before moving to the cities named including Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo, Baltimore, Miami, Seattle, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. Although I had visions of living somewhere that would allow me to lead a social life while keeping costs low, I found out I don't have to look very far. My pre-retirement plan is to stay put and eventually retire in place.

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