Thursday, July 23, 2009

Has the California Dream Vanished?

I have been writing often about California lately.  I have done this mostly because there have been many things on my mind, not the least of which has been if it is really worth it to live in California.  For the most part I think it is.  I love most of the things that California has to offer and I have many ties to the area.  My family is here, I went to high school here, and I have a lot of friends in the area.  But I have lived in three of the four corners of the United States and can honestly say that I think I can make it work anywhere I go (with the possible exception of Alaska).

So if I love it here so much why would I consider leaving?  Well, California has been in the news a lot lately, most of it not too good.  There have been several articles wondering if the allure of California is fading.   With the budget crisis the way it is there is little doubt in my mind that a tax hike is around the corner.  Considering how high the tax burden already is, I am in no mood to see even more of my paycheck go out the window.  Unemployment is high and the opportunities for me in the area are somewhat limited.  While I like my current job, I don't know if I will be there five years from now so I am just planning ahead for what I will do down the road.

Of course one of my biggest problems with California will come to no surprise to my loyal readers.  The cost of housing.  It is still way to high.  Most of the homes in my area are still asking for $500,000.  They are nowhere near worth that.  But even if prices come down another 20%, the housing would still be overpriced.  On the eve of my marriage, I have to look at the situation and ask myself, "Is living in California worth reducing my standard of living?"

I know that I can make just as much salary wise in other parts of the country as I can here.  In fact, in many areas I might even have a distinct advantage given less competition for jobs.  So what is someone like me, a young successful mid-career professional supposed to do?  Do I continue to pay high taxes and live in a small rented apartment?  Or should I consider moving to a state like Texas which has a very low tax burden (no income tax at all) and very affordable housing?  I did a quick search in some of the bigger metropolitan areas like Houston and Austin and there are many houses that I could pay cash for.  For houses in the price range I want to spend, I could easily find a four or five bedroom house for what I could get a condo for here.

Yes, I know what the argument against is.  I would have to live in Texas.  But seriously, I'm sure it is not all that bad.  Most of the people I know from the area speak highly of it and would go back if the right opportunity came along.  I'm not saying I'm going to move there or anywhere in the next year, but it is something I would have to consider.  it is something I would have to consider even sooner if California did something stupid like raise taxes yet again.

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