Should You Move Your Home to Move Up the Ladder?

You have the offer in hand. It looks like your ticket to the big step in your career, the one that will add an additional “0” at the end of your salary and catapult you to the level of work you dreamed of while still in school. But before you leap, there are a number of factors to consider. This dream job could turn into a nightmare if you don’t take a realistic look at what is required.

Begin making a list of factors in three categories: 1. Must have (that is, you would reject the promotion if this is not in place); 2. Important (no one factor in this column would alter your decision, but three or more would); and 3. Nice to have (a definite plus, but not critical). You then need to do search the Internet, ask your company’s HR department, and/or talk to your family about a series of factors involved in moving long distance.

1. Can your children handle the move? Does their school offer special programs that have greatly improved their scholastic performance? Is there a sport or activity your child(ren) excel in, something they would greatly miss if their new school didn’t have it? If your children are in high school, can they stay with a good friend or relative until graduation – or will they be glad to graduate from a different school?

2. Does your spouse or partner have a profession that is movable? Can they find a job in any city, like teachers, writers, social workers)? If not, how will you help your partner re-create or restart their career? If the promotion allows your partner to leave their job, what community resources are they looking for in the new location – places to volunteer, certain shopping venues or stores?

3. What do you know about the area? What compromises do you have to make in order to live in the new location? For instance, many people come to San Francisco in July expecting it to be warm. While it’s true that some places in the East Bay and Central Valley of California frequently reach high temperatures, you’d better bring a sweatshirt or a jacket if you will be spending the month in San Francisco. For most people, this is no big deal, but a real sun bunny would need to be sure their housing is outside San Francisco proper (or be willing to travel to the warm spots). Get on the Internet and find out about the weather, schools, and culture. Look for the official state site, the official city’s site, and the chamber of commerce web site. Many police departments are online, and can provide you with crime statistics.

4. Don’t log off just yet. What are the hot political issues in your potentially new city? Every city or town has them, and if you are considering a move, you should know about them up front. Search the web for the newspaper(s) of that particular city. A good starting point is Digital City (www.digitalcities.com). Again using San Francisco as an example, I would advise against accepting a job offer unless you could afford to buy or rent a home – something that is extremely difficult in the City’s very expensive and very tight housing market. These issues will take some extra time, but you aren’t likely to find them on the “official” city or chamber of commerce sites.

5. If you can, purchase several newspapers from your potential new location. What are the salaries offered in the jobs section? What types of crime make the news? What trends are being reported? The local paper(s) will give you a good idea of what matters to people in the area. Many television stations also have web sites, so check those out, too.

6. How far away is the new job? Is it in the next state, or across the ocean? If you are moving a few hours away, can you still get back to visit relatives or loved ones? If not, how will you keep the people you care about in your life? If they are still a two or three hour car ride away, how will you integrate those trips into your regular schedule? People often think they will make trips make fairly frequently, but when the reality of the daily grind sets in, realize they cannot make a weekend trip back to see the folks every week. If you have elderly parents or loved ones who depend on your help, what arrangements can you make to be sure they get the care and assistance they need?

7. Lastly, what if the whole promotion backfires? Are there other options within your company at the new location? Is the job market better or worse? Having a “Plan B” will help make the move decision more certain, rather than a regrettable, costly mistake you have difficulty undoing. Is this move likely to be your last one, or will your company expect you to move again in six, 12, or 18 months, as your career progresses? How much is your company offering to help you move? Check the IRS web site (www.irs.gov) to find out what expenses you can deduct when you make a work-related move.

Moving homes to move up the ladder can be a real boost, both to your career and your daily life outside of work – or it can be a bad opportunity that is better declined. Doing your homework will help make sure the decision you make is the right one.

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