Before moving to a smaller city, ask yourself these key questions.
In 2017, I did something that my younger self once swore she would never do: I sold half of what I owned, unpacked the rest, and moved back to the Midwest. I had spent much of my early adult aging from one major coastal city to another, and this move took me from Seattle, Washington (population 744,955) to Cedar Rapids, Iowa (population 133,174). Like many people, I moved to be closer to family – but I also moved to take advantage of the lower cost of living, save more money and start working towards financial independence.
Rebecca Lake, personal finance expert and blogger at Boss Single Mama and Haven Life contributor, recently made a similar move – taking her children with her. “I moved from Charleston, South Carolina, which is a fairly large city, to a city with less than 5,000 people. Financially, I have been able to save a lot of money because things are cheaper, but there have been some trade-offs.
In my case, the trade-offs were minimal. The benefits, on the other hand – a stronger relationship with my parents, the opportunity to participate in social arts organizations, the ability to significantly increase my net worth – were overwhelmingly positive. In fact, I would go so far as to say that my move to Cedar Rapids was the best $ 5,929.10 I have ever spent. It's not just me. According to the Pew Research Center, 22% of American adults have either moved or know someone who moved because of the coronavirus, many of whom are young adults leaving major cities. A report from the Brookings Institution indicates that this trend is actually ahead of the coronavirus, and that we are in the middle of "a longer, national spread away from large metropolitan populations."
Does leaving the big city behind is the right move for you? Perhaps. It was definitely the right choice for me, but that does not mean you will take the smaller city life as easily. Before you, your partner and / or child unpack promises of a more spacious and affordable life in a smaller town or city, it's worth taking the time to do some research – and ask yourself some important questions.  In this article:
Investigate how much you can save – and how much it can cost you
It is often cheaper to live in a small town – moving to Cedar Rapids meant paying half as much rent that I paid in Seattle, for example – but your reduced cost of living may come at a cost. "Moving out of the city [to a small town] will reduce your earning potential," said Lawrence Gonzalez, government accountant and founder of The Neighborhood Finance Guy. Wage rates can vary by region and individual location, and it may be unrealistic to assume that you are still earning your metropolitan salary when you take a new job in a smaller city.
Similarly, smaller cities may simply have fewer jobs available – and if you do not already have a job lined up, you may not be able to find a new one right away. On the plus side, living in a smaller city can help you move faster in your career. "You could have been a small fish in an ocean," says Gonzalez, "but you might be the biggest fish in a pond."
Fortunately, you can do math before making such a big decision. Before you commit to leaving the big city behind, use resources like Glassdoor and Salary.com to compare salaries in your industry by location. Check job boards for the cities you are considering to make sure there are opportunities for people at your skill level. Then use Best Places Living Cost Calculator to see exactly how much money you can save by moving from a big city to a less populated place. For example, if I moved from Seattle to Cedar Rapids today, I would expect to reduce my living expenses by 56.2% – and since I have been a full-time freelancer since 2012, I can take my job (and its associated annual income) with me.
If you also freelance or work remotely, moving to a smaller town or city can give you the benefits of living at a low cost without a corresponding reduction in salary. If you do not currently work from home, you may be able to secure a remote job before moving – or ask your boss if they would be interested in keeping you as a remote employee. "The good news is that given the evolution of modern technology and the increase in telework stimulated by the COVID-19 pandemic, more companies are willing to accept remote employees than ever before," Sean Messier, assistant editor at Credit Card Insider, explains. . "If you can get a position that works remotely, you may be able to secure a relatively high salary while living in a region with a generally low salary."
"You could have been a small fish in a sea. But you can be the biggest fish in a pond … "
—Lawrence Gonzalez, Government Accountant and Founder of The Neighborhood Finance Guy
Know What You Can Do – and If You Will Have Family to Help
I grew up in the Missouri countryside, so I was already very familiar with both small town cultures and the Midwest culture. After graduating from college, my parents moved to Mount Vernon, Iowa (a university town just outside of Cedar Rapids), so I was also very familiar with the Cedar Rapids area before I moved there. If I had not known Cedar Rapids – and if I did not know that my parents would be a 20-minute drive away – I probably would not have made the move.
Lake and her ex-husband also considered knowledge and family in their moving decision. "I had visited [my ex-husband’s hometown] several times and met his family. Since I had no family nearby, it looked like a good option.
If you have a good relationship with your family, there can be many benefits to "moving home", as it were: you can spend more time with the people you care about, you can help your parents or in-laws when they age, and you can share resources or even create a multigenerational household. Plus moving to be closer to family can help busy parents solve the childcare equation – provided grandparents, aunts or uncles are happy to babysit, of course.
Prepare for a Cultural Change
Knowing what you're getting into before you move will often make the process smoother – but even if you're already familiar with the area or have been visiting family members there for several years, you should still be prepared on a culture shift, if not outright shock. Lake, for example, was amazed at how densely populated small-towners could be. "Everyone knows everyone and their family all the way back to their grandparents," she said. "On the one hand, it's good because people here are always willing to help if you need anything. On the other hand, everyone knows everyone's business mostly – and if they do not know, their neighbor or cousin or who will fill them is quite
Moving to a small town where everyone knows everyone's business is one thing; moving to a city where no one looks like your family – or where everyone looks like your family – is another. Exploring a new one Urban or urban demographics, which you can easily do through Data USA or even Wikipedia, can be as important as examining the cost of living. "I would definitely encourage people to consider the type of fish bowl they are moving to when moving from a larger city. to a smaller one, "says Lake." If you want an inclusive environment, small towns do not always offer it. "
That said, do not assume living in a city with a diverse population will ensure that your children grow up in a diversity g or inclusive community. "Although a big city like New York City or DC seems to vary, for the most part people are spreading back to very segregated areas," Gonzalez explains. “Riding the subway in DC is a perfect example. I start at the Largo Town Center subway (90% black) and end up at Tysons Corner (90% white); in between, the groups for work. In addition, there is socio-economic class that is played.
Gonzalez, a Haitian-American, also acknowledges the struggle to raise children of color in a city with limited demographic diversity. "Smaller cities are stuck in a uniquely challenging scenario for minorities because there are fewer people who look like them." If you are raising white children in a predominantly white area, you must also consider what your children may experience as they grow up. “The majority may fit right in, but they are often left with little or no global exposure. Some children may grow up insensitive to others and even lack the skills to truly network outside their group. "
" Think about what type of fish bowl [you’re] moves to when moving from a larger city to a smaller one. If you want an inclusive environment, small towns do not always offer it. "
—Rebecca Lake, personal finance expert and blogger at Boss Single Mama
Ask yourself what you value – and where are you more likely to find it
“The biggest trade-off in living in a small town is that it limits your options for certain things, Lake explains. “I live in a small town that literally has a main street. We just do not have the shopping, dining, entertainment or recreational options that larger cities do. When Lake wants to take her kids to the movies or to a bookstore, she has to drive the family to the next town across – which is a 45-minute journey each way.
Before you decide to move, Messier suggests that you ask yourself how you and your family like to spend your free time and if you will be able to enjoy these hobbies in a small town. “A lot of small-town entertainment means you are out – hiking, sports and that kind of thing – which is good if you take part in it. But if you are familiar with art and culture, you will probably drive a lot for the sake of entertainment, and travel costs can increase rapidly.
To be fair, some small towns have a lot of art and culture – one of the reasons I moved to Cedar Rapids was because it had a symphony orchestra, several community theaters and was a tournament destination for all types of musicians, comedians and Broadway show – but it's still worth considering if the area you are considering is to support the life you want to live. Not only in terms of entertainment and hobbies, but also in terms of values.
For some people, moving to a small town can help them achieve a life goal as a home visit or help them feel more connected to the people around them. "Big cities are filled with a revolving door of people," Gonzalez explains. "Moving out can lead to more life-focused stability, ie home ownership, family, etc." For other people, life in the small towns can feel isolating – especially if the place is not racist, socially or culturally different. Ask yourself if you really want to transfer your family from a city where you can take public transport to a new district, restaurant or museum, for example to a smaller city where everyone drives their own car and the biggest destination is a big box Store. In some cases, a larger city can actually give more of a sense of community.
In the end, the decision to move from the big city to a small town will ask yourself what you want in life, where you It is likely that you will find it and what trade-offs you are willing to make. "If you're thinking of leaving the big city behind, ask yourself why you want to do it and what you hope to get out of your experience," Lake recommends. "At the same time, think about what you can sacrifice in the process."
After growing up in the Midwest and spending ten years of my life living in big cities, I knew I could only build the kind of life I really wanted in a smaller city. That's why I moved from Seattle to Cedar Rapids – and why I'm currently moving from Cedar Rapids to nearby Quincy, Illinois (population 40,042) so I can buy my first home. I hope this movement will bring similar benefits to my move to Cedar Rapids, and if all goes well, it should put me on the right path to achieving the financial and personal goals I would like to work towards over the next five years  What about you? Where do you want to see yourself in the next few years – and will you be able to make it happen where you currently live? If not, it may be time to consider the pros and cons of moving.
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Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency supported and wholly owned by the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe that navigating life insurance decisions, your personal finances and general well-being can be refreshingly easy.
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