Should You Move to Find a Better Job?

by Neal Frankle, CFP ®

When should you move if you’re in need of work? This is usually the follow up question once you answer, “Which job is right for me?”

This is a question I had to deal with when I was much younger. Just married and blessed with the birth of our first child, my wife and I were living overseas. We weren’t making much money and had almost no savings.

After much discussion, we decided to move back to the United States. But we were terrified. We had no family and only a few friends back “home.” I didn’t have a job or a place to live. I didn’t even have a current securities license at the time, so we knew it would take time before I would be able to make any money.

Did I mention we were scared to death?

We understood that people in my profession don’t get paid a salary, so the stakes were sky-high. If the move failed, we had no “Plan B.” We couldn’t afford to fail.

Fortunately, everything worked out great. We’ve been blessed, and we’re all really grateful. But it would have been foolish to take the steps we did without really understanding the risks and alternatives.

If you face tough financial times, need to get out of debt or start saving for retirement, you might be tempted to move in order to take advantage of (what you consider to be) better work opportunities elsewhere. Of course this can be a risky move as it was in my own example. It’s expensive to relocate, and if you’re already facing financial hardship, the last thing you want to do is incur all that cost and then find you’ve made a mistake.

Of course it’s impossible to know what the future holds, but there are a number of steps you can take now to reduce the chances of making an ill-advised move.

1. Clarity

What is the problem you’re trying to solve here? Is it purely financial, or are there social issues involved as well? It’s fine if you’re sick and tired of the rats you’ve been running with and need a new group of “homies.” What’s not OK is to move because you can’t stand living in the same hemisphere as your brother while you tell yourself you need to move because you’re looking for a better job. I’ve seen many people fall into this trap.

If there are social reasons behind your desire to relocate, moving isn’t going to help you (unless you currently live in a physically dangerous place). The reality is there are plenty of difficult people all over the world. With your luck, you’ll move next to an even worse grouch than the slob who lives next to you currently.

Moving is expensive. Have you tried to negotiate with your current boss? Do all you can to stay put because the more you move the more difficult it will be to get financial traction.

2. Research

If you want to find a better job, why is the new location better than where you live now? Will you have some special advantage in the new location that you don’t have where you are now?

In my case, moving back did offer huge advantages. First, one of the few friends I had got me into the profession and helped me become a financial professional. All I had to do was pass a (very difficult) test and I’d have a desk and built-in clients. Sweet-a-kimbo. The average income of someone in my profession in the United States was what I needed to make. I didn’t need to be a superstar. I figured that if I worked really hard, I would have a good shot at doing well. Overseas, my profession hadn’t even been invented yet.

Finally, I was pretty good with the native language in the USA (since I was born and raised here) and familiar with the culture back here. That wasn’t the case overseas. I didn’t have any connections at all.

How does moving really provide an opportunity for you? Do you have a job lined up? How stable is it? How long does the average person stay in that job at the new company you have lined up? How much money does the average person make there? How does moving solve your problems?

3. Costs

Over and above the relocation costs, think about the cost of living in your new location. Don’t assume anything. Check it out. A client of mine left her kids when she retired. She moved to northern California to take advantage of lower costs. Now, a year and half later, she realizes that it actually costs her more to live up north; she doesn’t even have her kids nearby; and she spends even more money traveling down to see them.

4. Confirmation

Relocating is a significant fork in the road. While not irrevocable, the more you move the less stability you’ll have. And moving is no guarantee that you’ll actually land a great job. It impedes your ability to grow a strong financial foundation and it makes you seem unstable to employers. Check your thinking out with smart friends who are successful. If you are young, consider talking to older people, not just your peers.

Run your plan by these people. Be open-minded. If they respond by suggesting you are out of your mind, you might want to consider that and give their thoughts weight.

Talk to at least three people. Tell them what you want to do and why. Talk to them about the upside and downside to making the move and tell them why you’ve made the decision you have.

Should you stay or should you go? How did you decide?



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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Briana @ GBR January 4, 2011 at 2:24 PM

I decided to make the 56 mile round trip commute to work by moving around the corner from my fiance’s job. He works either swing shift or graveyard, so we thought it’d be safer to live closer to his job. It’s a sacrifice but one we chose together.


Brian December 31, 2010 at 9:59 PM

Sometimes it is a necessity if there are not any jobs in your area. For instance, people that live in the Detroit area should strongly consider relocating as the jobs that they used to have will probably never come back. I would agree that it can be difficult to move to an unknown place, but it usually works out well when you are happy in your career.


krantcents December 30, 2010 at 1:52 PM

Some people become more motivated when they face difficult situations. Others fold under the pressure. Figuring out which you are is no simple task. I am glad it worked for you.


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