Thinking of moving to greener pastures? Before you sign the dotted line, use this tool to help determine how far your current salary will go in Seattle or your new town, based on changes in your cost of living.
It’s no secret that post-recession Seattle is booming right now. Businesses are feeling the confidence again to build new offices — and to hire more people to fill the gleaming towers rising all around us. Unemployment in the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett cluster is now a healthy 4.3 percent, the lowest it’s been since 2008.
This is drawing a lot more people into the city. But if you are one of these people eyeing Seattle as the new promised land, make sure you factor in the cost of living here before you agree to an offer.
For a start, check out some of the latest cost-of-living comparison sites on the web. One good example is CNN Money’s calculator, which allows you to enter your current salary and employer location and determine how far it would go in hundreds of other U.S. cities, based on 2014 data gathered by the Council for Community and Economic Research. Variables include the average cost of housing, groceries, utilities, transportation and healthcare, which are all used to calculate an equivalent salary in the city you wish to move to. For instance, to match the buying power of a $45,000 salary in Seattle, you would need to make $41,400 in Chicago or $47,900 in Los Angeles.
Even a move of a few miles within Western Washington can make a big difference. According to the calculator site, a worker making $45,000 in Everett should seek a salary of about $53,100 in Seattle to break even. This is mostly a result of housing costs that are 31 percent more expensive, along with 11 percent higher utility and transportation costs. For those coming from Eastern Washington, the differences are even starker. A $45,000 job in Spokane, for example, translates to the need to make about $59,700 in Seattle, thanks to housing costs that are a staggering 88 percent higher.
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So, does Seattle now have the highest cost of living? Hardly. A person making $45,000 in Seattle would need a salary of about $59,400 in San Francisco to afford housing that is 83 percent more inflated than Seattle’s. Thinking about making a lateral move to a Hawaiian paradise? Better find work for $62,000 to afford Honolulu’s exorbitant prices. (Beware: the comparisons start becoming addictive once you start!)
These cost comparisons are just rule-of-thumb averages, so there will be great variability depending on your profession and experience level. But just knowing that healthcare costs in, say, the suburbs of Washington, D.C., are 21 percent less than they are in Seattle, while housing is about 21 percent higher, can help making cross-country moving decisions a bit easier.
After seven long years of slow job recovery, many job seekers have become accustomed to grabbing the first offer they find. So, whether you’re looking to move to, or away from, the Emerald City, do your cost-of-living homework before you sign the dotted line or you may sell yourself short.