I would scream this from the mountain top if I could. Big cities don’t necessarily pay more. Big cities don’t pay more! BIG CITIES DON’T PAY MORE (at least not enough more)!
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you shouldn’t move to a big city. I love big cities. Before Memphis, I was living in the Los Angeles area. It was beautiful. Given the opportunity, I would do it all over again.
But, as you already know – money doesn’t go as far there. In California, my apartment cost about the same amount of money as an apartment in Tennessee. But, can you guess what was different? It was less than half the size of what I was used to. It had no air conditioning. It had no dishwasher. It had no private parking. And, it had no washing machine or dryer for my clothes.
That sounds like it must have been a real shack, right? Wrong. I lived in the same neighborhood where celebrities lived. I ran into a few during my time there, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver (before their breakup), Hillary Swank, and Minnie Driver.
Let’s get this right. We’re not talking cheap – we’re talking different. When I lived in LA, my priorities were different. I have friends who still live in cities like LA and NYC. Some live in tiny apartments. Others have roommates well into their 30s and 40s. It’s not a big deal. It’s not bad. It’s just different.
But, what probably won’t happen when you move to a big city is this. The new company you’re interested to work for may pay you more. But, they won’t pay you that much more. They’re not going to pay you so much more that you’ll be able to have the same house in your new swanky city. You’re going to have to make choices – like whether or not you’re down for living in a smaller space.
Why is this? Why wouldn’t a company pay you an adjusted cost of living wage? If you take an internal move, they might – or they’ll get closer. But, if you’re going to work for a new company, it’s unlikely.
This is the thing. A big city like LA has lots and lots of people; 3.9 million to be exact. Many of those people are qualified to do the same job you’re qualified to do. Most likely, you will have more competition for your job than you do today in your smaller city. And, it’s a supply and demand job market. If you want to make $100K per year, but there’s someone else who already lives in the city (and is also qualified) that’s open to taking $85K, what incentive does the company have to pay you $100K?
It’s that whole “big fish, little pond” concept. And you know, sometimes it’s good to be a big fish. For example, a city like Memphis sometimes pays more for specialized talent than LA. Why is that? Because there are very few people in a city the size of Memphis who can fill a certain job. But, in LA, there are lots of people who can.
Now that I’ve said all this, let me say that it’s not impossible to make much more in a larger city. This is especially true if you’re jumping up the ladder so to speak.
But, just don’t assume that a big city will pay you much more. It’s not a given. And, for the most-part, that’s a myth. You may make more, but the question is – how much more? And, are you prepared to try living without air conditioning or without a dishwasher?
Of course, there’s no right answer. It’s all a very personal choice. Just be sure you understand the pond before you jump into it.