Dear Helaine: I'm in my early 30s. Three years ago, I had two job offers. One was close to home and near my friends and family, paying $50,000. The other was on the other side of the country, paying $72,000, in an area with a higher median income.
I was fresh out of grad school, frustrated with living with my parents and thought it would be nice to make some good money and explore a new life. So I took the higher offer and moved. Three years later ... I am miserable. Yes, the work is moderately interesting and offers great experience and skill-building, but I have no friends here, my co-workers are uniformly awful people, and I just overall hate living here.
The job situation is not much different than it was three years ago. The jobs I am a match for don't pay more than $60,000 back where I am from, and that's a generous estimate. The cost of living is higher, so even if I could make it work, my margin for savings, investing and traveling, which I've done a lot of the past three years, would get a lot tighter.
How much of a pay cut is it worth taking at this time in my life? What do I need to consider to help me make this decision? I don't want to go any longer being financially secure but personally miserable, but I might be putting myself in the reverse situation if I move back. -- Hopefully Homeward Bound
Dear Hopefully Homeward Bound: I feel your pain. It's very hard to feel like a fish out of water, year after year. At a certain point, it's your life; you can't go backward in time, and staying in a job you don't particularly like in a city you are not happy in isn't worth it. You took a leap into the unknown. It worked financially but not emotionally.
Cities and regions have their ways and modes of communication, and sometimes it's not a match. I'm not going to give you a lecture about joining Meetup to make new friends with your interests, or suggest you look for a new employer in this town. I assume you've already thought of that.
So what should you do next? You could work on budgeting. Come up with the amount of money you would need to live on in your hometown, and use that as your guide. At the same time, you could slowly and methodically explore other cities and see what your options are in them. There are not, after all, only two places to live in the United States. It's a big country! You could very well find another city that offers you a decent living, work you enjoy and a congenial lifestyle. Happy hunting!
(To ask Helaine a question, email her at email@example.com.)
(EDITORS: For editorial questions, please contact Sue Roush at firstname.lastname@example.org)