One of the most important decisions you can make is whether to take a job that requires you to move.
Moving is a life-changing experience. It can mean uprooting your family and saying goodbye to friends and familiar places. If you have kids, they’ll have to go through the stress of changing schools. Even if a move is prompted by a terrific career opportunity, the pros and cons should be weighed carefully.
“Moving in general is considered to be one of the top five or six stressors for individuals, right up there with divorce, death of a close family member, or loss of a job,” said California psychotherapist Fran Walfish.
Eric Tyson, the author of “Personal Finance for Dummies,” said people often are so excited about the prospect of moving that they don’t stop to consider how it might adversely affect their finances. The cost of living in different communities can vary greatly. Another thing to think about is who will pay for the move. If a new employer agrees to reimburse you for moving expenses, it’s a sign of their commitment to you.
If a job offer is what’s attracting you to a new community, you should make sure it’s a job you truly want, said Tyson. He recommends finding out as much about the company and its culture as possible before accepting.
“Really drill down and look at what will the job entail and how happy have other people been,” he said.
Weight the Pros and Cons
If you have a spouse or a life partner, he or she will need to approve of the move in order for it to be successful. If you have school-age children, they likely will feel some anxiety over the move. Walfish compares the feeling of a child stepping into a strange school to the sensation of “walking into a pool of ice water.”
“It is extremely difficult for kids to change not only their school environment but to have to be separated and ripped apart from their social structure,” she said.
If you have developed a network of close friends, “you need to count the cost of losing that and going into a city where you don’t know anyone,” said Paul Freed, an executive recruiter based in Oregon. “Consider how hard it will be to recreate that structure for yourself, your spouse, and your kids.”
Reverse Engineering Your Life
Whenever you move, in addition to making new friends you’re forced to find new places to shop, new restaurants, and a new place to have your car repaired. Freed calls the process “reverse engineering your life.”
You’ll need to create from scratch the support network that provides rides to the airport or helps you with do-it-yourself projects. If you’re a sports fan and have a regular ballpark buddy, you’ll need to find a new companion.
Freed recommends that you relocate only when you have a compelling reasons to do so, such as finding a terrific new job in a community you truly want to live in. As a recruiter, he counsels people not to take a job if it means moving to a city they wouldn’t want to stay in for an extended period. That’s because a job that’s envisioned as brief career stopover can turn into a long-term situation.
Freed said he recently weighed the pros and cons of a personal move. He took his family away from Seattle to live in the small community of Bend, OR. Although the move represented a major lifestyle change, it was one he was prepared for. He already was familiar with Bend. He wanted to get away from the big city to experience a slower pace of life and less expensive housing.
Think it Over Carefully
Before you move, Freed suggests that you talk the situation over with close friends and relatives.
“This is a big decision,” Freed said. “It’s worth getting counsel on. Seek wisdom from people you trust.”
He also recommends spending some time in the community you want to move to before you make a final decision. A short visit will give you a feel for the community’s character.
Tyson agreed. Without taking time to understand where you’re going, “it’s hard to know what you’re getting yourself into,” he said.