Anyone familiar with this site knows I’m a big fan of geoarbitrage. When done correctly, it’s a great way to lower your housing costs and free up a lot of money for investing. For example, Mrs. Groovy and I lowered our housing costs to roughly 3% of our household income by relocating to Charlotte. Had we remained on Long Island, our housing costs would have gobbled up close to 25% of our household income.
For financial reasons, I’m very glad I left Long Island. Had I stayed on that freaky but lovable New York City appendage, there’s no way I would have achieved financial independence at age 53.
But I’m also glad I left Long Island for non-financial reasons. Relocating to Charlotte made me a better person. It allowed me to be the person I wanted to be, not the person I was expected to be. Let me explain.
Creating an Encore Persona
When I was a younger man, I was very into politics and very partisan. It didn’t matter what my party said or did, I had its back. If it said ketchup was a vegetable, ketchup was a freakin’ vegetable damn it. And any scoundrel who said otherwise had best be ready for a fight.
To say I drank the party Kool-Aid was a gross understatement. I was a classic my-mother-drunk-or-sober fool.
Being a partisan ass wasn’t very becoming. It also wasn’t very honorable. Fortunately, though, as I neared my mid 30s, I realized how profoundly ignoble my behavior was, and I effectively retired from partisan politics. But here’s the problem. How do you get family, friends, and co-workers to forget the previous two decades of your existence? To them, regardless of what I professed, I was still a partisan ass, and they simply couldn’t resist the urge to talk politics with me and get my take on whatever controversy was roiling the media.
It was maddening. I was so one dimensional for so long, I was scarcely even human anymore. Everyone saw me as some mindless drone who could only be understood and reached through the prism of partisan politics.
Ah, but then I moved to Charlotte.
The people I’ve met in Charlotte don’t know I was a partisan ass back in New York. To them, I’m just a happy-go-lucky guy with a weird accent who is totally apolitical. And that’s just the way I like it.
In the ten years I worked in Charlotte before I retired, you know how often I discussed politics with my co-workers? Maybe a half dozen times. You know how many times I initiated those discussions? Zero.
When I talked to my co-workers, it was mainly about work. And if it wasn’t about work, it was about their lives—their kids, their pets, or their latest smartphones. Anything but politics. It was pure heaven.
I Don’t Give a Crap About the Dallas Cowboys Either
When I was growing up, I was a big time Dallas Cowboy and New York Islander fan. But just as with partisan politics, something clicked when I hit my mid 30s. My devotion to professional sports in general and these two teams in particular began to strike me as increasingly foolish. “Who are these guys?” I asked myself. “Do they give a crap about me? And if they don’t, which is perfectly understandable, why am I wasting so much time, energy, and money watching them throw a football and whack a puck?”
Had I remained on Long Island, my new-found disdain for professional sports and the Cowboys and Islanders would have required a lot of explaining. After all, being a sports fanatic and a rabid Cowboy and Islander fan was a big part of “who I was.”
But there was no explaining necessary down in Charlotte.
Another thing that didn’t require any explaining down in Charlotte was my spending prerogatives.
It’s hard to articulate, but there was always this unstated pressure back on Long Island to spend and behave like an upper-class person. And this unstated pressure came from family and friends as well. Of course, no one would ever call you a “loser” to your face. But you got this unmistakable sense that people would think less of you if you lived in a working-class town, or drove a “bottom-of-the-line” car, or shopped at Walmart, or—heaven forbid—had a job that actually required you to get dirty.
This Long Island “attitude” is precisely why I gave up a promising car-washing career. It’s also why I dreaded being seen by anyone I knew when I was picking up litter at my highway job.
But Mrs. Groovy and I don’t have upper-class tastes. We don’t need fancy cars and clothes to feel fulfilled. Nor do we need exquisite restaurants and vacation destinations. We’re perfectly happy with the mundane—driving a 2004 Camry, outfitting our wardrobes from Walmart, celebrating Valentine’s Day at Sonic, and vacationing in Birmingham, Alabama.
And God damn it, I like picking up litter.
Charlotte, for all its faults, is a lot less snooty than Long Island. There’s no unstated pressure to be refined. We can live like the great unwashed we are and not feel like second-class citizens.
Up until this post, I’ve only considered the financial benefits of geoarbitrage. But what if the main benefit of geoarbitrage isn’t financial? What if the main benefit of geoarbitrage is that it allows you to cast off the yoke of expectations? To free yourself from the attitudes and sympathies that no longer suit you but because of family, friends, and co-workers are stuck to you like barnicles? Would geoarbitrage still be worth it?
Okay, groovy freedomist, that’s all I got. What say you? Is geoarbitrage a great way to reinvent yourself? Or is using geoarbitrage to create an encore persona overkill? Shouldn’t one have the courage to reinvent oneself without having to escape family, friends, and co-workers and moving to another part of the country? Let me know what you think when you get a chance. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Peace.