48 Comments

  1. Way too many people take current lifestyle or living expenses as a fixed given and don’t consider how they could change things to reduce expenses. This is a great example. But our experience is costs vary widely across the United States and even within states. Things like energy, water, food, insurance (cars and health) can be wildly different. It adds up. $60,000 isn’t enough in many places (say Silicon Valley), but is an upper middle-class lifestyle in many areas.

  2. What a fabulous trip!! I too have hiked the M trail…in flip flops. My friend said it was a pretty easy hike so I went for it. Hmmmm – I may need more informed friends! That huckleberry ice cream sounds delish!! I would love to visit Glacier and Ms Montana soon…well, after winter. πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing your pics!!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Yes, you definitely have to visit Glacier. Touch base with Ms. Montana at FinCon and set something up. But you better hit Charlotte before you hit Kalispell.

  3. I loved the photos! I’m always a big fan of Mother Nature, I’m so jealous that you have so many beautiful places near you Mr G!
    The simple math is indeed, shocking! If you live in New York, but the entertainment opportunities don’t excite you, I say save the extra $15,000 a year!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Nailed it, Terence. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law live in Manhattan and are very culturally active. Hardly a week goes by that they don’t partake in a play, a lecture, a museum, or a “hot” new restaurant. So they really love what NYC has to offer. And they can afford it. I on the other hand hardly ever ventured into Manhattan. On most occasions it was for a Ranger-Islander game. So NYC wasn’t pivotal to my cultural existence. Moving to NC was the right move. I’m doing everything I want to do, and I’m saving a ton of money.

  4. The math is definitely simple; I wonder for us if the other factors will line up.

    Wisconsin has fairly high property taxes near the big cities – our area is about $5,000 in taxes a year for a $250,000 house (the cost of a “nice” single-family home). When we get there though, the biggest question will be the location of family.

    If our daughters still want to spend time with us – God willing – we’d like to be in their general area. With three kids though, there’s a reasonable shot that at least one will be moving out-of state. At that point we’ve got to pick our poison πŸ™‚

    Love the pictures. The Going-To-The-Sun Road has been one of my favorite legs of our road trips. It was super foggy that day so you had no idea how high up you were, but I was mesmerized the whole time nonetheless!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Chris. You are so right about the kids. When I talk to friends back on Long Island, they always say they’re getting off the island as soon as they retire. When I ask where to, they always say it depends on where their kids end up. They’ll follow them wherever they go. But what happens if one ends up in North Carolina and another ends up in Colorado? It’s a devilish problem. I guess they could move close to one and spend a couple months out of the year with the other. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. And I’m so glad to hear you got to experience the Going-to-the-sun Road in its entirety, despite the fog. It is indeed mesmerizing.

  5. Wow, that’s a huge difference in property tax bills. Amazing how the state you choose to live in can effect your financial situation so dramatically.

    • Mr. Groovy

      It is amazing. Part of the reason is that more people would rather live in NYC and Long Island than North Carolina. Another part is that New York loves government and regulations. And those two “services” don’t come cheap. But my family and I are doing everything we did in New York here in North Carolina. Since we’re not missing out on anything, it didn’t make sense to stay in New York and pay the New York premium. Thanks for stopping by, Wes. I appreciate it.

  6. Oooof, $18k/year is getting up there. We’re at about $5k/year for our taxes here in CT. Not the cheapest, but also far from the most expensive in our state.

    For now Mrs CKs gig teaching community college more than makes up for any cost of living adjustments. And it’s nice being close to major airports for all the travel we do. But the cheaper cost of living further down the coast sure are tempting πŸ™‚

    Those are some incredible pictures from out West. We’ve been meaning to make it out to that part of the country πŸ™‚

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Mr. CK. I’m pretty impressed. I didn’t think you could find a home in CT with $5K in property taxes. But I guess that’s a bias on my part. When I think of CT, the first thing that comes to mind is Greenwich, and I’m sure the property taxes there are as high as Long Island’s. Anyway, it sounds like you and Mrs. CK have carved out a reasonable cost-of-living in a very high-cost state. Bravo. And if you ever do get a chance to head out west, jump on it. Zion, Bryce, Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, and Glacier are truly spectacular. I’ll never forget my first day in Yellowstone. Mrs. Groovy and I weren’t in the park 15 minutes when out of the woods comes this massive bison. He just nonchalantly walked past our car and headed for the lake on the opposite side of the road. I guess he was thirsty. Thanks for stopping by, Mr. CK. I really appreciate it.

  7. Mr. Groovy, you’ll like this story. One day in little ole Statenville, GA I met a police officer originally from New Jersey. I asked him how he got to deep south Georgia, and it turned out that he married a girl from Valdosta. They lived in Jersey for a while, but they decided that their property tax of $11k a year on their modest middle-class home was the breaking point.

    He said his father-in-law tried to correct him one day by saying, “You mean $1,100, right?” When he told him $11k, his FIL, who had visited the home, was incredulous. I don’t know what the solution is or if there is a solution, but I do know this: I won’t live in a locale where the property tax surpasses my IRA contribution. Who am I kidding? Half my IRA contribution!

    If you have a beef with your property tax, do something about it. Good post. Ed

    • Mr. Groovy

      “If you have a beef with your property tax, do something about it.”

      I love it, Ed. And I love the anecdote about the New Jersey cop. So true. New Jersey is another state with scary taxes. Here’s a couple for you. One, talked to an old friend from Long Island a few months ago. He lives in a town called Bayville. It’s on the north shore and is predominantly middle class, although there are a few pockets of extreme wealth. He has a normal 2,000 sq ft home–nothing spectacular. His property taxes are currently $20K! Two, about three years ago, I talked to my former boss. He lives in the affluent town of Woodbury, Long Island. He has a nice sized ranch, about 2,600 sq ft. And it’s on an acre of land. His property taxes–and this was three years ago, mind you–were $36K annually! That’s $3K a month just in taxes. Talk about property taxes eclipsing your IRA contribution. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. All I know is I’m glad I escaped that nonsense. And the truly sad part is that the core government services (i.e., roads, sewer, water, schools, police, fire protection, etc.) in North Carolina are just as good as New York’s. You don’t need sky-high property taxes in order to provide decent services. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. It’s always a pleasure hearing from you.

      P.S. Mrs. Groovy and I heard you on the Choose FI podcast yesterday. You were fantastic. One of the best podcasts I ever heard. I had no idea teachers are eligible for both the 403(b) and the 457. That’s awesome. Great stuff. Mrs. Groovy and I are still shaking are heads about your $0.12 paychecks. Bravo, my friend.

  8. I JUST wrote in this week’s Memoir how I’m contemplating changing the destination state for my own retirement. I’m thinking South Carolina.Partly due to the fact, many of my friends may end up in that area. Partly due to the fact, it’s A LOT cheaper than New York. And, yes. Less snow. I’d love to hear how your aunt is enjoying the Carolinas. I hear the “way of life” down that way is lovely.

    • William

      Take it from a native. South Carolina is great in the spring and fall. We usually only have a few weeks of cold weather during the winters. But do yourself a great favor and visit for a few weeks during July or August. You nearly need a set of gills to venture out. Other than the summer months, I love my state.

      • Mr. Groovy

        Heed William’s warning, Erica. Mrs. Groovy and I were in Charleston a week after Labor Day one year and the humidity was unbearable. It was so unbearable, in fact, Mrs. Groovy and I ducked into an air-conditioned real estate office and feigned that we were looking for real estate.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Mrs. Groovy and I have been to SC on numerous occasions. We love Greenville and Charleston. Columbia is a lot of fun also. Haven’t been to Hilton Head yet, but we’d heard great things about it. Let us know if you’re ever coming down to SC for a visit. We would love to meet up. Cheers, Erica.

  9. Good for your Aunt moving down to NC. I’m sure her daughter and other family members are thrilled she made the move. Nice savings!

    Great pics! Glad to read and see a little more about your trip.

    It’s amazing what I learn from your blog. πŸ™‚ ‘ass ponds’ LOL that was new for me today.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Mrs. Groovy gets all the credit for coining “ass pond.” She came up with it a couple of years ago during one of our summer walks. And my aunt definitely made the right move. She’s saving a ton of money, enjoying her family, and avoiding those dreaded Long Island winters. So far, no downside to the move. Thanks for stopping by, Amy.

  10. Those are some amazing pictures and it sounds like you had a great vacation! We were south of you – but we definitely plan on going to some of those same areas within the next couple of years. You saw a lot more snow than us! I think we’ll go earlier in the summer πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing about your aunt and her move. Those numbers are unreal. She could go visit NYS and LI a bunch of times each year with those savings too. And no more winter. It doesn’t work for everyone – as people mentioned. But it is certainly something for people to look at.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thanks, Vicki. We had a great time. And I agree with you. The next time we go, we’ll go during the summer. The snow was nice to look at, but it was tough to hike on. And you are so right about visiting NYC and LI. You don’t have to live there permanently to enjoy the things that make them so special. My aunt has already gone back a few times to visit friends and family. Mrs. Groovy and I usually get up there once a year. We have a blast and then we leave. The best of both worlds.

  11. My goodness that looks like a wonderful trip! A dream trip of mine would just be to drive in America’s backyard and eat yummy shakes :p I can’t wait until we retire from the jungle.

    Ms. M is so pretty *_* maybe she did do beauty pageants πŸ˜‰

    • Mr. Groovy

      Oh, I love that. “Drive in America’s backyard and eat yummy shakes.” Perhaps the best reason I ever heard to pursue financial independence. And you are so right about Jillian. I initially thought she took the moniker “Ms. Montana” because she once was “Miss Montana.” But here’s the best part. She’s as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. Thanks for stopping by, Lily. You rock!

  12. Great trip photos! Makes me want to go back and visit Glacier when there’s snow on the ground … beautiful!

    Love the story about your aunt, too. What a great win-win-win to have more money, more kindness, and more time with family!

    • Mr. Groovy

      “What a great win-win-win to have more money, more kindness, and more time with family!”

      Wow! That says it all Mrs. G. Geoarbitrage isn’t for everyone. But for many people, it offers a wonderful opportunity for a more fulfilling life.

  13. The math may be shockingly simple, but unfortunately all the non-math is not. I would love to leave expensive NJ for a warmer, less expensive state, but my wife’s family is here, our friends are here, and our doctors are here (don’t underestimate this one if you’re dealing with chronic illness!). Sounds like your aunt made a smart move for her though.

    And I love the pics of your trip. The scenery is breathtaking!

    • Mr. Groovy

      So true, Gary. Family, friends, and health definitely complicate the geoarbitrage calculation. And truth be told, if Mrs. Groovy didn’t want to leave New York, I’d be living there today. We were very fortunate, however. We had the right circumstances to take advantage of it–no kids, good health, and very supportive family and friends. When my sister relocated to NC, she chose Wake Forest over Charlotte because her daughter is a Type 1 diabetic. And my sister felt more comfortable with Wake’s healthcare options than Charlotte’s. If my sister were an empty-nester at the time of her move, she would have moved to Charlotte. So healthcare is very big when it comes to geoarbitrage. You got to give that part of the equation a lot of careful thought. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. Awesome comment as usual.

  14. I’m about ready to move to a state with lower taxes. Oregon has 10% state income tax and our property tax is pretty high too. We’d pay a lot less taxes by moving 15 miles north to Washington.
    Great pictures. I love the west. It’s just less crowded.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Joe. The lack of a state income tax in Washington is big. When we were in Seattle a few years ago, we ran into a bunch of Californians, both retired and working. I didn’t realize that Oregon’s income tax was that high. Ten percent is pretty steep. Keep us posted on any possible move. Knowing that 15 miles is all that separates you from keeping more of your money is pretty enticing. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. It’s always a pleasure hearing from you.

  15. You know, I often wonder what I’d make and what our life would be like in a hcola. We live in a location in between two such areas but relatively less, though not nc less. I could make way more in a different area but I also wouldn’t have an acre of land and wild animals. Location really does drive options.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Excellent point, FTF. Low cost cities and states also come with low and moderate wages. When I left New York in 2006, I was making $76K a year. My first job in Charlotte was for $43K a year. But once you include bonuses and 401(k) matches, my NC pay was roughly two-thirds of my NY pay. But this trade-off worked for us. And that’s because we were able to own our home outright in NC. Had we remained on Long Island, we would have had a $300k mortgage. I’ll take the no mortgage and lower salary option any day. Thanks for stopping by, my friend.

  16. “Over a ten year period, she’ll have an extra $150K to spend on travel, her grandchildren, or whatever tickles her fancy.” Don’t forget the earnings she’ll make on the savings!! GeoArbitrage is HUGE, good for you for showing your Aunt the way!

    LOVE the pics from your MT trip! Umm….you do realize you have 2 “Best” places for cold frozen refreshments, right? I’m sensing a pattern. Glacier NP is a truly spectacular place, awesome that you were able to hike in spite of the first, and (of course) that you got to see Ms. Montana’s secret cubby! Looks fun!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Haha! And you know it took my aunt a few years to pull the trigger. My dad kept on trying to convince her of the benefits of moving, but she wouldn’t budge. Most people aren’t comfortable with change. It’s scary. But my aunt finally pulled the trigger after her daughter moved to Wake Forest. And, no, I didn’t realize two of our “bests” were frozen refreshments until you pointed it out. Hmmm, I wonder what that says about us? Do we have some deep-seated psychological defect? Are we repressing some childhood trauma? Thanks for stopping by, my friend. You never fail to make me smile or make me think. Cheers.

  17. We moved from CA to MN. We just closed on a house we built – never even in our wildest dreams could we have realistically afforded to buy a non-piece-of-shit place in CA πŸ™‚ Moving is definitely worth it sometimes.

    Most difficult part is no doubt the friendships you’re moving away from. Thankfully it’s easy to keep in touch, but it’s still not as seamless as one may hope πŸ™‚

    15k difference in property taxes though is insane!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Dave. California is rough. My brother-in-law’s family is in San Diego. Two of his brothers recently visited him in Wake Forest and they were lamenting the cost-of-living. Their base water bills–that is, the charge before even one drop of water is used–are now $191 a month. Since I’ve been in North Carolina, my water and sewer bill has only gone over $50 one time. And that was because Mrs. Groovy and I went on vacation and a leaky toilet was allowed to run water for nearly a week. And I totally agree with you about what is the most difficult aspect of geoarbitrage. I know we have email and Skype, but moving away from friends and family is still hard. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. Hope all is well in the Gopher State.

  18. OOOOOHHH, I wanna try a huckleberry shake. I have no idea what a huckleberry tastes like and I’m quite curious.

    But isn’t it insane how much money you can save when you move away from an area with a high cost of living? So many of my friends are moving to LA and New York City and they’re broke as hell. I’m just like … why are you doing that? You can be broke and at least not starve if you stay in Texas. Why put yourself in that kind of situation?? I don’t think any big dream is worth that.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Huckleberry shakes are awesome. I would describe huckleberries as a small blueberry, only sweeter. And I hear you about the cost-of-living in New York and Los Angeles. My friend works for Bank of America and he transferred from New York to Dallas. He bought a 3,000 sq ft home in a suburb of Dallas and it cost about half the price his 600 sq ft apartment in Manhattan. Crazy. And here’s another one for you. My nephew and his wife live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and the rent on their one-bedroom apartment is over $3,000 a month. Double crazy.

  19. Love the vacation pictures, but alas, as a North Carolinian with an elementary school kid and aging in-laws, geoarbitrage isn’t practical for us. It would likely mean moving out of the country or way into the country, and I like my small city amenities

    • Mr. Groovy

      I hear ya, Emily. A lot has to line up for geoarbitrage to be practical. Perhaps the biggest requirement is that it works best when you start from a high-cost state or city. But alas, it’s kind of hard to find a state less costly than North Carolina. You could go to Ecuador, of course. But I wouldn’t want that to happen. We need you in NC. Besides, I was hoping to arrange a Talking Trash with in the next few weeks. I’ll shoot you an email and see what we can arrange. Thanks for stopping by, Emily. I always love when you add your two cents. But I especially love it when you take my side and don’t blow my theories to smithereens. Cheers.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Got give Mrs. Groovy credit for the “ass pond” term. She coined it during one of our daily walks. Hard to avoid during the summer in North Carolina. We thought we’d get a break in Montana. Sigh. And I know it’s a cliche, but the scenery in Glacier was truly breathtaking. It made me wish I had a real camera with a real lens rather than a smartphone. Thanks for stopping by, Lindsay. It’s always a pleasure hearing from you.

  20. I’m all too familiar with Long Island moxie, knee deep in it in fact. I have some of the friendliest neighbors. πŸ™ My wife is from CA, and often NYers and Long Islanders comment to her that she not from around here, because of her bubbly personality. I hope we get out before she gives in to her surroundings. πŸ™‚

    Love the photos. Nature and ice cream, not a bad combo!

    • Mr. Groovy

      The Long Island moxie is rough, but thankfully it’s more of a style than a deep-seated flaw. I tell my southern friends that when the chips are down, and you’re really in a jam, New Yorkers are your best allies. I won’t lie, though. The Long Island moxie does where you down. I hear more honking from drivers the first hour I return to Long Island than I hear from North Carolina drivers over the course of a year. Thanks for stopping by, Brian. And I’m so happy you decided to go inter-state-al for a spouse. Californians are especially nice. Long Island could use more of them.

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