The Bay Area – Is it Worth the Cost?

Cutting to the chase, the answer is not just no, it’s a resounding hell no. And the reason is pure economics.

I got to thinking about this subject again after reading an article online about adjunct professors (read, part-time) who are living in the San Francisco Bay Area struggling to make ends meet.

The logic of this is so simple any moron can see. Struggling to make ends meet can only mean one of three possibilities. A, you’ve chosen the wrong profession (or you suck at it). B, you’ve chosen the wrong place to practice that profession (e.g. selling proverbial ice cubes to Eskimos). Or C, you’re guilty of both A & B, (aka you’ve totally screwed the pooch); meaning you missed both chasing the right profession and finding the right place to practice it.

Lamely, the article ended with ‘The 10 Things You’re going to Miss about the Bay Area’ (if you leave):

  1. Perfect Weather
  2. Delicious Taco Trucks
  3. Lots of Avocados
  4. Farmer’s Market Produce
  5. Proximity to the Sierra
  6. The Beautiful Views
  7. Always Dressing Casual
  8. In N Out Burger
  9. Good Local Wines
  10. And the Fog, of Course

Are any of those really good reasons to give up half or more of your take home pay for those insane Bay Area rents (esp. San Francisco)?

Hell no.

Case in point. Let’s say you are a highly skilled tech worker (aka hardware/software engineer) and you’re making $120K a year. That’s $10K/month. Take home $6500/month. Sounds great, right?


Rent for a 1 bedroom apartment these days is somewhere around $3500/month. Subtract that from your take home pay and you’re left with $3000. Have a car? Subtract another $1000. Now you’re left with $2000.

Can a person live on $2000/month in the Bay Area? Yes, but not very well. Weekend trips to the Sierras. To Napa. To Yosemite. They all cost some serious dough.

You can stay in the city and do stuff but those options can be expensive too. That farmer’s market produce mentioned on the list? The avocados, the local wines – all expensive.

It was expensive 20 years ago when I lived there but it’s positively insane now. I personally think one is much better off taking less money and living and working somewhere else. And that goes double for those underemployed adjunct professors.

As for me I left California 20 years ago to where I briefly retired in North Carolina to build a house in the mountains. Five years later I rejoined the rat race and took a job in Washington, DC. It was a great city, great life, with great pay but the work (an engineer working in the defense industry) was soul sucking.

So I dropped out again and I’ve been very satisfied living these last five plus years in Mexico. I live simply. Running in sandals of my own manufacture. Eating healthy food from the local Mercado. My apartment doesn’t have heating or air-con (nor does any other residence) because the weather here is truly perfect.

Avocados. Michoacán, where I live, is the top producer of avocados in the world.  Tacos? Well this is Mexico after all so I reckon we’ve got a few Bay Area Taco Trucks beat. Farmer’s Market produce? The old school Mercado is just 3 blocks walk for fresh fruit and produce for a mere fraction of what the same things cost in any Farmer’s Market in the US. I don’t need a car here because public transportation is inexpensive and reliable. Dressing casual is shorts, t-shirts and sandals every day of the year.

And there are plenty of good views and adventures to go around.

I wouldn’t move back to California at gun point.

I don’t need anywhere close to $6500 a month to fund my lifestyle here. In fact, I’d be really hard pressed to figure out a way to spend a $1000 a month. That’s 20,000 pesos my friend. A ton of money here. I couldn’t spend that much without being gluttonous.

And who wants to live like that?


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