California’s High Cost on Families

by Kay Lynn

My husband and I have raised five children in California.  After this weekend, not one will live in this, the golden state.  I always wondered about how they could all achieve the American dream when average housing prices far outweigh average salaries.  Now I know, most couldn’t or didn’t want to keep trying.

YosemiteThey all love their home state.  Who wouldn’t love the climate and ecological diversity.  We could be at the ocean and the mountains the same day.  Now they’ll be in four different states: Kansas, Arkansas, Georgia and Florida.  Most of these offer more economic stability and promise.

There are two main reasons California is driving away it’s residents.


The median price of housing in Southern California was $290,000 at the end of 2010.  That is much better than a few years ago but still more than the new home states of our children.

That median price includes a lot of foreclosures which eventually will be gone from the inventory.  Renting isn’t a bargain either although more affordable.  The average price of a two bedroom apartment is $1,200.


The local unemployment rate is still over 10% but there are jobs.  If you want to work, it’s doable.  But without a skill or education that’s in demand that job will most likely pay $10-12 an hour.   California doesn’t have nearly enough manufacturing jobs.

Most employers will keep the hours just under full time so they don’t have the cost of benefits.  My stepson worked on a local military base for years without benefits because the job was classified as “temporary”.   Even our federal government plays the game.

There are more jobs outside the state that pay a living wage for people without college degrees or specialized skills. Paying for the privilege of living in this great state with a lower standard of living is not worth it anymore.



Parents do their best to raise their kids to be independent and good people.  It’s just sad they have to go 1,500 miles away to do it.

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tmgbooks May 4, 2011 at 7:17 am

I was raised in San Diego and left to live in New Mexico. Later I moved to a very small town in AZ close to the border with Mexico. I don’t see ever moving back to CA and it is not the place it was when I was growing up there. I just do not see it as worth the price and I have lost my tatste for large cities.

I would like to take some exception to one point you make: You write that “CA doesn’t have nearly enough manufacturing jobs.” I assume you are implying that manufacturing jobs pay well and are a ticket to the middle-class. That is not the case at all.

The reason that manufacturing jobs became the engine that created the American middle-class was the actions of unions. Unions forced the issue of fair treatment and wages. Left to their own devices, the corporate owners would not have given workers a dime they were not forced to give.

I have proof of that claim: As I said, I live close to Mexico and know Mexican citizens who work in the factories there. Those are terrible jobs! They pay about $100 a week for 60 hour weeks. And the women who work in them must submit to monthly pregnancy tests and if they test positive they are fired.

What CA and the rest of the USA needs is more Union factory jobs; factory jobs, otherwise, are about a lousy a job as you could wish on a sworn enemy.

Kay Lynn May 4, 2011 at 12:49 pm

tmgbooks, I agree that the work of unions is what raised the working conditions and wages in manufacturing, but it’s not why Kansas has more of these jobs than California.

Maggie@SquarePennies May 5, 2011 at 4:03 pm

tmgbooks, yes the unions have helped so much in the past. Then the big companies brought in workers from other countries to pay them less. They justified it by the competition from China. The power of the unions is so much less now. Hopefully people can keep safety laws in place.

Kay Lynn, I can empathize with you as all 4 of our kids live out of state. Fortunately they divided between 2 states, so that helps a bit. We’re retired & take road trips to see them. Two of them lived in the Bay area for a couple of years & both left CA because of cost of living. Also they hated the traffic and crowds. The weather & scenery is spectacular, but it’s just too difficult to afford living there.
You might decide to move near one of your kids eventually. We will probably do that after we see that they are going to stay put. Ultimately family is more important to us than the beautiful state we live in & raised them in. Wishing you good family times!

Wealth Artisan May 4, 2011 at 7:35 am

Hi Kay,
I’m sorry to hear your children have, or will leave your beloved state. California’s economy is very unstable, has been for the past few years. With their once thriving housing market bust and the loss 1.4 million jobs in the past two years, it seems California’s bad economy has no end in sight. Hopefully the state can get pull itself back together sooner than later.

Kay Lynn May 4, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Wealth Artisan, I hope the state can get back on track quickly. I am sad that so many of our younger generations have to leave to have the opportunity to own a home and earn a living wage.

krantcents May 4, 2011 at 9:09 am

As a fellow southern California resident, I totally understand. I don’t think I will ever leave, but I am in different circumstances. My children are here (San Francisco & Los Angeles) and they are doing well. If they were in a different state, I am sure I would have the need to live closer or travel to see them often.

Kay Lynn May 4, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Krantcents, I’m glad to hear your kids are doing well. I think the youngest and his girlfriend will come back after she completes her schooling. But they will have careers (nursing and firefighter) that pay nicely.

MoneyCone May 4, 2011 at 11:04 am

Moved away from CA too. Though I love that state, I see the advantages of living elsewhere.

Miss CA much! 🙁

Kay Lynn May 4, 2011 at 12:53 pm

MoneyCone, they probably always will miss it, but several of them know they can’t live as well here.

jan C May 4, 2011 at 12:55 pm

I sympathize with you, but I am in the same boat. I live in CT and my mortgage payment is more than I will get in SS so I will have to sell my house and move. Fortunately, 3 of my 4 children have good paying jobs (one in manufacturing, one in telecommunications, one in web something or other) The other one is spending time traveling about trying to find a nice city or country to live in so he won’t be broke all the time. Our legislature here just passed a bill to increase our income tax, our sales tax, and every other tax they could think of. I will be moving as soon as I can.

Buck Inspire May 4, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Sorry to hear about the kids, but with techonology these days, they’re just a click a way. I’m in SoCal, too. Can’t imagine leaving. Too many perks, but the economic situation is out of hand. Guess we better work harder on our blog empires!

Robert @ The College Investor May 4, 2011 at 4:16 pm

My wife and I have discussed several times moving away due to the high costs. I can’t imagine leaving though, as we have so many friends and can’t beat the weather.

Squirrelers May 4, 2011 at 8:54 pm

I’m sorry that your kids moved away. Being the parent of younger kids, I’m guessing I’ll be really, really wanting to live relatively close to them down the line.

As far as California goes, I live in the midwest but have close family in the San Francisco area. I have to say, the quality of life there is spectacular. Not that it’s bad in Chicago, because this area is great. However, the weather and outdoor activities are just fantastic in the Bay Area. Really, in much of California from SF southward down the coast, the weather is just great from the perspective of someone living elsewhere.

The thing is, people have to pay quite a bit for the lifestyle. If you bought a home years ago and have a ton of equity in it, it can be a really good situation. If you’re younger and wanting to get established, I would think it would be a harder situation for the typical person. You can actually get ahead in different parts of the country instead of struggling as many do in the Golden State seem to do these days.

Hunter May 6, 2011 at 6:43 am

Thanks Kay,
My family recently moved from California to the East Coast. I love CA! However I was aware of some financial inequities that I don’t agree with. Firstly, property tax. I think all residents should pay tax based on the market value of their home, not the price they paid for it, as is the casein CA. Also, the school district we were in suffered many State cut-backs which left us without a PE, computer, and science teacher. Our PTA raised $94,000 per year to fund the teacher salaries. Other schools in the district became aware of what we were doing so the School Board took our PTA money and distributed to the other schools! Dissapointing.

Kay Lynn May 7, 2011 at 8:46 am

@Jan, I know that your state is a high cost one as well. I’m sorry the high cost is driving you away as well as one of your kids. Are there more rural areas of CT that have lower cost of living?

@ Buck, technology does help. My son will be using skype, phones and video to keep in touch with his son between visits. I will probably take more long weekends next year visiting them.

@Robert, You are so right about the weather, but at some point that factor can’t outweigh all the negatives.

@ Squirrelers, We do have lots of equity and I make a good living so we’re fine. We do plan to leave the state in retirement to stretch our savings. I wasn’t planning on the kids leaving before us!

@ Maggie, the traffic and crowds have gotten so much worse during my lifetime here. However, it’s much better than traffic in DC or other Northeast cities (at least in San Diego). You are so right about family being more important than a place.

@ Hunter, I benefit quite a bit from the property tax rules but understand how unfair it is to younger generations. We now live in the best school district in the county, which is ironic since our kids had all graduated high school before we moved to this home.

ross May 6, 2011 at 4:59 pm

I’ve lived in southern california all my life, but went to school in boston for 3 years. I honestly couldn’t wait to get back. The weather was something i couldn’t handle and the cost of living out there was even worse. I paid $1000/mo for a 1 room apt that was the same size as my bedroom, and it was on the 4th floor.
But i do admit that it is tempting to a warm climate state like arizona or nevada and buy a large 4 bedroom house with a backyard for the same price that i purchased my condo.

But i still wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

Kay Lynn May 7, 2011 at 8:49 am

Ross, good point about the bigger cities in the East. However, the south and Midwest has many great cities with lower cost of living. No where (except maybe Hawaii) can beat the weather! 🙂

Lindy Mint May 9, 2011 at 12:44 pm

I have friends who are living on a pastor’s salary in San Diego. It is so hard for them, but they are committed to their church and their area so they are willing to stay. I can see how so many are jumping ship, I would consider doing the same if I lived there. I’d like to think that it will come back around though, maybe way down the road.

Rebecca May 28, 2011 at 1:01 am

Hi Kay, I recently moved here from NYC, because of all the great things all of you have posted about. But I’ve realized that I really can’t afford to stay here & will probably go back to Brooklyn (where I’m from) or somewhere cheaper like Mexico (I speak Spanish). I’m 38, not married, have no children.

While it’s very beautiful here, I need a car to get to all the natural places…and I don’t make enough $ to buy a car. But my current job (with a nonprofit salary) requires a car, so I’ve been renting… I lived in NYC for over 14 years without a car…it was heaven. Here I’m on the freeway hours each day, and I feel like I need to take tranquilizers, it’s so stressful. Route 880’s bumper-to-bumper traffic is actually worse than the Long Island Expressway…which is supposed to be the worst highway to drive on.

I gave up a rent-stabilized 1-bedroom apt. in Brooklyn to move here & change my life. I now know I made a mistake…because I came here with little $ and no job. I eventually got a job, but it demands 60+ hours/week for mediocre pay that isn’t enough for me to buy or maintain a car…let alone pay for gas. I also feel the ‘California lifestyle’ is designed for families with more than one income. I’m one of the few single, never married I’ve met here in CA. I don’t know how single people with low- to average-level salaries here afford anything…prices are so high. I’ve never made a lot of $, but at least in Brooklyn, I eeked out a life. It was tight, bit doable. Here, it’s impossible. Brooklyn was actually more affordable with incredible public transportation & almost all services within 15 minutes’ walking distance…you never need a car living in the 5 boroughs of NYC.

California is beautiful, but the only people I’ve met who are comfortable living here & have healthy (and sustainable) lifestyles…are rather wealthy compared to my middle-class Brooklyn background. I think I’ll be heading back to my blue-collar roots back in Brooklyn, NY. I came out here because it’s so beautiful, but it seems to only be accessible to multi-income families and wealthy single adults.

I should have done more homework before I moved out here. Now I know.

Wanda November 28, 2011 at 6:16 am

I have been thinking of moving to San Diego from Minnesota. I sent away for some information on 55+ housing (rental). Can anybody give me some idea of what it would be like to live in San Diego in a 55+ apartment? Like the cost and what to expect? I am tired of winters here. I would not miss snow and cold winters.


Coach December 29, 2011 at 3:34 pm

For anyone’s information: I have a nice home and 100 acres in South Central Kentucky that has half woods and half open fields. I am trying to re-locate to another place. It has “LOW” taxes compared to other places and much cheaper living expenses. I can give more information if needed.

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