Where is the best place to live if you want to become a millionaire? Is it the city or the country? If you can get the best of both worlds, why not? Work in a city for a few years and lock in a good salary, then transition to working remotely for the company and move to the country — where the cost of living in lower and you can enjoy the fresh air.
I grew up on a farm in the middle of the United States. We lived 25 miles from the nearest big city (if you can call a population of 28,000 a big city). It wasn’t until I went off to college that I actually lived close to other people. It was a pretty drastic change.
Life in the city was crazy! I sound like a complete hick, but there were so many things to see and experience. You could actually hang out with friends without having to plan in advance. Popping over to the grocery store was no big deal. Restaurants would deliver right to your door in under 15 minutes. Life was dramatically different. But I still loved the freedom and serenity a person can only find in the country. So, before graduating, I had one big question to answer: Should I stay in the city or move back to the country?
A few months prior to graduation, I was taking interviews for my first real job. It seemed I had to stay in a city if I wanted to make good money. It was as if the decision was made for me; if I wanted to make money (who doesn’t?), I’d have to keep living the city life. But I’m stubborn as heck, and I don’t like decisions being made for me.
Mentally, I could do well in either the city or the country. And I knew I wanted to make money. So I asked myself: “What’s the best address for becoming a millionaire?”
As I considered the cost of city life versus country life, I continued taking interviews. One company flew me up to Chicago for a few days. I flew into O’Hare airport on a cold Thursday evening. President Barack Obama had arrived just before my flight for some fundraising events. Our plane taxied past Air Force One in all its glory. Oh, city life.
I stayed at The Palmer House hotel downtown, a few blocks from where my interview would take place in a building next to the former Sears Tower. The company kept me busy and entertained. Everything was going well until the last appointment of the last day. My potential new boss handed me a red dry erase marker. I had to solve math problems on the glass of a corner office with a blizzard raging outside the oversized windows. Giant snowflakes were whizzing past my already hard-to-focus-on numbers. I felt like the building was swaying. It was like being inside a snow globe being shaken by a child.
After the math exercise, the interviewer sat down with me. He was droning on about his college days. My mind started to drift. Should I accept a job in this big city? Would it really help me get to millionaire status faster than back home in Nebraska?
I did some thinking:
- Restaurants are more expensive.
- More things to do, so more pressure to go out to concerts, bars, etc.
- Valet parking? Parking garages? Parking spaces? Tolls? City dwellers sure love punishing cars for existing.
- Public transportation
- High sales tax
- High property tax
- Homeownership and rent are rent both high
- Higher chance of theft
- Everything bought online (with the exception of state sales tax) is the exact same price whether you are in Nebraska or New York City. So this is a huge win for cities. You can easily make double your Midwestern salary, yet, still pay the same price for your panini press.
- No need for a car; public transportation is readily available
- More housing options on where to live, which sometimes leads to price drops (room sharing becomes an easy alternative)
- Can source your stuff on Craigslist/Freecycle far easier since there are lots of listings
- Driving — you have to drive wherever you want to go
- Home expenses. A country home needs to be more of an estate — an estate in terms of being self-contained. You can’t just pop over to a local tennis court or movie theater. So, people in the country often make versions for their homes. I enjoy playing tennis — by living in the country I’d have to have a tennis court to enjoy the same standard of living I’ve grown accustomed to.
- Upkeep of all the land
- Few Craigslist/Freecycle ads, so more stuff needs to be purchased new
- Fewer daily spending temptations
- Low utility costs
- Low property taxes
- Low cost to build
My thoughts returned to the corner office. The interviewer had finished his college stories. Conveniently enough, he wanted to talk about salary. He gave me a number. I shook his hand and walked out of the dizzying snow globe — the bright red math problems still floating on the glass.
I packed up my things from (by far) the nicest hotel I had ever stayed in. I headed back to the airport. Time to make a decision. Since I enjoy both the city and the country, where can I get rich quickest? The city salary had to compete with a much smaller salary that I would receive in the country.
What the interview taught me is I wasn’t completely happy with either a life in the city or a life in the country. They both had so many positives. How could I pick just one?
City or Country? Or Both?
After graduating college, I picked a city where the jobs pay well. Cost of living was irrelevant. Here’s why: Because I will eventually be working remotely. Ah, yes, I will be cheating the system. I will earn the income of the city with the savings of the country. It’s the fastest path to becoming wealthy.
Working remotely is an option offered by many companies. Usually, you only need to work in-office for a few years before they trust you enough to let you work in your pajamas. Even if working remotely is not the norm at your company, Tim Ferriss, author of “The 4-Hour Workweek,” has great advice on how to convince your boss it’ll work for you.
I don’t think money should be the only reason to do anything. But if you’re happy living anywhere, consider the country life.