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Isn’t It Ironic….

November 18, 2013

…that the MBA degree that is opening a bunch of doors for me professionally, may actually be the very thing that prevents me from walking in. How’s that for a way to get your weekend started?

Backstory

So, as you all know, I’m finishing my MBA program in December and I am exploring different opportunities for post-MBA life. I already have a job, which is great, but I’m definitely ready for a change. Mostly, my search has stayed local – after all, we have a house, family, friends, and you know, a LIFE here. My search has also been mostly outside of the on-campus recruiting because quite frankly, I’m overqualified. I have 8 years of work experience and I’m not going to settle for something designed for someone with 4-5 years experience, max.  However, there were two opportunities that came up that I felt were amazing: one that was based in the DMV and one that wasn’t. I didn’t actually think I would get called back for the one outside the DMV, but not only did I get the interview, I got the offer. To complicate things, the other opportunity that I’m considering in the DMV, also called me back. I just had second round interviews and I’ll find out next week if I made final rounds.  If I do well, I’ll have an offer sometime the first week in December, which happens to be roughly the same time I have to make my decision about the non-DMV opportunity.

The Problem

So it’s not one problem per se, but a variety of different ones. First, the non-DMV opportunity is amazing – once in a lifetime for sure. It is a two year rotation program, and I could have the option of coming back to the DMV after the two year period. The downside is that we have to move to a different area for 2 years which means being 6 hrs away from family, friends and our entire support network. The other downside is that we would lose hubby’s income.  On the plus side, it would be an awesome career move and it would give hubby the chance to really figure out what it is that he is passionate about and wants to do. Plus, if/when we have another kiddo, it would mean that hubby would be able to be home to care for our additional offspring.

Analysis

The offer I got is pretty good – the problem is that it isn’t good enough to account for losing hubby’s salary, at least not by my calculations. The cost of living in this new area is significantly less than in the DMV, about 30%,  but mostly because the cost of housing is about 70%  less than in the DMV. Surprisingly, other costs are not really cheaper in said area. To get an idea of what our current expenses were in the new area, I did a couple things. First, I went to the census bureaus site an got the cost of living index for major metro areas. This document gives the major metro areas covered in the report an overall cost of living index as well as an index for the major components the make up “the cost of living” like housing, transportation, utilities, and the costs of goods and services. All the values are relative to the average cost of living in the U.S. The DMV has an overall index of 140.1, the new metro area that I used as a proxy had an index value of 113. With these index numbers,  I was then able to normalize our after tax income, both currently as well as the projected income from the offer. To do this, I took our current income and divided it by 1.4 and took our projected after tax income with the offer and divided it by 1.13. That gave me our real after tax income in the DMV and in the new area, so I was finally comparing apples to apples.

Looking at this comparison clearly showed that we would have to lower our lifestyle to take the offer. As an economist I understand how “real” income and purchasing power works, however, I also realized very quickly that when it comes to our budget and comparing offers, there is a difference between theory and reality. In reality, we have some expenses that are not going to “adjust” to a cost of living reduction. My student loans are going to be $1200 per month, minimum regardless of where we live, and our Highlander payment, HOA fees (if we keep the house) and cell phone bills are also going to retain their current value. Because of this, it was more helpful for me to figure out how our current budget would look, adjusted for cost of living differences, where applicable, in the new area. To do this, I used the expected after tax nominal income based on the offer. Then, I adjusted our budget line items using the various category indices for the DMV and the new area. To get the adjusted budget line item, I divided the DMV budget line item by 1.4 to normalize then multiplied that quotient by 1.13 to get the expected budget line item in the new area. Since housing and childcare are roughly equivalent costs, I used the housing index values to adjust the daycare line item.   If the real, after-tax income comparison didn’t make it clear, this line-item comparison did: we were projecting about a $2000 shortfall per month. I even tried to tip this offer in our favor by including my sign on bonus as part of my yearly compensation instead of just using my base in the final calculations – if I do that, our shortfall is only $1200. Still, a huge chunk of change.

$1200…now isn’t that ironic. $1200 is the minimum payment I have to make on my student loans. The very student loans that allowed me to get the MBA I needed to get the job I wanted, might be the very thing that prevents me from being able to accept it.  Now $1200 annually is only about $14,000, but that is $14000 after-tax dollars. Pre-tax, that number is closer to $26K. That is a hard number to negotiate up to, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to try.

Here’s hoping that my negotiations class comes in handy…

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4 Comments
  1. Don’t we all dream back to the days prior to the financial crisis and the burst of the dot.com bubble (if anyone still remembers), when student loans were simply paid back by handing over part of your sign-on bonus?
    Sigh.

  2. Ohhh, So exciting that you are getting offers, though. I really hope the DMV one works out for you so that (hopefully) it is an easy decision!

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