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Would you take an 80K job in Atlanta or a 120K job in Mountain View, California?

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Should I take an $80K job in Atlanta or a $120K job in Mountain View, CA? Work is very interesting in both places. Would living in the Bay Area be best for career growth (long-term, starting a family, living expense, etc.)?

This question originally appeared on Quora, the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answers below are by Sharon Shin, Richard Herbert, Jamal Speller,George Parrish, Ramon Carlos,Russ Huffman, and T.L. Brink.

Sharon Shin

Answered Dec 7th, 2017
Living expense — Atlanta hands down wins this one. You can find properties for sale in all sorts of price ranges, from 100K upwards. You can even find nicer more updated units for 300–400K. Mountain View you will find rundown smaller older properties for maybe 750–850K if you are lucky, even looking in areas 30 min to 1 hour away. Rent in Atlanta by yourself with run you maybe 1,000–1,500 for a decent fairly updated spot, for Mountain View this will be closer to maybe 2,000–2,500 and it will probably be for an older smaller unit as well.

Starting a family – I think this will also be easier in Atlanta really due to just cost. Cost of being able to buy a house in a good school district. Being able to raise a family on one parent income and having another stay at home. Cheaper daycare costs. Cheaper college tuition. Your dollar will go further also. In Mountain View, the houses in good school districts will cost you more. Daycare costs are also more expensive. You will most likely have to have both parents working due to the high cost of the mortgage.

Long term – This is really a personal preference and depends on so many factors. Based on the prior 2 paragraphs you may think Atlanta is a no-brainer — and for many people Atlanta is great.

For others who lived in Atlanta and moved to San Francisco, for now, they are willing to bear the cost for certain reasons listed below.

Weather – Mountain View is more temperate, with mild winters and pleasant summers. Although SF has fall like temperatures year round, Mountain View will have warmer summers. If you are into outdoor activities it is more doable year-round such as biking, hiking, etc. Atl can get quite cold in the winter, and summers will be hot and humid. (ie: mosquitoes).

Day trips – Mountain View is a day trip away from places like Yosemite, Tahoe, San Luis Obispo, Napa, LA. Atlanta day trips may include the Smokey Mountains, beaches near the panhandle of Florida, Savannah or South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach.

Political climate/atmosphere- If you are non-white you may or may not experience non-intentional or intentional racism in the south. There may be some MAGA hats. It may sway more conservative than liberal. People settling down earlier, having kids earlier, possibly more people practicing religion vs not.

Career – Depending on your job you may have more opportunity in Mountain View in the long run. For example, a friend I knew was in digital marketing in Chicago and that industry had many more job opportunities in SF. I also knew a freelancer who was having trouble finding employment in Chicago but was able to land several interviews in Mountain View/SF area. If you want to go to tech networking events and listen to speakers from different tech companies such as Twitter, square, stripe, FB, Fitbit, etc. and mingle and exchange ideas with people creating startups and their own companies, then you may decide you want to try Mountain View. Atlanta workforce has a lot of employees at more traditional larger established companies — home depot, coca cola, Delta, GE, JP Morgan, etc. In Bay Area, there are a lot of people doing a lot of things, and this may inspire you, or make you feel like a small fish in a big pond. In Atl, you may be a bigger fish in a small pond. Although Bay Area the people are doing many things, I find the work atmosphere in general pretty relaxed, with bosses, not micromanaging as long as you get your stuff done. (This is assuming you are not at an early stage startup). I’m not sure what the work atmosphere is like in Atlanta.

Things to do – SF has a lot of quirky events (about 45 min drive away), and you may be into trying these things — silent clubbing, yoga in a church, bay to breakers, Folsom street fair, escaping the room, beer yoga, just to name a few. Both cities will have a lot of restaurants and bars to frequent.

Services/classes – If you’re into self-improvement services like personal counseling, career counseling, financial counseling, etc you will have more choices in SF. There is also a slew of programs, classes, and workshops in the tech space.

Friends – The downside is it can be a transient place with many people trying it out and fleeing to cheaper cities. They may lead busy lives and only have time to meet every few weeks. Maybe you want a more solid set of friendships and a more relaxed pace of life, then Atlanta may be a good choice for you.

Dating – Girls may have an edge in Mountain View due to just the numbers alone due to the city having a huge industry in tech/programming. People may settle later in Mountain View, earlier in Atl. Many people use dating apps in Mountain View, I’m not sure if it is as widely used in Atl.

Commute – Atlanta commute is brutal even within the city, so you will want to make sure you are not stuck in that traffic. Mountain View also can have brutal traffic, flexible work hours and living close by will help. Many younger people prefer to be in the thick of the action and live in San Francisco, and commute by shuttle bus to Mountain View. Although the commute is long some companies such as FB count work hours as soon as you get on the bus as long as you are working and responding to emails, which helps.

You can also try visiting both places for 4–5 days to get a feel for each city and what appeals to you.

No decision is irreversible, and once you choose one you can always decide to leave and try another.

Richard Herbert, I live in Mountain View, CA

Answered Dec 6th, 2017 

Congratulations on getting both offers, you must be made up. I currently live in Mountain View.

In terms of size, there is no correlation. It’s really tiny in comparison. There’s access to the Bay Area of course. And a lot of ethnic food. Different cultures and so on. The Bay is made of many cities and towns up the peninsula.But this is the peak of the cycle. Traffic is horrendous. And it can be busy at all times. I just drove a normal 20-minute drive at 2:30 pm and it took me close to 50 minutes. For no real reason. Add to that, that these same people probably need to eat in the same restaurants as you.

Housing is getting to be unattainable for many folks. And Mountain View isn’t cheap. I rent a 2-bed apartment that is old and nestled between new developments. I pay $2800 for 900 sq ft. I suspect you’ll get better value in Atlanta. I don’t really know what you do, there aren’t many areas where you can’t expose yourself to problems and technologies that would rule out exposing yourself to one area geographically. Many people come here for the close access to venture capital. Over time other geographies are building up pools of money. But it’s inflated here. You’ve got an interesting dilemma if both jobs really are the equal of your aspirations. Feel free to reach out to me if you feel I can offer relevant advice. You’ve got to ask yourself what you want as a Happy Person now, next year, in five years etc. Work isn’t everything.

Jamal Speller, lives in Atlanta, GA (2017-present)

Answered December 10th, 2017
Having lived in both Mountain View and Atlanta for years, and having been forced to make the exact decision that you’re making, I think that I’m uniquely positioned to answer this question. First of all, all of the information that you’ve received so far is good information (Pros vs Cons, etc). But the most important thing you need to figure out is what is most important to you, and where you are in life? When I was a single man in my 20s that was most concerned with advancing my career above everything else, it was a NO-BRAINER that living and working in Silicon Valley was the right decision, despite the difference in cost of living. Depending on your career, the experience and networking that you can have in MV is really invaluable – especially if you’re in tech. I didn’t really care much about my social life at that point in time (the dating scene there for guys isn’t advisable), and I advanced my salary by a factor of 2.5x living in the Bay Area (lots of competition and non-compete contracts are invalid in CA). I also gained so much valuable experience that I could pretty much pick and choose where I went to work after living there for a few years. But people love living in the Bay Area so much that they have a hard time leaving, despite the fact that it is so expensive.

Now that I’m no longer a single man, in my 30s, who is more settled, interested in starting a family, has figured out my career path and is less interested in jumping around, Atlanta is the better option. In ATL, buying a house and investing in an area is much, much easier and a good option, even if you’re making less than $100k. I still don’t know how most people even plan on buying a home in Silicon Valley – if I stayed there or moved back, I probably wouldn’t waste my time with buying a house, honestly – there are better investments to make.

Anyway, again I think the whole key is figuring out where you are and what you want to do – if advancing your career is your priority, Mountain View is the choice. If you’re more concerned with stability, saving money and a better social scene, Atlanta is the choice. Best of luck!

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