“My husband’s new salary doesn’t take into account the increase in cost of living. We struggle with what to do. Do we move somewhere where the cost of living is cheaper? Do we sell our house and downsize? We haven’t really figured out what to do.”

“About a month ago, an acquaintance of mine posted on her blog about leaving this crazy life we live here in the lower Mainland, and heading somewhere quieter, slower and cheaper. Her e-mail and blog got me thinking about my life, and how all we do is keep up with the “rat race”. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, ever since my husband lost his job in February. He now has a job, but all this upheaval got us both thinking about why we continue to live here in the lower Mainland?”

“According to Global News “Vancouver is now the most expensive place to live in North America.” Another mind blowing statistic published by the Huff Post is: “Vancouver is the second-least affordable city for housing among 325 major developed cities”. While searching for some stats, I stumbled upon this anecdote which describes our situation perfectly: “When we got around to salary discussions, the employer indicated they would be willing to go as high as ?K. I pointed out that this was the salary I earned ten years ago.“Oh you can’t compare a Vancouver salary to what you would get in Silicon Valley!” “I’m not. That’s what I was paid ten years ago…in Vancouver.”
Ten years of additional experience, an additional advanced degree, plus international experience in the hotbed of technology in a significant role at a successful startup = no incremental value to a Vancouver firm.” [VREAA 24 May 2011]

“This is exactly the challenge my husband and I faced and still face today. He is a computer programmer with 2 Degrees and 14 years of experience, and let me tell you, he worked his ass off day and night to find a new job. One of the problems he encountered was finding a job that pays the same. Most companies do not want to pay the wage of someone with my husband’s qualifications and years of experience. His new salary doesn’t even take into account the increase in cost of living. We struggled with what to do. Do we move somewhere else where the cost of living is cheaper? Does he take a job with lesser pay? Do we sell our house and downsize? Do I go back full time and put my son in day care? There are no easy answers and we haven’t really figured out what we are going to do. We are fortunate that for the time being my husband has a job that allows us to continue to live in our house, and to continue to live in the lower mainland. We struggle with what to do every day. We love our home, the community of friends we have built, and living near an Ocean surrounded by mountains. So what do we do?????”

“I told my husband about the subject of this post, and he asked me what I’ve concluded? To be honest, I told him, I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. All I know is that people need to do what is right for themselves. So what is right for us? I don’t have the answer to that either. I want us to be happy and for us not to feel so stressed about living here, but I don’t know what to do. Neither of us knows what to do. I feel like if we moved away to some place new there would new challenges and struggles, but would it be less stressful, less of a challenge? That is the million dollar question!!!!! (Literally)”

“So for now I leave you with this: my husband and I are trying to do what is best for us and for our son, what is next is unknown. What I know for sure is that we need to stick together and work as a team and if we can continue to do that, life will sort itself out. I’m not saying sit back and continue to complain and worry. What I’m saying is to continue to work together to come up with a plan and/or solution that best fits you and your family. And if what you are doing feels like the right thing then that’s what you need to do.”

“I have spoken with many of our friends regarding living here and they feel the same way. Many of us are stuck in this rut, and confused about what to do.”

– from ‘The Rat Race: living in Vancouver and yes you can wear white after Labor Day!!!’ by Agnes at her blog, Vodka Infused Lemonade, 4 Sep 2012

34 responses to ““My husband’s new salary doesn’t take into account the increase in cost of living. We struggle with what to do. Do we move somewhere where the cost of living is cheaper? Do we sell our house and downsize? We haven’t really figured out what to do.”

  1. >We love our home, the community of friends we have built, and living near an Ocean surrounded by mountains. So what do we do?????”

    Sell the house. Move to Seattle or Portland. There are either more jobs or a lower cost of living. Both are close to oceans and mountains. You can drive up and visit your friends in Vancouver any time. The city has become a resort town. Use it as such.

    The answer is so damn simple. The question is whether or not you are addicted to the concept that the “Vancouver lifestyle” can only happen in Vancouver.

    • Moving house, city, job and country is never simple. I’ve done it a few times and it has always been a LOT of hassle. While it may be a viable option it is not one to take lightly. I’ve considered it as a way to escape the RE madness of this city but decided to stick it out for a wee while longer and see if sanity returns in a reasonable time-frame (it’ll happen eventually of course – it always does – but I’m only prepared to wait so long for it).

      Having said that I think this could be the time! Low sales, reduced credit availability, worried sellers, destitute UHS people…all sorts of good news!

  2. You can either BE the invisible hand of the market, or you can be strangled by the invisible hand of the market. Other employers in other places (some of them quite lovely) value your services more, so either take them up on it or be at peace with your decision to live here with its inherent economic disadvantages.

    If Vancouver housing busts dramatically, you can always move back and be a few hundred thousand ahead of the game (tax free, I might add).

    Oh, and the answer to “you can’t compare a Vancouver salary to what you would get in Silicon Valley” is “I’d be a fool not to.” You can always offer the current employer an ultimatum once you’ve got a job offer, though I don’t see that as a great long term strategy for building goodwill (but neither is underpaying your staff).

  3. A good programmer can find work basically anywhere. There are many many nice places to live in the world. Vancouver is one of them, but there are lots and lots of others.

    The natural world is amazing in general, and it covers the entire planet. The beautiful parts of the earth outnumber the barren parts.

  4. “Vancouver is now the most expensive place to live in North America”

    So… is it the most expensive place to live… or to own? Just asking, it wasn’t clear by reading her post. After following her links it leads us to… the Demographia report that looks at median prices versus median incomes. So unfortunately I have to take some issue with her assertion, notwithstanding prices being crazy 🙂 .

    Look, prices are high by my measures but that does NOT make Vancouver the most unaffordable city to live in North America. If you’re going to want people to come clean about the existence of a speculative bubble in Vancouver it helps to keep one’s own logical ship in order first.

    • I want to clarify that housing prices compared to what we earn in Vancouver causes Vancouver to be one of the most expensive cities in north america to live in. Sure there are more expensive places but compared to their salary Vancouver is far more expensive.

  5. Same here: working couple with kids, a programmer with a lot of experience, love Vancouver. Had a conversation with a recruiter a few weeks ago.
    “No, you can’t earn that much in Vancouver.”
    “But I did earn that much a few years ago here in Vancouver”
    “If money is your top priority consider moving to the states or Toronto”
    Other recruiters (they are quite professional, I worked with them for many years) confirm that.

    We started thinking about moving somewhere else last year because of housing costs and less-than-mediocre job market. States is not an option: I used to work there, it’s not our type of country. Now we are exploring some options in Europe (not very actively though), where we would expect the same level of income, but slightly better lifestyle. Never thought I would look for opportunities in a region that is known for its economy troubles. That’s odd.

    I lived in Seattle, it’s not too bad. Portland is probably a bit too quiet, but still ok. Things are a bit different in California, so it’s probably not a good fit for those who love Van.

    • As someone considering California (probably LA or San Diego) for a Post-Doc position, what would you say is a bit different?

      As much as I like Vancouver, I’ve lived elsewhere and liked those places as well. Hell, I even liked “Americanized” Calgary.

      • >what would you say is a bit different?
        Tempo. Cali (LA, Bay Area) is more “american”: life is faster, busier, flashier (yeah, curiousier). San Diego is not bad though – I personally like it and I think I could be happy there.

        But this is all personal (mis)perseption.

  6. In my life I’ve lived in seven cities including one in Europe, two in the USA, and four in Canada.

    One of those cities was Vancouver where I spent about a decade of my life. I have to say that, while there are nice things about that town, it is just too insane to actually live there. And it should be noted that one of my seven cities on my life list is Los Angeles. Vancouver is no better in terms of insanity… and possibly worse. The commuting infrastructure in Vancouver is worse. The beaches are way, way worse. OK, YVR is about 1000x better than LAX, so it’s got that.

    Anyhow, of those seven cities, three have been “small cities.” One of those small cities was in California, one in Europe, and the other (current) here in BC. And, honestly, I’d prefer to live out my life in any one of those three as compared to the four big cities on that list. There are just too many advantages, including:

    -reasonable real estate prices
    -great choice of where to live – semi-rural, suburban, or urban
    -short commutes
    -genuine community; people know each other and care about each other
    -substantial arts and culture
    -ease of air travel to larger centers
    -competitive (and, sometimes, higher-than-average) salaries

    Basically, I can’t figure out why anyone sticks it out in Vancouver. I love visiting. And, as a “tourist” now I have a better time there than I ever did when I lived in the region.

    But, as one of my friends here says, I should probably shut up about this before a hoard of lower mainland refugees come and mess up the good thing that we have here…

  7. Over the summer I had the opportunity to work with a software development team concerning an idea I have for a medical application on the iPad and iPhone. The programmers are paid $120 per hour. That’s roughly $240,000 per year. They also receive nice benefits including generous time off, extended health and pension. This company has about a dozen developers, half in Vancouver. Not too much turn-over, but they did just lose one guy to Apple last week. This firm is also very busy, and my work is not scheduled to begin until the new year.

    • The programmers are getting paid $120/hr OR is the company receiving $120 per programmer hour?

      In my experience, a senior software engineer in Vancouver can realistically expect about $80k to $90k per year + benefits.
      Contractors can get more, but $120/hr seems quite high. Majority of contracts for senior developers I see are between $40/hr to $50/hr. Top jobs for software contractors pay $60/hr to $70/hr. Higher rates exist but are very rare and usually for specialists with skills that are very difficult to find (iPad developers are quite common these days).

      • Btw, these rates and salaries were the same 5 years ago. And in 2000, at the height of the dot.com bubble, even an intermediate developer could make more money than a senior developer today.

      • My understanding is the company is jointly owned by all the developers, so that revenue is spilt equally between all the partners, as are the expenses. However, they keep their costs down by not maintaining an office or admin. staff. My brothers’ best friend is in the IT field, though in Ottawa, and tells me this seems a fair price, but I admit I did not shop around too much (I chose this firm because they have experience with iOS development in the medical field and have experience with HL7…maybe this explains the rates?). The one developer leaving for Apple is from Europe but still had no trouble obtaining a US work visa and I understand he is receiving a substantial pay increase, plus everything else that goes with the California lifestyle. I don’t know if RE was a deciding factor in his move.

      • Allen, if I understand you correctly, you are paying a consulting company $120 per programmer hour. That does seem about right (not cheap, though), however, programmers do not get such money.
        Like cj wrote, senior devs do not make more than $90/hr and realistically, they do not make more than $70/hr unless they have some extremely niche skills.

      • Thanks bubbly, you are likely correct. And I like their business model, seems to treat everyone very fairly.

      • What bubbly states is about right for Vancouver.

    • I have been on the local market for many years, doing contracts and being a full-time employee. Never heard of senior devs making more than $90/hr in Vancouver. Perhaps this kind of rates exist in some niche markets and for short term contracts. Apple development is not a niche market.

      I have friends working for Apple. Senior devs do not make $240K there, period. I wonder what made that guy leave…

      Allen, I salute your effort to persuade everyone that our services cost that much, I am working in this field as well. Unfortunately, this doesn’t sound realistic.

      • Hi cj…thanks for the reply…maybe they just saw a group of physicians and thought they could take advantage of us! 🙂 Our project is a contract and (hopefully) short term and is in a very specialized niche, will only be of value to cardiologists. Maybe you are interested?

    • >the company is jointly owned by all the developers,
      Ok, this explains the high rate. The company seems to be a good place to be at.

      >Maybe you are interested?
      Too bad I am not an iOS dev. I am into MS server-side technologies, industrial automation and Android. Thank you for the offer though!

      • Hmmm…Android is our next step…we started in the iOS environment because these devices are very common in the healthcare field, but certainly not exclusive.

      • Even if the company is jointly owned by the developers and there is no office etc., the devs will not get the full rate. There are a lot of costs. For ex:
        * Bookkeeping / accounting
        * biz dev
        * The negotiation phase with potential client (could be as high as $10k)
        * QA – programmers should NOT do QA. Client should only do high level QA; a QA specialist should do everything else
        * Project management (unless the client pays for it too)
        * Bug fixes – The client may agree to a bug fix allowance, but for the most part, bugs are the responsibility of the consulting company; Client is responsible for change requests
        * Going over budget / deadlines – this is very common and there should be some allowance in the contract, but anything beyond the budget + allowance that was not caused by the client should be the responsibility of the consulting company.
        etc etc.

    • >Hmmm…Android is our next step
      Be my guest:
      cj_at_vancouver [at] yahoo.com

  8. Focus..back to RE and to “E.G” – you should just indicate where you live, I can only guess it must be the Okanagan describing what you say. I too agree that I have a better time visiting Vancouver than when I lived there. Can just enjoy things more and actually use some of our better salary job in Calgary to supplement regular visits. I do miss seeing friends and family on a regular weekly/monthly basis but our quality of life is much better now.

  9. Agnes asks many questions. I mentioned at her site that she may wish to pursue them with an Horary Astrologist.

  10. Inadequate compensation packages… PurchasingPowerParity… Housing conundrums… and SuddenExpatriation… All things that make one go, “Hmmmm.” …rather like the following juxtaposition…

    [G&M] – Ottawa Revokes Citizenship Following Investigation


    [NYT] – China’s Presumptive New Leader Is Mysteriously Absent


  11. Nem, Lin Biao was heavily favored to take over from Mao back in the late 1960s… but he ‘crashed’ spectacularly both figuratively and literally. I wouldn’t be surprised to see China skip the 10 year cycle and hang onto Hu another half dozen years. The carefully choreographed Chinese political dance is heavily suggesting this, imho, and i hasten to add, I did not consult an astrology chart for this analysis.

  12. 5 Days and counting . . . . . Conundrum solved.

    • We’re going to miss you… please keep in touch and, if possible, keep posting updates here and at VCI. They’re invaluable. If you have any analysis you’d like headlined, just say the word (send an e-mail!).
      All the very best fortune in Europe.

    • I agree with the host’s sentiments. You’ve added allot to the conversation.

  13. I say move to Calgary. The average household income is 91k and the sun shines 300 days per year. Mountain culture is the same too. We love the West Coast but Vancouver is nothing special.

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