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You realize that that sweet $140,000 Silicon Valley base salary at FaceGoogBox is worth less than that very middle class $80,000 in Atlanta, once you adjust for cost of living, right? If you want to buy a house, it's more like $40,000 in downtown Atlanta. It ain't poverty, but no one's getting dirty rich off of that kind of salary, either.

Is someone making $80,000 for doing 60 hours a week of highly-skilled, highly-profit-bearing work "overpaid". In my opinion, that's underpaid.

If anything, we've seen recent evidence that SV salaries are "deflated" compared to other industries and areas of the country, due to collusion, frequent targeted hiring of very young, often naive grad, inflated time at work, etc.

I don't work in SV, for the reasons I outlined above, so this isn't some kind of self-justification.

Edit: To be clear, I don't disapprove of people working there, I know it's beautiful and a nice place to live. I'm actually defending SV engineers from accusations of "inflated" salaries. It's just not a good place to go to get rich as an engineer with a family.




I don't (and won't) live in the Bay Area, but I live on the west coast, in an area a lot more expensive than Atlanta. When I got serious about moving to a "low cost of living" area and started doing the math, I found it to not be nearly so cut and dried. While housing and taxes are cheaper, many other things cost the same or more. For example, it's often MORE expensive to go on vacation from a cheaper area because the airport is smaller and there aren't direct flights to as many places (granted, not an issue in Atlanta). And of course everything on the other end costs the same regardless of whether you're coming from SF or Des Moines. Buying a car costs roughly the same (sales tax and car registration may make a small impact). Gadgets and electronics cost the same. Food may cost slightly less, but not in proportion to the pay difference. Cable, internet, cell service, health insurance, etc. all cost about the same.

When I put everything on a spreadsheet, the lower housing costs in other parts of the country didn't sufficiently make up for the drastically lower salaries. YMMV, but I encourage everyone to very carefully do the math before making these kinds of decisions.

(I do think that SF may be a special case, since it's SO expensive, but even then it's worth doing the math.)


One thing I've noticed about cost-of-living discussions is that people fail to take into account that the cost-of-living isn't some abstract constant, but is still buying something "real". In general, which area has more crime: The 90th percentile cost of living area or the 5th percentile cost of living area? Which area has nice stores with a wide variety of organic fruits and veggies, and which area has stores where they can't afford to replace the floor tiles when they pop out? As you say, you can't just do a cost-of-living calculation blindly.

That said, adding in those factors often makes Silicon Valley come out even worse. I've visited it quite a bit and it is not nicer enough to account for cost-of-living difference, unless you simply can not stand to live somewhere with less than perfect weather. But I think that's special to the Valley.


> Which area has nice stores with a wide variety of organic fruits and veggies, and which area has stores where they can't afford to replace the floor tiles when they pop out?

It's interesting that you bring this up. In the case of food, at least, lower COL areas (which are typically more rural) have access to something far better than any store - farmer's markets and actual farms.


I suppose I'm lucky to live on the edge of a gentrified neighborhood in the midwest.

There's a "cheap basics" grocery store in a 5 minute walk, a farmer's market in a 10 minute walk, and a Whole Foods in a 15 minute drive.

I don't really care about organic produce, but that flash pasteurized OJ at Whole Foods is really worth the extra $2.


Some would describe the 'perfect weather' of the Bay Area as 'tepid' or 'freezing cold'.

It's a nice area for certain, but it makes me wonder about myself when I'm wearing a parka and everybody else is walking around with a scarf or light jacket.


Are you talking about SF or the peninsula? Because SF weather is much colder than the rest of the Bay Area.


Both, but more so SF-proper I suppose. In the city, I look like an astronaut, but further south I only look like a moderate weirdo, mumbling to myself about people wearing shorts while zipping my coat up over my chin.


> Buying a car costs roughly the same (sales tax and car registration may make a small impact).

Parking is a big difference though. You can rent an apartment in the Midwest for what it takes to park a car in some major cities. Not to mention higher gas and insurance.


That's probably true in the city of SF (at least with respect to parking), but I'm not sure it's true in the rest of the Bay Area, and definitely isn't my experience in several other west coast cities. It's been nearly 10 years since I've had to pay for a monthly parking spot, and the random meter here and there costs me WELL under $25/mo. Gas and insurance are a tiny part of my budget; moving somewhere that allowed me to even take them to zero wouldn't make a noticeable impact. And I honestly can't imagine they're more than 25-30% cheaper in most areas. That stuff isn't THAT expensive here.


> For example, it's often MORE expensive to go on vacation from a cheaper area because the airport is smaller and there aren't direct flights to as many places (granted, not an issue in Atlanta).

I live in Cincinnati with one of the most top 10 most expensive airports in the country (CVG). I also spend a lot of time traveling and searching for flights.

One strategy I've used to avoid this is booking Kayak-style "hacker fare" for a domestic ticket to a hub like LAX/ATL/etc. with an international flight out from the hub, then a return ticket from destination to home (with connections of course).

It doesn't sound like it'd be that significant, but it made a recent trip to New Zealand & Australia about 40% cheaper, though it does take some extra effort.


it also depends on what you care about. For example, in New York, you pay up for easy access to culture. But what if you don't care about culture and are happy to just watch netflix every night? then, living in NYC makes no sense for you, unless you can't leave for some reason


well if you care about your job and career, a lot of opportunity awaits you in Manhattan. That's certainly one reason.


According to Wolfram Alpha, $140,000 is equivalent to $85,000 in Atlanta, once you've adjusted for the cost of living.

https://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=$140000+in+San+Francis...


Wolfram Alpha needs better marketing. This tool is amazing.


I wish I could figure out how to get it to run each statement in parenthesis as a separate statement then combine them. A lot of time when I'm trying to combine a lot of different values it'll get confused and just evaluate one of them individually. Same thing with happens with units sometimes.

Maybe I'm just not writing my queries just right but it's my major pain point with Wolfram Alpha.


> You realize that that sweet $140,000 Silicon Valley base salary at FaceGoogBox is worth less than that very middle class $80,000 in Atlanta, once you adjust for cost of living, right?

I find that very hard to believe. If you make $12,000 a month in SF and spend $3,000 a month on rent (which is pretty generous for one person), you still have more leftover money per month than your entire paycheck at an $80,000 annual salary.


$140k after taxes in California nets you about $7,100 per month. $80k after taxes in Georgia nets you about $4,500 per month. A ~700 square foot apartment in a luxury building runs $1,300 in Buckhead (the most desirable location downtown). Looks like a similar apartment runs $3,800 in a desirable part of San Francisco. So immediately, your pay difference is swallowed up by the rent differential. But everything else is substantially cheaper in Atlanta too. It's not the land of $4 toast. Prices at a nice restaurant will be ~70% of that in SF.


Yeah, at that point it really comes down to whether your personal utility from living in San Francisco outweighs the disutility of having a smaller apartment or sharing an apartment. I don't know of anyone (who's not independently wealthy) who pays for a 700 sq. foot SF apartment with just one income. Most people I know pay around $2k a month on rent.


Sure, you may weigh the benefits of living in SF higher than the cost of doing so, but that doesn't mean the cost differential when comparing like-with-like isn't significant. Moreover, once you have a family, the cost-benefit analysis changes in a surprising way. My wife and I are dedicated urbanites and currently live in downtown Baltimore. We could afford an awesome house in a dense urban neighborhood walkable to restaurants, bars, our daughter's nursery school, etc. But we're relocating to D.C. where a house in a similar neighborhood would cost 5x as much, and are facing the prospect of having to move out to the 'burbs (or the more boring suburb-y parts of the city).


> but that doesn't mean the cost differential when comparing like-with-like isn't significant.

That is kind of true, but it's also not realistic to just compare identical housing arrangements in very different regions. It makes more sense to compare not just median costs of two regions, but also median housing size/type. But of course, if spacious housing is very important to someone, that's perfectly fine, and it's a perfectly good reason to live somewhere else.


Bingo. And the calculation just gets worse when you include expenses for a family.


I make 50% more here than in Utah. Before stock, I am saving less than I did in Utah. I had a $1100/mo mortgage in Utah (4 bed, 2 bath). I'm paying $3800/mo in rent here (3 bed, 1.5 ba). Utilities are about 2x. Food about 30% more. I pay roughly 10% salary more in a taxes.

It's expensive to live here. That doesn't mean I don't like it though :)


To be clear, I'm writing from the perspective of having a family with children. Believe me, I've run the numbers and there's no way I could buy or even rent a decent house there without a massive commute (which I can't stand).

Glad to be proven wrong here. I'd go back and entertain offers I've had if I knew I was wrong.


Are there other family-related costs that are significantly lower in Atlanta than in SF? I'm still having trouble making the math work out.


Childcare in the peninsula is hugely expensive even when it is available. 150 person waitlists for 50 kid facilities are the norm. A dirty daycare will run 2k per month, and a nanny around 3k. I'm not sure what the situation is elsewhere but I have to imagine it is better. Home daycares aren't available because no one can afford a home. The crazy prices lead to shortages of services because none of the people who would provide them can live there.


Childcare is substantially more expensive and the public schools are not very good. You almost have to put your child in private school, and you are looking at $20k-$30k/year/child. The city is not very kid friendly in general.


And any surrounding districts with good public schools will of course have ever higher real estate costs.


Consider daycare which ranges between $1500 to $2000 per month in SF. Nannies are $2000 to $3000 per month.


I did a quick comparison. This doesn't include all the costs, but it should give you an idea of what he/she means:

The median sales price of a Santa Clara County 3 bedroom house is $820,000. This is $3,877/mo, plus $850/mo property taxes, for a housing cost of $4,727/mo

That $140,000/yr is taxed at $48,922 in the state of California, leaving $91,078, or $7,589/ mo income.

CA Income ($7,589) - CA Housing Costs ($4,727) = $2,682 leftover.

---

The median sales price of a Cobb County 3 bedroom house is $173,000. This is $818/mo, plus $140/mo property taxes, for a housing cost of $958/mo

That $80,000/yr is taxed at $23,600 in the state of Georgia, leaving $56,400, or $4,700/ mo income.

GA Income ($4,700) - GA Housing Costs ($958) = $3,742 leftover.

---

I'm not saying my numbers are valid for every person's situation, only that this is an example of a situation where the numbers work in Atlanta's favor.


Your numbers are way off. Salary doesn't paint the entire picture. Median total comp for a fresh out of college (L3) at Google is ~165k.

L4 is ~215k. L5 (Senior) is ~265k.

Factor in free breakfast/lunch/dinner, free gym, free laundry, generous 401k matching, other perks and discounts, and the gap widens even more.


And those scenarios represent a small fraction of the total number of engineers in the Valley. There is a reason Google is so selective in its hiring.

Throwing those out as typical is disingenuous.


Google is a huge outlier when it comes to salary. There are thousands of tech companies in the bay area, and median salary is around $100K.


Do you have a source of this data? I have tons of friends in the Bay Area who work at a wide variety of tech companies, and none of them are making $100k or less. I guess maybe they really are "all above average" but I find it hard to believe that the median salary for software engineers in the bay area is really $100k.


Sure. [1] [2]

Of course, this is just "a couple minutes of google research"--I am not a subject matter expert, as someone on HN kindly pointed out last time I posted these here. Also, they are based on self-reported surveys and don't include sellable equity, so take it with a grain of salt. I don't know where better data would be published. I'm intuitively not too surprised by these figures--I think the HN demographic is probably pretty skewed towards the higher end, judging by all those threads where people toss around $150K and $200K salaries as "normal".

1: https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/san-francisco-software-en...

2: http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Software_Engineer/Sa...


$140k is what we're discussing in this thread. You're welcome to join us.


You left out tax differences and inflated costs for other necessities such as food, transportation, entertainment, etc.


12,000$/month is pre taxes. You get taxed more on 80-140 than 0 to 80, and California has higher income tax rates to make up for messed up property tax rates.

On net you get an extra ~2,600/month after taxes.


>>If anything, we've seen recent evidence that SV salaries are "deflated" compared to other industries and areas of the country, due to collusion, frequent targeted hiring of very young, often naive grad, inflated time at work, etc.

Conversely, they're also being propped up by the massive amount of VC money at play there, which is driving an arms race for programming talent not seen elsewhere around the country. I'm not saying you're wrong about your point about collusion, but there are multiple factors at play there.


It's also the case that going back decades, moving to very high cost of living areas like Manhattan and Silicon Valley has tended to result in paying out relatively more for housing than salaries tend to increase. Yes, the situation today is particularly bad but such places have long been something of a "luxury location."


> You realize that that sweet $140,000 Silicon Valley base salary at FaceGoogBox is worth less than that very middle class $80,000 in Atlanta, once you adjust for cost of living, right?

You're ignoring equity here, which after a couple years will be more than your base salary anyway.

With a total comp of $300k+, a lot SV workers don't mind paying $30k/year more in rent to live in the Bay Area. As many others have noted, it really is beautiful here...


A beauty that's getting harder and harder to appreciate. And that's not even exclusive to the Bay to begin with.


> And that's not even exclusive to the Bay to begin with.

What other place is like this? I mean a lively, diverse city where everyone is from everywhere, mountains nearby, and 3000 hours of sunshine a year?


You mean where everyone is from an upper middle class family, a private highschool, and one of 20-30 prestigious engineering schools at which they studied under one of the same four degree programs, after which they decided to go and work at "this really hot tech company!"

Boy that's diverse.

The area basically vacuums everyone who fits the exact same mold from anywhere in the world – that does not make the area more diverse.


That's literally the sales pitch for Denver (we're working on the diversity bit). Although we get more sun.


Oh, and the warm winters bit :)


Came here to read this.


Are there "a lot" of SF workers with 300k personal income on their taxes?


I call b.s. I pulled numbers off a few sites that estimate cost of living in Atlanta at ~$26k/year. Just ran my own numbers, and my own costs last year were ~22k. For reference, I live in Santa Cruz with that sweet job as FaceGoogBox. There are a few places I'd consider moving to for a $80k pay cut, but Atlanta isn't one of them.


I don't think anyone on my team in Austin makes less than $135K/year. I'm the youngest on our team at 33 though.


It is not unusual for someone in that position to be renting an apartment for $1,000 per month which, accounting for the increased salary by living in the bay area less opportunity cost of buying vs renting in ATL, is still a net win for that individual in their stage of their life. They key here is that this person can buy the so-called $40K house after 1-2 years of saving and living here, where as you will still have a mortgage.


$140k is only a base salary at "FaceGoogBox" if you're relatively young in your career. And it overlooks the meaningful equity/bonus.


It's not really true in my experience. If you can live in the East Bay, there are definitely still really nice and affordable places to be found. Yes, the prices have gone up significantly over the past few years in the East Bay too, but it is still cheap enough where it probably will make the high Bay Area salaries financially worthwhile.


Houses in downtown Atlanta haven't been $40,000 for decades.


That wasn't my argument at all. $40,000 was in reference to salary (ie, a $40,000 salary in Atlanta can get you the same type of house as $140,000 salary in SF).

By the way, many here assuming I'm in Atlanta. I am not (and don't wish to be, because of the crazy traffic).


"Not living in Georgia" is worth a premium.


I agree, no offense to anyone who loves Georgia.

SF is too expensive though. I like Seattle just fine.




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