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I might have gone a little bit overboard (moogle.cc)
218 points by saimiam on July 7, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 173 comments

I think I like her.

https://www.willowfinch.com/ seems to be the start-up that this article founded (or is the story of how she got there)

It seems to be a fairly sensible idea - cost-of-living is not just how much a house in Rural "Southern State" costs but varies based on house price + Other State laws and Taxes + mostly healthcare stuff non_US folks dont understand + othr variables based on your stage of life (young and single vs young family etc.)

So her startup helps people find best part of the country to live in based on all those variables.

Which sounds awesome, if only most people did not base their location on a job.

Which after COVID means this is a really good time to start that start up.

A tool that compares cost of living in high resolution could be useful for comparing relocation options.

However, I have my doubts that many retirees are interested in evaluating retirement destinations solely on cost of living requirements. Nearly everyone wants to retire to some place they enjoy which is close to their friends and family. Moving across the country to save a few hundred dollars per month isn’t helpful if you spend thousands of dollars more every year on plane tickets to travel back to see friends and family.

Look at the costs at borders between states. If you have family in Danville, IL, you might want to retire in Attica, IN

Could be useful for a group of people, say a family, to help decide where they should settle down.

As a non-US folk I definitely don't understand that health insurance variance.

Presumably, as she mentioned ACA, you're getting the same level of service, so how can it vary by state? I thought ACA was federal level?

ACA is at the federal level, but it allows pricing healthcare based on 3 things: location, age, and smoking status.

And up until ACA, all health "insurance" was administered state by state, with various additional state laws and compliance with state insurance regulators, so instead of dismantling all that, it was mostly left alone as long as it complied with the ACA minimums.

Healthcare providers charge very different amounts in very different places, due to reasons such as doctors wanting more money for having to live in less desirable areas, so it makes sense that it would cost more or less in different places.

Also, the "risk pool" is restricted to each state due to aforementioned system of regulating insurance state by state, so states with smaller populations have less lives to spread the healthcare costs around. This means that healthcare costs in smaller states could be lower, if everyone is healthier, but more likely is something like the case of Iowa where a single anemic patient caused an insurer to back out of the state since their healthcare costs were so high it was not profitable to operate in the state (until the Iowa government, i.e. rest of Iowa taxpayers, stepped in to help.)

Some of this is also due to political compromises during ACA passage that continued to allow employers to silo their employees' into their own risk pools via employer sponsored health insurance, and a lot of these are the healthier lives that would help shoulder the healthcare costs of the "general public".

Look up the share of health care spending that goes to doctors. It’s maybe 6-10% of overall costs. (Often reported as share that goes to “doctors and clinics” ~20% which includes salaries of nurses & other workers, etc) Biggest share goes to hospitals.

That was just one easy example that came to mind, since there is specifically a federal program that exists to get doctors to go where they do not want to be. Obviously, nurses/janitors/hospital management will want more/less to live in certain areas, and maybe that is offset by lower land costs, utility costs, legal costs depending on state's laws and courts, and there is a whole host of factors that can cause differences between two places.

Everyone else involved has similar cost of living requirements.

Even the cost of buildings and supplies varies with location.

Doctors were just an example.

1. The US is huge. Good example that blew my mind: https://www.txmemes.com/post/texas-is-larger-than-any-europe...

2. Economic variables can vary significantly between regions 3. There are artificial barriers that significantly distort the market for health care - the most egregious being prohibitions on insurance across state lines that create artificial silos. The overhead of insurance companies and people using insurance for all health care instead of just providing coverage for catastrophic needs inflicts bloat and overhead on even the most mundane of transactions. I've switched to a high deductible plan with a health savings account that lets me pay for my health care tax free so I negotiate with cash for the vast majority of my health care needs and let me tell you - the difference vs. going through insurance is eye opening. On top of that I no longer have to look for providers who are in network - I can pick whoever I want for whatever reason I want. Yup, it takes a bit more effort - but it's my freaking health. There are few things more important or worth dedicating effort to.

ACA is a federal level law that does several different things. As I understand it, the main points were increased insurance regulation, the individual mandate, and an option for states to expand medicaid [0]. I'm not sure why there is so much state-to-state variance, but afaik the aca wouldn't prevent that.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affordable_Care_Act

The main point of ACA was removing the ability for managed care organizations (MCOs, or health insurers) to refuse or price one’s premiums based on the probabilities of their future healthcare costs. This is why I prefer the term MCO, as they are no longer selling just insurance, so the term insurer does not seem apt.

ACA introduced rules that effectively make health insurance premiums a tax, where the young and healthy pay for the old and sick (like taxpayer funded healthcare). It did so in a few ways:

1) force MCOs to provide insurance to everyone, by removing pre existing conditions as a criteria for pricing insurance (effectively causing healthy people to subsidize sick people)

2) force everyone to buy insurance (although this got neutered, both by removing individual penalty and allowing employer sponsored plans to continue to exist)

3) pricing is only based on age, location, smoking status

4) pricing is such that highest premium can only be 3x the premium of ages 21 to 24, effectively causing young people to subsidize old people

5) out of pocket maximums for in network providers - this leaves in the true insurance part of the business in that you will not have to pay over a certain amount in a calendar year.


>I'm not sure why there is so much state-to-state variance, but afaik the aca wouldn't prevent that.

Because insurance regulation is still at the state level, and MCOs were allowed to use location as a factor in calculating premiums, so different places in the US have different healthcare costs due to factors such as wages, land costs, liability costs. Although this mostly exists on the state level, I do not think it gets more granular than that.

The main thing ACA does is help shift even more money from people to health insurance companies. Any other benefits are ancillary or completely accidental.

Different laws, different levels of health problems.

It looks interesting, but how do you actually get into and use the tool? The home page has lots of words describing it and a video, but I could find no links to the actual tool.

>Which sounds awesome, if only most people did not base their location on a job.

I would say family/friends even takes priority, as many people give up economic/political benefits of moving elsewhere to stay closer to their network.

how do i use this website. Don't see any signup button.

I couldn't figure it out either. If anyone has successfully used the Willowfinch.com site, how do you get started?

There's a lot going on in this post, and it's not the most structured, but the graph of healthcare costs by county at age 59 was fascinating: https://s3.amazonaws.com/mx.sairamachandr.in/moogle.cc/blogp...

("This map of the 2018 2nd Cheapest Silver ACA plans shows the variance against the cost for 2 people, aged 59, with King County, Washington as the base. The olive green color is zero-ish variance. The darker the green, the cheaper the health insurance is in that county. The darker the red, the more expensive that county is compared to King County, Washington.")

I'm having a hard time interpreting that because I don't know enough about the Affordable Care Act. Is this making an apples-to-apples comparison? Are Silver ACA plans roughly comparable in terms of quality of coverage?

One anecdotal experience in this area for me is that my employer recently switched health insurance companies on us. On paper, the new plan is equivalent to the old plan, but appreciably less expensive. In reality, I would gladly pay even more than the old plan cost, just to go back to it. And probably save money (certainly be able to hold onto my hair color a bit longer) in the process.

Yes, the same metal level plans are comparable since the coverage all health insurance has to provide is the same in the US (excluding the weird church plan loophole but they are not actually insurance and no one uses them)


What will change is the network of healthcare providers that are in network for you. This is how I think price discrimination will work in healthcare in the US going forward.

A more expensive silver health insurance will have more doctors in network since it will reimburse at a higher price (from your or your employer’s higher premiums). A less expensive silver health insurance will have fewer doctors in network, since fewer doctors will accept that price. Or it will have overworked doctors, or you will have to see nurse practitioners or physician’s assistance instead of MDs.

If you find your employer’s in network doctors worse, then it is basically a stealth pay cut from one perspective.

Can you qualify why specifically you would prefer the old plan even though it is 'on paper' the same?

Not OP, but switching providers could mean one actually provides coverage and the other regularly denies it. I have upgraded health plans in the past, only to discover I spent more time fighting my insurance company because they just refused to honor the coverage. I actually had to get a lawyer involved at my own expense.

I find it bizarre how many people just trust that insurance companies will actually honor their contracts. In my experience, they likely won't. This is just my anecdote.

As a non-American, that sounds pretty fucked.

The American healthcare system is quite fucked. Proponents are typically profiting from it directly, have no idea what things are like in other places, or suffering Stockholm syndrome (and lack access to medical care to treat it).

It is not as bad as it sounds. There is an appeals process:


And in general, anything the insurance company might not want to pay for required a “prior authorization”, which usually happens if the insurance company’s doctors think there is another option for treatment or the proposed option does not have sufficient evidence.

I imagine there is similar processes in taxpayer funded healthcare systems too to properly allocate resources. Although, I am sure there are many cases of problems caused by insurance companies in the US, due to the bureaucracy.

It really is as bad as it sounds.

>I imagine there is similar processes in taxpayer funded healthcare systems too to properly allocate resources.

What the doctor orders is what you get. You can typically choose your doctor, as well as get a second opinion. The doctors are generally paid the same.

These are some pharmacists talking about prior authorizations for medicine, and they seem to exist in Canada, UK, AUS, and NZ.


I would be surprised if any country gave doctors blank checks for everything since no one has unlimited resources. There most likely is a system for figuring out where waste is happening and avoiding it.

Yes, but it's generally done on a national level. The waste in the American system is the requirement for an extra 73 rounds of paperwork for every interaction with the medical system.

I can't speak for all of Canada since health care is handled at he provincial level, but I think most provinces don't cover prescriptions except for the young and elderly, and even then prices are capped anyway.

What lotsofpulp and Judgmentality describe pretty much covers it.

"it's not the most structured" is an understatement - to me it feels like some kind of "stream of thought" writing, where someone just writes down everything that comes into their mind. The result of that is comprehensible to the person who wrote it, but really hard to follow for anyone else. So, if she really wants to promote the service she built based on this, the article could use some editing...

I found it interesting to follow the thought process, and enjoyed the read myself.

It struck me that energy costs (which involves location etc) weren't included, but perhaps that's in the final service?

Is there like another section to this writeup? Because the priorities seemed quite strange and incomplete to me.

And were there any "Blue Dots" in the sea of red around where she lives?

I can't figure out what her aim is with this. Is the proposition that she'll have an easier time making friends in a city that's 60% Democrat as opposed to 40%? Same thing with the dry county issue. Is an extra five minutes in the car to the next county over even noticeable?

So many more significant things are ignored. Does she like the weather in these places? Do she or her husband have significant allergies to the sources of pollen native to the properties?

It depends on the state, but a pocket of blue in rural/exurban areas often indicates lower crime, better public services, etc.—more educated people and the accompanying externalities. Driving to the next county over doesn’t solve the problem of bad neighbors.

And it often means the opposite, so it's useless data in summary.

the article highlights Clarke Country, home of Athens, home of UGA (a massive college town)

Democrat counties have lower crime rates? Doesn't follow from Democrat cities like NYC and Chicago.

Seems like you missed the qualifier of rural/exurban which immediately excludes NYC and Chicago.

NYC in 2021 is very different from NYC in the 1980s.

> Do she or her husband have significant allergies to the sources of pollen native to the properties?

Seems she has allergies to the Republican neighbors native to the properties.

I mean, who doesn’t want to live in wealthy, low-crime areas?

you might not have a super accurate view of rural georgia surrounding the UGA Athens area

Me. Those areas are boring and soulless.

> Same thing with the dry county issue. Is an extra five minutes in the car to the next county over even noticeable?

It might be if the next county over has noticeably better roads because of the extra taxes due to alcohol sales.

> Is the proposition that she'll have an easier time making friends in a city that's 60% Democrat as opposed to 40%?

In rural areas that distinction actually matters.

> Same thing with the dry county issue. Is an extra five minutes in the car to the next county over even noticeable?

When your county is wet, you don't need a car to get to the nearest pub or can hail an Uber for cheap to get home.

Uber doesn’t operate in the vast majority of the country, even in small cities (although there’s usually some variety of taxi service, but usually not as easy to use or as comfortable). You may also be overestimating the availability of “pubs” even in “wet” counties in places like Kentucky.

People just drive drunk in Uberness areas. Low population density means low enforcement.

That wet/dry distinction might not be as big of a deal as you make it still depending on county size. North Carolina has 100(!!) counties, with only one dry still, at that size and with the typical spread between places you easily pass through a couple of counties daily just doing normal day-to-day stuff. For example, I live in Wake County but my grocery store is in Harnett County and my Best Buy is in Johnston County, all still within a 20 minute drive.

I mean, I would imagine that many people might like to be able to walk to a pub (_driving_ to one doesn't seem like a great idea...) If alcohol sales are verboten in the county, this seems problematic.

Where in the US do you live that a bar would be walking distance and also next to a dry county? All urban areas like that threw out those sorts of laws decades ago. Rural areas are typically where dry counties are found, but not always, but walking to a bar in the US is typically reserved for more built up areas (but once again not always)

I don't live in the US. Where I live, though, even in many rural areas walking into the local village would be feasible. There'd be _very_ rural places where you couldn't walk to anything, but they'd be the exception.

As an urbanite I was looked upon like a madman when I walked 30 minutes to the store from my academic campus which was hugged by a nature reserve on one side and a major highway on the other. Not having a car is a real hassle in the majority of the non-urban areas of this country. The only other people who thought to ever do something similar were international students from Bulgaria and Nepal that didn't blink twice at it.

In most of European cities a 30 minute walk gets you over to the next town, not the nearest pub :)

In NYC 30 minutes later you're maybe one or two neighborhoods down ;)

Matters how? I've lived in both Left and Right-leaning towns over the past five years and didn't notice a difference. I don't have children, is it something that would only matter to a parent?

The exposition on how to interpret boxplots is odd, especially the part about the difference between the median and the mean being representative of the "variance". I want to give the benefit of the doubt and assume the author is simply using "variance" to refer to a different statistical concept (e.g. skew), but then later she writes "the variance between the Washington state average & median values is negligible - meaning there is little / no variation in the dataset" which is just wrong. The WA boxplot has the largest variance of any state on the plot. And the distinction is not just academic, because that larger variance increases the potential savings for moving from their current WA home to a cheaper home in the same state.

The writing was really bad and difficult to follow.

In the end I realized it was an ad for her startup (willowfinch) which apparently does the same thing -- screen for where-to-live.

How did this get to the front page of HN? It's very poor quality and almost every comment has a negative sentiment.

Because it is interesting! Not every blog with a good idea to explore is a well polished and well produced performance, you know?

Good point! I guess I just thought the bar was higher. I've seen people write on their bio that they got to the front page once lol

Yes, I found it extremely helpful, and so have several friends I've already shared it with. I find the comments about "quality" pretty ludicrous and more than a bit elitist.

I think it's on purpose. The cryptic title doesn't help either.

Yeah, I realize that but the HN submission rules say not to edit the title.

Btw, I didn’t write the piece - I just built the blogging platform on which this is hosted.

This is a really poor, rambling presentation of some really poor quality data analysis.

I re-read the first paragraph a few times and finally figured out "hubster" means "her husband" (I think...). There might be some value in here, but I couldn't get through the writing.

I did not think there was any value, especially as it turned out to be a poorly written ad (or may be just one that was not intended to appeal to me).

Her partner's obsession with sales tax made no sense either, considering there are far bigger costs to consider for one's retirement budget.

The article says

> Who cares if there are income taxes? When it came to monthly expenses, the savings would be thousands less paid in health insurance.

Yes. In the end, the piece is really an ad for her analytics business.

How did we get to a point where people make decisions about where they move based on how the neighbors voted in the last election?

I lived in multiple deep red communities in multiple red states while working as a military contractor. The warfighters I worked with were absolutely phenomenal but the broader cities and towns around were a poor culture fit for me. (To be clear, my neighbors were all very nice people, it was just the culture fit compared to purple/blue areas I've lived in.)

I'd suggest that if someone is more than a couple of queer, atheist, racial minority, vegetarian, cyclist, artist, nerdy, career-oriented female, etc then they may find it even more challenging to fit in.

It's worth looking carefully at any community before moving in, but it's worth looking especially carefully before moving to a deep red area in a red state.

(Or vice-versa if you're a religious conservative -- you might find a dark blue community in a blue state a poor fit.)

... I mean, I think we've always been there, or at least some of us have? I live in Ireland, which is generally less politically divided than the US, but I don't think I'd be up from moving from my current area (where 75% of people voted to allow same-sex marriage) to one of the rural areas that voted about 50%. I'd rather live in a place where only a quarter of the neighbors think I shouldn't have basic civil rights than one where half do. This doesn't seem so out there?

That's the personal angle of course, but also I'd generally prefer to live somewhere where the neighbors aren't out to get other marginalised groups, either...

US political party identification is a decent though not perfect proxy for how your neighbors are likely to feel about a whole range of issues, and _people_.

> US political party identification is a decent though not perfect proxy for how your neighbors are likely to feel about a whole range of issues, and _people_.

Not nearly as much as you have been told it is. But that’s a really nice way to generalize conservatives as racists. The truth is as a local who has lived in both areas, I’ve met just as many left wing racists as right, just in different ways.

People includes people who are gay, trans, muslims, etc. But i think the broader "whole range of issuse" claim was more to the point, as someone who has spent most of their life amongst deep red friends, family, and locations, those issues come up quite a bit. And more pointedly, for example i am pretty interested (and fearful) of climate change but can't even talk about it with half my friends/ family because they don't think its real or may be offended by some of the points. It takes a toll on you.

I find that many pro-establishment people on the left are uncomfortable acknowledging institutional racism and harbor some anti-blackness.

I find more diversity of thought among anti-establishment left because what’s important to them/us is addressed by such a variety of movements rather than mainstream politics.

In this sense establishment Democrats are a proxy for the anti-establishment left, many of whom can’t even vote.

I love how saying something like "people apply politics to everything" immediately makes conservatives feel like they need to convince everyone that they aren't racist.

I get access to paid parental leave, an extra 8 weeks of parental leave, do not have to worry about women’s healthcare (abortion choice), higher minimum wages and a minimum salary, no tipped wages, assisted suicide, legal marijuana, etc. I can also get alcohol in the next aisle over instead of having to go to a different store (not that I drink outside of an occasion, but the principal of it annoyed me).

And even though a bunch do not affect me, my kids might benefit from them someday. Was a no brainer for me to look at how my neighbors would be voting when choosing where to live.

Well… like. If I were living in the Netherlands I would not care one whit.

Seeing those raving lunatics roving over the capitol grounds gives me pause though.

I know most people aren’t like that, but it’s hard to not be worried.

> Seeing those raving lunatics roving over the capitol grounds

I know, the Kavanaugh protesters were totally unreasonable.

I think he either means the two left wing capitol bombings, or Jan 6th. Who can tell anymore!?

It’s not that hard to see why this matters now.

On the one hand you have folks that want to ban rights of LGBTQ folks, end ability to get an abortion safely, for example.

On the other there’s those that want to remove powers of the police, allow homeless drug addicts to take over neighborhoods, and more authoritarian style lockdown policies in public health.

There’s people that really don’t like some of that and will go where their lives feel less restricted.

Indeed. I want to relocate where there are none of either persuasion. Every side is utterly wackadoo, and I would just as soon get out of here once and for all.

But there is no place to go. The global status quo has me trapped here as a prisoner. There will no escape, no relief, and no freedom. I am and shall always be a slave of some State; I can only pick my poison.

These words will ring true, for some, in every corner of the world. But by all means, continue to ignore, marginalize, and exploit us. That surely will end well.

People are mostly pretty chill in Canada

lol https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYbBKjh-zic

Recent rulings in Canada over speech are pretty nuts too given their history. Worse than the batshit crazy stuff going on in Britain today :p

I highly recommend reading "The Big Sort" by Bill Bishop to give you a better idea of why we look at "politics".


The idea is a lot less about politics, and more about being comfortable in the area you live in.

Political "news" spewing out of radio and TV for the last forty years has produced generations of people who literally think the other party is actively trying to destroy them, their families and America in general. Living next to these people can be stressful if they think you're on the wrong team.

Because some states could be dangerous to persons living there, as they have (or are legislation) anti-HR legislation that criminalizes the existence of some people.

If at all, her maps don't take that into account, as this is also on a state level, so a "blue" region in a state that has harmful legislation is still a dangerous place to live in.

This is the only way to vote in the US. The election system does not tally individual ballots, only number of inhabitants in blue and red states/counties.

Given that system, this is a very democratic and rational move.

The strong correlation between voting and denying the Jan 6 attack, Climate Change and COVID-19 is how.

Did you live under a rock the last four years?!

When one of the two major candidates decided the US shouldn't be a democracy any more?

I think the most important observation of this article is that health insurance trumps literally all other costs.

How do people even live with health insurance that costs $2000 per month?

I would venture most people in the US simply do not (or forgo) adequately saving or investing for the future, especially for their years after age 50.

There are quite a bit of subsidies available though if you're in the bottom ~5 income deciles:


I think you get screwed roughly in the 6th to 8th income decile range, where you are not rich enough to be able to weather a calamity, but you are also earning too much to get assistance. A lot of people fall back down to the bottom deciles trying to move up to the top deciles if/when something goes wrong, but life is pretty nice for those that do make it.

the monthly premium isn’t even the worst part, deductibles keep getting higher and it’s not uncommon to be surprised with a bill for services that weren’t covered by your plan (and it’s very difficult to ensure you’re 100% covered before receiving services, and nearly impossible in an emergency)

This should help on the out of network emergency billing front:


it is promising, but note that it doesn’t apply to ambulances - so we’ll still be ubering to the er

I calculated last year that for my family of 5, our health insurance premiums (when you include the portion my employer pays) equaled almost to the dollar the amount we spent on every other thing last year.

Granted we are pretty frugal, but health insurance is insane.

Well, that's why you need at least $1M (stressing at least) to retire in US. That's insane!

You only need that if you want to live beyond what Social Security and public assistance provide.

The purchasing power of social security benefits has been going down for many, many years. I predict it will continue to go down and become more means tested as the proportion of working to not working population goes down.

I assume social security will just be a nice bonus if I get it in the 2050s.

Social Security payouts have been adjusted upward for inflation almost every year since 1975. You can see the data here: https://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/colaseries.html

There are no plans to discontinue this practice. Many people believe SS will not be meaningfully available to them at retirement decades from now, which is understandable skepticism, but is not a reflection on how retirement is intended to work in the US.

Those inflation statistics have no bearing on my experienced expenditures over the course of my life and where I intend to spend money in the future.

If I took all my expenses over my adult life of 15 years and calculated the price change between 15 years ago and when I purchased them, the total increase in prices eclipses the official nationwide statistics.

So I assume healthcare costs will continue at above official inflation (especially as the proportion of young to old people decreases, which means less supply of labor in the face of increasing demand). And similar movements in the land and other labor I would be interested in.

Also, social security retirement age was 65, and it was updated to 67 for those born in 1960 or later. It would be prudent to expect more increases in future years. I can easily see 70 being the new age at which you get “full” social security benefits.

> but is not a reflection on how retirement is intended to work in the US.

It does not matter what the intentions are. At the end of the day, it is productivity from the younger groups that allows for the benefits to be realized by older groups. As the younger group gets fewer and fewer, and the older group gets bigger and bigger, the supply of productivity from the younger groups decreases and the demand for it increases.

The only way that works out is if fewer people actually get to realize those benefits, which means you want to be able to pay for it (with cash and/or political power).

In the scenario that spawned this thread, much of the healthcare inflation costs are borne by a state’s public health option. In some states, all or a portion of housing is as well.

Again, I totally understand the skepticism about the long-term viability of social security. I also foresee retirement age adjustments up (they make some sense since people are living and working longer) and I also think that the income limitation on Social Security and Medicare tax will be increased in our lifetimes without offering proportional additional benefits to those paying to deal with the insufficient size in the working populations.

However, the original misconception that started this thread was that a million in cash is required to retire in the US, and it’s simply not, and it’s not the intention of US policy to make that situation come about. It may inadvertently happen due to economic stress, but the same can be said about any western country’s expensive public welfare programs.

Really nice reading ! Not ashamed to admit I didn't understand everything and didn't reach the end (to my defense: not living in the US, not a us citizen).

But considering taxes can change from year to year, all this work and research has to be redone every few years, right ?

Where is the magical insurance per month graphic? It looks like it's been replaced by an alcohol map of Kentucky?

I got caught by that one.

Looks like the two graphics are in the wrong order. The "magical insurance" graphic is the one prior to the alcohol map.

Doesn’t improve my first impression of the writing.

This is really fantastic... and also fairly sobering. Healthcare as the major cost center for an individual is partially understandable yet often discounted. Sad the variance is so high.

I would love to see this for the top ~40 or so countries of the world. As indicated in the comments, I think it would be very different and offer an interesting look at cost / benefits of various governments as they relate to someone’s livelihood.

I was confused why this matters so much in a discussion of where to retire.

The Social Security calculations clearly indicate that's the consideration, but Medicare kicks in at 65. What does the ACA matter at that point?

I'd have understood if there was mention of Medicare gap coverage options instead, but ACA costs really don't make sense to me in this context.

She mentioned calculating that due to retiring before the age of 65 as an option. However comparing only 2nd cheapest silver plan seems a little lacking; more equivalent would probably entail comparing price of plans that are actually close to equivalent in terms of deductibles and out of pocket costs. When I’ve looked at ACA plans, there seems to be significant variance between states and just using the plan color and price doesn’t necessarily indicate they are close to equivalent.

There were many fascinating things here, but in the back of my mind, there was this

"The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft agley"

I'd go for friends, family, and a place where you'd be happy. Taxes and other factors vary across time, why not be somewhere nice instead of always worrying the optimum spot won't be next year?

As an European, so much of what has been described here is mind-boggling at best. WTF why does America have different sales taxes between counties? Why are "dry counties" even a thing? And why do healthcare costs differ so wildly?

As a comparison, here in Germany it's one federal level of sales tax (19% and 7% for food and a couple other exempted items), one federal level of healthcare costs (7.3% of gross wage, plus .5-2% of surcharge depending on insurance company), and legal drinking/smoking age is federal 16 (beer/wine)/18 (tobacco, other alcohols), and you can buy alcohol and tobacco products everywhere.

America doesn’t just have sales tax differences between counties! It can have sales tax differences between different parts of the same city, if they decide to set it up that way - usually as part of a Community Improvement District, or a Transit Development District, or what have you. The idea is that they built some infrastructure for retailers to take advantage of, and the retailers should add an extra 1% or so to pay for it.

This is one reason why applying sales tax to online purchases is such a pain, and helps favor the incumbents like Amazon.

> As an European, so much of what has been described here is mind-boggling at best. WTF why does America have different sales taxes between counties? Why are "dry counties" even a thing? And why do healthcare costs differ so wildly?

The United States is a big place. We have a similar landmass to all of Europe. The GDP of the state of California is almost as big as the GDP of Germany.

It makes more sense when you think of the United States as, literally, a collection of states that have significant leeway in how they operate their affairs. Even individual counties can vary widely in their culture and governance practices.

Dry counties are rare and usually associated with a highly religious population that chooses to live somewhere without alcohol sales. Generally these locations are not far from counties that allow liquor sales so purchasing alcohol is a matter of driving a short distance. However, most of the people who live there deliberately choose the location because they have no interest in alcohol so it’s not really an issue for them.



Due to its history and immigration, the US is much larger in population and size and more geologically, philosophically, and demographically more diverse than most countries. One size does not fit all if one is seeking a stable long lasting democracy.

>And why do healthcare costs differ so wildly?

Healthcare costs vary because labor, land, utility, legal, and other costs vary by location (especially legal as that is subject to many states' laws and judicial systems).

Health insurance premiums vary because the risk pools for the insurance that individuals can buy via healthcare.gov are separated for each state. There is the federal law, ACA, but on certain states have more rules that distribute the healthcare costs even more to young/healthy people. See this page for some examples:


And in general, the administration and regulation of insurance pricing is on a state level too, so there might simply be variance due to that.

Ah, but America has freedom, so there are a lot more laws regulating what people can do.

Jokes aside, the USA seems to have an enormous amount of local democracy with significant powers.

The side most obvious to outsiders is where it seems to work badly - the bad sheriff who keeps being re-elected, quirks like dry counties. But it's admirable in a way, that people have some power to determine the local rules, together with the freedom to move away if they don't like it. If local democracy were extended further, there would be more variation, and more weirdness, but perhaps it would be a good thing overall.

I often find myself really liking the idea of local democracy and wishing for more of it where I live, but then I remember the kind of insane moral puritans with nothing better to do that get attacted to local politics like flies to rubbish tips! My country has a very authoritarian instinct among many in society to ban anything that doesn't neatly fit into their beige conventionality, and as bad as our heavily centralised government can be at least it keeps a muzzle on those sorts of people to an extent.

Local democracy sounds nice in the abstract, right up until you look at it: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/feb/05/handforth-in...

(Note that a 'parish council' here is for a civil parish, that is the smallest type of administrative unit in the UK; it's not a church parish)

At that point, you will probably be relieved that those idiots aren't allowed do anything important.

I suppose in principle if local authorities were more important, you might get more competent people running for election onto them, but given the average quality of _national_ backbenchers, this seems optimistic.

I think we have to fundamentally change how the party system works if we're going to get people in politics for the right reasons in general, but especially in local politics. There's no reason that the people collecting bins, filling potholes, and providing essential services along those lines need to be associated with the moral abattoirs that are the national political parties for example, at least in my experience these local politicians are voted on based on an area's national political inclinations rather than any individual merit which lets all sorts of lunatics in. The first thing we need to do is break this link and make local government completely non-partisan.

I wish there was an empirical way of screening out moral puritan types with the aim of directly eliminating their influence, but I'm not sure that can be done without endangering democracy itself. A more difficult but much more ethical approach I think is to try and create new social norms that make aggressive conformity something to be ashamed rather than proud of, puritanism in any direction should be made into a sign of weakness rather than strength. We need a society that instinctively defends "witches" when the witch-hunters are in town.

> The first thing we need to do is break this link and make local government completely non-partisan.

That's impossible; political parties naturally emerge in democracies. Very few countries have the official recognition of parties that the US does (party registration, official primaries etc) but all democracies have political parties.

Even if we kept national politics partisan which I'm personally against for a number of reasons, the petty squabbles and power plays of Westminster are utterly irrelevant to the functions of local government and should play no part in its selection.

Non-partisan democracies do exist, some of them are even directly associated with the UK such as the Falkland Islands and the Isle of Man which are roughly the size of a British parish and a council respectively.

I think part of the problem is media coverage of the democracy - at some point, coherent, competent analysis and coverage becomes impractical.

Remote work via the internet will likely amplify the selection pressure too. Without being tied to a particular location due to your job, you can now shop around for an optimal location for your needs. If a bad state law is enacted, you might see people flock to another state.

It’d be nice to see some CoL data on the international level too.

Remote work is realistic for a tiny fraction of the population, and other pressures reduce the number of available remote work jobs even further (management culture, people who have no social life without the office, etc.). Remote work will change absolutely nothing.

> Remote work is realistic for a tiny fraction of the population

I'm skeptical on this point. I think that we're already around 10-20% remote work and might get to 25% remote work in the coming years [1]. I don't think this is a tiny fraction. I'm expecting technology to further reduce the dependence on physical presence over time.

I think remote work has had a significant change (e.g. less commute time, less pollution, more family time) and could cause changes in politics too. Imagine flipping a couple senate seats in a low population density area to further a remote work friendly lawmaking (i.e. land use rules, healthcare, etc...).

[1] https://www.cnbc.com/2020/12/15/one-in-four-americans-will-b...

I don't think most people realized that not only is remote work feasible but for many professions - especially those in "knowledge work" - it's a huge boon.

Peoples eyes have been opened and the genie is out of the bottle. I fully expect remote work to transform America to the extent that the post WWII suburbanization will look like a statistical anomaly by comparison.

I think you vastly overestimate a) how many jobs can feasibly work remotely, 2) how many companies are willing to allow remote work under non-pandemic conditions, and c) how many people want to work remotely.

I would love to work remotely, but I'm not seeing any realistic probability of that for me in the near future.

It's easier to get in the face of local politicians vs. ones hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Indeed I would argue the more we defer to national politics the worse (dramatically worse!) things get. Senators were set up to be elected by the state legislatures on purpose to encourage people to pay attention to their state legislatures. The House of Representatives were selected by popular vote.

Separation of duties/check and balances. The 17th amendment "fixed" that - and I'd say every since it's been downhill from there. Pure democracy's CAN NOT work - it's why we are (for now) a representative republic. There is no perfect system as long as humans are involved, but we were blessed with a pretty good one. I wish people would stop trying to tear it down - we know from history the alternatives are pretty gawd awful.

A very well-travelled photoblogger I used to read once remarked that no country in the world loves posting paragraphs of fine-print regulations and signs telling you what you can't do, all over every wall, sidewalk, curb, and business entrance like the US does—IIRC only a couple others (I wanna say Australia?) even came close. Most have, comparatively, practically none, democracies and authoritarians states alike. After having that pointed out, I can't un-see it. We really do love it.

> 19% and 7% for food and a couple other exempted items

You're understating the complexity a bit here, I think. For instance, what's VAT on a loaf of bread, vs a bagel, vs a croissant? (I don't actually know for Germany, but in Ireland a loaf of bread is zero-rated, as is a bagel, but a croissant is reduced-rate, but for a period of around a year a few years back a bagel was also reduced-rate...)

The US gets its tax complexity from regionalism, and Europe gets it from baroque VAT rules. It's debatable which is worse :)

Sure, but the big difference between Ireland vs the US is that in Ireland, the VAT is in the price you see on the object, whereas in the US things just cost extra when you go to pay for them.

I agree that VAT rules are a bit nuts, but most of the insanity is shielded from most consumers.

Oh, yeah, from a consumer perspective VAT is a far better experience, but that's largely disconnected from the nature of the tax, and more around consumer law. VAT is simple for consumers because the EU forces sellers to present inc-VAT prices. US sales tax is messy for consumers because the US doesn't. It's totally possible to imagine a VAT-type regime with US-style consumer rules, where you'd have to figure out if your bread was actually bread before putting it in the shopping basket.

> It's totally possible to imagine a VAT-type regime with US-style consumer rules, where you'd have to figure out if your bread was actually bread before putting it in the shopping basket.

That would be hilarious, especially if you're shopping with friends.

It would be ludicrous though to actually implement, rather like the US's sales-tax system.

I rather like having items and taxes separately. God knows how crazy our politicians would get with taxes if they were buried and not readily apparent!

Receipts in Europe will typically show VAT; it's just that the price of the item on the shelf or website or whatever must be inclusive of VAT (assuming that the target market is consumers; b2b sellers are allowed show ex-VAT figures provided they also show inc-VAT figures).

You're completely missing the point. The code style doesn't matter as long as it's consistent across the codebase.

The original political system of the US, before it was significantly changed in early-to-mid 20th century, was pretty similar to the current political system of Europe, where the role of US Federal Government was similar to current role of European Union, and the individual US states were like individual European states. In this view, US setup shouldn’t surprise you, it’s what you yourself experience.

Dry counties were thing here Finland early 00s even now counties can forbid selling beverages that contain alcohol.

With dry counties you mean counties that 25+ years ago allowed retail of alcohol only in Alko, the state monopoly store?

I don't think counties can fully forbid sales of alcohol.

I wonder what you're referring to because Finland doesn't really have counties.

Also in Wales, but only to the extent of "pubs closed on a Sunday".

We had this little thing called a "civil war". Turns out a lot of our country doesn't like the idea of a federal government, and wants to do things its own way whenever it can. Trying to fix that in today's political climate would probably start another one.

I think that's why we've been the big superpower for so long. We're fucking nuts. We'll invade your country for no reason and then try to make you pay for it.

Yeah... The US will invade countries for no reason but the trillions spent are added to the backs of our own citizens.

Iraq and Afghanistan aren't paying us the trillions we've wasted these past decades.

Lots of countries have had civil wars. Most of them, one side won and the other side lost.

In the US, one side lost, and was then venerated as heroes, which is particularly odd.

I'm not sure it's _that_ odd, really. Like, who won the English civil war? _Really_ won it, long-term?

You could argue that one both ways very easily; on the one hand, there's still a monarch, and there are no puritans. On the other, the monarch has no power (though you could convincingly argue that that was part of a process that was ongoing anyway, and the civil war didn't necessarily change the pace that much).

It's difficult to say either side is venerated as heroes.

It's the combination which is very odd. Plenty of countries have civil strife and have one side viewed as heroes. In the US both Robert E Lee and Abraham Lincoln are venerated.

One thing Europeans often don't consider is that the population and size of a European country is about on par with a bigger US state and that US states have a lot of legal independence. So the variation is a bit less crazy than it sounds.

Not sure this is a good explanation as, for instance, the concept of a dry county/municipality is alien to most europeans.

Similar with healthcare where it's by and large provided by the state.

Obviously speaking from my experience which is limited to the bigger countries in europe

I've lived in dozens of locations across the country and never lived in a dry county, and only occasionally encountered it in my travels. The amount of the population they affect is minuscule, despite the impressive looking charts - many of those counties are pretty low population. And as others pointed out pretty easy to work around. Even crazier than dry counties was South Carolina's mini-bottle laws. If you want something truly mind blowing do a quick search on that madness.

As for our healthcare - I'll keep our system, warts and all. Not saying it can't be improved but at least I know when I need care I will be able to get it in my (literal!) lifetime. And if I'm sufficiently motivated I can get the best care available. I'll take that over any least common denominator one-size-fits-all model any day. Maybe your politicians are just better at running government programs - ours aren't. They are stupid bad at it. All I have to do is look at how well the free government provided health care is for our military veterans and know I don't want our government anywhere near my healthcare, thank you very much.

Many original settlers including the pilgrims were religious extremists that the Europeans were all too happy to get rid of.


The missing dimension is "climate", which is at the top of my list when looking for places to retire - I like to spend time outside.

I live in the Pacific Northwest and while winters are a little too cold and rainy, summers are typically perfect (ignoring the recent Heat Dome, which I hope will not become a regular part of summer). I've thought about moving back to the Bay Area (fortunately, my job allows me to afford it), but between the droughts and wildfires, I'm not sure it's the same place that I left. Maybe I'll just rent an AirBNB there for a month in the winter.

When we were looking for our first house we got a flyer about a service that would help us choose the best location that fit with our "lifestyle and personal" preferences. Once of those was to look at which neighborhoods were liberal and which were conservative, and give us an idea of the kind of neighbors we would have. Quite useful, though we never used the service, as granular data continues to be collected and stored I wonder if we'll see people more and more choosing neighborhoods based on the quality of their neighbors.

This is neat. However, one big problem with national cost of living projections I found is property tax data, as taxes are set on the municipal level.

State or county averages are pretty useless in high-tax states such as in the NE: in NJ or NY, the range is ~0% to over 3% of assessed values, depending on the municipality. There is no national source for municipal level mill and equalization rates and the figures on Zillow & co are only point in time snippets (and often wrong) and will change through your purchase or if you remodel. And for the most part, this data resides only in PDFs, if it’s available at all. With the SALT deduction currently at $10k and likely going to be subject to wild swings over the next decades, property taxes can dwarf most other expenses such as health insurance or sales tax. At current mortgage rates, they could even be higher than your actual mortgage payments.

Another problem is state long term capital gains taxes. If you have investable assets or plan on building those, it makes a big difference whether you live in a state that has them or does not have them and how soon you’ll have them. Federal LTCG taxes are easier to navigate if you can time your income - sell assets in years without (much) earned income, for example. But the state level is more rigid.

For example, TN and WA may come ahead based on capital gains taxes (they don’t have any), while GA has nearly 6%.

That being said, an analysis like that could be useful for comparing states that resemble each other in terms of their tax profile. Or you exclude high prop tax and non-zero LT cap gains tax states from the beginning but then your state sample shrinks, leaving less room for the many subjective characteristics that cannot be quantified easily…

Unfortunately the cool tool she is touting is not open to public testing?

i think the people who are complaining that this is "rambling", or "poor quality data analysis", or "just an ad for her startup" are missing the main value of this post - the pointer to the amount and variety of demographic/economic data that is out there and freely available to run through data analysis tools. i found it pretty interesting to think of building a weighted map of the country that way.

Such an optimization, if largely adopted, may create zoned clusters, "administrative/geographic areas were a given category of population is over-represented".

This will boost any pertinent local commercial activity (and, reciprocally, dumb down anything not pertinent), the zone will become even more attractive to this population category, and so on...

This population category will gain influence, and vote local laws in favor among its members, boosting the feedback loop.

This theory is often called "the Big Sort".

In abstract, allowing people to move to places where the government and work more closely matches their personal values and skillsets seems like a good way to increase everyone's satisfaction. In practice I'm not sure.

If the author is reading this:

The first (oldest) post on the blog index is still a Moogle tutorial/example post. I suggest to delete/unpublish it.

I was honestly intrigued by the startup this is an ad for -- this subject is very relevant to my interests -- but their website just has more marketing copy, a YouTube video demonstrating features that don't appear to exist anywhere, and a "sign up for our spam" form.

Maybe wait to start your marketing efforts until you actually have something ready to market, eh?

>Maybe wait to start your marketing efforts until you actually have something ready to market, eh?

I feel personally attacked by this sentiment. As a fellow wonk, there is a lot more to getting a program out to the world than just the cleverness of connecting the dots. You don't have anything without the cleverness, but the dot connecting takes time. I look forward to good things. I liked the blog and I think the product would be neat to couple with zillow fantasies.

Hi! I really enjoyed your post. As to the site, it would be VERY helpful if there were at least a "Coming Soon" or something similar. I was trying different browsers, computers, etc. just to ensure there wasn't something technical on my side preventing me from potentially using the site.

You typically get one chance to make a first impression. Indeed, along with the "Coming Soon" message you can offer to notify people when you do go operational - win win. I'd like that since the site looks like it could be very useful (and not just for myself!).

Just to be clear, I didn't make the post.

I just happen to be a fellow wonk who also has been in the position of bringing something that was a cool one-off idea to market, where just because I captured some cleverness and connected some dots, doesn't mean I'm the one to productize it.

Just to be clear, I did not make the post or am affiliated with the website. I too would like to explore their product.

I don't understand what you mean by "the cleverness of connecting the dots" or why you would feel personally attacked.

My point was that I, a potential customer -- this really is directly relevant to my current life situation -- visited the site, found nothing there but an email harvester, so left without spending any money and with a poor impression of the company.

Driving people to your site before there's anything there is wasted effort. Save it for when you're actually ready to do something with that traffic.

Because I as well am a degenerate data-wonk who uses poor grammar, punctuation and a stream of consciousness style who has sold ideas before they are finished.

Its not my site; the term 'I feel personally attacked by X' is a joke/ meme.

referring to 2016 presidential election data:

> Having access to this information at a state level in the past was a simple public records request. Having this level of detailed information at a national level, with a tool affordable enough so that an individual entity separate from a corporation could visualize the results - historic.

Only the GIS-style visualization part, which is probably the least important piece if you are cross tabulating with other county- and state-level data to find a county suitable to live in, e.g., for 2012:


IIRC, most states have been posting county level results on the web since the late 1990s, so it's mostly been an evening of crossing public websites even before convenient national aggregates were published.

Would be even nicer if it included long term climate and environmental risks. Those Georgia locations are going to bake.

>I might have gone a little bit overboard

When a blog post weighs over 4MB, yeah, I'd call that going a little bit overboard :)

The author is a person I would never argue with.

Never argue, or never bother arguing with?

"You need to enable JavaScript to run this app."

Yeah, I'd say you might have gone a little bit overboard, for an "app" that just shows a text article.

Good luck with a comment like this in this JavaScript "Hacker"-Community. +1

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