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Except it doesn't really work that way? If they pay extra in SF than in Austin to make up for the difference in living expenses, your net income pool that you draw from to contribute to your 401k is going to be roughly the same.

Let's say in SF you get $150k and put 10% away with a 5% match. That's $22,500 per year you're socking away into your 401k. If you live in Orlando and you're making $90k/yr and put 10% away with a 5% match that's $13,500, a net loss of $9k every year in early retirement savings. After compound growth over 40 years of maturity that's going to be a TON of cash. As long as you don't plan on RETIRING in SF, you're much better off working there.

But what you have available to save is not a % of your total salary, it's a % of your total net income (salary - taxes - living expenses). If those jobs in SF pay higher wages purely to keep up with the inflated living expenses, then you don't really have more money to devote to your 401k.

Rent becomes a fixed low amount over time due to rent control. Eventually rent becomes negligible. However, salaries continue to climb.

Where in the world does that apply? NYC has some of the most tenant-friendly rent control laws I know of, and most rent-controlled units are fairly close to market rate, and the legends you hear about exist but are so rare they might as well not.

Urban centers have a pretty finite supply of housing, so you're looking at what amounts to a long-running auction for rents among residents. People are generally pretty willing to "bid" 25-35% of their income on rent (or more, depending on the area and demographic), so as average salary rises, rents are going to rise too, unless you're expecting a major urban retreat sometime soon.

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