My wife and I want to escape the high taxes in California. She thinks we should look into a place offering moving incentives. We have two young children; so now may be the best time to move. What advice can you offer on these moving incentives?
Dear Leaving LA,
This is a very significant decision and one you should pray about and think through. I will offer a few tips to help guide you.
Not long ago, I was in Nashville, TN, and happened to meet a couple that had only recently moved (seven months ago) their family of four from Los Angeles. I asked, “Why Nashville?” She was quick to reply, “No state income taxes, much lower property taxes, and we get much more home for our money.” Clearly, they had made their move based on the financial benefits. I pressed in further by asking about any changes to their jobs or careers. She explained that she and her husband both worked from home so it was no change to their income. She also said she liked the schools for their two children, found the people very friendly, and really enjoyed the area, but she missed her family badly.
There is a massive amount of relocation happening right now driven by a number of converging factors: COVID 19, state governments’ management of the pandemic, the ability to work from home, and historic low interest rates. A number of moving incentives are in place in an attempt to attract new residents. I will provide some cursory research on the topic.
As you noted, there are several cities or states attempting to attract new residents. Tulsa, Oklahoma; The Ozarks; Savannah, Georgia; Topeka, Kansas; Newton, Iowa; Hamilton, Ohio; and Alaska are all offering cash incentives for new residents. The newest is Morgantown, West Virginia, which I will expand on below as an example of what you can and need to look for.
West Virginia Wants More People
AscendWV.com is a talent attraction program for remote workers who are seeking a high-quality lifestyle in the mountains of West Virginia. The package, worth $20,000, is an effort to draw remote workers to the state. The program received a major boost with a $25-million grant from native Brad D. Smith and his wife Alys in partnership with West Virginia University’s Outdoor Economic Development collaborative. The program is simple: “We want you to experience work-life balance in a brand-new way through community, purpose and the outdoors. You can bring your remote work to the mountains of West Virginia.”
Ascend accepts applicants who commit to living in Morgantown. Next year, Shepardstown and Lewisburg will be added. The package includes $12,000 plus a year of free outdoor recreation on public lands, access to free co-working space, free outdoor gear rentals, the ability to earn remote work certifications through West Virginia University, and networking opportunities and events. $10,000 is paid over the first 12 months, and $2,000 is paid at the completion of the second year. It is all taxable income. The state is looking for full-time remote workers who currently reside outside of West Virginia or who are currently in positions based outside of the state. Interested applicants should apply by May and are expected to move within 6 months of being accepted.
Benefits and Attractions
West Virginia has 2,032 miles of whitewater, 1,500 miles of public trails, and 1.5 million acres of public lands. It is also home to the country’s newest national park: New River Gorge Park and Preserve. In addition, there is the Green Bank Observatory, the National Radio Quiet Zone, and the famous Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs.
Housing costs are 16% below the national average. First time home buyers should check out the West Virginia Housing Development Fund. The Ascend website claims that the cost of living is 22% lower, and median home costs are $134,800 lower than national averages. Check out some pros and cons of life in West Virginia.
Not So Fast….
There are downsides to leaving your home for greener pastures or lower taxes. I took a job that moved us away from siblings and parents. We still miss family, college friends, and relationships that were established prior to moving here. Though we have settled in, there are things to examine for anyone who is considering a major move.
- Are local jobs available should you lose your “remote job”?
- What is it about this area that causes the need for moving incentives?
- What is the annual cost of time/travel to maintain relationships with family/friends?
- What would you forfeit leaving family and friends?
- What kind of support system will you be moving to?
- Is there a church where you can plug in nearby?
- Would uprooting children from school, friends, and family be worth a move?
- How does the education system compare to what you have?
- What is the healthcare situation?
- Would you be happy in the location if you lost your job?
- Is the weather/climate one that you would enjoy?
- Is the culture one you would embrace, or is it a mission field?
- What is the cost of moving?
- How does the overall cost of living compare to your current situation?
- What are income and property taxes like?
- Is the Lord directing the move? Do you have peace?
Seek the Lord and Wise Counselors
Moving for the financial benefit can be wise, but much more needs to be considered before you call the real estate agent and the moving company.
Proverbs 16:3: “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”
Proverbs 15:22: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”
Seek the Lord, pray together, and be patient. Consider fasting while seeking direction. Get the advice of your parents or a wise, older person. Talk about it with your extended family. We are seeing some cases where families are making the move with their children and grandchildren. Make sure you and your wife are unified in your decision before proceeding.
As you seek the Bible for wisdom, consider joining one of Crown’s study plans available on the popular YouVersion Bible app to help guide your decision.
Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, a global Christian ministry, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Seven Gray Swans: Trends that Threaten Our Financial Future. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.