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Geography… The Balance Sheet of Life

As you all know, I spend parts of the year at my homes in Tennessee and Arizona. Having built homes in both places, I've spent a fair amount of time comparing the different building styles from Northeast to Southern and Southwest. Rounded corners vs. sharp corners, window sills vs. no window sills, textured walls vs. flat, tile roofs vs. shingles... you get the idea. Some of the differences are cosmetic: it is interesting though how a little thing like rounded corners on sheetrock vs. sharp corners make so much of a difference. Some of the things make a real difference in cost: if you've never been out of our Rockland area, you have no idea the difference between the cost of living here and, well... mostly everywhere else!

As I sit here writing in early December, I have CNBC in the TV, as usual. While the housing issue may be very different, along with different clothes, food and mostly everything else, the one thing that does stay the same is the stock market, wherever in the country you are. If it's down on the East coast, it's down in the West coast. So, regardless of where in the world you are, your investments will be affected by the gyrations of the market regardless. For those who are growing wealth as well as those who depend on their investments for income in the "golden years" (where did that expression come from?) location does not shelter you from the ups and downs of the volatility of the markets. Most of us live our life on a balance sheet, so for the most part if you have investments, you are affected. A balance sheet is a simple equation we all have to adhere to every month: basically, it's income vs. expenses. Here's what comes in, and here's what goes out. Simple? Sure... if there's enough coming in to cover that which is going out.

The unfortunate part of this equation, is sometimes the amount coming in doesn't cover the amount going out. Higher cost of living, added healthcare expenses, tuition payments... you get the idea- it seems the bills never stop or even slow down. For those who are living in Rockland County and paying the high taxes levied upon you as an example of the "joy of living in Rockland" it's a reminder of the high cost of living. So, we try to cut expenses, usually with great difficulty. Without working 24/7, additional income is very hard to come by, so we continue on this treadmill: working very hard with very little to show for it. So I ask you- have you ever considered relocating? You'd be amazed at the difference in cost of living once you get out of the metropolitan area. Housing, food, gas, property taxes... pretty much everything. You can be living month-to-month here, and living high on the hog elsewhere. It's a huge difference, and until you do your homework to find out just how much you can make a difference in your own balance sheet, you won't know. My suggestion is to take some small vacations to the areas of the country that you may think you like, and take a look... you just may be amazed.

I am aware that most of us have anchors: aging parents, kids, grandkids, friends... things that keep you anchored here. I agree that all the above are all very good reasons not to move- it's a very personal decision, and a major change for you. The thing is, you won't know what difference it may make for your balance sheet until you do your homework. Relocating is a major change for all of us, and it's not for everyone. But, if the situation is right for you and you can handle it you may just find that starting a new life elsewhere may be just the thing for the next chapter in your life. Do a mock balance sheet on the new, proposed expenses and see how it will affect your cash flow. You won't know until you try it- in the interim, enjoy the little research trips and seeing the good Ole' USA!

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