I put a lot of thought about the lifestyle costs of working and living in California as an RN in comparison to other places in the country, and here is my quantitative analysis of the costs and benefits of working in Oakland, Califonrnia:
First off, I am working as an RN with 3.5 years experience, base pay 71.25/hr, full benefits; base salary $150,000 a year, but due to overtime, I've already increased my income ceiling to date to about USD180,000 (working an average of 42hrs/a week). Trying to get to $200K (if I can leverage OT and work an average of 45hrs/week)
This is a high cost of living area, but I found a COL calculator by CNN Cost of living: How far will my salary go in another city? - CNNMoney just to see if my pay justifies the COL (Includes an estimate for housing, food, transportation, taxes, etc)
Here's what I found plugging in my region, and base salary of 150,000 (just the base, no overtime included):
My base salary of 150,000 in Oakland, CA is equivalent to:
... Making 178,000/year in brooklyn (Approx $85/hr)
... Making 146,000/year in boston (approx 73/hr)
...Making 103,000/year in Atlanta (approx 51/hr)
... Making 119,000/year in Chicago (approx 60/hr)
... Making 122,000/year in Philidelphia (approx 61/hr)
... Making 111,000/year in Las Vegas (approx 56/hr)
...Making 190,000/year in Honolulu (approx 95/hr)
...Making 115,000/year in Miami (approx 56/hr)
...Making 87,000/year in Memphis (approx 43/hr)
...Making 103,000/year in Charleston (approx 51/hr)
Browsing through the forum in the respective areas above, most RNs don't seem to make the income above in their respective region, with the exception of a few RN's in Las Vegas (correct me if I am wrong please, I'm always curious about pay updates in other parts of the country)
The above may not always be true for all individuals, as COL may vary based on personal spending habits, but generally speaking, somebody living a middle class lifestyle should expect the COL estimates above.
In summary, living and working in my part of California is generally more profitable than most (if not all other) parts of the country.
In practice, I'm finding the above to be true, as I am able to substantially save up to 50% of my after tax take home pay. What does this all mean?
I might have to pay more up front to live in Oakland, CA area with a slightly higher COL than many parts of our country, but the pay here outpaces the cost of living in comparison to what other RNs are paid elsewhere.
As an added benefit, although owning a home costs more, the resale value of a home in this area is relatively stable. In the long run, even if I have to pay more for a house, the home will be worth even more when I sell it, leaving me more money for retirement and/or the option to roll it over to an even larger/grandious home elsewhere in the country.
Lastly, you can't beat the weather.