Just wondering how many of you had to take a pay cut to travel? I joined a Calif travel nurse FB group and have been looking at travel contracts. I'm a little surprised how poorly they pay. The blended pay almost always less than per diem pay. Just wondering how many of you would take a pay cut to travel? Is the lifestyle really worth taking a pay cut?
The tax stuff doesn't help me too much.
I think I've met one traveler from Massachusetts and one from California in the last twenty years. No others from the West Coast and Alaska or the the NE. Too hard to pencil out any financial advantage. The vast majority of traveler come from non-union areas of the South and Midwest where travel seems like big bucks. Even today in my area of Ohio, staff pay maxes out at around $25. Even from those areas, it can be tough for nurses to justify travel versus staff pay with good benefits, PTO, holidays, vacations, good health insurance, low cost housing and so on. Hard to justify on paper. But it is good cash flow typically and a faster way to pay off school loans and mortgages.
I started traveling in 1995 and pay was not my priority, it was to travel. I was making $15 an hour at the time just below the Mason Dixon line and my several assignments (even in San Francisco) paid $16 to $17 an hour. I didn't maintain a tax home as that was not a thing back then, and worked for the only company at the time that offered tax free housing and per diems and travel reimbursement. Let me tell you, the difference was dramatic! I went from a few percent savings of my take home, to more like 80%. No contest and I was delighted. It is still dramatic today (depending on where you live) but savings rates that high are much more difficult as having to maintain a tax home cuts into it depending on how well you plan, and again on where you live.
I agree with NedRN. Personally, my family and I have a tax home in Florida and we decided to travel due to the pay rates for travel nurses. It's really dependent on what states your tax homes are in. I have never met any travel nurses from the high paying states like California.
I don't take a pay cut, but I did make only a little over my staff pay on my first contract. Of course, that was Florida in the winter and I was a poor negotiator. I've never taken a contract since that wasn't a good fit pay-wise. But, having friends who work in San Francisco, I can definitely see how it would be a challenge for you to find travel nursing financially worth it.
Cost of living varies greatly across the U.S. You may take a lower-paying contract in a state with a low cost of living, and wind up banking significantly more than you would with a higher-paying contract in an expensive area. But, you should do really travel because you enjoy the lifestyle. Exploring new areas is fun. I've met several travelers from the northeast who travel to warm climates to avoid winter. Good luck!
Quote from CameToSlay
I've met several travelers from the northeast who travel to warm climates to avoid winter.
You are right! In fact, NE nurses did winter assignments directly for Florida hospitals as staff before the travel nurse industry even started! Lots of synergy there as NE hospitals census drops in the wintertime. I did a couple assignments in Florida early in my career, but both times I was the only traveler so I didn't meet any travelers from anywhere.
Thanks everybody. Now that you mention it I haven't met any travelers from California either.
I highly doubt the staff pay in Ohio maxes out at $25/hr.
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