Golden Handcuffs

We’re stuck. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Many have called us lucky, but Sally and I have purposely set up our lives to be relatively stress-free. Let me explain.

Anytime I look for a new job, I limit my search to 15-miles away at most. If you know the Bay Area, I live in San Jose. Therefore I will only work in San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Campbell, and a few other towns. I won’t work in Mountain View, Menlo Park or Palo Alto because the commute is too far. That eliminates ever applying to companies such as Google or Facebook. Sure they are great companies, but no job is worth commuting 40-60 minutes or more.

San Jose is expensive by almost any metric. Why would I choose to live in an expensive area simply to commute to another expensive area? This doesn’t make any sense to me. If I wanted to work in Mountain View, I would rent a place there. I would also expect a massive raise.

However, many brilliant tech workers don’t follow this logic. They settle for long commutes when there are plenty of great jobs in their own back yards.

I’ve worked for three different companies since I’ve moved to Silicon Valley. None of them were over ten miles away from the house we rent. My current commute is a 15-minute drive each way. Or I can bike there in 25 minutes. Sally’s commute is 10 minutes each morning. People tell us how lucky we are because of our short commutes. Again, this was by design!

Living close to work has also allowed us to drive older, cheaper vehicles, which has saved us a lot of money. We have the money to buy a newer vehicle if we have to. We also have AAA if something goes wrong. But you’re never too stranded when your commute is only 15-minutes.

The pay in the San Jose area doesn’t vary much from San Francisco. It’s a little lower, but the cost of living can be a lot lower. Of course, when you decide to live in San Francisco, you’re making a lifestyle decision. I’ll admit, San Francisco is a lot more fun but San Jose is much quieter and has much better weather.

So would we ever leave San Jose? Absolutely! Shortly after we reach FIRE, we will probably travel for a few years before settling down in a lower cost of living area. But for now we can’t leave, our setup is just too good. Golden handcuffs.

As many of you know, I rent the house next-door to my grandma’s house. She doesn’t own the house we rent but she has been friends with my landlord for decades. That has helped us secure below market rent. Since we have such reasonable rent, we are tied to this place until we reach financial independence in 4-5 years. Many tell us to leave California for a less expensive state. If we left, we wouldn’t save very much on housing costs and we would probably take a pay cut. Not worth it at this point.

But it’s not just the reasonable rent that’s keeping us here. It’s also amazing to live next door to my 86-year-old grandmother.

I love my parents but I never have to drive to visit them because they are up every couple of months to see my grandma and other family members in San Jose. Sally and I can get free dinners almost any night of the week, although we typically limit ourselves to 1-2 times.

My new job has also provided golden handcuffs. The company is amazing and the benefits are insane. Free daily lunches, weekly massages, 401k match, HSA contributions and great pay. Not to mention the leadership is fantastic and the product is world class. Meanwhile, Sally has the safety of a government job with a TSP match and other generous benefits. We are both early birds and start work around 6 am so we are home by 3-4 pm. This gives us six hours to do what we like every evening!

We can’t wait to travel the world, but for now, we are going to do our best to enjoy the golden handcuffs we’ve created.

This article has 5 comments

  1. Greg Reply

    Are handcuffs, handcuffs if you are doing what your plan has designed, or is it just a phase on the journey to FIRE? Great read.

  2. Ms. Montana Reply

    I love how you have been so intentional about planning your life style! Plus it’s so collection you get to live by your grandma! I bet she loves having someone right there. The weekly massage at work is a nice perk!

  3. Get Rich Quick'ish Reply

    Love the approach. I wasn’t very intentional when we moved into the home we’re in now. It works fine, but we could definitely design a better lifestyle. Whenever we make our next move, I’m going to do exactly what you’re doing.

  4. Penny (@picksuppennies) Reply

    Yes! I love this. My husband’s commute is 20-25 minutes and mine is 15-20. I will never commute further than that. Your time is worth something, and it’s amazing to me how quick people are to trade it away. And I think this post means more grandma stories on Instagram! So happy that you live so close to her 🙂

  5. Jing Reply

    I can’t complain too much about my commute, it’s about 25-30 minutes. In my early 20s I lived about an hour subway ride from my job and would never consider one taking longer than 40 anymore. I still have yet to plan my lower cost of living retirement area, but I’m waiting to see how other life milestones (marriage, kids) play out before doing any serious planning. Just stuffing my retirement accounts in the meantime!

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