Updates: “Looking for a Way Out” Responds

updatesIt’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today we hear from “Looking for a Way Out” who had recently retired and wanted to move out of California while his wife was adamant about staying in state and close to family. He wrote: “I have offered for us to periodically fly back to see family or take 700-mile drives (one way) from neighboring states. I said that if we moved, she could take an easier job, retire sooner, and have more of what she wants, all while not compromising our standard of living and perhaps even improving it (with lower cost of living). She said ‘no’. She suggested we sell our house and buy two places, one for her near family and one where I want to be (not in CA). This is tantamount to ending the marriage since each of us would very likely spend 98% of our time where we live.”

Below, find out whether he and his wife are still in California and still married.

We are still here in CA, but we have agreed to explore other areas to move to outside the San Francisco Bay area, including other places within California and also Oregon, Nevada, possibly Utah, and Arizona (realistically, probably just the first two). Getting out of CA is very important to me, but other parts of CA are certainly an improvement over the Bay area, albeit far from ideal.

My wife has said that quitting work is more important than being near our daughter (surprise to me), but quitting work means 24/7 access to daughter, despite longer travel times to get there. Big downside to this is having to pay healthcare insurance out of pocket (I am not eligible yet for Medicare). Staying near the Bay area means wife must work for a few more years (cost of living very high). I can work too, but the Bay area is biased against those at my age and I am more than a few years older than my wife. I have worked on improving our relationship with some success.

There seemed to be great interest (and unfortunate speculation) on why I wanted out of CA. I still do not see the relevance, but at the risk of people judging me or telling me I am wrong, etc., here are the reasons: Cost of living is very high, and even though housing costs for us are modest (thankfully), everything else is not. Gas is $3.80+/gallon for regular, an avocado is $2.50 (medium), bridge tolls are $5 on average (going to $8 in a few years), taxes are insanely high, etc. A few, including Wendy, speculated politics was the reason. That is ONE thing as I do very much dislike the ultra-liberal Bay area. Traffic is horrendous and ever-present. I often schedule what I do and when around murderous traffic. Infrastructure is crumbling, as in roads, cleanliness, maintenance, graffiti, etc. One hobby of mine is all but impossible to engage in due to lack of facilities in the Bay area. That is not all I dislike about the Bay area… thee are a multitude of things.

If there are questions or comments, I will try to answer.

If SF is too liberal for you, you’re gonna love Oregon. But it’ll be cheaper, at least! Good luck.


If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at wendy@dearwendy.com with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.


  1. Canadian Maple says:

    Interesting you do not like the liberal politics but complain of crumbling infrastructure . You want great roads and systems but seem to complain about taxes/tolls that help improve these things. Reps promised to fix all that decreipt stuff but gave tax breaks to the rich instead. Glad you and your wife are working on things.

    1. You have left out my mention that taxes are ALREADY extremely high AND the infrastructure is STILL a wreck. Taxes, increased tolls, etc, have absolutely not helped. The CA legislature is infamous for robbing funds set aside for roads and such to use for something else. Tax breaks to the rich? With the highest income tax bracket in the country (13.3%), CA is hardly giving “rich” people any break at all.

      1. Unwanted_Truth says:

        Thank You

      2. LadyClegane says:

        Right on diverting highway funds. The most recent ballot measure to force the new gas registration/gas tax to go ONLY toward the transit improvements they were not previously bound to is a direct response to this history of cash-grabbing.

  2. Actually as a native Portlander I am can tell, there are a lot of areas in Oregon that are very very red. Stay away from the I-5 corridor, us liberals just LOVE the I-5 corridor. But Eastern Oregon is scarcely populated and very conservative (except for Bend, we have invaded there also.)
    Might I suggest Nevada or Utah.

    1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

      Ah, good to know!

    2. Ele4phant says:

      Yeah Portland/Eugene/Corvallis/bend are liberal…other places in the state not so much.

      Oregon is afterall the site of the Bundy ranch takeover, and the northwest in general is super white, and not necessarily out of coincidence.

      You get out of the cities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, even parts of California and…yikes.

      1. Avatar photo Moneypenny says:

        Head to north/northeast California- you get into “State of Jefferson” territory!

      2. Eastern Washington is scarlet red too. Just need to stay away from well-populated areas.

      3. ele4phant says:

        Not even Eastern Washington. You really get away from the Sea-Everett corridor, Bellingham, and Vancouver-Portland and its all very conservative. I had a friend who grew up in North Carolina who went on a road trip through Western Washington, and he told me that some of those towns down by Centralia are just like Appalachia, very poor, very forgotten, very conservative.

    3. True, but Wendy’s point still stands. There are plenty of conservative areas of California too, but if OP dislikes liberal politics enough not to want to live in an overall blue-voting state, Oregon will just have the same issue.

      1. Ele4phant says:

        I mean sounds like he is considering parts of CA (I would imagine the inland parts). Doesn’t sound like he necessarily wants to flee the state entirely.

        And although I am a good liberal that loves me some high and progressive taxes – I will concede that California’s tax system is a hot mess.

        I would argue it’s more a relic left by the ghosts of conservatives that once used to have influence in the state, BUT he’s not wrong that the state has distressingly high taxes for the amount public services rendered.

      2. Yep, damn Portlanders(and supporting areas) turn the whole state blue. The red parts aren’t populated enough to compete with us liberals BUAHAHAAHA.

        But LW, politics aside, even in the conservative areas of the state you will have liberal state policies. I wouldn’t recommend Oregon for more conservative state policies

      3. OC is hugely Republican and conservative in contrast to much of CA and what people believe it to be like.

      1. Libertarians are the last conservatives to climb aboard the Trump bandwagon, and many still haven’t. They don’t like a strong central government and President Trump seems to consider himself something of a Supreme Leader.

  3. I know people that live in Oregon, and they generally agree with PDX816. Douglas County to the west is more conservative, but overall, Oregon is generally viewed politically as “CA-lite”. Thanks for the suggestion of Utah or Nevada, and have looked there, but easy quick access to the bay area (daughter) is difficult vs the current short drive. But, have discovered possibilities with trains (wife loves those). Went to Nevada, but was surprised at how breezy it was. No place is perfect, but looking, and just visited open homes in another part of CA yesterday. Geographically, most of CA is red, so improvement for wife and I vs the solid blue bay area. The following has been interesting and useful.


    1. ele4phant says:

      I assume you are looking at the Inland Empire?

      Its hot, but if being somewhere conservative with more moderate housing prices, well there you go.

  4. I also live n bay area, and while traffic is bad in the mornings, off peak hours are fine. As the retired person, the OP can schedule different hours for commute.

    I think the OP is inventing excuses to move. There are many areas including Sacramento, that are quite cheap to live and are still are near enough to bay area to visit.

  5. Ruby Tuesday says:

    I was born, raised, and will die in San Francisco. The entire country is suffering from the effects of crumbling infrastructure, ultra-high living costs, and wages not rising with inflation. The United States has neglected its extensive post-war infrastructure for decades. At least the State of California has invested significant resources in capital improvement projects, including an incredible effort to replace roads in many Bay Area cities. If you think the federal government plans to put that same energy into the country’s aging rural infrastructure, I have several bridges in the Bay Area to sell you.

    And if don’t like paying more for cleaner-burning gas or sitting in traffic, use public transportation. I use AC Transit or BART almost every day. And I frequently board the train at the MacArthur Station, so I don’t need any lectures about how “dangerous” it is to take BART.

    Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

    1. I will just say that I think the different costs of living in this country are crazy. My parents just went through this. I live in PA outside of Philly on the NJ border. For my home, I pay just shy of $6k a year in property taxes, the same house and price 20 minutes away in NJ is closer to $12k. When my parents lived in NJ, they had a 550k house and paid 19k in property taxes. When they were looking at moving to Hilton Head, SC, they could get a 400k house and pay $2300 in property taxes. When you are looking at fixed income living, the taxes really matter. There are many people who leave expensive areas for cheap areas. It isn’t just the climate but the overall cost of living. Watch the show fixer upper and see what you can get in Texas for 200k.

  6. saneinca,

    You are entitled to think I am “inventing excuses to move”, but the truth is what I wrote. Anything else is uninformed speculation.

    Yes, there are other cheaper areas within CA (Sacramento), but costs are only one of the reasons to leave the state, and some costs (i.e., most taxes) are high anywhere in the state.

    1. The thing is you are asking your wife to leave her job, daughter and other family, may be even friends and move elsewhere. You better have a good enough reason to do that. Politics are not important enough to do that.

  7. Phil —
    As you say, your housing costs are moderate. That puts you way ahead of the game in SF. If you’ve lived in your home for enough years to raise your daughter, plus, and are retirement age, you likely have a real sweetheart situation on property tax. Move to even low tax areas within CA and you’ll have a rude awakening.

    If your wife has to work a few more years, then it seems fairness that she gets to live/work where she chooses to be and then the two of you decide where to retire. Just remember that at some point not too far in the future, you and your wife will likely need help from your daughter and have to be living close to her. Moving back to CA will be a real property tax problem.

    I live in PA and am retired. PA not regarded as a low-tax state, but retirees make out well. We have a state income tax, lower than yours obviously, but pension, social security, and qualified retirement account distributions aren’t taxed as income.

    1. Unwanted_Truth says:

      Good points for sure

    2. I think all that stuff is a bit of a red herring, OP just wants to move to Trumplandia.

      1. Well, that’s the current trend. People are clustering more and more into like-minded neighborhoods, communities and states, where a high percentage of neighbors will share their political and cultural views. This is reinforced by assortative marriages, in which husband and wife are far more similar than in generations past.

      2. ele4phant says:

        As though liberals are itching to get out of our urban bubbles? I’m not about to leave my liberal west coast city to head into Trump’s America, and I bet most other liberal posters would have to be dragged out of their blue enclaves as well. So…let’s not get all judgey here.

        I mean, look, I don’t share this guy’s political leanings, AT ALL, and ultimately it would be better for society as a whole if people like the OP lived somewhere blue, and if people like me moved somewhere red, but I’m not going to sit here and judge him for wanting to be around people who share his political leanings. Totes empathize. And he’s literally in one of the most liberal (albeit of the super rich white variety) cities in the nation.

        Its not a small thing to want to live somewhere you feel comfortable and understood.

        But…he could probably just move an hour or two inland and be fine.

      3. I could totally understand that if it was just for him but it’s not, his wife is involved too. I don’t really enjoy where I live but it’s not just about me and something about doing all that just to be near like minded people gives me the creeps.

      4. as a die hard democrat I can see his point, if I lived in Trumplandia I would be desperate to get out and live somewhere else.

      5. I’m and independent with decidedly liberal leanings. I lived in the deep south in a really small town for a while. I was probably the only hispanic person in that town too. It was incredibly lonely and uncomfortable, feeling like I didnt belong and that nothing there vibed right. I totally sympathize with the need to live somewhere that feels understandable and comfortable.

      6. Again: if you’re making the decision only for yourself go nuts. If you’re determined to uproot someone you supposedly care about who doesn’t want to go just so you can feel ideologically at home you’re putting the need to feel right over human empathy.

      7. Ele4phant says:

        Counterpoint – in a relationship both peoples desires have value, and both have to compromise.

        If he truly cannot stand where they live, they need to work together to figure out how to make it work for both of them.

        If she can relocate her job, that’s one way to do it. If she could stop working and they could both agree to live on less, that’s another.

        It still sounds like you don’t think living somewhere you feel comfortable and accepted – particularly in your retirement in what is likely to be your last move – isn’t that big a deal.

        It is. It’s just as a big a deal as living next to family. Perhaps the right solution for them isn’t a move, but it’s certainly a big enough deal that if your partner is very unhappy in the part of the country you live in, you have to take it seriously and work as partners to find the right compromise.

      8. ele4phant says:

        Also – from reading the original email, it sounds like he’s fully and for a long time acquiesced to her desire to live in the Bay Area, for years, despite hating it. Now maybe its her turn to give a little and move further away to somewhere they can both be happy as they both move towards retirement.

      9. Ummm I live in an area like that right now. I have to because of my marriage and I have to live here alone because of my marriage, I get it far more than you understand. What I don’t get is throwing away a fairly decent situation for a bunch of maybes that could lead to them splitting up JUST to feel more at home. He just doesn’t enjoy the politics, she would be giving up a lot more.

  8. Lady Lake says:

    I moved to the Reno / Tahoe area 5 years ago from Washington State, where I was born, and it is very different. The liberal / conservative is very 50/50, as they are a swing state. Expect local people here to be rude, entitled and terrible drivers. The education is very bad too and people seem to take pride in being uninformed. I once had a co-worker tell me quote, “I don’t need to know about Nevada history because I’m from Las Vegas.” – Dumbass There is also a huge gap in wage disparity, as most people who have money live in Tahoe. They are also very happy to tell you how much money they have and since they live at ‘The Lake” they will do everything to make you fee horrible about yourself. There is a lot of racism, too. My husband has fired more than one person in less than one year for making racist comments to co-workers.

    Weather is okay, but winters are harsh with high winds up to 60 MPH or more and bitter cold. Expect to see a lot of well, desert with some trees. It’s not green like CA, and no you can’t plant a Citrus Tree outside, no matter how many you had in CA. You can also expect high traffic at the normal peak hours, but it is getting worse as more people are moving here and the city is not upgrading roads to support the influx of people.

    I’m personally doing everything I can right now to move back to Washington, as I am expecting, and I will not be raising my son in Nevada. Just NO!

    1. Avatar photo Moneypenny says:

      Aw, I love Tahoe! It’s so beautiful there, in all seasons! But yikes, I drove from South Lake to Carson City a month ago and there was way more traffic than I was expecting. Interesting to hear how it is as a resident. :/

  9. Avatar photo Moneypenny says:

    Politics aside, I can understand wanting to move away from the Bay Area. It’s lovely for a lot of reasons, but man is it getting crowded. I grew up here, and my parents are retired, but they plan to stay and so do I. It seems like traffic gets worse every year – and not just in the mornings. (Ha to that.) Traffic starts at 3pm and goes til 7 or later, and on the weekends. It took one of my coworkers 2 hours to go 20 miles this morning. Anyway. I know many people who have moved / are moving away (including one of my best friends and my sister) due to the cost of living or desire to buy a house/have a backyard.

  10. Ruby Tuesday says:

    I want to add that I find it highly hypocritical to complain about high taxes while simultaneously criticizing the government’s failure to maintain infrastructure or provide sanitation. Taxes pay for government programs and services. You can either support increased taxation so the government can provide these services or you can pay less and get less.

    1. I actually kind of disagree with this because you want to see the return on your investment. If you are paying high taxes, you want to see the results.

      1. ele4phant says:

        Yeah I agree.

        I’m willing to pay high taxes to get great public services, operative word being great. I’m all for taxes, but they need to be spent effectively and efficiently. OP does not feel like he is getting a good return on his taxes.

        And frankly CA does have (relatively compared to other states) high taxes (and a super high tax base from which to generate revenue), and relatively speaking they do not have great infrastructure, great public education, great social services. I’d be pissed too if I was paying more taxes compared to other elsewhere and yet the quality public services lagged lower tax states.

  11. Being from Europe, I’m stunned that a tax bracket of 13.3% is considered ‘high’.

    1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

      Right? And then the complaints about crumbling infrastructure and high healthcare costs. (Oh, but at least our military is strong, ugh).

    2. Rava —
      I should point out in fairness to the LW that he is referring only to his state and local taxes, which are high compared to the national average. He still has the federal income tax and payroll taxes to pay, as we all do, so that will significantly raise that percentage. In comparing U.S. to European tax rates, you also have to consider that we pay a greater share of our medical costs out of pocket, that we pay higher education costs, that our social safety net affords us less protection in retirement and when fired. I have many (liberal) friends who say something to the effect of “I’d happily pay European tax rates if my medical was covered, my kids could go to college for free, and I had Europe’s vacation and leave policies and retirement.” To compare just tax rates between the U.S. and Europe is apples and oranges.

    3. I do agree Ron. We have federal & state income taxes, property taxes and sales taxes etc.

      Recently we had a gas tax that is supposed to go only for infrastructure improvement but then they merged it with general funds. Democrats lie a lot about props before they are voted on.

      1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

        Lying ain’t exclusive to democrats. Not by a long shot.

      2. Oh, agreed Wendy. Republicans do it too. It is just that being in a blue state, I see democrats doing it more at elections and winning on the basis of such lying.

  12. Check out the north bay. Occidental, camp meeker, Jenner. It’s beautiful and the people are great. It won’t solve all your problems but it might help for a few years.

  13. Before you do anything look at your ability to transfer your Prop. 13 property tax status to your new home in CA. Depending on when you bought it may actually cost you more to downsize because property values have gone up so much that your current Prop. 13 property taxes will be much lower than when assessed against the property value of a newly purchased home in CA (generally reassess value when home sells but there are some situations where the current Prop. 13 assessment could be transferred or applied to your new purchase). My inlaws were looking at this and it actually makes more financial sense for them to rent old home in Bay Area out and rent new home in other part of CA to live due to the increase in property taxes and how much rent they can get in Bay Area. Your situation may be different but definitely look into this. There are a few counties that will let you transfer the assessment of your current Prop. 13 value but others won’t. I think there may be a onetime in your life transfer of assessed value allowed but am not certain. Good luck!

  14. Bittergaymark says:

    Honestly? Conservatives fleeing the state of California is one idea I am 100% behind. Hell. I may even come to help you pack up your moving truck.

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