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Relocating as a Doctor? Here’s What You Need to Know

Published July 29, 2022

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Life & Career
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As residency draws to a close and you begin to consider employment opportunities, one of the first decisions you’ll have to make is where you want to live.

Whether you’re just beginning your job search or already weighing offers, here are some things to think about before you make your move.

Cost of living

Before moving to a new location, it’s important to understand and compare housing and rental prices. Clearly, the cost of a 2-bedroom apartment in Cleveland is far different than the cost of a 2-bedroom apartment in New York City. So, a position at a hospital in Manhattan’s Upper West Side may be your dream job. But if your income only allows you to sublet a room or live an hour away, will you still want the job?

If housing prices are a major consideration, you may want to pursue a clinical opportunity with a more modest income in the South or Midwest, so that you would be able to afford a larger home in a community where you can put down roots.

It’s also important to remember that there’s more to your cost of living than just the price of the home. You need to consider property taxes, income taxes, and municipal taxes. Indeed, you may choose to reject a job offer in Southern California (where your state income tax rate represents more than 10% of your wages) in favor of a lower offer in a state without state income tax, such as Florida, Texas, or Tennessee.

Spousal considerations

One of the most important considerations for relocating is what effects it will have on your partner or spouse. Will they be comfortable moving? Will the new location allow him or her to pursue their career? If suitable jobs are not available for them in the area, does your partner feel comfortable exploring a new career path or deciding not to work?

There are also cultural and social factors to consider. Will they be able to pursue their hobbies or develop the friendships that are important to them when you relocate?

Making sure that your spouse or partner is completely on board will ensure that the move you’re making is right for your entire household.

Family impact

Moving your family and setting down roots in a new location can create a variety of logistical and emotional challenges.

If you have children in daycare or preschool, finding the right childcare and education options can be stressful. Oftentimes, you have to deal with long waiting lists and may have to settle for a school that’s not your first choice.

If you have older children, you’ll likely want to identify a neighborhood based on school zoning and education preferences. If you choose to enroll your children in a private school, you will want to research whether your new area will have sufficient enrollment opportunities.

Like most families, your children are probably involved in a lot of activities, like gymnastics, soccer, and music. By allowing them to pursue those hobbies in their new home, you will create a sense of normalcy, which can make the transition a little easier for them.

Moving with children can be an emotional challenge but knowing their needs and talking to them early in the process can make the move smoother.

Entertainment

Nobody has to tell you that the working life of a physician can be stressful. You’ve seen it firsthand as a resident. So, it’s important that you have outlets to help you unwind and relax.

Does your new city have the types of entertainment you enjoy? Is the population large enough to support a symphony and museums? If you like tailgating for live sporting events, is there a team in the area? If you live for an active nightlight with bars and lounges, does your new home offer you the options you are looking for?

Working as a physician can be physically and emotionally draining. So, it’s good to examine whether your new home will have things you enjoy doing in your time off. Weighing the most important criteria for you will help to balance your lifestyle priorities and mental health.

Climate

Anyone who moves from the South to the upper Midwest can attest to the acclimation required to survive a short walk to the car in the middle of winter.

When you’re considering a move, it’s important to look at the climate you’ll be living in. It’s also important to do your research rather than make assumptions.

For example, you might make the move to Texas thinking it’s usually dry and arid. And then you get to your first day at the Texas Medical Center in Houston and you’re smothered with 100% humidity.

Small changes in location can lead to dramatic differences in weather patterns. For instance, a 12-mile trip across the Cascade Mountain Range in central Washington can be the difference between mild winters in the west and severe snowstorms in the east.

Understanding the possibilities of extreme weather events like wildfires, hurricanes, and tornadoes is also important. So be sure to do your homework and know what you’re getting into before you say yes to an offer.

Community

Wherever we live, most of us are looking for a sense of community. If we value religion, we want to be sure there is place of worship we can go to in our area. If we carry certain social or political ideologies, we want to be around like-minded people who we can bond with. If we have children, we want to form play groups and begin to develop family friendships that can last a lifetime.

Community also means having people around who can support us, whether we need a babysitter, carpool buddies, or someone to cut our lawn.

Before you relocate to a specific location, be sure the social aspects you value are available to you.

In summary

Relocating is a lot more complicated than packing up a moving truck and hitting the road. By examining important factors, like cost of living, regionality and community, you can be sure you are making the right decision for you and your family.

In providing this information, neither Laurel Road nor KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, financial, accounting, or legal advice.

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