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Is Relocation a Good Strategy for You?

Is Relocation a Good Strategy for You?

By Margaret Steen

You've been offered a great job -- but it's in another state. You need to weigh the quality of life in your current city with your potential new home, along with considerations about nearby relatives, city size and housing options. But relocating for work is also a big financial decision.

Moving costs money, and your new employer may or may not pay for it. Some new employees receive nothing for their move; others may get anything from a $500 check to a complete relocation package worth tens of thousands of dollars. These bigger packages, generally reserved for more senior employees, can include temporary living expenses or help in selling a home.

Find Room to Negotiate

"The more unique your skill set is and the longer they've looked for you, the more negotiating power you might have," said Kathryn Ullrich, an executive recruiter in Silicon Valley.

Even if an employer says in its ad that it won't pay for relocation, it can't hurt to bring it up -- once you have been offered the job and are negotiating your pay package, said Cynthia Kivland, a career coach in Prairie Grove, Illinois. Perhaps the company could reimburse for moving expenses after a certain period of time if you're meeting your performance goals, for example. If you're moving with a spouse, maybe the company will pay for career coaching to help the spouse land a new job.

Look Beyond the Dollar Amount

When you're weighing a relocation package, consider these issues:

  • Is it Grossed Up? If the company pays for relocation services worth $5,000, you'll owe taxes on that money. If the check is grossed up, the company will pay you $5,000 plus the taxes.
     
  • What's in the Fine Print? If your new job ends within months, will you have to pay back the relocation bonus? Does it matter if you leave voluntarily or are laid off? It can be awkward to ask for these restrictions to be removed -- there's no graceful way to say that you'd like the flexibility to quit in three months and not repay the thousands of dollars the company spent to move you. Still, you may be able to shorten the time period, or clarify that the restrictions apply only if you decide to leave.
     
  • Is the City a Viable Place for a Long-term Career? "You can't just look at a single company," said Richard Phillips, a career coach and owner of Advantage Career Solutions in Palo Alto, California. Consider what jobs will be available for you and your spouse, not just now but in the future. If you move to a city that's heavily dependent on just one company, you could find yourself in a tight spot -- with no job and no buyers for your house -- if that company starts struggling.

Do Your Research

Of course, you can do online research to help with decisions about relocating. Use a cost-of-living calculator to help estimate how far your new paycheck will go in your new home.

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