Moving to Morristown: These tools can help you weigh the costs

Springtime at Speedwell, May 2, 2020. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
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The recent update of Morris County’s cost-of-living-index (COLI) is a correction that was long overdue.  Cost of living data can influence business and families to relocate or stay here.

Is it the only factor?  No. School systems, amenities, availability of talent and the like are very significant. Costs (of living, of moving) often weigh-in at the beginning of a search, to determine which cities to study more carefully.

Morris County always has had an index for cost-of-living incorporated into subscription data bases such as EMSI, used by corporate site selectors, governments and economic development organizations.  The uptake may be slow, but over time, the data we collect locally will find its way into these databases and change corporate perceptions of our costs.

Now, for the first time, Morristown, and by extension, Morris County — is included in publicly available cost-of-living calculators that incorporate data collected here.  Said differently: Morristown, NJ, is listed in the location drop-down tabs of free, online cost-conversion calculators.

If you’re living in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, or Boston’s suburbs, you would lower your costs significantly by moving to Greater Morristown.  Here’s how we know:  You put the annual salary you make in New York City into Payscale’s calculator for Morristown, and voila – you’ll save $38,000 a year.

Or, put another way, if you take a job offer for $75,000 a year in Morristown, you’ll be able to afford more than you could in New York City.

Using more granular (and up-to-date) data available directly from COLI.org, we can be more specific.  If you are moving from Manhattan, the difference is $49,000 (you only need to make 50 percent of your salary to maintain a current standard of living). 

If you’re moving from Brooklyn, the difference is $32,000 (you only need 68 percent of your current salary).  If you’re moving from Queens, the difference is $17,000 (you’ll need 83 percent of what you are making now). 

How Businesses use COLI Data

Example 1.  A human resources professional wants to maintain equivalency in spending power when bringing in talent from another area.

As a first cut to what salary should be offered, an online calculator such Bankrate.com or Payscale.com can be used.

An employee earning $160,000 a year in San Francisco CA only would need to earn $100,000 in Morristown to maintain the same standard of living.  If the offer were higher, the employee and his or her family would be ahead of the game.

Remote Friendly vs Remote First

Example 2, is trickier.  The scenario is that a corporation switches from “remote friendly” — allowing work from home or office — to “remote first“, whereby you can live anywhere you want, but your pay is scaled to the cost of living of your zip code.

In a remote first company, you provide your own office, but you are given flexibility about where to locate your family.

You may think of “remote first” as a west coast corporation thing.  However, COVID-19 has brought this possibility to the east coast faster than it might have otherwise.  Morristown should take note.

The economies of Morristown, Morris Township, and Morris Plains are largely driven by the professional services sector — wealth management, law, architectural design, management consulting, etc.

The majority of wage-earners in the professional service sector have been working at home since the pandemic hit.  The potential for some companies to shift from remote friendly to remote first is not just possible, but probable.  Companies love to save money.

So, for Example 2 your employer decides your job will be working offsite going forward.  You are welcome to move, but is it worth it?  How would your salary change? Let’s calculate.

A move to Asheville NC would cost less in terms of groceries, housing and transportation, but more in terms of utilities and health.

Moving looks like you’d save $17,000 year if your annual salary is $100,000 currently.  But only if the company doesn’t impose a remote-first adjustment of your salary.  It might be worth living below your means in case that adjustment happens.

More Results from C2ER’s Cost of Living Calculator

If you’re looking to move from Morristown, you’ll find that you won’t save much money by moving to Middlesex or Monmouth counties, New Haven CT, Hartford CT, Providence RI, Portland ME, Chicago IL, or Sacramento CA.  There are places you can go, though they’re far afield – Albany NJ, Dallas TX, Bozeman MT.

The very least expensive places in the US? Memphis TN, Richmond IN, Muskogee OK, Kalamazoo MI, McAllen TX and, the city with lowest Cost of Living Index (COLI), Harlingen TX.  You could bank almost $40 per year if you earned $100,000 and moved to Harlingen.

Even if the area offers the bandwidth for good Wi-Fi, is it worth it?  That’s where town “report cards”  like Niche.com and public school performance reports come into play.  Grading systems are a different rabbit hole we’ll ignore for now.

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