I’m married and have a young son. We recently sold our first home, and are sitting on a decent stack of money. Our original intention was to reinvest our funds in another larger home in the same city. Currently we are about 2 weeks away from closing on the new place, but we’re starting to have second thoughts.
Although none one of us have ever been, we’re considering a move to Hawaii. Should we throw caution into the wind and move to paradise, or play it safe and stay put?
Sorry, haole, we’re all full up out here.
Ha! But, seriously, it’s complicated.
The first thing you’ve gotta ask yourself, “Why do I want to move?”
Is it because you have itchy feet, feel all wrapped up in ennui, desperate to be somewhere, anywhere, but where you are? If thats the case, stay put. Too many people move to Hawaii looking for answers, or fulfillment, or some sort of inner peace. And those things ain’t here. You can’t run from existential problems. No matter where you go, there you’ll be.
Now get the paradise thing out of your head. Sure, I live in paradise, but I Forrest Gump’ed my way into this situation, and I don’t have any crotch fruit depending on me. Everyone knows how expensive Hawaii is, but you can’t really appreciate it unless you live here. Expect to pay $200 a month for electricity (much more if you want A/C), and don’t expect to own your home. Median prices are around $750K, so unless you feel like living in Puna (you don’t want to live in Puna), you’re gonna be paying out the ass for rent. A two bedroom rental on Oahu is gonna run you at least $2000 a month, and that’s if you’re living in a shitbox in a terrible neighborhood. The same place in Town will be over $3K. You can always find a cheaper spot in Waianae, but then you’re stuck. Only one way in and out, you’ll be sitting in traffic three to four hours a day commuting to work. Commute from North Shore is about the same, but rent is closer to Town prices.
All in all, Hawaii’s cost of living is about 30% above the national average, while wages are generally lower. According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator (http://livingwage.mit.edu/counties/15003), a family of three with both parents working requires $63,356 combined income before taxes. From personal experience, that is low. Enough to live hand to mouth, one missed pay check away from total destitution. In reality, if you want some minor luxuries, like cable TV and the occasional meal out, with some money left at the end of the month, you need closer to $100K.
And, you know, there’s the whole school thing. I won’t say that Hawaii public schools are bad, I never attended one. If I had to guess, I’d say the teachers are probably pretty comparable to the mainland, when it comes to skills and motivation. But 2009 saw statewide “Furlough Fridays,” reducing the school week to four days because of budget shortfalls. Beyond the problems that causes with childcare, it says a lot about the state’s priorities in regards to education.
Plus the water isn’t fluoridated. Lots of little kids with fucked up teeth. Good purity of essence, though. If you decide you want your kid to go to private school, Punahou is supposedly the best. $23K per year, which isn’t exactly cheap. Is it worth it? I couldn’t say. The President’s a Punahou grad, but I’ve met a ton of stupid losers who are as well.
So you’ll be broke, working your ass off, and your kid will be stupid. Total bummer.
But it’s not all bad. The sense of community out here is mind blowing to guy like me who was raised in the go-fuck- yourself world of Los Angeles. If you can make it through your first six months (people hesitate to make friends with new arrivals because so many leave almost immediately) things will get easier. You can save money on food by growing your own, trading with neighbors, or killing your meat.
You’ll figure out how to save money by mixing up your shopping. I typically hit three different markets for various stuff, depending on who sells what for less. You save a lot on entertainment, because, you know, there’s nothing to do. Hike, swim, surf, hunt, repeat. All the best stuff is free, once you’ve purchased gear. As long as you’re okay with waiting, Amazon will save you a ton of money. Prime pays for itself super fast.
Occasionally it’ll be a pain in the ass to get your hands on something quickly. Like, this weekend I went on a day long island wide hunt for au gratin dishes because I wanted to make scallops baked in a mushroom curry Béchamel. I finally found them, though, and it was delicious!
That’s most of the terrible, and it’s really all about money. It’s hard to deal with, but hardly impossible. The wife and I moved here with no car, no place to live, no jobs, and $4k in the bank. If someone were to ask me now, “Is that possible?”, I’d say no. We got very lucky. We also begged money off family a shameful number of times.
But there was also a ton of hard work, and a total refusal to give up. We saw most of our friends throw in the towel and move back home, but by never treating that as an option we were forced to make it work. And it eventually did.
I could never counsel someone to take the safe path. Mainly because I don’t believe there is one. Yeah, you can be a dutiful employee and save money and act like we’re taught you’re supposed to, but that’s a recipe for a mundane, miserable, soul sucking life. And there’s no way of knowing what the future will bring. You can work away your entire life, and drop dead at 60. You can save every spare cent and be swindled. You could enroll your kid in the best schools, and still see him end up blowing dudes in a bus station bathroom for meth money.
Mortgaging your youth for security in your old age is a sucker’s bet. The system is built to keep us slaves, as long as you play by the rules you’ll always be one.
I say do it, if it’s what you really want. Why not? You’ll be dead soon enough, make the most of what time you have.