Give up the city life – and get paid to do it

Lucy Cranmer, a forensic case manager from NYC, decided to relocate next month. A city resident since her days in NYU’s undergraduate program, she’s looking for a change of pace.

“My new job’s in Lancaster, PA,” she explains, so she hopes to live “somewhere around there, maybe in Lititz.”

She loves NYC as any long-time resident does. But the “pressure to be overworked all the time” along with her, at the time, 2-hour commute to Rikers Island where she saw clients, was taking its toll.

She’s not alone. Upwork’s Remote Workers on the Move study from October of 2020 noted that a startling “54.7% of residents in large cities want to move two hours away or more from their current location.” But with 65 of Fortune 500’s headquarters located in NYC, who would ever want to leave?

Why move?

On average, those living in large metropolitan areas are subject to an awful quality of life. A review from the European journal Acta Psychiatria Scandinavia reveals that those living in cities suffer from mood disorders and anxiety at a “disproportionately higher rate.”

According to JAMA, the airborne pollution in cities, which can be equivalent to smoking a whopping 29 cigarettes a day, can increase the chance of contracting diabetes up to 11%. Of course, the probability you might contract emphysema or asthma is also sky-high.

As of October 2020, Gallup reports that 33% of workers were entirely remote, and 25% were partially remote. And unless you have over $3,150 per month to spend on a one-bedroom apartment in a city like NYC, you’ll be working from home from a dingy $2,595 walk-up studio, according to RentHop’s figures.

“The cost of living in NYC is insane,” Cranmer adds. “You can’t even have a car, it’s just too expensive.”

Especially during the time of quarantine, the perks of a city, like the arts, culture, and dining aren’t especially accessible. So why stay in a big city that’s making you fat, anxious and broke, when there are companies paying you to get out?

Who’s paying me to do it?

More popularly, companies have been known to pay to relocate employees, often providing executive housing or sign-on bonuses. The standard packages used to include house-hunting trips paid for, transportation, help with finding schools or childcare, and storage costs.

But not everyone is an executive or higher-level employee that qualifies for a relocation package, or sometimes, a new company won’t necessarily pay you to move there. So how do average salaried people find ways to get money back on their work-related moves?

While unfortunately, Cranmer’s new home of Pennsylvania doesn’t offer much in the way of stipends, some American cities, and even entire states, are interested in paying prospective residents to move in and stimulate their economies. Oklahoma and Maine offer up to $10,000 in relocation expenses, causing Tulsa’s younger population to explode in recent years.

MakeMyMove.com, a company started by one of the cofounders of Angie’s List, is one of the best choices when it comes to relocation compensation organizations. You receive forgivable loans, given out over the course of a few years and applicable to your home. They also offer rebates and cash.

Thrillist clarifies that they take the time to “explain the terms of each city’s financial incentive, it also gives some important information about the city itself, like its population, internet speed rating, nearest airport, climate, median home value, and distance to important shopping centers.”

The incentives themselves are no small potatoes. You could get $16,000 towards your new home to move to Southwest, MI, or $15,600 to move to Augusta, MN. And the employment opportunities abound, even if you’re working remotely – Payless’ headquarters is in Topeka, KS, where you can get up to $11,000 in forgivable loans.

Does it sound too good to be true?

It could very well be. Though you can choose where you’re moving to, it can be frightening and overwhelming to live in a smaller town you may never even have visited before. But cities like Montpelier, Vermont, which offer $10,000 for remote workers over the course of two years, reported only 11 violent crimes in 2018 – so you don’t exactly have to worry about living in a ‘bad neighborhood.’

The culture, however, is drastically different, and certainly not for everyone. The urge for small towns to draw more a metropolitan demographic is clear, but the transitional period of mixing city mice and country mice might be a little dicey.

“I don’t think you could pay me enough to live in a flyover state,” Cranmer jokes, “but somewhere in the northeast or California, if the job was good, I might. Somewhere like Lancaster is great. I feel comfortable there.”

For the most part, though, the windfalls are clear. The financial incentives are unmatched, whether you’re getting incentives or not. For the price of her crowded apartment on Avenue D in Alphabet City, Cranmer can now rent out a cushy 1,600 sq. ft. two-bedroom townhouse in Lititz, with a full private basement, laundry room, and outdoor space, with only her pets as roommates.

But the health incentives — the freedom to breathe clean air, walk down a safe street, and a little mental break from the intense daily grind of living in a crowded city during a pandemic — is all worth more than money can buy.