A Savvy Start: Why Ohio Should be in Your Post-Grad Plans
Here’s a quiz. If you make $60,000 in Kent, how much do you have to make to maintain the same standard of living in New York City?
The 2023 U.S. News and World Report rankings list New York, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco as some of the most expensive cities in which to live.
Ohio, on the other hand, has some of the lowest living expenses in the nation, making it an ideal home for recent college graduates.
These rankings are based on quality of life, value, desirability and job market indexes in each location.
Kent State University economics professor Kathy Wilson, Ph.D., explains the impact of the cost of living and how students can make financially savvy decisions for their futures.
“It really is important to think about what the cost of living is in the different places you might go,” Wilson said. “Let's say you get a job offer giving you the exact same amount – one is in Kent and one is in New York City. Even though you get paid the same amount in either place, the quality of housing, food and everything else you can or need to buy is really different between Kent and New York City.”
And it can be the little things that add up. For instance, a gallon of milk in Kent costs $3.73 compared to a gallon in New York City at $5.25.
Sometimes moving temporarily to a low cost-of-living location can be a strategic financial decision.
“There are parts of your expenses that will be the same no matter where you live, like your student loan payment,” Wilson said. “One thing a student could consider doing, especially for high student loans, is living in a place with more affordable housing than they are used to for a short period of time.”
Wilson recommends students do their due diligence by comparing different places to live and doing research to make more informed decisions. When looking for jobs, Wilson said it is important to compare the cost of living between cities because a job may pay higher, but one could still profit less if cost-of-living expenses are higher.
“If you can get a higher salary somewhere with a lower cost of living, that's a win-win,” Wilson said.
Another helpful tip is to develop negotiation skills; this helps produce better outcomes and grants the power to ask for more compensation.
“Especially if you're somebody who maybe has two offers in different places, I think you could be strategic in how you approach that. You don't want to be deceitful, but you can negotiate to get the same standard of living in both places,” Wilson said.
She also highlights additional work-related factors that impact expenses.
“If you move to an area with expensive housing, it may mean that you have to spend a lot more time commuting to work,” Wilson said, adding that it's important to consider how much time you want to spend commuting and the other elements related to a work commute.
Wilson stresses looking at the bigger picture when exploring job opportunities and moving to new places. It’s important for students to explore their values to help guide them with these decisions.
“I think you can't look at salary in isolation, and you can't look at cost of living in isolation,” Wilson said. “You really have to look at both of them together.”
It’s also important to look into the future and understand how the cost of living can change over time. Environmental factors like climate change will also continue to impact certain cities.
“If I were thinking about trends, climate change is actually a big factor that would play into cost of living. Some areas of the country are more susceptible because of climate change, compared to others,” Wilson said. “We're already seeing some of this happening in Florida, where it's very difficult to get homeowners insurance. So, if you're thinking long term, I think that's one of the bigger threats that I would think about.”
While other places are likely to see a change in the cost of living due to climate changes, Ohio is at less risk for these extreme weather changes. Closer to home, Wilson believes Kent’s economy will remain stable because of this.
“I think there's a few things that are really encased in Kent to their advantage. The university is a huge source of the economy of the city and the surrounding area, and I expect that to stay pretty stable,” Wilson said. “There's also diversified other workplaces. You have AMETEK, Davey Tree and a lot of small businesses. I think that that also adds to the stability around Kent.”
Wilson hopes all students do their research to make more savvy decisions. While evaluating the cost of living can be intimidating, Wilson stresses that students are prepared and capable of making these comparisons.
“You don't have to have a Ph.D. in economics to figure stuff out there,” Wilson said. “It’s truly just averages and comparison!”
With a steady economy, large business presence, affordable housing and a prosperous future ahead, staying in Ohio, specifically in the Kent community, is a strategic decision for Kent State alumni.
Banner photo from TourismOhio site