Over the last several years, my wife and I have tried different places around the country on for size. We are born and bred Chicagoans. Our entire lives revolved around Chicago.
But, Chicago is very different now and we knew we had to get out.
How’d it start?
We’d be walking through the park and we would talk to people who were leaving. Most of them were consultant types. All they needed was a good airport.
I remember one younger person telling me, “I can sell my condo here and buy a huge house in Phoenix for the same price. Our baby can go to private school. Our property tax bill and monthly housing costs will drop by at least two-thirds. Plus, all other taxes are less.”
A lot of my trading buddies left Chicago once the floors closed. The only thing holding them to the city was their place of work. But, with a computer job, you can be anywhere.
I also saw some entrepreneurs leave. We had started Hyde Park Angels to try and stem the tide and it stopped for a bit. But, entrepreneurs were trickling out to places like Texas, and Colorado.
Of course, our age made a difference. We were in our fifties. Our kids were out of college or graduating from college and so were a lot of our friends. Many of them were getting out of the state.
For many of our friends, it was all about downsizing.They had this suburban or city house and it was empty. Once they sold it and got rid of a lot of stuff, they felt free to pursue something new. Some of them moved to the city. But, most of them left the state.
Where’d they go?
Florida mostly. There is a well-trodden path from Midwestern states to Florida. Both of our parent’s walked that path.
Some of our friends found that job opportunities in Chicago dried up, or they were able to do what they wanted somewhere else. Arizona, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Colorado, the Carolinas, and Washington were places they went.
It wasn’t about the weather. If they were moving for weather, California is the choice.
We went to many larger parties or charity functions in the city and all the talk was about where people were going. It was becoming clear people were going to move out en masse.
This started when Bruce Rauner was governor and Rahm Emanuel was mayor. Rauner couldn’t slay the Madigan dragon, and people decided they’d rather flee than fight. Fighting was like being Sisyphus anyway.
A good friend of mine had a home in a very tony suburb of Chicago. A neighbor had to sell their home. It sold for about 50% less than the home’s tax valuation.
My friend went to the assessor and said, “Look, I don’t mind paying taxes and my fair share, but my neighbor’s home just sold for 50% off and you have mine on the tax roll at double where I could sell it. Is there something we could do?"
The assessor just looked at him blankly and said, “No. The other sale was a forced sale due to divorce.”
He lives in Florida now.
If you live in a high tax state like Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Minnesota, Massachusetts, or California you probably have similar stories.
The question is, how do you make a decision to pull the trigger?