Top Things To Know Before Moving To California
Today I would like to walk through the pros and cons of living in California. Because “The Golden State” is one of the most popular states to live in.
Whether you are considering relocating to California for economic opportunity. Or, thinking about retiring in California. You need to get your questions answered.
Especially, the big question of the day. Is California a good place to live?
So, for your convenience. I’ve summarized the most significant living in California pros and cons.
No delays. Let’s dive in…
Disclosure: At no cost to you, I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
10 Pros And Cons Of Living In California
To get us rolling. Here are 5 benefits of living in California. And 5 reasons not to live in California.
- Pleasant weather
- Abundant recreational options
- Easy access to fresh & healthy foods
- High quality of life
- Ample economic opportunity
- High cost of living
- Heavy tax burden
- Questionable governance
- Negative effects of urbanization
- Risks of natural disasters
Let these 10 points serve as our outline. Since we will dig into each of these advantages and disadvantages of living in California in much more detail.
But first, allow me to provide you with a big picture view. Regarding if California is a good state to live in…
Pros And Cons: Is California A Good Place To Live?
Should you move to California? Well, that decision is up to you.
Here is how I would answer the question. If I were in your shoes.
Yes. California is a great place to live. But, only if you can afford it. Here’s why…
Best Things About California
California offers great weather. Specifically, plenty of sunshine. And year-round moderate temperatures. Especially in the major population centers.
Also, there are tons of fun things to see and do in California. Since a short car trip can take you from the pristine coastlines of the Pacific Ocean. To picturesque mountain tops in the Sierra Nevada range.
Access to a diverse landscape is similar to Oregon. The state’s neighbor to the north.
Thus, you can be active. Fish, boat, surf, hike, mountain climb, camp, and ski to your heart’s content. When living in California.
After all of that action, relax with your favorite bottle of California wine. Coupled with some locally made artisan cheese. Plus some fresh nuts and produce off the farm. To fuel your next activity.
Then head back to work. And make a good wage in California’s vibrant and diverse economy.
But, as I said at the beginning. California’s advantages come at a price.
Bad Things About California
Most noteworthy, the high price of living in California state. And a heavy tax burden to deal with.
Combine these costs with the negative effects of urbanization. And the risk of natural disasters. Then you can see that not everything is perfect in California.
Furthermore, the downsides of California living are encouraging residents to look elsewhere. Increasing their interest in relocating to Arizona, Nevada, or Oregon.
Neighboring states. Where costs are less. And taxes are lower.
So, with that summary of the pros and cons of living in California taken care of. It’s time to discuss the 10 specific pluses and minuses about The Golden State.
You know. The ones I highlighted at the beginning of this article.
Why move to California? Let’s start with the 5 best things about California living. Then you will know why…
1. Pleasant Weather
The first cool thing about California is the weather. Everyone’s favorite topic of conversation. At least where I’m from.
California Is A Large And Diverse Weather State To Live In
The first thing I need to note. In terms of physical area, California is a very large state. 3rd only to Alaska and Texas.
So, it’s important to choose your location wisely. When considering a move to California.
Because the state has several microclimates. And plenty of extreme weather in certain locations.
For example, a 300-mile drive. To the North East out of Los Angeles will find you in Death Valley, California.
Death Valley is near the Nevada border. The location claims to be one of the hottest places in the world.
On the other hand, a 250-mile drive West of San Francisco. Will find you in the heart of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
These mountains are one of the coldest parts of the state. With plenty of snow.
But let’s be honest, you are probably not going to move to these remote places in California. More than likely you will stick with the major metropolitan areas.
So, what’s the weather like in and around the major cities? That’s next…
California Weather Where Most People Live
In the areas in and around San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Diego. You will find abundant sunshine in this state.
Daily high temperatures are between 60 and 80 degrees. Almost all year around.
You can leave your snow shovel. And winter wardrobe behind. Because you won’t need either.
So, California is one of the very few of all states in the nation. That has areas providing residents with sunshine and spring-like warm weather year-round. Combined with minimal rainfall. And low humidity.
Arguably, the weather in many parts of this sunny state. Is about as good as it gets in the country.
The moderate temperatures also result in reduced energy consumption. Since many residents do not bother with air conditioning.
And home heating needs during the winter are moderate. In most parts of the state.
Also, the pleasant but varied weather conditions in the state lead to another good reason to live in California. Specifically, there are lots of fun things to get out and do…
2. Abundant Recreational Options When Residing In California
Whatever your leisure interests. You can probably satisfy them with your life in California. Starting with enjoying the great outdoors.
You can be active. Or just enjoy the beautiful views offered by the natural surroundings. Here are some examples…
Why Live In California? – National Parks
Many National Parks are in this state. So, if you like to climb mountains, hike, and hit the trails.
Or just take in awe-inspiring or historic views. Then this part of California life will be for you.
Some highlights include:
Yosemite: Truly a national treasure nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains. With its waterfalls, giant trees, and granite cliffs.
Joshua Tree: Located just 100 miles north of the Mexico border. And a similar distance from Los Angeles.
This park offers a mix of high and low deserts. Provide habitat for unique trees, cactus, and animal life.
Kings Canyon and Sequoia: These parks are located side by side in the central part of California. You can camp amongst the massive trees. Then explore the mountains and deep canyons during the day.
Redwood: A cluster of national and state sites along the coast of Northern California. Perfect for a tree-hugger like me.
Channel Islands: A group of 5 islands clustered off the Pacific Ocean coast. Near the cities of Oxford and Ventura, California.
There are no stores, lodging, or restaurants on the islands. Just wild and rugged coastlines to explore.
Mojave National Preserve and Death Valley National Park: If you like hot temperatures and deserts. Then these vast expanses will fill your needs.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area: Not always thought of as a national park. But here, you can enjoy the views of the iconic suspension bridge. From this beautiful national recreation area.
Living In California Means Water Sports
California has 840 miles of coastline along the Pacific Ocean. So if you like to enjoy the beach. Also, surfing, boating, fishing, or just feeling the ocean breezes.
Then California is the place to live!
Snow Skiing When Living In California
Dotting the Western border of California. In the central part of the state. There are dozens of world-class ski resorts.
They may not boast the greatest snow on earth. Like the Wasatch mountains in the great state of Utah.
But still, California is the delight of snow rippers and shredders. Looking for some open terrain and white powder.
Other Things To Do When Living In California: Inside or Out
Maybe you are a little less adventurous. At least when it comes to the outdoors. And adventure sports.
Well then, there are other things to do in California. Such as…
Wine country: Enjoy the nice weather, beautiful scenery, and of course sipping the California wines.
Theme parks: Treat the kids. Or your inner child. To the theme parks, California has to offer.
Disneyland, Universal Studios, and Sea World are a few of the most popular parks. But there are many more.
Hollywood: After moving to California. Be sure to cross a visit to Hollywood off your bucket list.
Located just a few miles north of Los Angeles. Hollywood boasts some iconic American attractions.
The Walk of Fame, Hollywood Boulevard, and the “HOLLYWOOD” sign are some sights to see.
Then stroll the miles of nature trails in Griffith Park. Visit the zoo or botanical gardens. Finally, take in an evening show at the Hollywood bowl.
Professional sports: California has nearly 20 major professional sports franchises. Far more than any other US state. And plenty of elite college athletics to take in too.
Getting tired yet? Then you might need a more tranquil state to live in? Just kidding!
What you need is good food! And California living means you can find plenty of nutritious foods to fuel your activities.
And healthy, fresh food is another one of the reasons to live in California.
3. Easy Access To Fresh & Healthy Foods
With its abundant natural resources. And moderate climate throughout much of the state. California has emerged as a leading producer of agricultural products in the U.S.
First of all, the central valley in California is an agricultural hub offering California residents fresh produce. During the summer, the fruit is some of the most flavorful you can find anywhere.
Life In California Means Access To Fresh Produce
A sampling of California’s top-notch produce includes:
- Kiwi fruit
But, there’s more as it relates to food in California…
California Living Mean Access To Fresh Seafood
Furthermore, with hundreds of miles of direct access to the Pacific Ocean. California living means getting to love fresh seafood from this state. Specifically,
- Black Cod
- Rock Fish
- Spiny lobster
Now I’m not a nutrition expert. Plus I love my share of pizza and burgers. And you can find plenty of those in California too.
Because the popular In-N-Out Burger is headquartered in Irvine, CA. And California-style pizza features a thin crust with nontraditional toppings.
But I do know this about food…
I diet full of seafood, nuts, fresh vegetables, and fruit is pretty healthy. It’s good fuel to gear up for all the outdoor activities the state has to offer.
But feel free to throw in an occasional In-N-Out Burger and California-style pizza. To satisfy those urges.
Moving To California Means Access To Great Wine & Cheese
Finally, you probably know that this state produces wines that are popular around the world. But how about a little cheese with that wine?
Because California is one of the largest dairy producers in the U.S. And home to many artisan cheesemakers.
You can map out a trip along the California cheese trail. And try a sampling of some of the best artisan cheeses in the world.
Okay. Let’s do a quick recap of what we have covered…
So far, this state’s weather and fun things to do. Also, good local foods. Sound pretty good to me.
It leads us to another one of the great things about California. It is a high quality of life.
And, quality of life is delivered on several different levels. That topic is next…
4. High Quality Of Life
Most residents in California are pretty happy with their lives. And enjoy living there.
Several factors that we have touched on contribute to this…
Healthy living: Fresh, healthy food plus lots of outdoor activities means access to healthy options in California.
Lifestyle: Pleasant weather and access to the ocean in this state. Also, the mountains and other entertainment options.
Environmentally friendly: California emphasizes its recycling programs. Also, protecting its natural resources.
Tolerance and diversity: First of all, California is one of the most diverse states in America. In terms of race, ethnicity, and culture.
Furthermore, the state offers many diverse communities. For people of all ages, genders, orientations, and ethnicities.
Finally, residents are generally known for being tolerant and open-minded. So, you can find plenty of eccentric people in California. Going about their lives without being judged.
All these factors add up to a high quality of life in California.
But unless you are planning for retirement living in California. Which isn’t a bad idea.
You are going to have to get to work. To make a living. And the economy is another one of the advantages of living in California.
5. Ample Economic Opportunity
First of all, based on the gross domestic product (GDP), California has the largest economy of all states in the U.S.
In case you were wondering. GDP is the value of all goods and services produced during a specific time.
Furthermore, there isn’t even a state that is a close 2nd. Texas measures up well at number 2. But, the Texas economy is just a little more than half the size of California’s.
So, what does a large economy mean for you? Let’s find out by digging a little further into this good thing about California. Specifically, the economic opportunity…
Pros And Cons To Living In California: Business Diversity
Because of the huge size of California’s economy. And the breadth of industries that operate within it. You are sure to find an employer that needs your skills.
First of all, California leads the nation in agricultural production. We have touched on some of these areas already.
Specifically, the state is a top producer of dairy products in the U.S. And a leading producer of cattle, grapes, nuts, strawberries, and lettuce.
But, like another state where agriculture plays a role. There is much more to California’s economy.
For example, if the entertainment industry is your dream. Because of Hollywood, the opportunities in California are 2nd to none.
Also, technology businesses are plentiful. Because of the presence of Silicon Valley.
Finally, California historically has a high rate of new business openings. And is known for the density of startups that give it a go in California.
So, from the unskilled to skilled, to highly specialized talents, and entrepreneurs. A diversity of good work and business opportunities can be found in California.
That meets with your unique talents and interests. For working or achieving your important business goals.
Here is another one of the best things about living in California. Specifically, making money there…
Make More Money Living In California
Workers in California make more money than most other states in the nation. Since California falls in the top 10 states based on median annual income.
Many of the high earners are based in San Francisco. The heart of Silicon Valley. A place where a lot of highly skilled and well-paid technology professionals call home.
Health care providers also make good money in California. And it’s not limited to a specific field.
Physicians, surgeons, nurses, pediatricians, and dentists to name just a few. All do quite well.
And it’s likely the demand for health care will increase moving forward. Because of the state’s large and aging population. Also the popularity of California as a retirement destination.
So, to take advantage of the opportunities. Make sure your resume is in tip-top shape to land your dream job in California.
MyPerfectResume is a great resource. To put your credentials in the best light. And get the job of your choosing.
Finally, are you looking for a place to make a few bucks? But are not quite sure about moving to California yet.
Then you should check out the great things about Colorado. A state with a smaller, but up-and-coming technology scene. And strong economic growth.
Okay. That concludes the pros of living in California.
Next, it’s time to cover some reasons not to live in California. And, I’m not done with your money.
Because living in California can be very expensive. There is no doubt you can find cheaper places to live.
And many are doing so. By moving to Idaho. And other nearby states in the west.
Let’s talk more about this…
6. High Cost Of Living
Yes. You can make good money after moving to California. But, hanging on to the money you make is another story.
Suffice it to say. That California won’t make my list of least expensive states to live in.
Why? Because the average cost of living in California is very high.
So, the price of living in California is an area you will want to pay careful consideration to. Thus, double-check your budget. Before moving to this expensive state to live in.
And be sure to choose your location wisely. Because costs, especially housing, will vary depending on where you live. For example, the San Francisco bay area including Oakland is one of the most expensive.
While lower living costs can be found here by moving inland off the coast. For example cities like Sacramento, Chico, Stockton, and Clovis.
So, here are a few things to consider about the average cost of living per month in California…
Home Prices When Living In California
California homes are expensive. Especially in Southern California.
The median price of a home in California is more than double when compared to all homes across the U.S.
So, it’s important to save every penny you can on your mortgage. Do you need a mortgage for that new home in California?
Then consider Lending Tree. For low rates and an easy online application process. You can learn more about Lending Tree here.
Rents When Residing In California
So, if buying a home in California is out of your budget. You may want to consider renting.
Unfortunately, you won’t catch much of a break renting an apartment either. Because apartment rentals in California are some of the most costly in the country. Specifically, 50% higher than the nation’s average.
In addition, whether you decide to rent or buy in California. Be sure to keep a close eye on your credit score.
Since lenders and landlords will review it. To be sure you are credit-worthy.
Finally, you can check your credit score for free with Credit Karma.
Pros And Cons Living In California: Gasoline Prices
Traditionally, California has some of the highest gas prices in the country. And a large chunk of the price for a gallon of gas can be attributed to taxes.
Because gas tax accounts for more than 50 cents a gallon. It is one of the highest tax rates in the country.
California environmental regulations also call for a unique blend of gasoline. This restricts supply. And finds its way into higher prices at the pump.
Other Costs Of Living In California
Once you get past housing and transportation. The other costs of living in California are not too bad.
Specifically, costs for groceries, health care, and utilities are similar to U.S. national averages.
But overall, because of the price of housing, California living will cost you more.
Because it is an expensive state to live in. As compared to most other states in the country.
Saving Money Living In California (Or Elsewhere)
Here are a couple of online tools we use to save a little money. They can help you reduce your average living expenses in California. But best of all, these things work no matter where you live.
First, we signed up and use Rakuten. For all of our online purchases.
Because Rakuten pays cash rebates on almost everything we buy online.
And you can get a $10 cash reward. For signing up and making your first purchase. Just like we did.
We also use Ibotta. To save on all of our purchases when we go to the grocery store.
So, save money on your groceries using the Ibotta app. And, as I said. Save money with both Rakuten and Ibotta. No matter where you choose to live.
And in California. You need all the help you can get. When it comes to saving money.
Next, let’s talk about another one of the bad things about California. Unfortunately, I’m not done with your finances…
7. Heavy Tax Burden
I already mentioned that California has one of the highest gasoline taxes in the country. But, it doesn’t stop there when it comes to paying taxes in California.
Because you will never confuse California with a low-tax state like Wyoming. Here’s why…
Income Taxes When Living in California
This state has a progressive tax system. That simply means making more money will lead to being charged a higher income tax rate. For every extra dollar earned.
For example, the top income tax rate in California is the highest in the country. At more than 13%. For income over 1 million dollars.
Now, if you are like me. You make nowhere near a million dollars a year.
But even if you make an average wage. Then taxes for residents in this state. Ramp up quickly. Since you can find yourself in a tax bracket that charges more than 9%.
This is a very high tax rate. So, let me repeat…
Income taxes in California are very high.
Especially when you can find another state with zero income taxes. That also offers a high quality of life. That charges zero state income taxes.
Here’s another disadvantage of living in California. And it relates to the high price of housing.
Real Estate Taxes When Residing In California
No matter where you live. Your real estate taxes will be based on two things.
First the tax rate charged by the county in which you live. And second, the value of your property to which that rate is applied.
The good news? The average real estate tax rate in California isn’t that high.
The bad news? High costs for property mean the tax rate is applied to an inflated number.
The result? High real estate taxes are paid by the owners of property in the state.
Thus, California is ranked in the top 10 most costly states for real estate taxes. Based on the amount paid by the owner for an average-priced home.
And the story about taxation in California just keeps getting worse…
Pros And Cons Of California: Sales Taxes
Once again California checks in with one of the highest sales tax rates in the country. The combined state and local rates will net out to roughly an additional 8% on every purchase you make.
So, here’s the bottom line about taxes when living in California.
If you make a lot of money. And spend a lot of money. California is going to take a large share of it.
Think of it this way. The average person will pay California about 20 cents on every dollar they make and spend.
This leaves just 80 cents of purchasing power for every dollar you make. And that’s before the U.S. government takes its share.
The high tax burden and high cost of living are two reasons to leave California. And some residents are relocating to Nevada. Right across California’s eastern border.
Managing Your Money In California
Given the cost of living in California. And the high taxes. It’s important to manage your money wisely when living in the state. Or, anywhere you choose to live for that matter.
We use Personal Capital. It is an excellent online tool for managing your budget and investments. All in one place.
Best of all, Personal Capital is free to sign up and use. You can learn more about Personal Capital here.
With all this talk about money and taxes. It brings me to another one of the bad things about California…
8. Questionable Governance
According to Forbes, California is in the top 10 states based on indebtedness. Other studies I researched have them ranked even closer to the top of this list.
In my opinion, a state with such high taxes. Should be better at running a balanced or near balanced budget. Just like you and I have to do with our household finances.
Furthermore, businesses are starting to take notice of the taxes, regulations, and high costs of living for employees. Then considering other states for their operations.
On the other hand, California has made strides in recent years. For example, this study shows California in the middle of the pack when it comes to best and worst-run states. The ranking is up from being dead last as little as 10 years ago.
Next up, another one of the cons of living in California. It is the flip side to the popularity the state has enjoyed.
9. Negative Effects Of Urbanization
California has the largest population of residents of all states in America. And lots of people bring on the unfortunate effects of urbanization.
Largest Metropolitan Areas In California
First, let’s put some numbers and context around California’s population centers. Specifically, according to The Poynter Institute, California is home to 4 of the top 13 most populated metro areas in the country.
Los Angeles: Due to its proximity to nearby Hollywood. LA is known for being the home for the rich and famous.
Even basketball legend, LeBron James, had to move to “The City Of Angels”.
San Diego: Probably best known for its perfect weather. Because it’s 70 degrees and sunny in San Diego more often than not.
Throw in miles of pristine beaches. And it’s no wonder San Diego goes by the nickname “America’s Finest City”.
San Jose: Known to be the unofficial capital of technology center Silicon Valley. With companies like Cisco, eBay, and PayPal calling the city home base.
San Francisco: “The City by the Bay” is also known as “The Golden City”. Located in “The Golden State” pretty much says it all. San Francisco is pure Gold!
Living In California’s Largest Cities Means…
So what does all of the urbanization going on in this state mean? Well, 4 major things about life in California cities stand out to me…
Bad traffic: The California highways are notorious for heavy traffic. And traffic jams.
Both Los Angeles and San Francisco routinely rank as some of the most highly congested cities. Partly because public transportation options are limited.
Pollution: All of that traffic creates pollution. And poor air quality as a result.
Crime: California’s crime rate ranks in the upper third of all states in the nation.
Homelessness: Finally, the state has a high population of homeless. Partly due to the moderate temperatures in the urban areas.
The last one of my reasons not to move to California is next. Then I will wrap up.
10. Risks Of Natural Disasters
For all the nice conditions in California. There are some dangerous things to watch out for.
Although the chance of being severely impacted by a natural disaster in California is remote. There is a range of threats that are unlike any other state.
Droughts: A large portion of California is dessert, so drought is not uncommon.
Drought has led to water shortages. And an increase in conservation efforts over the years.
Wildfires: The dry conditions can lead to wildfires. A fire in recent years destroyed the entire town of Paradise, California.
Floods: It may not rain often. But when it does, many areas of the state can be prone to flooding.
Landslides: Because of the topography of the land. Coupled with the chance of flooding. Landslides and mudslides can be a result.
Earthquakes: There are hundreds of active faults in California capable of causing damage. And a majority of the population lives within a close radius from these fault lines.
Okay. That wraps up our discussion of the 10 pros and cons about living in California. Allow me to conclude with a summary for easy reference.
Top 10 Pros And Cons Of Living In California
Have you been asking yourself this question: Should I move to California? Then hopefully this article has helped you to decide.
From my perspective, there are plenty of good reasons to move to California. Also some bad things about living in “The Golden State”.
As I look at the list. And consider some other livable locations in the U.S. It strikes me that California is almost the opposite of living in a state like Kansas.
In any event, life in California means:
- Pleasant weather
- Abundant recreational options
- Easy access to fresh & healthy foods
- High quality of life
- Ample economic opportunity
- High cost of living
- Heavy tax burden
- Questionable governance
- Negative effects of urbanization
- Risks of natural disasters
More Reading About Where To Live, Money, & Finances
If you liked reading about the reasons to move, or not to move to California. Then here are some related articles you may enjoy…
- “Best Of” places to live reading list
- A mid-south state gaining in popularity
- A state with one of the lowest costs of living
My Favorite Resources To Make The Most Of Money And Life
Regardless of your thoughts about the pros and cons of living in California. You can make the most of your money no matter where you choose to live.
By checking out some of these money-saving tips. And, money-management tools I referenced throughout the article.
They are summarized here for your convenience:
- Make a good impression with MyPerfectResume
- Get a low cost loan or mortgage from Lending Tree
- Check your credit for free with Credit Karma
- Get cash back on your online purchases with Rakuten
- Save at the grocery store with the Ibotta app
- Manage all your money with Personal Capital
Author Bio, Disclosure, & Disclaimer: Please join me (Tom) as I try to achieve my goals, find my next place to live, and make the most of my money. However, I am not a licensed investment adviser, financial counselor, real estate agent, or tax professional. Instead, I’m a 50-something-year-old, early retired CPA, finance professional, and business school teacher with 40+ years of DIY dividend investing experience. I’m here only to share my thoughts about essential topics for success. As a result, nothing published on this site should be considered individual investment, financial, tax, or real estate advice. This site’s only purpose is general information & entertainment. Thus, neither I nor Dividends Diversify can be held liable for losses suffered by any party because of the information published on this website. Finally, all written content is the property of Dividends Diversify LLC. Unauthorized publication elsewhere is strictly prohibited.