I had this question from my
AMAa while back about my experiences now in Chicago compared to my previous time in New York, and I figured I’d expound on my response in a separate post.
Here’s my answer in two parts: money and lifestyle.
“A salary of $US70,000 in Chicago, Illinois should increase to $US112,493 in New York, New York.” (source)
When I talked to my New York friends about this benefit of living in Chicago, I always heard the opposing argument that many material things cost the same no matter where you live.
While I agree with this, the fact of the matter is, when you’re young and living in a city, the majority of your expenses come from things like rent and food, not fixed-cost items like cars and watches. And as you guys know, both food and rent are absurdly expensive in NYC.
Also, a life of financial stability is important for me (ironic, right? since I’m a trader), and there was no way I could get any savings for my future while working for a BB, without relying on bonus. I understand that bonuses are high in our industry and I’m thankful for that, but it just feels lot better to be able to say: “I can save for the important things in life like car, marriage, house, etc. with just my salary, and any bonus is a luxury.”
For those who are wondering, I live in a 900 sq ft one bedroom on my own in a high rise building in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Chicago with incredible convenience to public transportation, groceries, gym, etc. and it costs me ~$US1600/month. Honestly, I was too spoiled when I moved from NYC and I’m considering moving somewhere cheaper/smaller because the place is “too” nice and I think I can be more responsible with my income.
My hours now are actually a little bit worse than they were in NYC since markets start earlier here because of Central Time. But no matter how you look at it, I definitely had/have enough time for a work-life balance in both NYC and Chicago. But in New York, even though I had all that free time on weekday evenings and weekends, it was very difficult for me to do anything productive/fun outside of work.
Why? Maybe it was the fact that every social interaction was so damned expensive and I was living almost paycheck by paycheck (see above), especially at the beginning. Or maybe it was just the New York mentality of stress + busyness + work is #1 that weighed down on me and paralysed me from actually doing anything outside of work. Either way, this has changed drastically in Chicago.
I’m naturally pretty introverted, but in Chicago I still find the motivation and energy to go out and do things I’m genuinely interested in. I’m about to pick up an instrument again that I haven’t touched in over 5 years. I spend a lot of time decorating my apartment to make it feel homey. I go to the gym more consistently. I cook more. All of these things (and much more) are easier in a city where the culture clearly favours a work-life balance more than that of NYC.
One way you can see this culture in Chicago is by looking at our downtown, The Loop, where most businesses are. This place is basically empty in the evenings and on the weekends because Chicagoans leave their work at work and don’t constantly stress about the “next best thing” in their careers. I found that this was a much better fit for me, and while not all New Yorkers would fit in this mentality, I certainly know many who dislike NYC who would love it here.
New York is still a great place
Don’t get me wrong though; I’m not saying that Chicago is amazing and better than New York in every way.
The biggest reason I hear about why NYC is better than Chicago is something we all already know. New York is New York. There’s something about the city that attracts a really diverse and talented group of individuals to be in a city that’s the center of the world. Yes, you pay (literally and figuratively) to enjoy this unique culture, but it’s not for everyone. That said, I think there are a lot of people who are indeed a great fit for NYC. But I also think that too many people go to NYC without really thinking through their decision and whether or not it’s a good city for them.
I doubled my income by moving to Chicago. Chicagoans are chill and so is the life here and maybe that’ll fit your personality better. New York is still the capital of the world.
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