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Relocating

Are you considering relocating your federal career - either by your choice or by Uncle Sam? There are practical issues and concerns to think about when deciding whether or not to relocate. Others have done it while still others have not. This forum will allow for all to offer their insight, post their questions, and help each other out.

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Matrix  
#1 Posted : Tuesday, January 28, 2020 6:23:20 AM(UTC)
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I've been a GS-12 for years now, and it's the same daily routine. I max my performance ratings, am very knowledgeable, and work remotely most days. I have amazing leadership, everything is 'perfect' except the routine nature and lack of promotion referrals. I have an MBA, Certifications, 10% veteran.

The struggle is that I want to a)get promoted to take on more responsibility; and b)shake up the monotony.

I don't know of any solution besides relocating. Yet with a house, marriage (wife works full-time), bills, it also seems very complex. This pay is maybe $5K/year more, which is nothing, just my wife out of work a few weeks is more than that. Almost every promotion is located in D.C. or in a high-cost area.

At this point, open to suggestions.
ex-military  
#2 Posted : Tuesday, January 28, 2020 8:01:43 AM(UTC)
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Not sure what field you are in, but I am assuming some sort of Administrative work, since you can work remotely. The monotony is the nature of the work. Its the same, rote work every day. When you are up at the 12-13 levels, promotions tend to dry up, because the folks holding those slots have to retire/die before they will open up. That is especially true out in the field. In DC, 12,13, and 14 positions are a dime a dozen.

Only you can decide whether the small pay bump is worth uprooting your family. DC is high cost, but it would bump your High-3 for retirement purposes.

Another suggestion to break the monotony would be to go into the office more often.
LawOrder  
#3 Posted : Tuesday, January 28, 2020 8:49:09 AM(UTC)
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Everyone’s situation is different.

I’ve been a 12 for too long and moved to get that 13. I don’t have kids and wife doesn’t work, so that made the decision easier. Plus, I was ready for a new scenery.

Also, the prospects for 14 down the road is much better in DC. Cost of living is certainly higher, so to maintain the same housing costs, we scaled down. This is ok for us, since we don’t need too many bedrooms for a 2-person household.
frankgonzalez  
#4 Posted : Tuesday, January 28, 2020 11:31:00 AM(UTC)
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I have no kids, and my wife doesn't work, plus I didn't have a mortgage, so my decision was a little easier. I did pay for my own move though, which was about $8-10k for everything: the stuff we shipped, our travel (including a few side trips while driving cross country from Los Angeles to DC) etc. Could have done it for less, but we had the cash, so not an issue (we did not use credit cards to fund the move, but used them for the points, and then paid them off before interest kicked in).

I went from GG-12 to GS-13 to GS-14. I moved in 2013 to DC and and took the GS14 position in Jan 2017 (and ended up at the best agency to work in the federal government for every year since!). So for me, it worked out well. If a GS15 in my agency opened up outside HQ, I'd consider it..depending on the location!...but I enjoy what I do and where I work, so the promotion would need to bring more interesting work as well for me to pursue it.
You should have voted Cthulu...the greatest of all Evils
smithandjones  
#5 Posted : Wednesday, January 29, 2020 8:17:07 AM(UTC)

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It is a very personal decision. I moved from a fun and low cost city in the west to a new position (same Bureau) in DC last year. Bottom line was I had peaked in the position and there were no pay raises or promotions that I wanted in sight. The new position aligns better with my profession and future goals. And ideally will lead to other opportunities. But I wish I could have the best of both worlds for sure. Living in DC, where I pay twice as much rent for half the space, is rough to swallow even though I make 25K more now. Plus its DC, an eastern crowded city vs blue skies and open spaces where I was. But all in all it has been worth it because I was on the verge of quitting and have only a short time more to go before early retirement unless something I can live with long-term opens up. I made a calculated decision and it is exactly what I expected.

I don't know where you are located or the finances involved, but some in DC solve this by commuting home on weekends. I know people with spouses and families as far as Seattle and fly back on weekends or work at home whenever possible. I haven't figured that one out yet but it could be in my future. My wife supports me (although she would love to move back west :)).
LawOrder  
#6 Posted : Wednesday, January 29, 2020 5:59:35 PM(UTC)
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Originally Posted by: smithandjones Go to Quoted Post
It is a very personal decision. I moved from a fun and low cost city in the west to a new position (same Bureau) in DC last year. Bottom line was I had peaked in the position and there were no pay raises or promotions that I wanted in sight. The new position aligns better with my profession and future goals. And ideally will lead to other opportunities. But I wish I could have the best of both worlds for sure. Living in DC, where I pay twice as much rent for half the space, is rough to swallow even though I make 25K more now. Plus its DC, an eastern crowded city vs blue skies and open spaces where I was. But all in all it has been worth it because I was on the verge of quitting and have only a short time more to go before early retirement unless something I can live with long-term opens up. I made a calculated decision and it is exactly what I expected.

I don't know where you are located or the finances involved, but some in DC solve this by commuting home on weekends. I know people with spouses and families as far as Seattle and fly back on weekends or work at home whenever possible. I haven't figured that one out yet but it could be in my future. My wife supports me (although she would love to move back west :)).



Yeah it really is a personal decision, since each individual’s circumstances and preferences are different. Have to measure the pros and cons.


Cons:
1. Housing is expensive here. Before moving we sold our 3 bedroom 3 bathroom 2 living room home, and moved to a small 1 bedroom apartment to get familiarize with DC. When we do decide to buy in DC, it will probably be a 2 bedroom condo or townhouse, since we want to stay in the District, but that is totally okay for us.
2. Eating out is 25% more expensive. That’s okay too, since we eat home cooked meals 5 days a week anyway.

Pros:
1. I live in the District close to the metro station, so commuting is an easy 15 minute sit-back and relax subway ride to the office. In my old location I was driving in traffic 1-1.5 hours each way everyday. Now I drive perhaps once a week, and take the metro, bus, and walk most everywhere.
2. Activities. Lots of free museums, entertainment, and cultural events. My wife and I are into art, food, and all the great activities that DC has to offer.
3. Better pay and better career prospects. By keeping our fixed expenses at similar levels to our previous location, we are able to save way more money.
.
Overall, I’m quite happy to make DC my new home.

Edited by user Wednesday, January 29, 2020 6:00:52 PM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

djp  
#7 Posted : Thursday, January 30, 2020 6:35:00 PM(UTC)

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OP I don’t know where you live ot what field you are in to give good advice.

Removing DOD/VHA/Borderprotection/ social security most fed jobs are in about 15 or so cities in the country. State capitals have some small presence as state liiassons. Mostly in the west you have national parks/ BLM and forest service jobs.

If you work at these more isolate jobs at DOD base or VA hospital and the job is generic that aren’t limited to just those agencies you are generally going to get stuck until the person above you retires. If you want to advance you need to bounce around and change jobs. DC having most of the HQ locations you have many senior level job at 13-15 that you can advance to relatively easy if you are willing to change agencies.

I have moved around to different areas in the country. Right now I’m in DC area. I’ll probably be here till around my retirement time.





Matrix  
#8 Posted : Monday, February 17, 2020 11:32:55 AM(UTC)
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Thank you so much all! It seems D.C. is the commonality, but what about other options? I see positions nation-wide in DoD agencies. That leaves most bases open, albeit grades at 13+ tend to be more scarce.

I live in a very low cost of living locale making RUS $80K. The jobs I see posted start at $100,000 as a GS-13. There's also a lot of quality-of-life benefits to a cheap mortgage, and working in my "pajamas's" every day. That saves me at least two hours daily, and in places like D.C., probably 3-4 hours.

It's a bit frustrating to make GS-12 early, only to hit a wall with another 20 years+ of federal service.


djp  
#9 Posted : Monday, February 17, 2020 12:57:07 PM(UTC)

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Originally Posted by: Matrix Go to Quoted Post
Thank you so much all! It seems D.C. is the commonality, but what about other options? I see positions nation-wide in DoD agencies. That leaves most bases open, albeit grades at 13+ tend to be more scarce.

I live in a very low cost of living locale making RUS $80K. The jobs I see posted start at $100,000 as a GS-13. There's also a lot of quality-of-life benefits to a cheap mortgage, and working in my "pajamas's" every day. That saves me at least two hours daily, and in places like D.C., probably 3-4 hours.

It's a bit frustrating to make GS-12 early, only to hit a wall with another 20 years+ of federal service.




This is the problem in isolated areas. It’s really hard to advance because people above you are set and stay at that position till they retire.



There are other areas where you have multiple agency regional offices. You are likely capped at 13 because the few 14s are burrowed. Depending on the agency 13 and 14 are division leads.

These are usually larger cities. Denver/KC/ Albuquerque, Seattle/Portland, east of the Mississippi agencies are more spread out and regional offices aren’t as concentrated in a few cities.






awestover89  
#10 Posted : Friday, February 21, 2020 9:43:05 PM(UTC)
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My spouse has been in the Federal service for 5 years and we've relocated 3 times including the first move when he first got hired. For us it was stressful but definitely worth it.

First move (to get in the door) there was no PCS, but it was much higher pay than his private sector job. Location wasn't ideal, but the goal was to get in the Federal government wherever we could. We knew we didn't want to live there long term, so when he became eligible for promotion (after 1 year in grade) we started applying to promotions elsewhere. Again, took a location we weren't super excited about, but it was a promotion and a lower cost of living. Most recently he applied for another promotion at a location he really wanted to be at. Didn't get the promotion, but was asked if he would be interested in a lateral, which we were. Accepted the lateral and now we're in a location we want to be at. Much higher cost of living here, but that's the price we paid.

We owned a house before the first move, and before the most recent move (we were really expecting to stay there until he got another promotion, which would likely be 5-10 years) That part (selling the houses) was extremely unpleasant, but in the end I'm really happy with the path we took, and would say relocating was definitely worth it.
Matrix  
#11 Posted : Saturday, February 22, 2020 12:01:19 PM(UTC)
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Thank you- which grades did you start and conclude on this 5 year journey? It's also easier if the spouse doesn't work, or has a good specialty (i.e. nursing).

In my journey from GS-5 to GS-12, I kept my house for both, so the first just took the financial loss of being a roommate. The second I PCS into an apartment and rented the house. In both situations I worked at a financial loss during those periods.

The ultimate scenario conflict is whether to be patient, even though I really want that 13 (which, in turn there's plenty of 14's). In a way there's that same military mentality of wanting to advance. The motivating factor, truly, is not just money but rather the ability to impact. Certainly, compensation is a factor when you work hard on advanced degrees and have student loans, mortgages, etc to pay.
awestover89  
#12 Posted : Sunday, February 23, 2020 5:33:39 AM(UTC)
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Originally Posted by: Matrix Go to Quoted Post
Thank you- which grades did you start and conclude on this 5 year journey? It's also easier if the spouse doesn't work, or has a good specialty (i.e. nursing).

In my journey from GS-5 to GS-12, I kept my house for both, so the first just took the financial loss of being a roommate. The second I PCS into an apartment and rented the house. In both situations I worked at a financial loss during those periods.

The ultimate scenario conflict is whether to be patient, even though I really want that 13 (which, in turn there's plenty of 14's). In a way there's that same military mentality of wanting to advance. The motivating factor, truly, is not just money but rather the ability to impact. Certainly, compensation is a factor when you work hard on advanced degrees and have student loans, mortgages, etc to pay.


My spouse got in at at GS-9 on a 5/7/9 public bid for a 5/7/9/11 ladder position. First move was a promotion to GS-12, second move was a lateral so still GS-12. I worked as a computer programmer and was fully remote, so as long as I had good internet I could work from anywhere. That definitely helped.

For us the ultimate goal was advancement, with a secondary goal of being in one of the few dream locations we wanted to work at. He's in the National Weather Service, so there's 122 offices to choose from and there were about 5 or 6 that we had earmarked as where we wanted to end up.

Basically for us it was: Step 1 - Get into a federal job (we wound up in Alaska)
Step 2 - Get to the lower 48 on a promotion
Step 3 - Either get to one of our "dream" offices via lateral or promotion OR get a promotion to one of our top-tier offices
someoldguy  
#13 Posted : Sunday, February 23, 2020 5:49:06 AM(UTC)
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A couple of people made some observations I'd like to tie together: One said that positions at the 13-14 and up level in DC are a "dime a dozen" and another noted that in some areas outside big cities you have to wait for someone to retire or die to move up.

What we are seeing in the DC area (DC-Northern VA-Maryland) is that although there are many, many positions at these higher grade levels, they are all full. Agencies cannot begin to promote the number of people who are 'qualified' so competition is very tough. So even though there are lots of positions, it is still not that easy to move up.

Probably the odds are better around DC than a lot of places, but not everyone makes a rapid ascent, and there are more than a small handful of folks stuck at 13... or even 12.
DISCLAIMER: You read it on an open internet forum :)
Linds  
#14 Posted : Thursday, May 21, 2020 5:45:03 AM(UTC)
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For me it was worth it even thought I absolutely loved where I had been living. I was out in a field office as a GS-8 & was stuck for 8 1/2yrs as one (for context I have a Masters degree so I shouldn’t have been stuck as an 8, but that’s beside the point). I applied for a job at my agency’s HQ & was given it so I moved to the DC area as a GS-9. About a year later, after applying for many jobs & getting many interviews (more so than when I lived out in the field), I got a new job as a GS-11. I’ve been an 11 for a few years now, but I’m filling out my paperwork for my background stuff to start a new job as a GS-12. Meanwhile, just in the past few months, I’ve had like 7-8 interviews for other jobs.

For me personally, it was absolutely the right move. I HATED leaving my old town, but I was literally stuck and not going anywhere. So I had to do what was best for my career. Also, to note, I’m single & only had to worry about me & my pet. In my old town I also rented so I didn’t have to worry about selling a house.
hemihem  
#15 Posted : Friday, May 22, 2020 12:59:37 AM(UTC)
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I'm back, it's been awhile since I last participated.

Worth it, agree.

2005 - 2012 GS-5/GS-7 TX
2013 - 2015 GS9 MD
2015 - 2020 GS11/GS12 DC
2020 - Present GS13 DC

Myself + Spouse (Nurse)
Matrix  
#16 Posted : Friday, May 22, 2020 7:23:41 AM(UTC)
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Thanks hemihem, do you telework?

It looks like I would make an extra $15,000 going to D.C. With my mortgage here, on a 3 bedroom home, at $700...I'm concerned on its viability. It looks like you were stuck until you jumped into that beltway, and that's common advice. I'm just curious if you can lateral yourself back to TX and retain that grade/pay.

Maybe D.C. will become more "virtual", and coming in 1-2 days won't be bad. As it stands I'm making $90,000 for remote work, with house prices at $120K. Yet, even outside D.C. I have no decision making as a 12, I'm not even a "lead".
hemihem  
#17 Posted : Friday, May 22, 2020 11:11:52 AM(UTC)
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I do telework, hate it, too much distractions

Once you adjust to the high cost, it balance out.

I would not leave the DC Maryland Virgina (DMV) area, the traffic don't faze me.

One hour into DC, An hour and half out to Maryland.

Sit back, turn on some music, I myself drive without music. I let the road rage drivers entertain me.
djp  
#18 Posted : Friday, May 22, 2020 1:44:47 PM(UTC)

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Originally Posted by: Matrix Go to Quoted Post
Thanks hemihem, do you telework?

It looks like I would make an extra $15,000 going to D.C. With my mortgage here, on a 3 bedroom home, at $700...I'm concerned on its viability. It looks like you were stuck until you jumped into that beltway, and that's common advice. I'm just curious if you can lateral yourself back to TX and retain that grade/pay.

Maybe D.C. will become more "virtual", and coming in 1-2 days won't be bad. As it stands I'm making $90,000 for remote work, with house prices at $120K. Yet, even outside D.C. I have no decision making as a 12, I'm not even a "lead".


The extra money would go into housing costs.

The telework “ benefit” in DC is not dealing with long commutes. The pay area doesn’t have many cheap real estate places you can get a home.

Other cities with higher pay areas has pockets where housing is cheap relative to salary.

My rule on housing if you are buying at around 30 is

home prices is under 3 times gross salary.
Monthly payment is below 33% of gross monthly pay.

If you are a single earner it’s near impossible to afford a home on a single fed salary in the DC area. In other areas it reasonable.

Generally GS 13 level you will accumulate surplus income beyond your normal year ling expenses. If you had two incomes you’d be very well off.

An example of this is my home town area of buffalo where a GS13 salary is in $99K-$110K range. Yiu can easily get a home below $200K.

In these smaller fed job areas it’s harder to advance because people are burrowing into 12 and 13s till they retire.

You go to dc get to 13 or 14 then move out if you can’t afford a house including your spouses income.


Endless Summer  
#19 Posted : Friday, May 22, 2020 4:21:15 PM(UTC)
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Originally Posted by: someoldguy Go to Quoted Post
A couple of people made some observations I'd like to tie together: One said that positions at the 13-14 and up level in DC are a "dime a dozen" and another noted that in some areas outside big cities you have to wait for someone to retire or die to move up.

What we are seeing in the DC area (DC-Northern VA-Maryland) is that although there are many, many positions at these higher grade levels, they are all full. Agencies cannot begin to promote the number of people who are 'qualified'...


My experience was that in DC many of the higher grades were people who were just trying to establish their high three. They came in at the end of their career for the GS14/15 slot, put in the three years and retired. It was really common in my agency which had locations all over the US.

So, there was a decent amount of turnover, plus it was easy for people to jump ship to another agency and not have to worry about moving.

Going back to the OP's original question, yes, it was worthwhile for me to take the initial move because that got me into the fed. Subsequent moves have not been as rewarding, one was even a near disaster.

I can't say what the OP should do, I can see the frustration of looking at another 15 years in the same job and grade, but I can also speak from experience that, to paraphrase the opening line in "Apocalypse Now", "I wanted an adventure, and for my sins They gave me one".

Sometimes boring is nice...
Matrix  
#20 Posted : Saturday, May 23, 2020 9:11:11 AM(UTC)
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I absolutely love telework. I have a home office, zero distractions. I miss the people, interactions, networking. I've noticed most that stayed on-site 5 days got promoted very, very fast.

I just don't want my extra money going to housing, and having a worst quality of life. I could understand if I accepted a San Diego position and beach house. But not just to buy an identical home, and then commute 3 hours/day in a city environment.

I can definitely see the "high-three" benefit, then jump ship back to your retired locale.
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