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Childcare vs house vs commute in Bay Area

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  • Childcare vs house vs commute in Bay Area

    I feel like our family is at a financial crossroads (or just a general one), and I've gone in circles about what to do. My husband is the type that makes quick decisions and tries to optimize them later. I like to think through something before making a commitment. In this case, I simply cannot figure out the best path. I would appreciate input from the savvy minds here.

    Some background: We're mid-thirties, no debt, combined income is $650K. I'm a physician in a highly lucrative specialty, currently working three days a week with good hours (for $300K). Husband is an entrepreneur. We have a two-year-old and an infant. We have $750K in the bank in stocks/retirement/cash etc. I'm an excellent saver; husband is pretty good. We eat out a lot, but otherwise we live fairly cheaply. Our biggest expense is childcare. We pay $85K per year for childcare - preschool + nanny. Yes, it hurts, but we can afford the preschool and our daughter likes it. The nanny is a crazy expense, but the convenience is important to us.

    We live in a VHCOL area (SF). I want to move. I hate the city. My husband loves it here. My closest family member is 3,000 miles away, so all our childcare is paid help. I fly home 4-5 times per year with the kids to see family, which is grueling and terrible and I hate it.

    So here we are:

    - Our rent is cheap ($4K/month). We live in a nice house in a good neighborhood, but it's not at all kid-friendly. I can't leave my house with the two kids - it is physically impossible due to 50 stairs, a huge hill, and a busy street. So we're stranded inside. I ultimately want to move to the East coast, but my husband's job is here, and he can't leave it anytime soon. Maybe in the next 2-3 years. I don't want to buy a house in SF, but our commutes are in opposite directions, and SF is pretty much the midway point. Mine is 75 minutes; his is 20 minutes. If we move anywhere outside of SF, his commute will triple and mine will go down to 30 minutes. To buy a nice house we like in an area with the best-case-scenario commute, it will be at least $2MM and closer to $2.5MM. We are approved for a $3MM loan but no way do I want to spend that.

    - Other option: We stick it out in our rented apartment until I lose my mind, continue to pay $85K a year for childcare. If we move to another house in the neighborhood of comparable size, our rent will double. At that point, doesn't it make more sense to buy?

    - We move to a house/area that I like better in the Bay Area, but take on a big mortgage (ie $10K/month). We would do an au pair in that case which would be a $3K/month savings. Husband's commute time would triple no matter what. Mine would become bearable, but I only drive in 2-3 times per week. On the off chance my husband leaves his job someday, we sell and move to a MCOL where our money will go a lot further, but we'll probably lose money on the house. Is this a reasonable trade-off, or no?

    - Is it insane to buy a $2MM house if my goal is to move back East someday (ie happy wife, happy life - I am very unhappy in the Bay Area)?

    Thanks for any insights.



  • #2
    You guys need to talk to each other and find a compromise. Nothing good will happen if one spouse hates where they live.


    • #3
      I don’t understand why you can’t leave the house? Baby wear the infant, hold the two year olds hand and in the other hand you have an umbrella stroller.

      Is your husbands job moveable? If not, would you be willing to work more hours?

      Can you get a job in a location closer to his? That would make the commute easier.


      • #4
        Wow... can he tele-commute? I laugh at:

        Our rent is cheap ($4K/month)
        Click to expand...

        As only someone in SF would say that!

        We live in Tahoe, super great family friendly place with tons of SF tele-commuters, people fly from here to SF, San Jose or take their own plane to work at Google, etc.

        Have you thought about that? What surgical subspecialty are you? Maybe we need one...

        If you have to stay there... i'd figure out a way to stay in the apartment but still be able to get outside like:

        Baby wear the infant, hold the two year olds hand and in the other hand you have an umbrella stroller.
        Click to expand...

        Or get to know a neighbor that can help you get the kids down the stairs?

        Also, we have AMAZING Alpine lakes to swim in! I usually swim for an hour every other day between end of June and mid-sept prior to going into round/office/surgery


        • #5
          The question is whether the two of you want to move work or not.   If you hate The City, then that's a nonstarter for the family IMHO.  My sister loves SF - she's Alamo square all the way.  I would go bonkers myself with all the rush and noise.

          If neither or you are willing to uproot jobs, the only viable solution is find something midway.   It's weird being two physicians you have commutes opposite directions and SF in the middle.....Down the peninsula and up in North Bay?    It would hard to fathom the North Bay job can't be replicated down further -- sacrifice that to get out of the city and into something suburban in Burlingame/San Mateo.

          So really would look at those parameters and then widget in childcare after home and work.


          • #6
            San Mateo is awfully nice, but (only) $4,000 per month for rent in San Francisco seems pretty good too. If you decide to leave, you aren’t out much compared to $2-3M+ to buy a place on the peninsula.

            The 75 minute commute has got to go! At least dictate chart notes, listen to great business, finance, or personal finance podcasts, call post op patients or other docs / specialists for referrals and follow up. Consider getting a Tesla with Autopilot and automatic distance keeping cruise control. Any thing to reduce that commute or turn it into productive time and leave the office earlier!


            • #7
              I cannot help much with the living situation. I do not know the real estate or geography enough.
              But does your husband know how much you dislike the current situation? Is he willing to make changes for you? Is his job portable at all or would moving back east force him to sell out? Is his family on the west coast and would he leave it?


              • #8
                I vote the lose your mind option.


                • #9
                  Productive time? So chart while "driving" a 2 ton car? Not sure that is appropriate recommendation.

                  Why can't he leave his job anytime soon?


                  • #10
                    To me, it doesn't sound like you are happy, it sounds like you are unhappy but trying to put lipstick on the pig.  sorry if i am misreading.

                    good luck.  it seems clear to me, that if options are as presented, the current plan will not work out in the long run.  so you can either let the universe decide and wait for something in his job situation to change, or be more proactive and do a hard prioritization of what's important to you.  something has to give.  either that's where you live, one of the jobs, or both.  or you learn to love the situation for what it is, and know in a few years the kids can walk up the steps themselves and appreciate the four days off per week that you have and the opportunities that come from living in SF.

                    i will say that having two young kids can make everything seem worse than it is.  but there is nothing that would make a 75 minute commute each way okay for me, even if 3 days per week.

                    good luck to you.



                    • #11
                      Agree with Qschool that a 75 minute commute is unacceptable.  I would start with an honest talk about how unhappy you are.


                      • #12

                        i will say that having two young kids can make everything seem worse than it is.
                        Click to expand...

                        speaking from experience, having three young kids makes it even worse!


                        • #13
                          We have been at cross road like this - and feel with you. We live in a VLCOL - and bought houses in this kind of turmoil but they are 200k and not 2MM, 3MM.

                          I would say buying a house in this moment is the least helpful thing to do, only complicates the matter.

                          Can the nanny help getting you out of the house or is she only working when you are working? As a short time fix of that "driving you crazy thing", maybe try to be creative to make your apartment time more pleasant by making outings to awesome playgrounds etc - however you can. I found that one always overestimates how much one uses the back yard when thinking about it sitting in a rented apartment and consider buying a house. At some point, toddlers/kids going outside want to play with other kids so your own backyard gets boring because there are no other kids etc. In other words I would not jump to buying a house for that particular aspect.


                          • #14

                            i will say that having two young kids can make everything seem worse than it is. 
                            Click to expand…

                            speaking from experience, having three young kids makes it even worse!
                            Click to expand...

                            I got 4 and I have seen someone post about having 5 carseats.

                            At some point, toddlers/kids going outside want to play with other kids so your own backyard gets boring because there are no other kids etc.
                            Click to expand...

                            This is a great point.  We almost bought way too much house because I thought how much the kids would love the yard.  We went the oppisite direction and are in a development and the kids love having other kids on the street.


                            I don’t understand why you can’t leave the house? Baby wear the infant, hold the two year olds hand and in the other hand you have an umbrella stroller.
                            Click to expand...

                            I do not know the OPs situation but I love when I only have 2 kids.  I feel that I am a normal parent and can actually do things.  I can enjoy taking them to the playground.  When I take all 4 I am holding the baby.  2 kids want to be pushed on swings and the third tries to run into the road.  I must look like a crazy person to the other parents.


                            • #15
                              Thank you all for the input and replies - definitely a helpful discussion.

                              I could transfer to another location (possibly), but I will probably lose my telemedicine days. So I'm not sure it's worth it to lose that flexibility. For me, doing 1.5 days telemedicine + 2 days in the office is probably going to be better than 3.5 days in the office at another site (which would be four commuting days). In the Bay Area, it's really hard to find a job with a commute under 30 minutes, so I feel like it's kind of a wash since I do get to work from home. But maybe not. I could push for a transfer but that would create other problems at my current job. I like where I work and don't really want to go the private practice route.

                              My husband owns his company. If he sticks it out, he could have a decent payday at the end, or he could leave with nothing (and no salary for a while). But he's invested a lot in his company and has made it pretty far compared to most start-ups. I think his quitting now is a bad financial decision, but he could be there five more years. I can last maybe another year in SF, but not five.

                              He is open to moving. He thinks he could do a week on the West Coast and a week back East if he had to if we moved, but is this a marriage killer? Maybe it's better than moving to a suburb out here where he takes on a 1.5 hour commute during rush hour. He's okay with either, though (just not super excited about it).

                              I'm trying to make the best of it here. Infant has never been in a stroller - I wear him everywhere. It's still hard because my tiny 2-year-old can't handle all the hills so we have to go out with a stroller. Last week I took them both out, it was hellish, came back up the steep hill to where we live and couldn't muster the strength to carry the 30 lb stroller up two flights of stairs. So yeah, left it out on the sidewalk for an hour and that thing was gone. I feel silly complaining about these things but it's really wearing me down.

                              I am starting to feel like buying a house will overcomplicate things. I just don't want to languish in SF for five more years and wonder if it's the better bet to buy now...