How much does it cost to live?
The first year after I got my Ph.D. in linguistics, I taught as a lecturer at Rice University. I was paid four thousand dollars a semester. It barely covered my living expenses. Houston is a big city. I had to rent an apartment there, because it was not my home base. The following year, my contract was not renewed. When my neighbor asked me what I was going to do, I answered: "Well, I can't keep living in Houston. I can't afford to live here without an income."
He gave me a funny look and asked: "Can you afford to live anywhere without an income?"
"Well, of course, I can," I replied. It seemed like such a silly question. Nobody actually needs a specific income in order to live. You need a set income to stay in a particular spot and maintain a specific lifestyle. But nobody has to earn a specific amount of money in order to live. If we did, we'd be slaves.
Taiwan: Ministry of Education and The Pay Scale at Universities
- Benefits of Teaching English at University in Taiwan
A page discussing what's good about teaching in the university system here.
I stayed for a while with family, and eventually I found a job in Taiwan as an assistant professor of linguistics in a university in Tamsui. In Taiwan, the government is very involved in certification of educators and also in determining the pay scales of professors in all the universities, both public and private. The lowliest assistant professor in the lowest ranked university makes the same salary as one who is employed by the finest university on the island. Cost of living does not even come under consideration when offering a salary.
After my first year in Taiwan, I interviewed at a number of other universities, hoping to land a job at a more prestigious and higher level institution. I was offered a position in two places: Taiwan Normal University, which is in downtown Taipei, and Providence University, out in the boondocks, in ShaLu, Taichung county. Needless to say, Taiwan Normal had higher prestige and would have looked better on my CV. But the cost of living in Taipei is very high, and I was expecting a child. I would have to hire a nanny and support her, and all on the same salary that I would get no matter where I lived. Living in Taichung, in an area that was considered "out in the country", on the very same salary, I could afford all my expenses, and even put away savings against my return to the U.S.
Mind you, a place that is considered "out in the country" in Taiwan, looks like the middle of a big city to someone from the U.S. I chose the more frugal living arrangement and the less prestigious employer, and I rented an apartment on the ninth floor of a very urban looking housing development.
It's not the salary you make that determines how well off you are. It is the comparison between your income and your outlay that counts.
Where I live Now: The Cost of Living and Other Interesting Facts
I don't work anymore. I am retired, and except for the pittance that I am making on Hubpages this year, I have no earned income. All my income is passive. And it's very small. And I have no debt. On top of which, I live where the cost of living is low.
As of 2009, the population in the town I live near is 1,371 people. Since 2000, it has had a population growth of -1.48 percent. The median home cost is $71,730. Home appreciation the last year has been -2.20 percent. (But property taxes have gone up).
Compared to the rest of the country, the cost of living where I live now is 24.77% lower than the U.S. average.
The public schools where I live spend $3,917 per student. The average school expenditure in the U.S. is $6,058. There are about 11 students per teacher where I live.
The unemployment rate where I live is 9.50 percent (U.S. avg. is 8.50%). Recent job growth is Negative. Jobs have decreased by 3.90 percent since the year 2000. I moved here in 2001.
Want to see how this compares to where you live? Check it out here
Economically Depressed or Just Out in the Country
How did I choose to live here? Well, the state of Missouri was chosen because of the favorable laws toward chimpanzees. But the exact location was determined by the price. I started out in the vicinity of St. Louis, MO, and kept going south and west until I found a nice house with a good bit of land for the amount of money I could afford to pay for it in cash.
Have you considered that just maybe you would have to work less for the same things if only you lived where there are fewer people? The more urban the location, the higher the cost of living. It's like paying extra to live where it is crowded. Why would anyone want to do that?
An Israeli woman visited me here when I had been living here for only a couple of years. "This area is economically depressed," she commented. "I couldn't even try to open a falafel restaurant here."
"It's not economically depressed!" I said. "It's just out in the country."
Later, after she left, I thought some more about this exchange. What if we were both right? What if it is economically depressed, because the definition of economically depressed is the same as the definition of "out in the country"? What if it's normal not to have a growth economy and a lot of commerce?
Before you decide that your income isn't high enough, ask yourself: "Are my expenses too high? Am I paying too much for food and housing?" The answer just might be that you don't need an economic boom. What you need is to find an area that is economically depressed. Another name for that is: a place way out in the country!
It's not how much money you have that's important. It's how much you have to spend.
(c) 2010 Aya Katz
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