It’s kind of mystifying how life can stand you on your ear in a split second, isn’t it?
Last month I got a call from my boss asking if I would be willing to take an “all expenses paid” trip to Orlando to help him shop for a new house. He’s been living in the midwest for a while (in the same down where the company we work for is headquartered), splitting his time each year between the U.S. and China. Finally he decided that he’d had enough of the midwest’s winters, high prices, exorbitant state taxes and everything else, and that he was going to move to Florida.
I spent a week checking out houses with him and pointing out things that I thought he might have missed (he wanted me along to make sure he didn’t throw objectivity completely out the window and rush into something dumb). After we visited Orlando, we journeyed further south to my neck of the woods, where my boss eventually decided upon a house in a neighboring community. He put in an offer and told me he’d let me know how it turned out.
This was pretty exciting, I thought. My boss and I — this boss, I mean, since I technically have two — get along pretty well. We like playing video games, have the same points of view on a lot of things, and our wives (both being foreign-born Asians) also like to hang out with each other. In the last few years my complement of friends here in town has whittled away to essentially zero, so I thought it was going to be great to have someone nearby to get together with on occasion. Plus, my boss is part owner of our company and having him down here in Florida might help ensure that I don’t get ignored by the company brass, as I feel I have been in the last few months (or years) since I’m the last remaining employee who lives here.
Anyway, about a week after he put in that offer, I hadn’t heard anything and was about to call him up and ask what had become of it — when he called me, and informed me that not only was he moving, but so was our entire company! I was shocked. My other boss — and the other major owner of the firm — is not a man who makes such decisions lightly, but after he put together a clear picture of just how royally he was getting screwed by the oppressive taxes of his company’s home state, he decided it was time to relocate. Awesome, I thought. The whole company’s coming here! Now I can even be a regular W-2 employee and not have to worry about this tax withholding, health care qualification, and all that junk.
There was just one problem. The company and all of its employees were moving, all right — but not to my town. Not even to Florida. They were moving to Texas.
I was broadsided by this news. Actually, to be honest, I was pissed. I’d just spent a week traipsing around different parts of Florida looking at houses, shooting and analyzing video, going over pros and cons. And then after my boss went back to the midwest, he sent me on additional errands where I met up with his local real estate agent and checked out several more houses, shot more video and sent it to him over the Internet. I thought my social and professional troubles were finally over, and what happens? They move the whole roadshow to the Lone Star State! Great, back where I started.
And then, crazy as I thought it was, I decided to try looking at this whole situation not as a disappointment, but an opportunity.
My natural inclination is to take the path of least resistance through life. I’ve always been this way to a degree, but in my younger days I seemed more apt to take risks to get what I wanted — hell, I wouldn’t be married, nor would I even be living in Florida today, were that not true. More recently, I’ve been feeling pretty stuck in a rut. Although I only recently turned 30, much of my lifestyle mirrors that of the 70- and 80-somethings that we share this town with. I rarely even leave my house, being that I work here and that there is very little of interest for a couple like Apple and I to do in the local area. And if there was, we’ve both become so accustomed to not doing it that we probably wouldn’t anyway.
So it took a pretty unusual adjustment in attitude for me to even consider the idea that maybe, just maybe, I should be considering what it would be like if we relocated to Texas ourselves.
After all, we’ve been down this “moving” road before. Our experiment with leveraging the real estate market to our advantage in 2006 ended in near-disaster and cost us a significant amount of money, although I’m at least pleased to say we recognized the danger of the situation before we were ruined financially. The few months that we did have our house on the market back then were easily the most stress-filled, hair-pulling months of my entire life and my brain erected a lot of mental barriers to prevent me from enduring such shit again. But the market here in Florida today is significantly different than it was in 2006, so our first step was to put aside our fears and think objectively. What if we wanted to move? What is this big huge state they call Texas like, anyway?
My other boss — the one who doesn’t make financial decision lightly — took the unusual step of offering a fairly substantial relocation bonus to anyone who decided to join the company in Texas, going so far as to pay $1,000 for each employee to take a “fact-finding trip” to the area. My wife and I decided to take advantage of that particular offer, and this week we booked a four-day weekend in Frisco, TX for early next month.
Frisco is a fairly small town that sits northwest of Dallas. Apparently, it’s a master-planned town that’s currently one of the most popular relocation destinations for companies from all over the nation, including big corporations like Intuit, EADS and Pizza Hut. The median age of its population is 33, with 85% of Frisco residents being under 45 (it’s like the anti-Naples!). There’s a sizable Asian population in neighboring Plano, tons of sports teams, stadiums and major shopping centers, and the home prices are unbelievably low. Like Florida, there’s no state income tax, and the Texas state government ranks as the third most fiscally responsible in the U.S. with a rainy day fund of $9 billion. Unlike Florida, the Dallas area is home to Verizon FiOS, quite possibly the nation’s most sought-after (and totally awesome) fiber-optic Internet and TV service.
So far, that’s a lot to like.
I’ve been able to identify a few minuses as well, such as potentially pricey property tax rates, the state mandate for front license plates on cars (boo!) and the fact that Frisco has more of what you’d call “winter” than does south Florida, although it’s still no Michigan. They’re also more prone to tornadoes than we are, but we’re more prone to hurricanes.
Still, we’re both very excited about seeing the Dallas area for ourselves and making a first-hand evaluation of the town. Even sight unseen, I really want to like it — and I’m really serious about possibly moving there. At this stage of our lives, it’s way too early for us to feel tied down to one place just because. If Frisco doesn’t turn out to be the right move for us, then so be it, but we’d be fools to dismiss the possibility of any move on its face alone. Being the only employee of my company who lives outside of midwest headquarters, I’ve often felt ignored and passed-over. I’ve also felt like if I ever lost my job I’d have a very, very hard time finding another one in my field anywhere in this area, given its near-total lack of tech industry. This is a rare opportunity for me to make a job-related move on my own terms — because I can keep working from home indefinitely until, and if, I decide to relocate, with no time pressure…and then get paid for the move, to boot. Circumstances such as this are rare.
So next month we’ll be going on our little adventure, taking lots of pictures and meeting up with my boss at his new digs to see what a Texas home is like. Depending on what we find there, and the result of events over the next few weeks and months, the remainder of this year might be pivotal indeed.
Gotta put the wraps on this now, but I’ll have more news in time.