If you could give yourself a $10,000 pay raise this year without changing jobs, grade or your agency, would you do it? If so, start looking at your agency vacancies in other cities.
Do you ever get the urge to trade your hectic job with the IRS, Defense Department or the Justice Department in D.C., San Francisco or Manhattan and move to a smaller town, with less traffic and nicer people? A place like Zanesville, Ohio, Colorado Springs or Bowling Green, Kentucky? Maybe the same job, same mission, but with less big-city stress. And cost.
The upside, if you flee a big city, is less traffic, less pollution and probably much more house, condo or apartment for your money. And lifestyle. As a friend says, most of the photos of 100-year olds you see on the Smucker’s jelly jars live in small towns, and don’t live in Brooklyn or Las Vegas. Something about small town life — family, a network of friends — seems to boost longevity.
The problem is that if you take a transfer to a smaller community, odds are you will also take a pay cut, and when and if you retire, you will get a smaller retirement benefit. Even if you are at the same grade level in your current federal agency.
Although it’s been around since the Clinton administration, many people don’t realize what a big dollar difference it makes. Feds in Los Angeles, San Francisco, D.C. and Houston, among other places, make the relatively big bucks compared to their colleagues in major centers — like Huntsville, Alabama, which has its own locality pay levels, or Ogden, Utah, (a big Air Force, IRS, Interior Department center) which is in the RUS (rest-of-U.S.) locality pay zone. For instance, the pay range for a GS-14 in the Washington-Baltimore area is $112,021 to $145,629. Ninety miles away, a fed in Richmond, Virginia at the same GS level would get $104,168 to $135,420. Two thousand-plus miles away in San Francisco, being a GS-14 is worth $121,778 to $158,312.
A GS-11 IRS employee in Colorado Springs has a pay range of $60,696 to $78,902, while the same job in Manhattan starts at $68,666 and goes to a top of $89,262. Being a GS-11 in the New York City area means a tight budget. Being a GS-11 in a small town in the south or Midwest can put you in the high-roller column.
Feds in many places in the RUS locality zone (Louisville, Kentucky; Boise, Idaho; Columbia, Missouri) at the GS-9 level are paid between $49,765 and $64,697. But if they moved to the same grade level in San Francisco-San Jose, their pay range would be $59,760 to $77,692.
So where are you on the locality pay ladder? Check it out by clicking here. It could be a life-changer for some people.