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The Almighty Buck Technology

Austin Has Highest Salaries For Tech Workers, After Factoring In Cost of Living 285

McGruber writes "Austin ranks number one in the nation when it comes to offering the largest tech salaries that have been adjusted for cost of living expenses, such as housing, groceries, utilities and other necessities. This is according to a study by TriNet, a company I had never heard off, that provides (buzzword alert!) cloud-based human resources services. The seven major tech hubs, ranked by cost of living adjusted average salaries: 1. Austin: $105,000; 2. Atlanta: $103,000; 3. Denver-Boulder: $98,000; 4. Boston: $79,000; 5. Silicon Valley: $78,000; 6. Los Angeles: $70,000; 7. New York: $56,000." It's true that Austin has cheaper real estate than Silicon Valley, or London, but what this kind of analysis can't capture well is the worth for an individual of living in a particular place. Some jobs are easier to do from Texas (or Timbuktu) than others, and opinions vary wildly about the importance of climate, culture, alternative job options, and other factors. New York living is expensive, Yes, but it comes with a free bonus if New York is where you want to be. Some people even like Los Angeles. Is there a place you'd rather be but forgo because of the cost of living, or a place you'd consider simply because it would amplify your salary?
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Austin Has Highest Salaries For Tech Workers, After Factoring In Cost of Living

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  • really (Score:4, Insightful)

    by garyisabusyguy ( 732330 ) on Saturday March 08, 2014 @01:10PM (#46434835)

    this is not an add for Dice reps at SXSW


    • Re: really (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 08, 2014 @01:37PM (#46434977)


      Two things to keep in mind here. The average price for real estate within the city limits of Austin isn't that high because it's pulled WAY down by the relatively cheap outskirts of town. If you want to live downtown with the cool kids, it's definitely not cheap. (And you DO want to live close to the job here...the traffic is getting insane, and they are doing more to make it worse than they are to fix it. The just keep incentivizing more and more companies to come here.)

      And speaking of many Dice employees are attending SXSW this year. This post almost perfectly corresponds to the start of the festival. The forces of marketing are strong in Austin...

      • by Necroman ( 61604 )

        There is a reason a lot of companies are located on the outskirts of Austin proper. More companies are moving to the domain area, and there are a lot of companies along 360.

        Sure, some companies are downtown, but there isn't really a need for it within Austin.

        • Re: really (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Yeah...and those areas are huge and sprawling, with inadequate roads and little (if any) public transportation to help. The companies are moving there for cost reasons above all else.

          Have you ever tried to drive the length of 360 at about 5 pm? It's a special kind of hell..when it's 110 degrees outside on top of the traffic...I don't even know where to begin.

          What I'm trying to say is that it might only be 10 miles between your home and your job, it's 10 pretty horrible miles. If you're living and working

          • by ArcherB ( 796902 )

            Every town has traffic problems at 5:00pm. I've experience the traffic in Austin, Houston, San Antonio. Dallas, Chicago, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Columbus (OH), Louisville (KY), New York, Buffalo, Toronto, Detroit and several other places around the country. Austin traffic is not bad at all.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              They all have their problems, but not all are this bad. There are literally only a few cities that rank worse.


              Some people in Austin say it's not so bad, but it depends entirely on where you are trying to go to and from and when. There are a few routes that are sheer driving hell.

      • No mere employees can afford SXSW.

      • by richlv ( 778496 )

        the traffic is getting insane

        a motorcycle might solve that :)
        weather certainly permits it as a year-long solution

  • These are bigger "tech hubs" than Seattle? Does not sound legit.
    • Don't know about Denver, but Atlanta is definitely a great place for tech workers. There is no shortage of jobs there.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 08, 2014 @02:13PM (#46435215)

        Maybe theres no shortage of jobs there because no one wants to live there? Or maybe the non-cost of living adjusted average salaries are so low relative to other areas in reality its not worth it in reality?

        • by mikael ( 484 )

          Austin has been ranked as the 2nd safest city in the USA, but according to other reports, 35% of the population is Mexican. But looking at the Google streetview maps, it looks like a really interesting modern city. The Austin Moon-light towers seem a really interesting architectural feature.


          • Austin has been ranked as the 2nd safest city in the USA, but according to other reports, 35% of the population is Mexican.

            And? Do you find that unlikely? <wtf/>

        • If people don't want to live in Atlanta, then why is it growing via people moving there from other areas?

          • Because Mississippi and Alabama are even worse?
            • The influx is coming primarily from the mid-west and northeast. Spike Lee even went on a profanity filled rant last week because so many are leaving Brooklyn for Atlanta.

              Just so you know, people from Mississippi & Alabama tend to stay there. They see huge cities like Atlanta as cesspools of sin.

    • That was my first thought too. It sounds like a cobbled together Austin marketing piece by some execs who are probably at SXSW.

    • Research Triangle Park (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) is a larger tech hub than Austin. And the cost of living is lower as well. Don't know about average salaries.

      • by thaylin ( 555395 )
        Cost of living here in RTP is dirt cheap, but so is the pay. There are some large entities, IBM/SAAS and the like, but they cannot bring up the Average, and the GOP in charge seems like it wants to keep salaries down in order to bring in more work.
        • How exactly is the GOP keeping salaries down?
          • Re:How exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

            by XopherMV ( 575514 ) on Saturday March 08, 2014 @03:45PM (#46435683) Journal
            Fighting increases to the minimum wage. A higher minimum wage would increase wages for both the people at the low end and those immediately above the low end. Republicans don't like that.

            Fighting government stimulus which provide jobs. Fighting stimulus creates a surplus of workers. More workers means more people looking for work. Businesses don't need to offer good pay to find workers. Republicans like that.

            Fighting unemployment payments, food stamps, medicare, medicaid, and housing assistance. All that money eventually enters and supports jobs in local economies. That increases the demand for workers. That also increases salaries. Republicans hate that.

            Fighting against sick or vacation days. Keeping people at work means that employers don't need to hire as many workers as companies in other countries. That creates lower demand for workers. That keeps salaries down. Republicans like that.
            • True. The minimum wage impacts people up to 2.5x minimum wage due to exempt/non-exempt classifications. That is currently around $38k federal, and going to over $50k in California.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      But is Seattle technical enough to make the list? Microsoft is full of people that are anti-technology and do no technical work. When I worked there as an admin, I know I met at least 500 people that worked there but none of them were developers. Yes, is a real tech company, but it is just one, albeit large, company in a large metro area. No, I don't think Seattle qualifies. That is even ignoring the sad state of Internet access. I don't have a single friend with more than 2 Mbps here, and

      • Microsoft is a major employer of technical talent in the Seattle area even though you didn't see that in your anecdotal experience. Microsoft employs just about 101,000 people worldwide. About 43,000 are in the Seattle area. Yes, not all of them are technical staff. Companies need to employ more than just developers, testers, and admins to operate properly. (Duh?)

        Amazon has more employees at about 110,000. It has about 15,000 in Seattle. Those are mostly highly paid engineers, managers and programmers. I
  • For people trying to break into the video game industry, the four areas I hear repeated over and over are Silicon Valley (#5 per the article), Seattle (not ranked in the article), Boston (#4), and Austin (#1). I imagine that Austin's low cost of living gives it an even bigger edge over some of the other areas for people seeking to move from areas that aren't major tech hubs. So how much money should someone save up before relocating to Austin for the first time? Dutch Gun says it was $10,000 a decade and a []
  • I'm one of the lucky few in that I don't suffer from Allergies spring and fall here in Austin from some kind of Allergies. I mean it is so bad we even have a name for one of them "Ceder Feaver" and if you suffer from it man let me say you don't want to be here!

  • by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Saturday March 08, 2014 @01:37PM (#46434989)

    I'd love to live in a tropical paradise, but so would lots of other people. That drives up the cost of living and/or leads to overcrowding.

    • Hawaii isn't overcrowded. If you leave your towel wet for even an hour it will get mold on in though.

      The main disadvantage of hawaii is that lots of things cost 25% more, due to increased shipping costs.

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Saturday March 08, 2014 @01:40PM (#46435003)

    Salary amplification in... states with no income tax:

    - Alaska
    - Florida
    - Nevada
    - South Dakota
    - Texas
    - Washington
    - Wyoming

    If you have no dividend or interest income, add:

    - Tennessee
    - New Hampshire

    What actually matters here is not where you want to live to work, but where you want to live eventually/retire to, and how long you are willing to work before you can safely retire, which is how much money you are effectively able to sock away each year.

    Austin is still something of a deal, since compared to California, you get about 25% of your salary back through not paying income taxes, but the other places in the article are less of a deal, regardless of the cost of living, because what matters is not the cost of where you are, but the cost of where you end up when you and your money eventually move there. And that includes differential real estate pricing.

    Washington is not so much of a deal, unless you live near the Oregon border; Washington makes up for its lack of income tax through sales tax, and Oregon makes up for its lack of sales tax with an income tax, so if you can get salaries in Washington, and buy your consumables, furniture, cars, and other items in Oregon, you can get a pretty good deal. A lot of Microsofties take this option, and have no problem with job transfers, which are more of a problem in Austin than Silicon Valley, but less of a problem than if you took a job at some data center in Iowa.

    • by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Saturday March 08, 2014 @02:04PM (#46435151) Homepage Journal

      The problem with living in Austin is that you're subject to the Texas Legislature.

      Just like the problem with Silicon Valley and LA (Disclaimer: I live in LA) is that you are subject to the California Legislature.

      • Of all the things that actually bother me about Austin, I have not had any real problems with the government. They're useless and ignorable, provided you don't intend to CHANGE anything, it's all good.

    • Austin is still something of a deal, since compared to California, you get about 25% of your salary back through not paying income taxes,

      California has the advantage that if you buy a house, you will get a much more expensive property and, over time the value of that house goes up, such that, when you come to sell, you will have a lot more profit on the sale than if you lived in Texas. You can then move to a cheaper state.

      Of course, the above doesn't work if you retire in California.

  • It takes a long time to get anywhere. :(
  • by Dasher42 ( 514179 ) on Saturday March 08, 2014 @02:31PM (#46435293)

    Austin is *not* ready to be a big city. Its infrastructure wasn't designed for it. Its traffic jams are some of the worst in the country, its aquifers are in serious trouble owing both to desertification and fracking around the Colorado River's headwaters, and much of its distinctive nature is being destroyed by new development. This is why you see signs reading, "Welcome to Austin! Don't move here."

    • by mikael ( 484 )

      That's just about the same in every city now ... you should see the traffic jams in Silicon Valley - entire freeways stretching all the way from Sunnyvale to Menlo Park at dead stop. At night-time, you'd just see rows and rows of car headlights and taillights going all the way to the horizon.

    • by muhula ( 621678 )
      Exactly, let's factor in the cost of my time sitting in traffic. If you assume 1 extra hour round trip at 1.5x pay, $100k turns in to $84k for the time you're actually at work and $16k for sitting in traffic. Until self driving cars come along, you'll be staring at the truck in front of you for a non-trivial portion of your life
    • You just described LA and San-Francisco too, though.
    • by richlv ( 778496 )

      going to austin tomorrow for 2 weeks. will have to commute 30+ km across the centre of the city. let's see how that works out with a motorcycle.
      with a car i'd probably be looking for another job now instead of reading this :)

    • No, you see the signs because we don't want all the people from California and the east coast coming here and screwing it up like they have done there. The water issue isn't such a big deal.
      • Sad to say, I know people who are working intimately with the water issues of Barton Springs and San Marcos, and what they tell me gives me great concern.

        My advice: don't move into a house in or near Austin without rainwater catchment or a cistern. It'll be difficult just a few years down the road, and you'll be a drain on thinning resources. And for the love of god, don't expect to keep a standard issue green grass lawn through the summer. Native grasses and orchards, rainwater harvesting, even xeroscap

  • It's where I am an cost of living is fairly high, just not quite as high as the bigger cities like New York. Boston has a nice mix of Biotech, Finance, Defense, etc.

  • Big surprise, huh: []... []

    Quality of Life is not factored in, but is ranked separately. The rankings are almost inversely correlated With Adjusted Salary 1st place winner Austin in 2nd to last place, and 2nd place for Adjusted Salary Atlanta in dead last place for quality of life.

  • Tech hubs? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by j. andrew rogers ( 774820 ) on Saturday March 08, 2014 @03:18PM (#46435561)

    How can a list of "the seven major tech hubs" not include Seattle, which is home to some of the biggest tech companies in the world, but include cities like Atlanta? That is a strangely biased list so I wonder what the criteria was for "tech hub".

  • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Saturday March 08, 2014 @03:30PM (#46435629)

    How about working in Canada, eh?

  • by Phocas ( 147850 )

    Los Angeles is a great city. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. The weather alone is awesome, the other stuff is a bonus.

    • Yeah, you can hike up into the hills and get great views of the clouds of smog. I wasn't too impressed with the weather, the heat is oppressive when everything around you is glass or concrete.

  • by Lord Grey ( 463613 ) on Saturday March 08, 2014 @04:13PM (#46435827)

    I worked for Apple in the early 90's, when they were opening their first sites in Austin. Our group was eventually moved there (and I'm still there, in a suburb) from Campbell, CA. Anyway, at the time there was a lot of internal marketing around "why you would want to move to Austin."

    With perfect timing, the local San Jose newspaper ran a political cartoon captioned "There Are Problems Everywhere" or something like that. It had a drawing of the entire United States, with descriptions of the local problems. California was titled with "Earthquakes" and a little arrow. Florida had "Hurricanes."

    The state of Texas was decorated with the word "Texans" right in the center, with little arrows pointing all around.

    This is still very true today. I wish I had saved that cartoon.

    • One thing Austin does *NOT* have a lot of is Texans. They are about as rare here as liberals are in the rest of Texas.

  • by Snotnose ( 212196 ) on Saturday March 08, 2014 @08:32PM (#46437083)
    I just wish San Diego wasn't in California.
  • But the problem with Austin is that it is surrounded by Texas. Traveling in any direction the moment you leave Austin you are waist deep in loud, ignorant, obnoxious assholes. I used to work for a company in Sunnyvale, CA. that announced that it was moving to Austin. They kept going on and on about how cheap housing was and how big a house you could get for the money you were paying in the Bay Area. Even with all that more than half the company quit rather than move to G*D forsaken Texas. The company did mo

  • by default luser ( 529332 ) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @01:25AM (#46437989) Journal

    It's too small a city to be widely diversified in terms of tech providers, so whenever a bubble or recession hits, the city takes a dive []. There's nothing else within commuting distance with similar tech options (Dallas and Houston are too far, and San Antonio is mostly medical).

    I grew up in Austin in the 80s and 90s and watched things first-hand: first there was the mid 80s (1985-86) semiconductor bust (component makers were out-competed by Japan). Fifteen years later there was the Dot Com crash (gutted Dell, as well as dozens of smaller web startups headquartered in the city). Every time the market bust, it was 2+ years before jobs reappeared, making it a dangerous place to call home.

    If you want to live there, go on ahead - just make a nestegg your first priority (and take the cost of that into account when you are pricing out the city).

  • I live in Tucson. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Max Threshold ( 540114 ) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @02:52AM (#46438195)
    I make less than half of what I could be making. But I'm also making four times what I need to pay the bills, which means early retirement, hello! And if I ever found myself unable to work in the tech industry, I could still pay the bills working in a grocery store.

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