Thinking of moving to Pennsylvania? See our pros and cons...

 

Philadelphia Museum of Art

My wife and I are recent early retirees at ages 51 and 48.  We’ve been slow traveling with our traveling companion Toby, a 13 pound Pomeranian dog since our early retirement in August 2020.  We’ve spent a month or longer in various destinations, including Ocean City (Maryland), Atlantic Beach (North Carolina), and the Poconos (Pennsylvania).

We’re originally from New York City.  Our journey began there, but we left New York for Hawaii on Thanksgiving Day 2003.  After living in Hawaii for 2 years and 4 months, we started to miss our family and friends, so we headed back to the east coast, to a suburb of Philadelphia.

We chose Philadelphia area for several reasons:

  1. Close proximity to New York City.  We could drive to NYC, where my family and friends live, in about 2 1/2 hours.  We made good use of this proximity as we constantly got together with family and friends.
  2. Job opportunities.  Compared to Hawaii, where the majority of the economy is dependent on tourism, Philadelphia already had an established economy with more job opportunities.  There are many pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, IT companies and such.  This worked out well for us as my last job would allow us to retire early.
  3. Fondness for Philadelphia and Longwood Gardens.  My dad had a friend who lived in Philadelphia. One of my fondest memories of childhood was visiting my uncle.  He ran a sandwich shop making cheesesteak sandwiches and fried food.  My brother and I loved those cheesesteak sandwiches and fried whatever (shrimp, cod, mushrooms, sneakers *just kidding*)!  We also visited Longwood Gardens on two different occasions while growing up in NYC.  That place would stand out as my other favorite thing about Philadelphia.
  4. King of Prussia Mall.  My wife had worked at retail when we lived in Hawaii.  We wanted to make sure she can get a job real fast if needed.  It worked out as planned, as my wife didn’t have issues finding a retail job in the mall.
Philadelphia area turned out to be a great decision for both of us.  We both managed to find jobs quickly and we settled down for the next 14 years.  We would adopt our fur ball Toby, and we would buy our home, a townhouse in the suburbs.

Everything worked out really well.  I was so fortunate to find my last job working IT service desk, which would allow us to retire early.  I had worked at that job for 13 + years and my wife would also stay at her last job for about 10 years.  

After living in Pennsylvania for good part of our working years, we can say we really enjoyed our time there.  Although we’re not living there anymore, we have gone back to visit our neighbors.  We also stay in touch via Facebook...

Please see below for our list of pros and cons of living in Pennsylvania.

Pros of living in Pennsylvania:
  • Cost of living
When we researched Philadelphia area, we looked at things like real estate prices, property taxes, sales taxes, grocery prices, insurance prices, etc.

Compared to where we used to live (NYC and Hawaii), Pennsylvania was much cheaper at that time.  

Here are some examples:
  1. Real estate prices in Pennsylvania at the time was around $260,000 to around $300,000 for a 3 bedroom/2 full bath townhome in 2006.  Compare that to NYC where it would’ve been around $300,000+ for a 1 or 2  bedroom condo or in Hawaii, where it would’ve been about $260,000 for a studio or 1 bedroom condo.
  2. Property taxes in Pennsylvania was around $3,000 at that time.  In Long Island, NY, it would’ve been around $10,000.  
  3. Price of car insurance in Pennsylvania was around $1,200 for two cars/full coverage around 2006.  Compare that to NYC, where we paid around $1,900 for one car/full coverage.  
  4. Grocery prices in Pennsylvania were much cheaper than either NYC or Hawaii.  We were amazed to see a half gallon of orange juice in a Pennsylvania supermarket for $2.50 back in 2006.  Compare that to NYC ($3.50 and up) or Hawaii ($4.50 and up).  

  • State Parks and other nature areas
We didn’t know at the time of our move to Pennsylvania, but all state parks in Pennsylvania do not charge entrance fees.  This was huge!  There are so many beautiful parks in Pennsylvania!

We visited as much as we could with our dog.  Check out Ricketts Glen State Park, Promised Land State Park, Nockamixon State Park, World’s End State Park, Valley Forge, for example.  

While southern parts of the state tend to be flat, the more north and west you go, the more beautiful they get.  There is beauty everywhere in the state.  With the Pocono Mountains only a 2 hour drive from Philadelphia, you can really enjoy the outdoors.  

Don’t forget about lakes in and around the suburbs of Philadelphia.  Opportunities for water sports abound as well as bird watching on the lakes…There’s Marsh Creek State Park, Nockamixon State Park, and French Creek State Park, to name just a few. 

There are so many beautiful scenic vistas in the state.  Be sure to check out Bake Oven Knob or Hawk Mountain Sanctuary for awesome views from the Blue Mountains / Appalachian Mountains.

  • So many places to explore & so many things to do 
When we made the move to Philadelphia area, my wife wasn’t convinced there were things to do.  Boy, was she wrong!

We explored everything from the cities (Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Allentown, Bethlehem), mountains (Poconos, Appalachian, Blue Mountains), lakes (mentioned above), the Amish country (Lancaster County), and cute little towns (Jim Thorpe, Scranton, Bethlehem).

There are so many things you can do.  During the summer, you can tube along the river from Jim Thorpe.  You can bike for miles from Philadelphia to the suburbs.  During fall, you can watch bird migration from the top of the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.  Or, you can ski/snowboard in the winter.  Choices are endless...


Pinnacle Overlook

Cons of living in Pennsylvania 
  • Bad traffic and aggressive driving 
Traffic on I-76 going towards Philadelphia, Route 202, and Route 422 are in serious need of improvements.  These highways are just not big enough to handle the daily traffic.  I’ve spent my share of sitting behind bumper to bumper traffic on all these roads...

Traffic has gotten worse recently as more people have moved down from New York and New Jersey.  With NY and NJ drivers come their driving habits.  It almost reminded me of living in New York City at times!

People would tailgate me or weave in and out of traffic.  Speeding is a constant.  I admit I drive slow, but some people are driving like they stole the car...

This wasn’t noticed when we moved there in 2006, but it’s certainly more noticeable now...
  • Prices are creeping up ever so slightly
I still consider Pennsylvania an average state in terms of cost of living now.  However, most things have gone up in price.  Housing, transportation, grocery prices have all gone up.  

Since Wegman’s Supermarkets moved into our area, it seems more supermarkets are trying to emulate their success.  Their prices are very high compared to discount supermarkets like Aldi or Lidl.

Shopping and eating at the King of Prussia Mall used to be one of our favorite pastimes but not anymore.  They’re definitely moving upmarket.  Once they opened up the new wing, the prices have been going up.  A burger at a fast casual restaurant at the new wing shouldn’t cost $13 but it does...A tiny personal pizza also cost upwards of $12.  

If you’re used to paying NY / NJ prices, then this is no big deal.  I personally think it’s too high for the area...

Rent prices have also gone up.  There are many newer developments near King of Prussia area, but there, a one bedroom apartment rental ranges $1,300 and up.  My wife and I looked at rentals few years back and we were taken aback by the prices.  

I honestly don’t know how someone starting out, making around $30,000 - $40,000, can afford these apartments...
  • Rising taxes
When we bought our townhouse, we paid around $3,200 in property taxes for the year.  By year 2020, total taxes per year went up to around $4,000.  

Now there are added taxes like the one for county, community college, and emergency services.  

If you’re from NY / NJ, then this isn’t a big deal.  But for someone living in Pennsylvania, it seems high for a townhouse...

Ricketts Glen State Park 

In conclusion:

Pennsylvania has been very good to us.  We’re thankful for what it has given us throughout our 14 years of living there.  We’re thankful for its beautiful scenery, awesome parks, relatively low cost of living, and for our jobs. 

We also met some of the nicest/genuine people in Pennsylvania.  Thank you Eric (may he Rest In Peace), our neighbors, and the entire IT team at my last job!

I would also argue some of the best Italian food we had anywhere was found in Pennsylvania.  Thank you Vick & Dean’s, Tony’s Pizza, Rocco’s, Fabio’s, Vecchia Sicilia, and also many others on South Street in Philadelphia.  We will miss all kinds of delicious food we had in Pennsylvania...

If you’re considering a move to Pennsylvania, know that we really enjoyed our time there.  We will certainly go back and visit again soon...

Thank you all for reading!


Jake

Wandering Money Pig 


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Please check out our YouTube channel ‘Wandering Money Pig’ showcasing our travels and our Pomeranian dog! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3kl9f4W9sfNG5h1l-x6nH


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