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A cure to the cost-of-living crisis?

The Isenbergs are just like any U.S. family, struggling with inflation, high interest rates and the resulting cost-of-living crisis. By making the move from Baltimore area to Lewisburg, they hoped to keep more hard-earned dollars in their bank account.

A family of two adults and two children requires monthly income of $9,095, or an annual income of $109,142, to live in the Baltimore metro area, according to the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator.

Meanwhile, in Greenbrier County, West Virginia — where the Isenbergs’ new home city of Lewisburg is located — the same family of four would need a monthly income of $8,130, or an annual total of $97,562.

That roughly $12,000 difference may not be enough to tempt people to relocate to a new state — especially with the chaos that can ensue when moving (selling your house, getting your kids into a new school, managing the paperwork and so on). But in certain key areas, the savings for the Isenbergs may have been significant.

Housing costs in the Baltimore metro area are over double what homeowners and renters have to pay in Greenbrier County — at an average of $1,548 a month, versus $761. Food is also far more expensive in the Maryland metropolis — at an average of $1,109 per month, compared to $890.

The Isenbergs highlighted those areas as a boon to their move, with Kelly revealing the family “grocery bill is less overall.”

Ben added: “Our household budget is down. The mortgage is cheaper. The movie theater here is half of what it was in Maryland — it’s, like, $6 to go to a movie.”

The state has also provided more opportunities for them to spend time together as a family.

“I think the biggest thing was all of the things we can do outside for free,” Ben said.

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Pay-to-move pros and cons

West Virginia Ascend is one of many pay-to-move programs across the country targeting remote workers with financial incentives and other special perks, including (in some cases) homebuyer incentives.

For example, people are being enticed to move to Noblesville, a suburb of Indianapolis, with a $5,000 relocation grant, a season of free golf at two courses and coffee with the mayor.

There are clear pros and cons to the pay-to-move concept. Kyle Samuels, CEO of a North Carolina-based executive search firm, Creative Talent Endeavors, spoke to CNN about the “discontent” these programs can trigger among locals “who may feel overlooked in favor of new arrivals” receiving all of these perks.

“This could foster community divisions and potentially increase the cost of living, making it harder for long-term residents,” he said. “We’ve seen what happens when high-paid tech workers moved to Miami and Austin during the pandemic, dramatically raising prices for locals in various ways.”

But West Virginia governor, Jim Justice, told the Today Show that people in Mountain State would welcome more families like the Isenbergs.

“They know, for us to have more opportunity in West Virginia, you’ve got to have more people, you’ve got to have more tax base, that’s all there is to it,” he said — adding that locals have welcomed the boost to their property values as a result of this migration.

The Isenbergs certainly seem happy with their move. When asked if it was worth it, their daughter chimed in: “Definitely!”

Correction, June 6, 2024: The spelling of the family’s last name has been corrected to Isenberg.


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Bethan Moorcraft is a reporter for Moneywise with experience in news editing and business reporting across international markets.

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