Financial Advice Blog

Will you be better off leaving Sydney?

Many Sydneysiders are leaving the city due to the high cost of living. With remote working becoming more mainstream, will you be better off moving elsewhere too?

For several years, Sydneysiders have been trickling out of Sydney to regional areas.  While the harbour and beaches are beautiful, many have opted to leave Sydney due to the high cost of living, long commutes and poor work life balance.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has shaken up workplaces and more Australians are working from home than ever before.  For many, COVID-19 has proved that they can successfully manage their careers remotely.  Without the requirement of heading into an office each day, the number of Sydneysiders leaving Sydney and seeking a better lifestyle elsewhere is gaining even more momentum.

Housing close to the city is unaffordable for many families and the high cost of living makes is hard to get ahead.  So will you be better off moving out of Sydney too?  Here we speak to a few people who have done it and discuss some of the opportunities, risks and considerations for leaving Sydney.

Cheaper housing

Unless you’re willing to have a million-dollar plus mortgage, the Sydney property market might be out of reach. Rents are the highest in the nation and many families feel they are priced out of the market.

Concurrently, the first generation to take advantage of the flexibility of working from home are Millenials — the same generation that’s been effectively locked out of the housing market. Now of an age where they’re having children, they’re looking for more bedrooms. They can either buy in the suburbs, or pay less and take advantage of working from home by moving out of the city.

Many of the people we interviewed who had left chose areas close to Sydney such as Newcastle and love it. Sheree Myers said:

“My family and I moved from Sydney (Lane Cove North) in February this year. We now live in Warners Bay in Newcastle and we’re in the best financial position we’ve ever been in.  We left for lifestyle. To live close to both a business hub and the beach, in an area where we could afford to buy property.”

Or if the French countryside is more your style, take Renae Smith’s example.  Successfully running a Sydney-based PR firm while living in France, Renae said:

“I left Sydney a year ago and moved to the French Countryside. We were paying $5,000 a month rent for a three-bedroom house in Newtown.  Add on the cost of living and we were struggling. An opportunity came up for us to move to France for a year and it has been amazing! We’ve saved thousands of dollars on rent and food as we shop at the local markets. We’ve experienced the world more, and flights from Lyon are sometimes just 13 Euros!  So far we’ve been to Spain, Greece, The Netherlands, Switzerland, England and Morocco! We’re amazed at how cheap life is when you’re not spending your entire wage on rent. I still own and run a PR agency in Sydney.  Even with flying back every three months, it’s still cheaper than paying rent in Sydney!”

Shorter commute

Sydneysiders spend over 90 minutes a day commuting.  This equates to over two weeks a year spent getting to and from work! It’s the longest commute in the country and not only wastes time but is bad for your health.

The people that we spoke to who have left Sydney all commented on the commute, or lack thereof, in the places they moved to. Katerina Phillips said:

“We left Sydney and ended up moving to Byabarra on 75 acres west of Wauchope. It was amazing from a lifestyle perspective, but difficult for my husband to find a good job. After eight years we upped stakes and moved to Newcastle – best thing we ever did. Great move both financially and emotionally. We live in the city centre which is a complete change to country living, but I do love the convenience of having everything nearby.  Plus it’s nowhere near as expensive as Sydney!

Work life balance

Work life balance is often thought of as a myth by those of us living in cities such as Sydney.  Those who we interviewed about leaving Sydney highlighted the flexibility their new locations offered. By having shorter commutes, very small or no mortgages, similar wages and lower expenses, they have more of what they want in life. Spending time with family, enjoying hobbies, doing more exercise and having an overall healthier lifestyle were all benefits for those who left.

Melissa Gole, became exhausted getting up at 6am and not getting home until after 6pm.  She moved to Port Stephens for a change in lifestyle and greater life balance.  Melissa said:

“Instead of commuting to and from work, I now start my day with a morning swim and unwind with a beach walk with my kids.  But the thing I appreciate the most is being able to enjoy breakfast and dinner together as a family.  The benefits to my health and family have been enormous and we’re in a much better position financially too.”

Increased wealth

Of course, when you reduce your expenses but maintain your wage, you have more money to invest which leads to greater wealth. If you managed to reduce your expenses by 10%, 25% or even 50%, how much more would you be able to invest?  How would that help you achieve the lifestyle you want in the future?

Leaving the city doesn’t have to mean leaving behind Sydney salaries. Renae still has her business in Sydney along with the Sydney income, while Katerina found their wages to be similar in Newcastle.  With COVID-19 making remote working more common, it’s more possible than ever to keep your job when you move.

Be aware this isn’t always the case though. Sheree and her husband needed to factor in a reduction in her husband’s wage.  However the cost of living was so significantly reduced it was worth it.

Moving is a big decision and there is a lot to factor in if you choose to leave Sydney. Check the cost of living elsewhere, job opportunities, housing prices, proximity to children’s education and other amenities. Weigh up the pros and cons, talk to others who have made the move and speak to a financial advisor to model out the financial impact of leaving versus staying.

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