I received this question about geography and thought others might be interested:
“The only thing I would like to know is how the survey broke out by market. Planners in cities such as Jacksonville and Dallas have a much lower cost of living than those in SF, NYC, LA, etc.. For instance, someone earning $85,000/year in Jacksonville needs to make $99,000 in Minneapolis and $185,000 in NYC to obtain the same standard of living (at least according to one cost-of-living calculator). An average salary by market chart would be very helpful and I’d be glad to help you put this portion together for next year, if you’d like. Also, in the three years that you have done the survey, have their been any significant trends that you have noticed? Again, I was just made aware of the survey’s existence yesterday.”
Here was my response:
“On markets, I totally agree with you which is why I’ve done the cursory step of comparing NY to everyone else (The NY factor slide) and you can see that there is a difference. The problem thus far has been with 38 or even 90 total people in a group (gpd level, planner level) you can’t look at the 3 people from SF, compared to the 5 people from Chicago. NY is the only market that has reached critical mass to try to look at separately. And critical mass is being generous – there were 26 planner level people from NY out of 90. Every other level it was smaller. This year 281 people from the US entered their salaries. Perhaps when that number gets closer to 500 we can start to look at the other markets.
Even with all of that said, I don’t see the kind of salary differences you would hope to see based on cost of living. You only make 10-20% more when you live in a more expensive market from what I’ve seen for most levels. This made me feel smarter about coming to Richmond where the cost of living is really low. If I can make about the same here or in New York, I’d personally rather live here.
As far as trends, the most significant thing is how salaries seem to have stagnated over the past three years. The averages aren’t creeping up. Probably the margin of error is greater, particularly in the first 2 years or the survey with a smaller base, than 3-5%, but I don’t think companies have adjusted the salary ranges or starting salaries up at all. And as well all know, most average expenses like gas, utilities, healthcare and food have gone up.”