Next Wednesday, April 29, is Tax Freedom Day in New Jersey. That's the day state residents have earned enough money to pay their total tax bill for the year.
Forgive M and me if we don’t celebrate.
Several times in the past, we’ve discussed getting out of New Jersey because of the tax burden—the biggest in the country. According to the Tax Foundation, Garden State taxpayers give an estimated 11.8% of income, $6,610 per person, to state and local governments.
Stiff price for a back yard
For us, high taxes hit home—literally. We’ve been looking for a while to move up from our three-bedroom townhouse to a four-bedroom, single-family house (“with a back yard,” as my 4-year-old son likes to point out). Higher property taxes mean less house that we can comfortably afford.
Obviously, we’re not alone in our frustration. On Tax Day this year, pseudo-“Boston tea parties” were reportedly held in all 50 states, with participants criticizing the federal government’s proposed tax increases and rash of recent spending. Emotions ran high enough that, at some gatherings, the word “secession” was facetiously hinted at.
Our home, for better or worse
M and I would love to “secede” on a more personal level by moving to lower-tax neighbor Pennsylvania (where I commute to and from for two hours each day). But in reality, we’re not going anywhere soon. New Jersey, whether we like it or not, is home.
The first and foremost reason is that we’re surrounded by family. My stepdaughter’s father lives and works within an easy drive of our house. My parents are five minutes away, M’s father and stepmother perhaps 10 minutes. My brother moved in literally down the street, after spending several years in Boston. Life is (most days) better and easier with family close by.
Second, M worked as a teacher for more than a decade in the New Jersey public school system. In a few years, she’ll go back to work and eventually be eligible for a nice state pension (paid for by those state taxes, and as long as it still exists). Since our only other source of retirement security is a 401(k) plan—which has been slammed in the past several months like everyone else’s—that’s a big incentive to stay put.
Accept what you can't control
We’ve talked round and round about other options, such as moving to one of the Pennsylvania towns just across the Delaware River. In the end, though, we always come back to the same conclusion: The best option is where we are.
It’s easy to get worked up over things you can’t control, like high taxes or the direction of the stock market. But after weighing the pros and cons, both financial and non-financial, you may find you’ve already made the right decision. The next step is to accept it, and move on.
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