Federal government employment in CA

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Federal government employment in CA

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 24, 2017 3:36 pm

Dear TLS, I've read mixed feelings on how expensive it is to live a decent lifestyle in California. I'm considering federal government careers in California on the GS pay scale (13-15). I have a large amount of student debt (220k) and really would like to get on the debt forgiveness train and have always wanted to live in California. I also enjoy eating, and living in a place larger than 500 sqft.

So, what say you? Is living in California long term on in a GS payscale job crazy? Or can I still reasonably enjoy life?

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Re: Federal government employment in CA

Postby MrT » Fri Mar 24, 2017 3:40 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Dear TLS, I've read mixed feelings on how expensive it is to live a decent lifestyle in California. I'm considering federal government careers in California on the GS pay scale (13-15). I have a large amount of student debt (220k) and really would like to get on the debt forgiveness train and have always wanted to live in California. I also enjoy eating, and living in a place larger than 500 sqft.

So, what say you? Is living in California long term on in a GS payscale job crazy? Or can I still reasonably enjoy life?

California is a large state... Care to be more specific?

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Re: Federal government employment in CA

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 24, 2017 4:23 pm

California (at least the Bay Area, but other expensive parts as well) have higher locality adjustments than anywhere else in the country. You'll on average be making between 10 and 15k more per year than you would in DC depending on where you are in the pay scale. With that difference, the lifestyle that you maintain in CA shouldn't be that different than what you would have in DC. In LA i don't think you will have any issues as its pretty similar to DC cost of living wise.

Also, many of the agencies that have offices in CA (SEC, OCC, FDIC) aren't on the GS pay scale...so your salary could be quite high if you are at one of those agencies.

FWIW, there are almost no entry level federal government jobs in California anyway, so you would be spending at least a few years elsewhere regardless.

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Re: Federal government employment in CA

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 24, 2017 4:57 pm

Anonymous User wrote:California (at least the Bay Area, but other expensive parts as well) have higher locality adjustments than anywhere else in the country. You'll on average be making between 10 and 15k more per year than you would in DC depending on where you are in the pay scale. With that difference, the lifestyle that you maintain in CA shouldn't be that different than what you would have in DC. In LA i don't think you will have any issues as its pretty similar to DC cost of living wise.

Also, many of the agencies that have offices in CA (SEC, OCC, FDIC) aren't on the GS pay scale...so your salary could be quite high if you are at one of those agencies.

FWIW, there are almost no entry level federal government jobs in California anyway, so you would be spending at least a few years elsewhere regardless.


Thanks. I am a lateral, so I would be coming in at at GS13 or 14, I believe.

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Re: Federal government employment in CA

Postby bruinfan10 » Fri Mar 24, 2017 5:38 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:California (at least the Bay Area, but other expensive parts as well) have higher locality adjustments than anywhere else in the country. You'll on average be making between 10 and 15k more per year than you would in DC depending on where you are in the pay scale. With that difference, the lifestyle that you maintain in CA shouldn't be that different than what you would have in DC. In LA i don't think you will have any issues as its pretty similar to DC cost of living wise.

Also, many of the agencies that have offices in CA (SEC, OCC, FDIC) aren't on the GS pay scale...so your salary could be quite high if you are at one of those agencies.

FWIW, there are almost no entry level federal government jobs in California anyway, so you would be spending at least a few years elsewhere regardless.


Thanks. I am a lateral, so I would be coming in at at GS13 or 14, I believe.

lol i've been on the federal payscale in the bay. it's BRUTAL. if you've got loans/significant financial obligations, i'd say no, you're not going to reasonably enjoy life. might be a tad better in los angeles, and incomparably better anywhere else in the state. but don't expect 80k to stretch far in the bay. check out this article: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/ ... eling-poor. The SF Bay is like, literally, the worst.

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Re: Federal government employment in CA

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 24, 2017 5:48 pm

bruinfan10 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:California (at least the Bay Area, but other expensive parts as well) have higher locality adjustments than anywhere else in the country. You'll on average be making between 10 and 15k more per year than you would in DC depending on where you are in the pay scale. With that difference, the lifestyle that you maintain in CA shouldn't be that different than what you would have in DC. In LA i don't think you will have any issues as its pretty similar to DC cost of living wise.

Also, many of the agencies that have offices in CA (SEC, OCC, FDIC) aren't on the GS pay scale...so your salary could be quite high if you are at one of those agencies.

FWIW, there are almost no entry level federal government jobs in California anyway, so you would be spending at least a few years elsewhere regardless.


Thanks. I am a lateral, so I would be coming in at at GS13 or 14, I believe.

lol i've been on the federal payscale in the bay. it's BRUTAL. if you've got loans/significant financial obligations, i'd say no, you're not going to reasonably enjoy life. might be a tad better in los angeles, and incomparably better anywhere else in the state. but don't expect 80k to stretch far in the bay. check out this article: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/ ... eling-poor. The SF Bay is like, literally, the worst.


Assuming PAYE payments, what sort of salary would you need to live in SF Bay?

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Re: Federal government employment in CA

Postby Civilservant » Fri Mar 24, 2017 6:06 pm

Estimate what your housing costs will be, what your loan payment will be, and how much your take home will be. If you need resources on how to do so, I'm sure someone can help you in that regard. Otherwise, it is a nebulous question whether or not you can "afford" a "lifestyle". The gs payscale doesn't go very far in a city like SF, but otherwise it provides a decent white collar existence.

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Re: Federal government employment in CA

Postby lapolicia » Fri Mar 24, 2017 6:38 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
bruinfan10 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:California (at least the Bay Area, but other expensive parts as well) have higher locality adjustments than anywhere else in the country. You'll on average be making between 10 and 15k more per year than you would in DC depending on where you are in the pay scale. With that difference, the lifestyle that you maintain in CA shouldn't be that different than what you would have in DC. In LA i don't think you will have any issues as its pretty similar to DC cost of living wise.

Also, many of the agencies that have offices in CA (SEC, OCC, FDIC) aren't on the GS pay scale...so your salary could be quite high if you are at one of those agencies.

FWIW, there are almost no entry level federal government jobs in California anyway, so you would be spending at least a few years elsewhere regardless.


Thanks. I am a lateral, so I would be coming in at at GS13 or 14, I believe.

lol i've been on the federal payscale in the bay. it's BRUTAL. if you've got loans/significant financial obligations, i'd say no, you're not going to reasonably enjoy life. might be a tad better in los angeles, and incomparably better anywhere else in the state. but don't expect 80k to stretch far in the bay. check out this article: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/ ... eling-poor. The SF Bay is like, literally, the worst.


Assuming PAYE payments, what sort of salary would you need to live in SF Bay?


As a lateral you won't be coming in at 80k..it'll be more like 115-130k as a GS-13/14 in the Bay Area. Yes, it won't get you as far as in other areas, but it's not terrible by any standard as long as you do PAYE and don't expect to live in the city with a family (and if you have a family, have a spouse who works). Also a lot of agencies have loan repayment assistance that works with PAYE so you may end up not paying anything in loans.

It's not exactly easy on 72k in DC either...that's just part of working for the government.

Also, if you want to work for the federal government in SF and are coming in as a lateral, you really should try to get a non-GS agency. I'm at one after spending time at a GS agency and the difference in lifestyle is dramatic.

As for your actual question, there are many variables such as family, kids, what kind of commute you are ok with, etc. As a general rule, I would't expect to have a decent lifestyle (by the standards of someone who went to law school, obviously many families make do with far less here) in the Bay Area with a family with kids on less than a 220k combined family income. If you're single you will be completely fine on 120k.
Last edited by lapolicia on Fri Mar 24, 2017 8:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Federal government employment in CA

Postby zot1 » Fri Mar 24, 2017 7:56 pm

Living in LA/SF is going to be expensive no matter what. At least for LA, you're looking at 1700-2000 per month for a decent apartment in a nice area. This doesn't include utilities. Almost anywhere you go out to eat, you'll likely have to pay for parking.

Can you live there comfortably with that kind of salary? Sure, as long as you live within your means.

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Re: Federal government employment in CA

Postby abogadesq » Fri Mar 24, 2017 9:34 pm

GS also caps at 160k, and you'll hit that mid career if you become GS-15. Try working somewhere in Texas; high locality pay and low cost of living (still don't understand why they have a high locality pay).

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Re: Federal government employment in CA

Postby NYC2012 » Sat Mar 25, 2017 12:32 am

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Re: Federal government employment in CA

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Mar 25, 2017 3:04 am

NYC2012 wrote:LA rent for 1700? Where, in Compton?

No, expect rent to be 2000-2500 starting for anything not old and crappy in a decent area.


Maybe if you are living in some new highrise. You can split a 2 bedroom with someone for ~$1000 in West LA. Not sure about other areas.

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Re: Federal government employment in CA

Postby zot1 » Sat Mar 25, 2017 7:13 pm

NYC2012 wrote:LA rent for 1700? Where, in Compton?

No, expect rent to be 2000-2500 starting for anything not old and crappy in a decent area.


You can get a small studio/1 bd in Culver City. Don't be a dick.

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Re: Federal government employment in CA

Postby LaLiLuLeLo » Sat Mar 25, 2017 7:41 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
NYC2012 wrote:LA rent for 1700? Where, in Compton?

No, expect rent to be 2000-2500 starting for anything not old and crappy in a decent area.


Maybe if you are living in some new highrise. You can split a 2 bedroom with someone for ~$1000 in West LA. Not sure about other areas.


I live in an older building with zero amenities. $2400/mo for a two bedroom. Not a corporate place either. I'd love to hear about 2 br places in West LA for $2k because I'd move in a heartbeat.

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Re: Federal government employment in CA

Postby zot1 » Sat Mar 25, 2017 7:47 pm

https://losangeles.craigslist.org/lac/a ... 08404.html

Yeah, two bedrooms will be more than 2k.

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Re: Federal government employment in CA

Postby bruinfan10 » Sun Mar 26, 2017 11:19 am

zot1 wrote:
NYC2012 wrote:LA rent for 1700? Where, in Compton?

No, expect rent to be 2000-2500 starting for anything not old and crappy in a decent area.


You can get a small studio/1 bd in Culver City. Don't be a dick.

i mean, i was gonna say that rent forecast was a little rosey too. most people a few years out of law school aren't looking for a studio or to share a place with random roommates, but yeah, that can be done (btw...is culver close to where the fed jobs are down here)? A friend of mine snagged a 1-bed apt in los feliz a couple years ago for $1750 a month, but it was a STEAL, really rare for the area. and i've generally found east LA to be easier than the westside in terms of finding a decent rental. i pay $2400 for a 1 bedroom in a high rise downtown, but it's a 5 min walk to work, and i work at a firm. downtown rental rates are going up so fast, not sure i can manage to stay down here more than a year or two before i'm amping up my commute to just stay at around the same rental price in crappier digs.

OP, $120k in the Bay will be doable if you're single, but you'll likely have to BART into the city, which sucks, and I'd be surprised if you could manage a halfway respectable savings rate. pretty sure you won't be able to rent in SF itself---microstudios in the tenderloin are rapidly going to be outside your price range. and i'd be surprised, if you top out at $160k, if you're ever going to be in that great a position to buy in the Bay. if you want to date, spend money out in the city, etc, you're going to be really pinched.

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Re: Federal government employment in CA

Postby NYC2012 » Sun Mar 26, 2017 1:08 pm

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Re: Federal government employment in CA

Postby NYC2012 » Sun Mar 26, 2017 1:09 pm

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Re: Federal government employment in CA

Postby zot1 » Sun Mar 26, 2017 1:38 pm

bruinfan10 wrote:
zot1 wrote:
NYC2012 wrote:LA rent for 1700? Where, in Compton?

No, expect rent to be 2000-2500 starting for anything not old and crappy in a decent area.


You can get a small studio/1 bd in Culver City. Don't be a dick.

i mean, i was gonna say that rent forecast was a little rosey too. most people a few years out of law school aren't looking for a studio or to share a place with random roommates, but yeah, that can be done (btw...is culver close to where the fed jobs are down here)? A friend of mine snagged a 1-bed apt in los feliz a couple years ago for $1750 a month, but it was a STEAL, really rare for the area. and i've generally found east LA to be easier than the westside in terms of finding a decent rental. i pay $2400 for a 1 bedroom in a high rise downtown, but it's a 5 min walk to work, and i work at a firm. downtown rental rates are going up so fast, not sure i can manage to stay down here more than a year or two before i'm amping up my commute to just stay at around the same rental price in crappier digs.

OP, $120k in the Bay will be doable if you're single, but you'll likely have to BART into the city, which sucks, and I'd be surprised if you could manage a halfway respectable savings rate. pretty sure you won't be able to rent in SF itself---microstudios in the tenderloin are rapidly going to be outside your price range. and i'd be surprised, if you top out at $160k, if you're ever going to be in that great a position to buy in the Bay. if you want to date, spend money out in the city, etc, you're going to be really pinched.


I had said it's possible, not that it was OP's only choice. Culver City is not a bad commute downtown. I've done it in 15-20 mins but it depends on the time you go of course.

I mean, of course people want more space, but if OP wants that, then yeah we are talking $3500-whatever. I was just trying to say that OP could live in LA. 1bd are usually bigger than 500 sqft (OP's req), and I posted one listing on Craigslist for $1600. So it's doable. Is it ideal? Fuck no. That's why I left LA and now live in a house.

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Re: Federal government employment in CA

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Mar 26, 2017 2:19 pm

Thanks all. I was am looking at at two locations primarily, Greater LA area and the SF Bay Area (we aren't a fan of suburban life). I'd be living with my partner, who doesn't have a job in CA yet, but would obviously look for one once we moved. He's got no loans and I've got enough to put me on PSLF permanently. We don't mind a smaller place, but hate communiting. We're city people who love to just get out and walk around - preferably without having to own two cars.

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Re: Federal government employment in CA

Postby bruinfan10 » Sun Mar 26, 2017 2:54 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Thanks all. I was am looking at at two locations primarily, Greater LA area and the SF Bay Area (we aren't a fan of suburban life). I'd be living with my partner, who doesn't have a job in CA yet, but would obviously look for one once we moved. He's got no loans and I've got enough to put me on PSLF permanently. We don't mind a smaller place, but hate communiting. We're city people who love to just get out and walk around - preferably without having to own two cars.

SF is going to be hard for you unless your partner makes a bunch of money. Rent is more expensive than manhattan. Downtown LA might be doable though, and if you visit and like the vibe, might be 100% what you're looking for. I don't own a car and love walking around downtown.

I actually like DTLA about 50x better than SF as that city stands now, which is INSANE if you know the historical QOL associated with those respective locations (and I've lived in both Hayes Valley and Nob Hill---wasn't exclusively doing the BART hellcommute from the East Bay). SF is a goddamn dumpster fire currently, imho.

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Re: Federal government employment in CA

Postby zot1 » Sun Mar 26, 2017 3:17 pm

Culver City area isn't suburban. You can walk around. Just not to downtown. DTLA is super expensive and it sucks. But you're gonna walk on piss every day because of work, so why not.

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Re: Federal government employment in CA

Postby LaLiLuLeLo » Sun Mar 26, 2017 3:33 pm

I lived in DTLA for a few years and that was plenty. It's quickly changing, but the smell of piss, aggressive hobos, and noise are all still present. If I were you, OP, I'd live close by one of the Metro lines so I could avoid living in DTLA. Or consider living in South Pasadena or something and driving in. The commute wouldn't be bad.

Oh, and DTLA is quite expensive for what you get. Demand is high right now.

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Re: Federal government employment in CA

Postby rcharter1978 » Sun Mar 26, 2017 4:25 pm

LaLiLuLeLo wrote:I lived in DTLA for a few years and that was plenty. It's quickly changing, but the smell of piss, aggressive hobos, and noise are all still present. If I were you, OP, I'd live close by one of the Metro lines so I could avoid living in DTLA. Or consider living in South Pasadena or something and driving in. The commute wouldn't be bad.

Oh, and DTLA is quite expensive for what you get. Demand is high right now.


This is good advice. I think living in the city is fine for a few years if you're making a LOT of money. But I like walking, taking the train and going to various farmers markets. But, the smell of hobo pee, lack of parking, tiny streets, actively having to avoid eye contact, and having to play "what is this wet spot I just sat in" takes away the charm real quick.

I would just live close to a train stop (S. Pasadena isn't bad, because I think the gold line runs around there). Or, get a fastpass and commute in from like W. Covina. If you have a fastpass, it really only becomes a shitshow when you get to the 101/110 split.

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Re: Federal government employment in CA

Postby bruinfan10 » Sun Mar 26, 2017 4:37 pm

i find these comments about hobo pee/crappy streets/no parking amusing given that the alternative is san freaking francisco. there's an app for SF that maps homeless poo for you in every neighborhood. jfc.

like I said OP, visit DTLA first. it's not for everyone. but it's changed by lightyears since I originally was an undergrad at UCLA (we'd never go downtown), it changed again between the time I worked a summer here in law school to when I started at a firm, and it's continually getting more livable. homelessness is more of a problem than in like, Minneapolis or Des Moines or Pasadena or whatever these folks are comparing it to, but it's not as bad in all areas of DTLA as it is in all areas of SF (yes, i hear you, skid row, etc etc, but it's not what it once was).

if, although you say you like city living and biking and no commute, you are in fact open to like "interesting neighborhood suburby living" and using an unreliable metro or driving 20-30 mins on surface streets to get to work, then Pasadena, Los Feliz, Eagle Rock, etc, might be workable for you. I consider Culver to be a little too far from a downtown job, but everyone has their own pain tolerance.

and there are some solid farmers markets downtown now. they're not SF ferrybuilding farmer's market level-awesome, but they're better than the tenderloin farmers market, and that was pretty good.



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