Worth It: Moving from NYC to SF/LA?

Happy Saturday y'all. Currently on my 5th weekend "exception" to work in a row at GS and haven't ever wanted to leave more. I was hoping to get some insight from those who have made the transition form East to West coast. For context I grew up in New England, went to an Ivy and am currently working in NYC. I feel like I know the east coast like the back of my hand, to the point where I can give people driving directions down to the exit number on the highway. 

In recent weeks I've had a lot of recruiters reach out and almost every follow up inquiry began with "what sort of fund are you interested in, and which locations". The first is a more straightforward question as it can be researched, and deduced from personal preference and work experiences. However, I can't really answer "where do I want to live" if I haven't lived there for at least an extended time right? It's like the kids who did a study abroad semester in Florence and when they come back they dip their Pepperidge farm bread in fuckin olive oil. How have those of you who have gone through this process thought about this question?

A lot of my peers before me stay in NYC and I don't know if I'm chasing a false sense of novelty by trying to leave. I think the most frustrating thing is that in my limited amounts of time off, I find myself repeating the same activities: brunch, bars, museums, Central Park, a mutual friends house party. Part of it is the fact that Manhattan is only so big and consumerism is what drives most entertainment, but do people working in finance in other cities do those same things? It would be nice to have a car, drive somewhere on the weekends and see a place not named the concrete interstate highway jungle which is New Jersey. Do people say in LA go to the beach on weekends? Maybe a drive up the pacific coast highway? I genuinely would just love to know how people spend their time differently out west vs on the east coast. I've visited California a few times with family but I don't think tourism is the best judgment of actual professional life. 

Any feedback or insight is appreciated. Now back to this CIM….

Comments (36)

  • Analyst 2 in AM - Equities
Mar 12, 2022 - 8:44pm

As someone who grew up in the UES, maybe you would get a bit more out of NYC if you left Manhattan and checked out the other boroughs because based on how you talk about how NYC gets old with the same activities, you seem like one of those people on tiktok who don't go above 14th street/only hang out and do activities with other transplants within the transplant specific neighborhoods. Being from New England is not the same as being from NYC so maybe actually exploring the whole city will make it seem idk not repetitive and more enjoyable. 

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Gen
Mar 14, 2022 - 9:51pm

Mainly higher qol: great weather year round, access to mountains, beaches and sports centers no more than 20-30 minutes walk or drive from where i live, public transpo still great, food is still great, wlb is generally better, sleep better at night (cant count the number of times sirens / screaming woke me up in nyc on week nights). Only thing sf doesn't have is an oak / ave / le bain etc. to drink till 5am and as lively as a dating scene but ive still had plenty of wild nights…

  • VP in PE - LBOs
Mar 13, 2022 - 1:34am

Chiming in - I moved from Chicago to LA (currently in PE). I find the quality of life much higher. My weekends typically include things like going to the beach, hiking, golfing, exploring neighborhoods of LA, trying new restaurants, and various weekend/day trips (Malibu, Orange County, Palm Springs, San Diego, etc.). Generally, there's a greater emphasis on outdoor and/or day-time activities vs. strictly evening eating/drinking, though there's still plenty of restaurants, rooftop bars, house parties, etc. if that's your thing. 

Mar 13, 2022 - 1:58pm
LBOtopboy, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Worked a few years in NYC before moving to the Bay Area. IMO its the best decision that I've made. The culture in CA is much different than NY and is more chill and less-"assholey". Especially if you're interested in TMT investing/sectors there is no better place to do it than in SF/LA. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Mar 13, 2022 - 2:07pm

All super helpful feedback, appreciate it! As a follow up, have you found the political/social climate to be tolerable? Could be the media bias but it seems that every day you seem some report of crazy lawlessness in California: robbing CVS's, breaking into cars, rampant homelessness, etc…Combined with the outrageous state income taxes, seems like a bit of a mess. NYC ain't much better let's be real but seems that Cali is in particular taking the stick to the ass.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Mar 13, 2022 - 2:38pm

Currently living in LA. Yes, crime is a concern. I live in a neighborhood where the median home price is $2MM+ but had an elderly neighbor get mugged a block away from my home (which is located in one of the "quieter" neighborhoods in my city). Broad day light, middle of the street. House next to mine is being remodeled and is completely vacant. One of my neighbors saw a squatter jump the fence after dark, called the police, took them 45 minutes to come. The homeowner's private security came about 25 minutes before the cops did and chased the squatter off the property. Yes, almost every homeowner pays for private security (think ADT Alarm Response, not on-site goons). I was walking to get brunch at one of the high-end restaurants here and was chased into the street by a crackhead. 

With that said, I love LA. Tons of stuff to do on the weekends, plenty of cheap and expensive restaurants, clubs, attractions, etc. Both the beach and the slopes are a sub-2 hr drive. Overall a much more laid back environment than NYC. The weather is also unbeatable. And if you stay in the more "upscale" areas, (WeHo, Beverly Hills, etc), you'll be fine for the most part. Just make sure to avoid downtown like the plague. 

  • Director in Non-profit
Mar 13, 2022 - 3:58pm

In SF, its very neighborhood dependent. It seems a lot worse bc the city is geographically tiny, so while in nyc/chicago the shitty neighborhoods are a few miles away from the good ones, they're very close to each other in SF. Police presence is strong and I haven't felt any danger on the west side, noe valley, marina, cow hollow, russian hill, or north beach. Stay away from civic center, tenderloin, and SOMA. Mission has killer nightlife, but its a little grimey so if you don't want to see homeless at all I'd stick to the north side of the city. You'll likely work in FiDi, and as people return to work it'll be cleaned up. Violent crime is rare, but property crime and car break-ins and bad throughout the city. If you're in your 20s, you wont need a car so just get an e-bike and make sure to only leave it locked, in safe areas.

Dating here sucks though, so if thats important to you I'd head south to LA. 

  • VP in IB - Cov
Mar 13, 2022 - 9:44pm

Totally disagree with not needing a car.  One of the best things about living in the Bay Area is weekend trips to Tahoe, Carmel, Wine Country, etc.  If he is feeling trapped in NYC, a car in the Bay Area is the perfect next step.

  • Analyst 1 in Consulting
Mar 13, 2022 - 5:34pm

i would also say that the crime in SF is really not worse than crime in any other major city, including new york. if you're asian, you probably aware that hate crimes against asian people have spiked the most in nyc than in any other city, and that's reason enough for me to want to avoid the city in the short term. this is just one example, but to illustrate the fact that dangerous people are everywhere, including in the nation's largest cities, and staying street smart and aware of your surroundings, avoiding the bad neighborhoods, is usually enough

  • Director in Non-profit
Mar 13, 2022 - 4:08pm

get an early brunch in santa monica then drive up the pacific coast highway for a day trip to santa barbara, or hike in the redwoods in marin, and you'll realize why california is so expensive 

  • Research Analyst in HF - EquityHedge
Mar 13, 2022 - 6:19pm

I left NYC for LA and am unequivocally happier as a result. I drink less, exercise more, have more freedom to do activities and go to places. I go skiing, golfing, national park, or to a new beach town at least two weekends a month. I am a less than 10 minute walk from the beach and can surf or play tennis after work (I end at 3pm PT). COL is marginally less which is a nice plus.

Making friends without a pre-existing network can be difficult, but it was well worth it. Homelessness is an issue but much better than SF. 

Mar 13, 2022 - 7:37pm
GoingToBeAnMD, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I grew up in LA, went to school in DC and have spent many, many long weekends in NYC and still travel there fairly frequently, mostly to FiDi. So not going to claim that I know NYC in and out but I do have a finishers medal from the NYC Marathon ;)

LA definitely has a different vibe and its just "easier" to get things done in NYC. It feels like in NYC, no matter what you need to do, you need to "know a guy". You want your car fixed, you need to know a guy. You want some good custom shirts, you need to know a guy. Want your water problems fixed, you need to know a guy. NYC is just a little more connected that way whereas in LA you just go out and do whatever it is you need. Plus in LA you have so many more options for weekend trips. Vegas, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, etc are all very reasonable drives and has options for all budgets. Plus really, everyone should experience the open desert at least once in their lives - its an experience like no other. 

I will echo some of the above though that LA has had a massive surge in crime and homelessness. My last trip out there was to Beverly Hills (I used to live there) and you're seeing things there that would not have been allowed just 5-10 years ago. And I'm talking about staying in the BH triangle, one of the richest pieces of real estate in California and, arguably, the world. It's a problem in LA that is now truly out of hand. 

It's a tough decision to make for sure but I think that even if you did it for 2-3 years, it would be hard for you to regret moving to LA for a period of your life. NYC will always be there if you choose to move back. 

  • 6
Mar 14, 2022 - 12:06am
hype2millennium, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I live in NYC. Whenever I need to find a professional I just go on Yelp. What is this about needing to "know a guy?"

Mar 14, 2022 - 1:31pm
baddealflow12, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Agreed.  Need to dump a body - you need to know a guy.

Have some money you need laundered, you need to know a guy.

But once those connections are made, there's no better place in the country to live than NEW YAWK

Most Helpful
  • VP in S&T - FI
Mar 15, 2022 - 1:19am

I spent 2 years each in NYC and SF before moving to LA (have been here for 7 now) and could not be happier.  I really did not like SF, just nothing about it was a fit for me.  I get why people like it but to me it was all the hassle of NYC (Crime, homeless, expense, etc) with none of the benefits (dating, nightlife, functioning public transit, etc.).  I never had a car there so honestly my life there was just a shitty NYC with better weather.  I have been to Napa, Tahoe, Carmel, etc more since I moved to LA as its easier to fly and rent a car than to get there from SF when you don't have a car.  Most people who had cars were paying an arm and a leg for decent parking or were getting their car broken into once a month, just did not feel worth it to me when I was only going to use it a couple of days a month.  Some thoughts on LA living and working in finance below

1. LA is huge and different areas have very different vibes.  Santa Monica and Venice are very different than Beverly Hills and West Hollywood which are different than the South Bay (Manhattan, Hermosa, Redondo Beach).  As things can be very spread out where you live is important so do your homework on the area before deciding on where to live.  Personally I don't see the point of living in LA and not living by the beach but that is just me.  You are going to get a lot more bang for you buck in apartments especially on a per sq foot basis.  You can get a pretty nice place in a good area with roommates for $1500-2000 a month depending on location and amenities.  $3,000 gets a pretty decent 1br.  You won't have a fake wall and you won't be sharing a bathroom.        

2. Traffic is real, I would highly recommend living close to work, and getting a car that can go in the HOV lane, will save you a ton of time.  Also if you are considering a firm that is downtown ask to be paid double b/c downtown LA sucks.  It has made a ton of progress pre-COVID but it all went backwards.  The only reason to be there is to go a sporting event or concert.           

3. The nicer areas where someone working in finance would live are generally pretty safe and outside of Venice and parts of Santa Monica don't have a ton of homeless.  I don't know anyone who has ever had an issue in all my years there.  Nobody lives downtown, especially post COVID. 

4. I have found it really easy to meet people since most of the people here are transplants and did not grow up in CA so everybody is looking to meet people.  I came here with zero friends and made a ton very quickly and easily.  I would recommend living with roommates at first even if you don't know them just to help get a lay of the land and make it easier to get out and meet some people.  

5.  Lots of outdoor activities and everybody is doing them (skiing, hiking, golf, tennis, volleyball, surfing, etc), another great way to meet people.  Also you are a quick plane ride or drive to pretty much anything you want to do so its very easy to get out and see a lot of things.  If you like to ski you are a short flight from all the best skiing in the US.  There are so many very easy weekend trips you can do.     

6. LA finance is a pretty small world, but for the most part its a no assholes policy, most people here have left NYC to come here because they hated that mentality and just won't tolerate that sort of thing.  The people who are like that tend not to last out here and will go back to NYC, but for the most part you are buying a one way ticket since the lifestyle is just so much better that people can't leave.     

  • Associate 1 in IB-M&A
Mar 15, 2022 - 1:22pm

Also moved to LA recently and echo similar thoughts. My only issue is it has been semi hard to meet people working at a smaller shop and not having roommates. How did you go about it?

  • VP in S&T - FI
Mar 18, 2022 - 7:01pm

Mostly through activities (surfing, beach volleyball, tennis, workout classes, etc.) I was pretty aggressive about it and tried to do anything that was active.  There were a lot of people who were in the same boat as I was and were also looking to meet people.  I lived in the South Bay when I first got to LA and I found the people more friendly there than other areas. 

Mar 20, 2022 - 8:18pm
MasterChimp, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Is SF or LA better for PE and do the PE guys normally live downtown or out of the city? I am looking to make a move in the next year or two but don't know which city to pursue and which area to live in.

  • Director in Non-profit
Mar 27, 2022 - 4:10pm

Alright so I am biased bc I grew up in the bay, spent 6 years in nyc, 1 in LA, and have been living for 5 in SF doing tech stuff

SF is the west coast center of finance, plus it is the unequivocal center of tech/hc finance, so it will always have more opportunities

In LA, a lot of work is in the century city area, and a lot of guys lived in WeHo or brentwood. downtown LA is a hellhole and a joke, I only went there for concerts and lakers games. In SF, work is mostly in FiDi, but the city is geographically small and public transportation is solid so you can live anywhere and be within 20-30 mins of your office. I would recommend Nob Hill for beautiful views + easy access to the city + good nightlife, Marina for the safety and decent nightlife, and Mission for the best nightlife in the city (it is very grimey though)

What made me choose SF was the nerdy culture, in a good way. As someone who really did not like fratty culture in banking in NYC, SF was amazing bc there were so many smart, down to earth, people who were working hard and trying to innovate. I know this sounds cringe but, SF allows me to be my quirky/eccentric self. Now that a ton of the crypto bros have left for miami or nyc or whatever, its even better. I left PE for GE and then for an early stage startup within 2 years if being in SF.

LA's vibes are the chillest overall, but it is super car dependent. I got away with a bike + zipcar when I leave in sf, but you need a car in LA, which was a dealbreaker for me. 

both cities are wayyyyy better than NYC for just general QoL, bc you drink a lot less and get a lot more exercise, and the food is healthier too

  • Senior VP in AM - FI
Mar 15, 2022 - 1:05pm

In terms of finance LA is way less hardo than NYC. Career defines you way less in LA than NYC. You'll be in the office earlier but out earlier. 

In terms of lifestyle, you will sacrifice the easability of meeting up with friends for drinks/food, and the sheer breath of options. That said, the weather is obviously not comparable and the amount of outdoor activities isn't the same. Weekends are beach, surfing, riding bikes along the beach, mountain biking, hiking (tons of options from Malibu to the mountains), skiing, road trips to SB/PS/SF/SD, etc. Basically, do you prefer being outside with lots of activities or going to bars/brunch. 

In terms of crime/homeless, it depends where you live. I have zero issues where I live, wouldn't even know its a thing. But it does exist. I'm in the camp that it will sort itself out and isn't going to be a permanent mainstay. You can see this already happening with recalls of DAs and the cities taking more action. 

Mar 15, 2022 - 1:51pm
commercialrainmaker, what's your opinion? Comment below:

It's a crime that LA is cheaper than NYC and SF.


-The girls are better

-The weather is better (yes, much better than SF)

-There is more to do and explore (hiking, biking, golfing, driving, movie premieres, awards, amusement parks, VEGAS, etc.)

-More personal S P A C E (i.e. not crowded 24/7)

-More areas to discover (Silverlake vs Malibu vs Venice vs South Bay vs West Hollywood vs North Hollywood vs Hollywood vs Pasadena)

-The food is better (have you ever had Mexican food in NY? The guacamole is terrible out there. Sushi and produce are better in LA as well.)

-It's cheaper.


-Downtown sucks

-Bars close at 2am (but after-hours house parties exist if you're into that scene)

-Sometimes transplants can give a false perspective on the types of people that reside in LA.

…the only people that leave LA are those that can't survive socially or financially. "Financially" is self explanatory, but socially, some people can't come to terms with the fact that they are no longer the big fish in the pond (i.e. in NY it's cool to be a banker, in LA, chicks will give you a weird look if you don't have much else to offer--they'd probably aim to date a celebrity instead).

Otherwise, LA is Paradise.

Mar 19, 2022 - 1:30pm
Hesmith96, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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  • Director in Non-profit
Mar 27, 2022 - 4:14pm

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