IS SF/Bay Area Worth It?

Curious to get thoughts from people who have experience living in SF/Bay Area. What's it like these days? Heard rent is going down and the city is coming back to life as it shifts out of COVID but would love any perspective. Is the premium worth it like NYC?

For context, I work in tech PE in the Midwest and recently received an offer from a well respected shop in SF. 

Private Equity Interview Course

  • 2,447 questions - 203 PE funds. Crowdsourced from 750k+ members
  • 9 Detailed LBO Modeling Tests and 15+ hours of video solutions.
  • Trusted by over 1,000 aspiring private equity professionals just like you.

Comments (44)

Oct 14, 2021 - 4:29pm

Was going to say no until you mentioned you work in tech. I grew up here in the Bay Area and SF specifically. I would've left a long time ago if it weren't for the money / opps here. Millionaires are being minted daily and are a lot younger than people think.

There is this strange push against "tech" being overhyped on this forum. If you're smart and hungry, tech is where the money is, not financial services. 

  • Analyst 2 in PE - Growth
Oct 14, 2021 - 5:14pm

Makes sense. Yeah, I don't plan on getting out of tech anytime soon. Love the people and stuff I learn in the space. What made you want to leave? COL? People?

Oct 14, 2021 - 6:21pm

I never left. I'm still here in the Bay Area as a home base although my work takes me out of the state ~1/5 of the year in total. 

The one and only downside here is the nightlife (the hobo's, etc... are on par with other major cities). 

Learn More

300+ video lessons across 6 modeling courses taught by elite practitioners at the top investment banks and private equity funds -- Excel Modeling -- Financial Statement Modeling -- M&A Modeling -- LBO Modeling -- DCF and Valuation Modeling -- ALL INCLUDED + 2 Huge Bonuses.

Learn more
Oct 14, 2021 - 4:34pm

Bay Area native and think it's an obvious fantastic place to be if you really have a passion for technology investing. If you are still young it might actually be fun to explore it a bit tons of exciting things happening out here. Can stay at your existing PE offer shop, move to GE, or even join a startup. If committed to buyout PE also a fantastic place to be and you will meet plenty of smart investors and executives. 

As for the area itself, pretty exciting but SF itself is of course much smaller than Manhattan. Reasonably good clubs, fantastic weather all year but high rent. 

Array

  • 1
  • Analyst 2 in PE - Growth
Oct 14, 2021 - 5:16pm

I'm at at GE shop currently and the offer is also in VC/GE but just broader focus. What exciting things do you see happening in the city? Are you referring specifically to tech or just the area in general?

Nov 11, 2021 - 3:22am

As someone who grew up in the bay, I'm not really sure. All I can think of is if you're into outdoorsy stuff then there's good access to hiking/mountain biking/snow sports within reasonable distance and the views in general from certain points in the city/Marin can be drop-dead gorgeous. Other than that, I really think you need to have a well-connected network or social circle to have a ton of "fun" in the bay given how far apart stuff is and how much it matters being in the right crowd dependent on what you like. As any other big city, there's something for everyone but in SF it's arguably harder finding your niche than any other city, IMO.

  • 2
Oct 14, 2021 - 8:08pm

Loved living there. Weather is awesome all year and tons of outdoors stuff to do around. Also SF isn't super crowded since it's not that dense like NYC where I currently am.

The negatives are idiot politics (I'm liberal but fuck, the SF/Cali politicians are inept at solving local issues). Stuff is expensive, bad public transportation in SF proper and lots of homeless people.

Would (and likely will) move back at some point if I get a good enough offer. Worked with a lot of people in the VC/GE space and it seemed like the ecosystem is great in SF and on the peninsula.

Oct 15, 2021 - 10:13am

Yeah, I had a car. I lived in the city and worked in Palo Alto so the commute was pretty bad ~45min with no traffic and 1hr or so with.

If you are working on the peninsula and don't mind living in a more residential area, the peninsula isn't bad and has better weather than SF. Nicer areas obviously more expensive though. I personally thought the tradeoff of living in SF with the commute was worth it.

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Gen
Oct 15, 2021 - 3:26am

Lateralled here from nyc (spent 4 yrs there) and am doing tech pe here next year. If you prioritize clubbing till 5am and exclusively eat at michelin restaurants maybe nyc is better. Otherwise, if you like sunlight, mountains, beaches, outdoor sports / exercise, and nicer people then SF / bay area is imo way better. Its a smaller city and the night life is not what it is in nyc - earlier nights and more bars oriented and the clubs aren't really premiere spots like nyc / mia, but there are still several popular clubs. After moving here, ive realized if night life isnt your top priority i dont see how anybody can like nyc more than sf given major spread in qol.

Most Helpful
Oct 15, 2021 - 12:35pm

Default answer is no unless working in tech or tech investing for the access and exposure here. I was previously in the Midwest before coming to the Bay - first in SF and now in Oakland, and IMO the Bay Area is not worth it. Overpriced as shit, dirty AF, super crowded + public transit sucks, weather is just meh, insane amount of petty crime, and the homeless situation is worse than every other city I've ever been in, including NYC. Nightlife sucks in comparison too. It's one of those things where I'd be fine with all the drawbacks if it wasn't so fucking expensive, or I'd be fine w/ the city being so expensive if it was super clean like Singapore.

Hate how dominated the city is by techies and I personally don't mesh well with tech culture (no, you're not saving the world by redesigning an app icon) and haven't ever been in another place where you'll meet people at parties and instead of being like "oh what's you're cell # or IG handle" it's "can you add me on Linkedin" (no, fuck off, you clearly just wanted me to get my firm to invest in your shitty startup). I'm also liberal, but good god so many people are fucking delusional here.

Outdoors access is nice, but getting in / out of the city is a fucking nightmare and Tahoe is still really far away - maybe for most people it's an upgrade compared to what they're used to, but growing up in the PNW the outdoor access here is mediocre in comparison. I will say having wine country right there is quite nice though, also super cheap and easy to go to Vegas.

For those single dudes out there - I've never had to date here but I've heard it's pretty rough compared to a lot of other major cities. Big draw that many other cities didn't have before was legal weed, but now that's becoming less and less of a differentiator.

So probably no surprise that I can't wait to leave - GTFO first chance I get. If it wasn't for my fiancée coming out here for med school I would've already left.

  • Analyst 2 in PE - Growth
Oct 15, 2021 - 2:48pm

Damn. Despite all that, is it really that advantageous to be in SF/Bay for tech investing? I don't see much value other than being closer to hot companies or maybe having a tighter network. Is it just the fact that it's SF or is there a real merit for ppl working in tech to be there?

Also coming from the Midwest....I'm sure I would get less bang for buck but does the premium in comp make up for that? Where would you go once you GTFO? Back to the Midwest?

Thanks!

Oct 15, 2021 - 6:01pm

It's what akl said, and then if you're at a sourcing heavy venture or growth shop being boots on the ground can really help build relationships w/ founders. Being around such an active ecosystem is really helpful for getting a pulse on things as well.

Premium in comp did not come close to making up the difference at all for me. My all-in comp was like 25-30% higher my first year in PE vs. my last year banking but I definitely felt poorer, probably by like 25-30%. Never had to manage cash flow in the Midwest, but have to here. The rent / housing premium alone makes it not worth it IMO. 

Targeting leaving for the Midwest for sure (Chicago or MSP), Denver, or honestly would take going to like Seattle, Charlotte, or Nashville instead. Even leaving for SoCal is preferred because then there's at least actually nice weather + beaches. San Diego would be dope for example. Much cheaper too.

Oct 16, 2021 - 12:50pm

As someone who started their career in SF and spend 5+ years living and working in both the city and on the peninsula, I'd largely agree with the above. Although it would take a lot for me to move back now, there are some pros to the city. I'll give my thoughts below.

Pros

  • Consistently some of the best food in the world, 2nd to NYC in terms of options, but the quality of everything you'll eat is almost unmatched in my opinion. I can count one one hand the bad meals I've had in SF.
  • Great variety of activities due to geography and weather. Napa is only ~1 hour away, great hiking is the same, amazing surfing in Santa Cruz, Tahoe is 4 hours away, big sur, monterrey, etc. If these types of outdoor activities are appealing, it's an amazing place to live given the combo of jobs + activities.
  • Weather is good not great, people think it's like LA, but it's not that hot or sunny that consistently. With that being said, it's a steady 55-75 most of the year, which I think is pretty solid.
  • If you're looking to do tech/tech investing or stay in this world long-term, the branding of being a Bay Area/Silicon Valley investor does carry some weight. Moreso for engineering obviously, but even as an investor and especially if you're going to a brand name tech PE shop, you'll get a reputation of learning from the best, which is easy to carry into other markets/geos.
  • Kind of a silly point that I only partially agree with, but SF is still on the cutting edge of tech advances, more so than other big cities, mainly as a function of just being in the middle of so much tech. For example, I started hearing about cryptocurrencies in 2015/2016. I remember having dinner discussions about ETH when it was like $10 and folks were thinking about the long-term potential of DAPPs, if you're into tech and that type of stuff, there aren't too many better places to be surrounded by it.

Cons

  • To live in the city long-term is prohibitively expensive, even as a high earning finance professional. It's similar to NYC in the sense that even if you're making $1M+/year, you're not going to really be able to afford anything amazing. Yes, you'll have a decent $2.5/$3M house/apartment in Russian Hill/Pac Heights or maybe you'll go out east to Pleasanton or Walnut Creek to get more space, but either way, you're making a massive lifestyle sacrifice to live in SF long-term. Also, the neighborhoods I mentioned are good, but you're not going to be able to afford Palo Alto, Atherton, bigger apartments in Marina/Pac Heights, even Burlingame would be a stretch. You're going to be in either small places in the city or slightly larger places that are pretty far out.  Assuming you want a family, your family lifestyle will be very different than what is typical. You're also getting a pretty shitty house for a few million bucks compared to what you could get for 1/2 of that in a place like Chicago. As time went on, it got hard to me to wrap my head around paying $1.5M for a 2bed 2 bath1000 square foot apartment in a mediocre part of the city where homeless people are sleeping on my doorstep whereas in a place like Chicago, $1.5M gets you a 5 bed 5 bath in Lincoln Park that is 3x the size (not an exaggeration). I have a hard time accepting getting ripped off like this.
  • In addition to the above point, you're likely always going to be middle class in SF, there is just too much crazy tech wealth floating around for you to ever really feel like you're ahead of the pack. Unless you've founded your own thing or were early stage at a startup that hit it big, just working in Finance, even if you were a Principal at Vista or something like that, you're going to kind of be average in SF when it comes to access to things/lifestyle etc. This is kind of a vanity point, but it's something I considered and didn't love. 
  • As Nuclear Penguin mentioned, the city is poorly run, dirty, tons of homeless people, honestly not as beautiful as people describe it to be. It's frankly not worth the cost.
  • Everything is focused on tech, which is a double edged sword. If you love tech, you'll be fine. If you enjoy some diversity to the people you meet, it's less likely you'll find it. My entire friend group was tech or tech adjacent.
  • If you're a single guy, dating is pretty rough, honestly the girls aren't that attractive and the ones that are have their pick of whoever they want. The ratio is wildly off and there's a ton of attractive and/or rich guys out there. Since leaving, I've had way much success with dating/dating apps in every other city I've lived in. Again, it's not impossible to go on dates or to find someone good, but it's a struggle.
  • As much as the surrounding area is awesome, Napa, Tahoe, etc, those things are only great if you have time and most of the people I know didn't have that much free time on their hands. It's romantic to think you'll be cruising up to Tahoe every weekend in the winter, but in reality, Tahoe is expensive unless you own a house up there, and that 4 hour drive can easily turn to 6 - 8 - 10 -12 if the weather turns on you. In my earlier days, I found more time to fight to do all those activities, but as you get older, they become less appealing. 

At the end of the day, I liked SF while I was there and wouldn't do anything differently. If you're young and see it as a short-term opportunity, I'd say go for it. Get the tech branding, experience the highlights of the Bay Area, and decide for yourself whether the pros outweigh the cons. If you're coming from the midwest though (I'm assuming Chicago), you will be in for a little bit of culture shock in terms of price and quality of living. SF is good for short stints, but unless you really have a reason to be there long-term, I think you'll find it tough to be there for more than a couple of years.

Oct 20, 2021 - 8:35pm

since you mentioned living on the peninsula I would like to ask- 

would it be "social suicide" for someone in their early 20s? I'll be done with school in 2-3 years and I've been wanting to move to the bay from DC since I was 10 or something. Given my preferences (close to beach, bit more relaxed, breezier weather) I was thinking of moving to Montara/Pacifica/Moss Beach. Would that be horrible from a social/commute aspect? and if so, would Sunset District be a better choice? 

Oct 15, 2021 - 5:02pm

the people in sf are peculiar and not in a good way, way too many unattractive young adults who do contribute nothing to society except being a code monkey and cope with their sad life by buying a tesla 

 
plus the entire culture in tech makes me suicidal, finance is a frat house

Oct 15, 2021 - 7:51pm

Work in PE out here and previously lived in Boston. My thoughts are yes its fun on a temporary basis. Just would never stay here long term. 

- Pros: If you are outdoorsy (ski, hike, bike, fish) it's an unreal city temporarily. Well worth being out here for the ST. A lot of nice people with good work life balance mindsets. Live in Cow Hollow, Pac Heights, or Marina and you will have an awesome time. Especially if you ski - fun city. SF is the best city to travel to things outside of SF. 

-Cons: No idea how people raise families here. Cost, politics, and crime are annoying. The homeless and petty theft is terrible. 

Oct 16, 2021 - 2:18pm

It's ok for that...but if you work 60 hours a week and/or don't own a car, you will rarely actually go to Tahoe, etc. I know so many people in the bay who talk up outdoors but never actually do anything because things are so far from the city and the traffic is awful and none of them have cars. SLC is way better if you like the outdoors as is the Denver area. BUT, it is the hub of tech. NYC is 10x the city of SF for social life, but SF does offer outdoors access...really depends on what you want out of life. I would way rather live in NYC if I was going to do a 2-3 year stint and then get out of city living for good, but SF would be a better 10 year scenario because you can move out of SF proper when you are tired of it and you'll get to visit Tahoe, Napa, beaches, etc. once you can find a spot with a car/garage.

Nov 11, 2021 - 7:57pm

Pizz

SF is complete dog shit. Expensive and dirty. Not sure why anyone even stays here. 

Not just SF, the whole SF bay area.

SafariJoe, wins again!
Oct 26, 2021 - 11:37pm

What are thoughts on working at a shop in Menlo and living in the bay area (Redwood City, San Mateo, Mountain View etc)? Especially if you're in a serious relationship / don't care much about nightlife. Have exhausted the fun I can get out of the NYC nightlife and having a more chill living environment and access to healthier outdoors activities with a car would be nice for a change. Wouldn't be as convenient as living in SF proper for meeting people but one could always drive up for dinners / drinks?

Does the homeless / petty theft issue hold true in the above mentioned south bay areas as well?

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Nov 7, 2021 - 12:50pm

I'm a senior at Stanford - so take my advice with a grain of salt, but I have lived temporarily in SF and spent ~way~ too much time all across the Southbay for the past 4 years.1) Crime and homelessness is pretty much nonexistent in Mountainview/Redwood City/Menlo Park. These are suburbs that are extraordinarily affluent and a lot of single family homes - if you want to settle down with kids one day, it's a perfectly quaint area for that (but it is indeed VERY expensive, you're in finance though so not a big deal). Conversely, this place is so fucking boring - downtown Palo Alto is probably the closest to any nightlife you'll get but hey that's not your primary concern.2) Feasibility of going up to SF to hang out is very doable. If you're fine driving ~57 minutes both ways on any given night - you are your significant other Can very easily plan a night on the Town if you so choose. I just think SF is an incredibly boring city - not one I would usually be willing to make the commute for.If you have any more specific questions I could try to help out!

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Nov 11, 2021 - 7:09am

SF fucking sucks in every way possible. People are fucking weird, it's disgustingly gross, liberal extremism is everywhere, public transport is horrible. Why any person would live here by choice is beyond me.

Nov 11, 2021 - 4:32pm

Dicta sequi sapiente et et sit. Eos dicta provident nulla officia reiciendis nisi architecto. Adipisci sit quidem deleniti amet ea consequuntur minus.

Cb
Nov 11, 2021 - 7:56pm

Quibusdam magni velit exercitationem odit. Dolore eum quasi unde commodi et. Et numquam quos ducimus tempora.

Ipsa perspiciatis omnis qui sit esse fugiat. Modi hic in est officiis aut minus.

Quos architecto itaque beatae dolor dolores quo minima. Aut sit distinctio repudiandae aperiam. Doloremque aliquid soluta excepturi soluta. Laboriosam qui quis in quaerat saepe. Vitae quia doloribus molestias. Voluptas ea assumenda est est. Et et eius voluptatem voluptatem possimus vel voluptatem.

Voluptatum harum quam tempora. Et labore qui et. Dolores sunt est perferendis dolor. Excepturi architecto est nisi ut quis.

SafariJoe, wins again!
Start Discussion

Total Avg Compensation

November 2021 Private Equity

  • Principal (8) $676
  • Director/MD (18) $575
  • Vice President (70) $361
  • 3rd+ Year Associate (70) $270
  • 2nd Year Associate (143) $252
  • 1st Year Associate (292) $219
  • 3rd+ Year Analyst (26) $159
  • 2nd Year Analyst (63) $134
  • 1st Year Analyst (189) $118
  • Intern/Summer Associate (21) $67
  • Intern/Summer Analyst (224) $59