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Q.  I'm a Computer Programmer thinking about taking a job in San Jose, CA. The report I ran using SalaryExpert showed a much higher salary than what I'm making now, but I've heard that living in San Jose is really expensive. Will the increase in my pay make up for that?

A.  Not necessarily. There is a BIG DIFFERENCE between an area's salary level and its cost-of-living levels. Wage and salary levels reflect the demand and supply for labor. Cost-of-living levels are the result of the demand and supply for goods and services. Just because you could receive a higher salary doesn’t mean that you will have more money—because your living expenses may be higher also. In fact, you could move to receive a higher salary, but end up actually losing money. On the SalaryExpert Report, take a look at the “Cost-of-Living” section under the graph. This will help you understand the “buying power” of the average salary in that location. How does that compare to the “buying power” of your current salary? This is a BIG consideration should a job offer require that you move. Want to get a “real world” idea of the Cost-of-Living in your new area—like the cost of a Big Mac or monthly apartment rent? Please see our Cost-of-Living surveys.