Yesterday, in a piece entitled Heat, Humidity and Home, I mentioned that one of the reasons we dismissed California as a possible place to move to in retirement was the high cost of living, especially housing.

We knew this from a vacation weekend we spent in San Diego a few years ago.

While there, we rented a car and drove up the coast to see some of the towns overlooking the Pacific. We stopped for lunch in Encinitas, a picturesque place with wonderful views. Curious what real estate there might cost, we drove about six blocks away from the beach, found a small home with a for-sale sign in the yard, and looked it up on Zillow. We were shocked to discover that the two bedroom/two bath house, though only 1,200 square feet, was on the market for a cool $1.2 million. That’s when we knew we wouldn’t be moving there.

The whole thing reminded me that many years earlier — even before I met Martha — I’d applied for a job as the evening disc jockey at a big rock station in San Diego. At the time, I worked in a small town on the east end of Long Island, a full continent away from San Diego, which was a top twenty market. I was pleasantly shocked when the program director called, said he’d liked my audition tape, and wanted to talk about having me move out there. Among other questions, I asked what the salary would be, and he quoted a number that wasn’t much more than I was already making. When I expressed surprise at the figure, he said, “Yeah, but you get to live in paradise.”

I knew something about the cost of living in paradise, because the small town where I worked was near The Hamptons, an east coast beach enclave I couldn’t afford to live in from May to September when the tourists overran the area and the prices on everything became sky-high. Since San Diego has beautiful weather year-round, I determined that I’d have to live far away from the ocean, somewhere with much lower rental rates, probably a two hour drive away, in order to be able to afford daily life on such a small income. When the PD refused to budge on his offer, I turned him down and stayed where I was for another year until I got something a little more lucrative.

That turned out to be at a station in Hartford, Connecticut, where my life got much better, not just because I was making a few extra dollars and had the opportunity to really develop as a radio personality, but also because I met Martha and we started our life together.

And that was the best move I ever made.