Los Angeles was overpriced so I moved to Tulsa. My extended family followed me here, and we love it—and I’m a homeowner – Information Important Online

If you had asked me to point out Oklahoma, let alone Tulsa, on a map three years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. Fast forward to today and, while my geography hasn’t much improved, I can not only point out Oklahoma on a map, I live there.

I’m a native Californian—born in San Jose, raised in Orland, moved to Los Angeles after college. I never planned to leave the Golden State, but when the pandemic hit in 2020, my priorities quickly shifted. 

My life has been marked by stories of my being the “first” and/or the “only” in my family, community, or profession to achieve particular goals. I was the first in my family to go to college and the only to hold a graduate degree. I am the first female entrepreneur in my family and the only one to own multiple rental properties. More recently, I became the first Black female certified financial planner in the state of Oklahoma, and I remain the only one.

A financial move

I was also the first in my family to move to Oklahoma—though, thankfully, I’m not the only one here now. In the past three years since moving to Tulsa, I’ve convinced my younger sister, my parents, my niece, and some of my cousins to join me. We now have nine family members here, and I’m sure we’ll continue to persuade more to move. We all relocated from California and collectively have bought four properties in the Tulsa area—and have volunteered over 2,000 hours of our time to local Tulsa organizations. 

Moving to Tulsa brought me closer to my family and restored a sustainable balance to my life that was evading me in California. However, ultimately it came down to a calculated financial move.

To understand my story, let’s back up a bit. My dad was a self-employed butcher for over 45 years. I grew up watching him build his business with sweat equity while my mom put her personal dreams on hold to stay home and raise me and my three sisters. We were not wealthy, but we never wanted for anything. My parents poured what little expendable income they had into their kids—sending us to a private Christian school, allowing us to play sports, and participating in every school event and fundraiser. They never limited our imaginations nor allowed us to put limitations on ourselves. Growing up in that environment laid the foundation for my personal successes and drives me to give back to them, even though it was never a quid-pro-quo arrangement. 

Now back to 2020. I was living in Los Angeles during the pandemic, renting an overpriced townhome and making car payments on a vehicle I had nowhere to drive. My family lived seven hours away in Northern California. On a positive professional note, my business effortlessly shifted to a virtual format, allowing me to triple the number of clients I could meet in a week without fighting traffic. Financially, I was saving money because I wasn’t eating out, paying for gas, shopping, or participating in other costly activities.

That shift, resulting in finally having expendable income, opened the door for me to explore what to do with it. I looked at buying property in Los Angeles but ran into three major problems. First, I couldn’t stomach the idea of paying so much for so little. Second, eventually my expenses would go up, and I’d likely be “house poor,” unable to maintain my desired lifestyle. Finally, and most importantly, I missed my family and wanted to live near them, but they couldn’t afford Los Angeles, and I didn’t want to live in a rural Northern California town. 

I’m not one to compromise, so I found a solution. We needed to move somewhere affordable, with business and entertainment opportunities—a place that wasn’t too rural but also didn’t have the fast-paced life of Los Angeles. So, I began to research, making spreadsheets, pros and cons lists, potential budgets, and creating a targeted list of places to move to. I included quantitative measures on statistics such as average home price, median cost of living, demographics, and airport proximity. And I included qualitative measures such as activities for the family, history of the city, charitable organizations, and more. Imagine my surprise when Tulsa, Oklahoma, checked more boxes than all the other cities. Considered one of the most philanthropic cities in the U.S. per capita, home of Black Wall Street, a lower cost of living, and an organization called “Tulsa Remote” that would pay me $10,000 just to move there! It was the easiest decision I’ve ever made. 

From renting to home ownership

Though there were numerous “emotional” benefits, the financial benefits of the move ultimately sealed the deal for me and my family. I booked my flights for September 2020 and lined up home viewings with a local realtor. My dad, though much more cautious than I about a potential move, joined me and helped me pick out my first home. I closed on that property in November 2020, sold all my belongings in Los Angeles, packed my car, and was in Tulsa by December 7, 2020. 

Never had I imagined I would be a homeowner at the age of 29—it was financially impossible for me in California. I was able to purchase an entire home for a monthly mortgage equivalent to my portion of renting a room in a North Hollywood townhome with no yard and no ownership. Meanwhile, I informed my parents that they would be moving too, as I picked this city with them in mind, and they needed to start taking steps to prepare. (I didn’t become “first” and “only” by being passive, and my parents knew I would wear them down eventually.) I appealed to my mother by convincing her how fun it would be to live near me again—I had left for college at age 17 and hadn’t lived near them since. I convinced my dad by running the numbers with him and showing it would save him money to move. My dad is now retired and on a fixed income, and even with cost-of-living adjustments, their money was not going as far as it used to. I also knew that my parents would eventually need some sort of in-home assistance as they aged, and that was not something I could provide if we were states away. 

While I will always claim California as my home, Tulsa is now my home. Since moving, I’ve bought two properties, opened up my own financial planning firm (Bamboo Financial Partners), and received two additional professional designations.

But those are just numbers. What my financial spreadsheets didn’t foresee was that I would have the free time to play in local volleyball leagues, the ability to take on raising my teenage niece and become her bonus mom, that I could finally have time to adopt a dog (my Smokey Bear), that I could see my little sister finally not have to work three jobs just to make ends meet, and that I could volunteer and be a board member of local organizations (shoutout to Tulsa Boys Home, Leadership Tulsa, and the Tulsa Dream Center). Most importantly, I get to experience life with my family. These are moments, years, and memories I can never get back. While I made my decision with finances in mind, the ultimate benefits of my move cannot be quantified, only felt. 

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