My wife has recently been offered a new job in Denver that she wants to take due to salary increase, career advancement, etc. We currently live in a very low cost-of-living area comparatively (Memphis) and we would need to relocate. My job is fully remote (based in Texas), and I was hired in with a salary adjusted for my current city.

I'm wondering if I have reason to ask for a salary adjustment from my employer based on my new location being more expensive COL-wise. I can see why my employer wouldn't agree to this since it would ultimately be my choice to move, not theirs. However, what would then prevent me from finding a new remote position with a different company, being hired out of Denver instead of Memphis, and making a higher salary?

Obviously this would need to be a conversation with my manager. What is the best way to broach this topic? I don't want to seem like I'm trying to take advantage, especially since I am fairly new to my employer, and have only been on for a few months.

  • 2
    Have you researched the market rate for your position in your new location? Is it in line with the increase you are planning to ask for?
    – sf02
    Jul 22, 2022 at 18:41
  • "However, what would then prevent me from finding a new remote position with a different company, being hired out of Denver instead of Memphis, and making a higher salary?" - Nothing
    – Donald
    Jul 22, 2022 at 19:59
  • 16
    And related - you should talk to your employer before you move: not all companies are willing to work out of all states. If they don't already have any remote employees in Colorado, they may not be willing to have you work remotely for them from there. Jul 22, 2022 at 22:52
  • Joe, they adjusted for COL in the worker's residence. This is not saying that his work is worth more, just that the adjustment sauce be good for the goose if it is good for the gander. Jul 23, 2022 at 21:11
  • @JoeStrazzere Didn't Facebook lower salaries based on cost of living, or at least threaten to?
    – BSMP
    Jul 25, 2022 at 5:48

6 Answers 6


Can you ask for a cost of living increase? You can but it might not be a good move.

You already suspect that asking for a raise justified by your own choice to relocate after only a few months is highly unlikely to result in a positive outcome, and I would agree with you on that. That they used the lower cost of living where you currently live to justify offering you lower pay initially unfortunately doesn't mean they will increase accordingly to maintain your standard of living if you move to a higher cost location.

If you like your job and can afford to make the move without getting the raise I suggest you spend some time to prove your value to the business before you ask for an increase - you need to show that the headroom between the cost of employing you at higher rate and the value you bring to the business is sufficient that they are better off doing that than letting you leave for more money elsewhere and finding someone to replace you, which you won't have had time to do in just a few months. When you can have a conversation about what you have done and will do to make the business profitable, that's the conversation you should have, rather than one about how a coffee costs twice as much in your new town as it used to in the old one or whatever.

What is stopping you from looking for a better paid job at any time, whether you move or not, is (1) the availability of such roles (2) how much you like your current job vs. how much you predict you might like another, including the salary, work from home, team culture and anything else that's important to you in a job (3) concern over any negative inferences that may be drawn from your CV showing a short spell in a job and (4) whatever your notice period is. If your current salary isn't livable where you intend to move to, or the job you have doesn't look so great compared to what you can get, this may be the necessary or preferable course of action (in which case, asking for the raise first may be a no lose situation anyway).

  • I think this is a good point. I definitely don't want to come off needy or give a bad impression. Another important piece of information is that my employer tends to give new hires a raise/promotion after a year of employment anyway. Maybe it would be better to bring the COL increase up later down the line once the raise/promotion discussions start and I've had more time to show value? Jul 22, 2022 at 20:39

You can certainly ask for anything you want.

The risk is that once you ask there is an implication that you will leave if your request is not met. Often this leads an employer to immediately start looking at replacing you.

So you weigh the risks and do whatever you think best.


How about "any chance I could get a COLA for my new city of Denver?"

They could say yes, no, or anything in between.

  • The OP seems to be moving to Denver, Co, so why mention Austin?
    – Peter M
    Jul 24, 2022 at 0:22

You can ask for just about anything, but you need to couch it in a value proposition that shows a win for the company. Basing it purely on your need (based on your family's choice) to cover a higher COL is not likely to sway them. Depending on how long you have been with the company and in your current position, they may not worry about the risk of losing you as an employee.

Show them why it is important to keep you even at the higher cost and they are more likely to give your request real consideration. Right now they have a committed cost figured out for your employment and you are asking to raise that cost, what's in it for them that's better than the status quo?


Let's look at this from the employer's perspective.

An employee has decided, by their own free will, to move to another location, obviously because they want to live there. That doesn't matter to you as an employer. But the employee is now asking for a higher salary so that they can afford living in this new place.

Why should it be on you to pay the added cost of living, which only the employee personally benefits from? This doesn't make sense. What are you getting out of this?

Nothing. In essence, you are being asked to foot the bill so someone else can go live a nicer life.

Secondly, does this also mean that if receiving a salary increase is justified when moving to a higher COL area; that employees who move to a lower COL area should have their salaries lowered appropriately? What about if they don't move, but the COL drops in their area?

If the salary should not be adjusted to be lower, then there is an easy cheat: everyone moves to the highest COL for a nominal amount of time, locking their salary to the increase, and then moves back to a lower COL area to reap the financial benefits.

Having said all that, this doesn't mean that you can't approach a conversation with your employer; but it should be an open conversation. For example:

Hey, I'm going to move to [new location]. Unfortunately, I have to account for the fact that [new location] has an increased cost of living. I would love to keep working here, but I'm not able to justify doing so at my current wage due to this increase.

Therefore, I would like to ask if you are willing to agree to a salary increase of [X]. I completely understand that the particulars of my living arrangements are not the company's concern, but without this raise I will eventually have to resign for the sake of my financial health.

Don't tell them what they should or shouldn't do for you; simply inform them of what is likely to happen in the near future.

This puts the ball in the employer's camp, without coming across as an entitlement or a demand. Are they willing to keep you on at an increased rate, or would they rather replace you?

If you're a valued employee, this may go over well. If not, well then you can be equally happy that you're able to look for a job with a better suited COL calculation in your new location.

They might not offer you the exact raise you're asking for, but it's up to you to decide whether or not you're happy with what they do offer, if anything.


You can of course ask.

If you have an employer who forced pay cuts on people working from home in cheaper areas, so you make less money right now than someone who worked in the more expensive area all the time, then you have a very good argument for asking for more. If everyone working from home gets the same money, no matter where they live, then it is much harder to argue for more money.

What helps is if you are a valued employee, if your employer believes that you were only Ok with a low salary because you lived in a cheap area, and fears that with your higher cost of living you might be tempted to look for a better paying job.

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