Here is a note from Thomas. He is thinking about moving to Hawaii with his wife and young children.

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We are considering moving to Oahu, and probably Waikiki, very seriously after my daughter’s school year ends in May. I want to ask you about our situation and get your honest opinion on whether you think it would work for us, since you seem to be so refreshingly honest and no nonsense in your email section at the end of the guide.

I know you do not seem to like Hawaii for schooling children, and that concerns me a great deal. Our daughter is 7 years old and in first grade, and she is doing well, though the kids in the schools here are not great kids. Our son is 10 months old, so schooling is a ways off for him. We are very disturbed about the increasing decline in social fabric on the mainland regarding school shootings, mall shootings, movie theater shootings, and even poor firemen shootings going on in the mainland more every day now. We lived for a year in Malta in the Mediterranean until October, just south of Sicily, where our son was born last February. I loved it there, as did my daughter, but my wife hated the mold and humidity in the winter; it was quite a shock for us even having been born / raised / lived most of my life in hot and humid summertime South Florida. My wife is originally from Bulgaria, and she has grown accustomed to a reasonable standard here in the States, so I am looking for a place where violent crime is less and it is safe to raise a family. We did not suffer from Island Fever during our year in Malta, which is a mere 125 sq. mile country with lots to do (450,000 people live there).

Regarding my job, I am fortunate enough to work entirely on line and on the telephone for an email/investment/internet marketing firm. I can work from anywhere that I can do the EST East coast hours. That means I will work from home but start at 4 AM every week day, work till 1 PM, and be off on weekends, in Hawaii. I worked until midnight or 1 AM every weekday for a year in Malta and could handle it, though the nights when it stretched through to 1 AM were difficult, honestly. My income is around $55k per year. Palm Beach County/South Florida is very, very expensive, and when I hear your numbers on rent for example, they are about what we pay here for apartments, as are the prices for private schools. We did not eat out so much the year we were in Malta as they had similarly astronomically expensive restaurant prices for their 2 million tourists per year as you have described in Hawaii. Eating at home during the week was much cheaper, and we would go out once on the weekend and pick up take out once as well.

I think that describes our situation pretty well. We want our family to grow up in a good climate, spend lots of time outside/in the nature, and not have to worry about whether the schools/malls/movie theaters they are at will be safe or not. We would bring our Kia Sorrento with us and drive that one vehicle. Our PODS worth of furniture can be shipped to Hawaii for us by the PODS company at a fair price as well. I am ready to pay 3 months rent for the condo, or apartment, up front.

I look forward to getting your valuable opinion on the subject. With the expense involved in shipping a car and a PODS and the four of us from South Florida out to Hawaii, it is certainly not something that I want to do to have regrets six months later! Thanks for your time, help, and wonderful book!

Very Best Regards,

Thomas W.

P.S. – I have been to Oahu for two weeks, so I am not going site unseen!

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Hi Thomas,

You are most definitely a writer, that was the longest email I received in a long time! Still, it was filled with great information that will help a lot of people, that’s why I’d so much rather post my response here for everyone to read.

I lived in Miami, Clearwater, and Tampa, Florida for about a decade. I have always felt relatively safe in the state. I do understand your concern about school and violence. You didn’t mention where exactly you live…

It probably seems to you that Hawaii is an oasis of safety away from the mainland – at least to some degree. It still does to me, and I’m not sure why that is. There are about under 1.44 million people living in Hawaii, says the US Census as of 2023 . According to the 2020 Decennial Census there are over 331 million living in the mainland USA. Most of the shootings and other lunacy that occurs in the USA, happens on the mainland – by far. But, again, life in Hawaii has it’s own set of problems. I subscribe to a couple of news services on Twitter and through RSS feed. They give me a better picture of how often violent crime is occurring in the islands. I see plenty of abductions, missing persons, drug crime, and murder – even just on Big Island. Are there less crazies per capita in Hawaii – on Oahu? I don’t know. I would say, no. That’s just an educated guess, whatever that is worth. For the next update of my book, I’ll include more stats about quality of life, crime, and other negatives that go with living in Hawaii. For those that already bought one of the other Moving to Hawaii guides, you can have the upgrade for free – just email me to request it.

We haven’t seen any major incident in Hawaii, relating to mass shootings, but of course there will be something to happen in the next few years. It would seem odd for Hawaii to escape it. All the other sorts of crime exist, why not that too? Personally I am not under any illusion about it not being able to happen in paradise. It will be a tremendously sad day when it does, but, the people of Hawaii will get through it by pulling together and looking forward.

You said, “I am looking for a place where violent crime is less and it is safe to raise a family.” Is Hawaii, specifically, Oahu, that place? I don’t know. It could be, I think. See, to me, it’s all generalizations to say that this place is safer than that place. Doesn’t matter where we’re comparing. Though my overall view of Los Angeles is that it is unsafe for me and my family, I am 100% sure that there are many families living there – that are safe. It is more in the behaviors and practices of the family. Do the father and mother go out at night, leaving kids with the babysitter? Does the father or mother work for law enforcement? Do the kids attend private or public school? Are they going to Punahou or Makaha public school? Not to single schools in that area out, mind you. Just trying to show my position that – what parents do, how they live, how they protect the family from dangers, affects the safety of the family, more than anything else.

I have never felt unsafe living on Oahu, in Waikiki, and town. I have never felt unsafe at a beach in Hawaii. I have never felt unsafe in Maui – whatever I was doing. I am not a high-risk type of person though. I think many other people, many other families are at risk for violent incidents, much more than me or my family.

So, is Hawaii a safe place for raising your family? It can be, sure. Depends on you.

Your daughter is 7 years old. Mine is 3. I am agonizing over whether it is a good idea for us to move back to Hawaii, and everything has to do with my daughter’s life experience. I wonder whether it is best to leave Thailand for Hawaii. Thailand has a lot of issues that bother me, having a half-Thai, half-american daughter, is a liability in Thailand. She gets far too much attention. To me, she looks like a target for something. I’m not comfortable with that idea, at all.

There are all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds in Hawaii. It’s a gigantic melting pot. That’s a good thing in my opinion. I love the idea that my daughter will be surrounded by people from all over. That said, we would not have her attend public schools in Hawaii. I’d feel much better, much safer, to have her in private schools. That costs money, but, again – her life experience is the main factor in whether we move there at all. If I think it will be a better experience – we’ll move and sacrifice whatever we need to – so she has the ultimate experience. I have this belief that my life has been way beyond amazing. If, at sixteen, I could have looked forward and had a peek into what my life held for the next 30 years, I’d have dropped dead of excitement. It’s been great. Now, it’s my responsibility to give my daughter a life like that. Better than that.

So, whether your family will be safe in Hawaii, and whether it is a great place for your kids to grow up, depends in large part – on you. Are you ready to do whatever it takes to give your kids the best life experience? Or, are you more concerned with bettering your own experience when you arrive on Oahu?

The schools in Hawaii are generally not so great. I don’t want to say “suck” because then people jump down my throat and tell me what a great experience they had growing up attending public schools. There is a reason there are so many great and expensive private schools in the islands, people realize they had better pay for them if they want their kids to have good education. I strongly recommend you also pay for a good private school for your children’s education in Hawaii. Don’t leave it to chance.

The drug problem is scary to me as a parent. I think in a private school the kids get more attention and problems are more easily identified, and the parents notified, and then help can be given students with problems. There are drugs available to kids in school, at the beach, and at friends homes. The best defense is to educate your kids about drugs and try to help them see the danger of wrecking their lives, your life, everyone’s lives. Lol. One never really knows whether their daughter or son will become a hardcore addict or not, but, with attention from parents about the issue… I think it happens less. Regardless, there is often little or nothing you can do, it’s a roll of the dice. The dice are rolling whether you live in Florida or Hawaii. So, I think you shouldn’t let that issue affect your judgement about whether to move or not.

Moving on…

You said, “We want our family to grow up in a good climate, spend lots of time outside/in the nature, and not have to worry about whether the schools/malls/movie theaters they are at will be safe or not.”

Safety of your kids anywhere, is always in doubt, so that is something that won’t go away, no matter where you are. I can’t help you feel like Hawaii is that place where nothing happens or will happen. It is like everywhere else. Here in Thailand we have crazy things happening too.

Good climate – Hawaii definitely has. Spending lots of time in nature, outside, you will definitely be able to do.

You mentioned that you make about $55,000 per year. If that is after taxes, then that’s not bad. If it is before taxes, then, with your 4-person family, I think you’d just be scraping by. I don’t know if you’d be able to afford a private school for your daughter without somehow increasing your income. Is your wife able to, or willing to work? I think it might be best to figure out another income stream before moving if you are going to rely only on your $55K per year. Maybe you have a lot of savings that you haven’t mentioned?

I re-read your email and I think you’re saying you live in Palm Beach County. I have a friend there and visited her. Yep, very expensive. How are you making it there on your salary?

My suggestion is that you somehow increase your salary – or, your wife begins working, or you create some other income source to help you once in Hawaii.

That, or, have a really good fall-back plan.

Personally, I couldn’t imagine trying to live on Oahu on $55K before tax for our family of four. Especially because private school is going to take $500 of that each month. Food will be $600+ I think, even if you do eat almost every meal at home. Rent will be $1,200 – 1,500+ for an apartment in a safe place. Health insurance, dental, car insurance, gas, clothes, school supplies, parking fees, electricity, garbage, water, everything adds up so quickly in Hawaii to zap your income down to zero balance at the end of the month.

If you still think you can do it – give it a shot, but really, have a good back up plan and give some real thought to finding at least another $12,000 clear per year.

Best of life and luck to you Thomas!

Do let me know how things go.


Article originally authored by Vern Lovic and any expressed opinions are his own.