I'm approaching 40, married with older children, born and raised in Northern CA. The wife and I were discussing the other day how neither of us actually chose to live here and we just stuck around and built a life here.
California has it's benefits but we do not fit well here for several reasons.
1. Preference of simplicity: We're highly frugal and enjoy a low cost lifestyle. That's not rewarded in CA.
2. Air quality: this sounds petty but we have allergy issues and even my daughters are being impacted by the smog and generally filthy air here.
3. Climate: we're not sun worshippers and do not look forward to 20-25 days each year over 100. Fine with more cloud cover and some snow.
4. Nature lovers: we regularly try to escape the city to go fishing, camping or hiking.
5. Politics: We are not gun toting Republicans but are glad to have neighbors with firearms. We're more libertarian by nature but we generally avoid politics for lack of interest. But in CA you would think there are no other opinions but the liberal perspective.
We look forward to affordable housing (sell home and buy again with equity in the, say, $300k territory), lower cost of living, better air quality, likely in a smaller community (100k or less is ideal).
This is the first phase of research and I'd love to hear anecdotal pros and cons from anyone in the pool on these states, maybe cities/regions to focus on or avoid.