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The new secret to financial success

(MoneyWatch) Moving to Detroit sounds questionable as a career move -- the unemployment rate is in double digits and the city has been in decline for decades.

But here's the thing: You could rent a huge Victorian house -- a whole house -- in Detroit for a few hundred dollars per month. Share with someone else, and your rent could match what New Yorkers spend on lattes every 30 days. And thanks to the miracle of high speed internet access, and an economy that is increasingly location-agnostic, you could be doing many of the same jobs that New Yorkers do.

A new survey by Elance, a freelance job site, finds that plenty of American workers are escaping their local economies through virtual work. Despite a high unemployment rate, Detroit's growing ranks of freelancers are increasing their earnings online (a 745 percent quarter over quarter growth through Elance's platform, the company notes, though probably not from a huge base). Freelancers in Carson City, Nev., with its high unemployment and foreclosure rates, saw a similar jump in earnings.

Establishing a freelance career isn't easy, of course. But one option is to spend a year in a city with a thriving economy, in order to make lots of contacts. Once you've got the clients lined up, jet off to a town where the cost of living is low. Fly back to New York (or San Francisco, or Los Angeles, or Chicago) a few times a year to keep up your contacts and have meetings. Even the cost of airfare and hotel rooms is dwarfed by the savings of living in a place where you can buy a home for 5 digits. If you also choose a state with a low state income tax, you'll really come out ahead.

In a world where work had to be done in one place, cities fell into a winner-take-all pattern. Once a city became a job center, more people moved in just because that's where the jobs were. It would drive up the cost of living for everyone. But in a well-connected world, location becomes less important. You can keep your base expenses low and still earn a lot.

Would you ever live somewhere different from where you worked?

Photo courtesy flickr user koalazymonkey
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