You may think places like NC or Alabama are great for living, while I don't have to agree with you. I had exactly what you thought in my mind before I moved down to US (that was why I moved south). Take my suggestion: go south, experience it, and then tell us your feeling. I am sure very soon you will find there are too many things more important than money, which is one thing you have focused everywhere in your post.
Here are the suggestions I saw somewhere else, and would like to share with you:
1. Always belive where you choose to live is the best for you. If not, leave it.
2. Always go to the best place you believe. If not, don't go.