Portland Oregon is becoming too expensive for the average retiree

Portland Oregon is becoming too expensive for the average retiree

  • Post Author:
  • Post Category:Oregon

I have lived in Portland Oregon most of my life, and I love this wonderful city. I love the people who live here. I love the hip, quirky vibe of the inner east side of the city with all of the restaurants within walking distance of each other. I love the big beautiful trees, oodles of culture, and great coffee shops. It is the home of many different micro-brewery’s. Portland even has the best used bookstore in the world – Powell’s bookstore. Unfortunately, the housing prices and the rental market are skyrocketing, and Portland Oregon is becoming too expensive for the average retiree.

My parents and I moved to Portland when I turned six years old. I got my college education after high school, and afterwards I had several high paying jobs while working in the computer field. I made lots of friends, had an exciting social life, and I finally moved away for another job when I turned 47. Unfortunately, even with these high paying computer jobs, I found the cost of living to be too high, even for my income. The prices of homes do not match the incomes of those who work there. Combine that with the high cost of utilities, and a state income tax, this is the reason why we say do not retire in Portland, Oregon – it’s too expensive.

Photo By D Coetzee via StockPholio.com
Powell’s Bookstore Photo By D Coetzee via StockPholio.com

A local Portland news station, KGW-TV, said last month that the minimum income necessary to rent a home in Portland is $31 an hour. But Portlanders on average do not make this much. The real estate site, Zillow, recently wrote that a single person would need to make over $61,000 a year to be able to afford Portland’s median rent, which is $1500 a month. But unfortunately, the average income in Portland is only $47,000 a year.

For retirees who do not make this much in social security, it becomes out of reach. Living in the suburbs won’t help either. Beaverton, Hillsboro, Gladstone, and Milwuakie all have average rents of around $1500 a month. 

Now imagine that you are a retired person and you love everything that Portland has to offer. Let’s say your social security check is higher than average, and your retirement checks are $2,000 per month. Would you be able to afford to live in Portland? Unfortunately, no. If you are married, and your spouse brought in an additional $2,000 per month on social security, your total income would be $4000 per month, giving you $48,000 a year. You would still fall short of the $61,000 a year needed to afford rent. 

 “If you want to retire in Portland, bring a big bucket of cash, along with your social security checks, because sadly that’s what it takes to live here.”

Unfortunately, Portland is not alone on becoming unaffordable, especially on the west coast. In these economic times of high real estate costs and utility bills, many places share this same high cost of living. To escape these high costs, you might want to consider living in a place such as Arizona. Or if you are feeling adventuresome, you could live in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, Mexico, or Thailand. While Portland has so many good things going for it, it’s simply not affordable for the average retiree.

Update : One of our writers suggested Vancouver Washington as an alternative. It’s right across the Columbia river from Portland where the housing costs are lower, there is no income tax in Washington, and you can still cross the border for tax free shopping in Portland. 

Photo By via Creative Commons


Gary is one of the founders of RetireBook, and is the site engineer and also one of its writers. He has been working in IT for over 25 years, is a world traveler, and enjoys everything about living in the Pacific Northwest. He is full of energy, loves the outdoors, climbed several mountains, volunteers in his community, and has been saving his whole life for an early retirement that will be coming up in just a few short years.