Retirees Should Skip These 10 Increasingly Expensive Cities in the West

The cost of living in these western cities is going up, making them expensive for retirees.

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Updated May 30, 2024
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Are you dreaming of buying a home near the Pacific Ocean during retirement? Or maybe you want to spend your golden years exploring the majestic beauty of a mountain town.

As you consider retiring in the West, there are some cities where the cost of living and housing have been increasing for years.

Avoid throwing away your money in retirement trying to retire in one of these Western cities (unless, of course, you can afford to do so).

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San Francisco, California

JFL Photography/Adobe cable cars moving on the streets of san francisco

The charm of San Francisco has long made it one of the best places to retire, but it’s one of the most expensive cities in the U.S.

The cost of living here is now 79% higher than the national average according to the wage-comparison website PayScale, which can make it very difficult to get ahead financially.

The median home price in San Francisco is $1.3 million and the median rent is $4,214 per month. You’ll also pay over $5.09 for a loaf of bread and nearly $5 for a gallon of gas.

Long Beach, California

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe california long beach skyscrapers

Long Beach is another community that offers a stellar retirement life for many people.

This coastal port city in Southern California has fantastic amenities, including the waterfront and easy access to cruises that travel around the world.

It will cost you to live here, though, to the tune of 51% more than the national average. The median home price is $1.1 million, and the median rent is $3,296 a month. Transportation, groceries, and utilities are also typically higher than the national average.

Seattle, Washington

kanonsky/Adobe skyline of downtown seattle, with mount rainier in the background

Though many view Seattle as a modern, millennial-focused city, it may be good for retirees too. It has an incredible environment with parks, a thriving cultural scene, and good weather most of the year. It’s also near the ocean.

However, the cost of living in Seattle is 50% higher than what you would pay in the rest of the country, with housing costs nearly 111% more than the national average.

The median home price is $952,000, and the median rent is $2,896. Gas is expensive at $4.20 a gallon, and food costs are also higher than in most of the country.

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San Diego, California

Tomasz Zajda/Adobe panoramic shot of san diego beach with lots of boats during day time

The modern vibe and fantastic weather near the coastline make San Diego an exceptional place to retire for many people looking for a higher quality of life but the cost of living 44% higher than the national average.

Buying a home in San Diego could mean spending more, with the median home price at $1 million and median rent at $3,055.

Gas may be a bit less expensive here than in San Francisco at $4.47 a gallon, but you’ll pay more for health insurance and utilities than in most other cities in the U.S. 

Portland, Oregon

f11photo/Adobe buildings and green trees in downtown portland during the day

Portland may not be a city that jumps out as one of the best places to retire, but it’s a beautiful location, thanks to Mount Hood and the numerous natural attractions here. It also has a modern lifestyle with easy proximity to various amenities, including the ocean.

The cost of living in Portland is about 24% higher than the national average, however, with the median home around $729,577 and rent at about $2,218 a month.

You’ll pay less in utility costs due to the area’s green focus, but transportation and groceries tend to cost more than in other U.S. cities.

Denver, Colorado

f11photo/Adobe denver skylines at daytime

Denver’s proximity to ski resorts, the Rocky Mountains, and an incredible arts scene makes it an excellent choice for many people looking to retire and enjoy an active lifestyle.

The Mile High City is not as expensive as the West Coast, but the median home price is $612,791, and the median rent is $1,863.

Overall, the cost of living in Denver is about 11% higher than in the rest of the U.S., thanks to higher transportation and housing costs.

Salt Lake City, Utah

Jacob/Adobe stunning aerial view of salt lake city featuring its buildings and parks.

The good weather and charming parks make Salt Lake City a great place to call home during retirement. It’s quiet and a bit more remote, but still only a short distance from numerous larger cities.

If you plan to retire here, expect to spend about 8% more than the national average. The median home price is $551,918, and the median rent is $1,678. Groceries and transportation costs are high here too.

Boise, Idaho

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe view of a boise, idaho with mountains in the background

You may not have thought to retire to Boise, but it offers some fantastic trails for hiking and numerous museums. A good quality of life with lots of gardens, golf, and shopping could make for a good retirement.

The cost of living is 8% higher than the national average here, with a median home price of $566,347 and a median rent of $1,722.

You’ll also pay more for transportation here, about 14% more than the national average.

Las Vegas, Nevada

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe aerial view of las vegas' skyline

Las Vegas is an entertainment center and just a short drive to major cities throughout the West. From the incredible shows to the food scene and even the golf and casinos, there’s plenty to keep you busy here.

Surprisingly, the cost of living in Las Vegas is just about 1% higher than the national average, and while that doesn’t sound too bad, it is increasing. Today, the median home price here is $497,357, and the median rent is $1,512 a month.

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Spokane, Washington

Brandon Mauth/Adobe panoramic shot of medieval buildings and springs in spokane

Spokane is another popular city in the West with lots to offer those retiring, including a strong arts culture, numerous museums, exceptional history, and various parks, including Riverfront Park and Spokane Falls.

Expect the cost of living in this eastern Washington city to be about 3% higher than the national average, with the median home price around $463,989 and a median rent of $1,411.

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Bottom line

Studio Romantic/Adobe senior man working at office in background with piggy bank and pennies on table

If you’re planning to retire to any of these cities, consider your options carefully, as they may be getting too expensive for many retirees.

If you supplement your income, you could move to a suburb near one of these cities to save some money.

Keep in mind, though, that as inflation grows, the cost of living in each of these areas is also likely to increase. Make sure you have a budget and a plan for retirement as early as possible so you're prepared to live where you want in your golden years.

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Sandy Baker

Sandy Baker is a has over 17 years of experience in the financial sector. Her experience includes website content, blogs, and social media. She’s worked with companies such as, Bankrate, TransUnion, Equifax, and Consumer Affairs.