You Can Afford to Retire in Los Angeles

Retiring in LA

    safety    transportation     people     medical     culture     cost-of-living


When deciding to relocate or retire to a new area, cost is an important factor. When people consider living in Los Angeles, some assume that the cost of living is too high. However, what they may not consider is what cost-of-living really means—and doesn’t mean—to retirees.

Barbara Sosnowitz is a retiree from Boca Raton, Florida and recently made the move to the Playa Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles:

“Things are more expensive here—the food, the gas—but I would visitroundbarbaraS four or five times a year to see my daughter and grandchildren in North Hollywood, so I knew these things would be more expensive—and of course they cost a little more. I think the neighborhood I’m in now is the best out of any place I looked at living. My daughter calls Playa Vista ‘Disneyland,’ and it really is—it’s so well planned, there are parks every few blocks, I walk everywhere, and my grandchildren and I are looking forward to taking the free shuttle to the beach this summer.”

Major metropolitan areas tend to have a higher cost of living compared to small towns and rural areas, but a higher cost of living indicates a location’s desirability. So while Los Angeles is generally more expensive than say, Omaha, Nebraska, that’s because it’s a vibrant city with near-perfect weather, delicious food, world-renowned cultural events, and the highest quality education and health care.

Barbara and Bruce Ashton, transplants from Texas and New York who have lived in Los Angeles since 1968, understand that cities are more expensive, but Bruce knew that the cost was well worth the benefit:

“We knew we wanted to stay in the area for retirement. We didn’t consider going elsewhere. There’s no better weather, we’re near an international airport, and everything we need is accessible—things like entertainment, shopping, downtown L.A., and the ocean. A lot of retirement communities are outside of cities in suburban areas. They feel very confined, and they aren’t near much.”

Knowing all that Los Angeles has to offer, one might expect the cost of living to be one of the highest of all large U.S. cities, but that’s not the case. Los Angeles has a lower cost of living than New York City, Honolulu, San Francisco, Miami, Philadelphia, Seattle, Boston, or San Diego according to the most recent reports from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

CPI of US Cities

*The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services.

Sally Sussman is an active retiree and longtime resident of Los Angeles. She and her husband considered living in other large cities, but they both agreed that staying in L.A. made the most sense:

“We would’ve only lived in Los Angeles or the Boston area, so the cost-of-living didn’t sway us one way or the other because they are
similar in that respect. We have very dear friends on the East Coast, and we looked at a property there, but afterward we both felt roundsally2strongly that it wasn’t comfortable for us. Why should we fight winters on the East Coast when we’ve gotten used to the comfort of not having to fight winter? People ask us, ‘Don’t you miss winter?’ I say, ‘What’s to miss?’”

So if Los Angeles has a reasonable cost of living for its size, what does that mean for retirees? Cost of living data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics factors in the relative costs of childcare, housing, food, transportation, and taxes. However, for those living in life-care or active-retirement communities, health care, dining, housing, utilities, transportation, and several other services already are included at a controlled rate. (Not to mention that childcare is usually a non-issue.)

Bruce Ashton found that choosing a community he and his wife love helped everything else fall into place:

“Housing isn’t cheap in Los Angeles, but it’s livable. Ten million people live here, and they afford it somehow. And if you get into a round brucegood [Continuing Care Retirement Community] like we did, you can afford everything else. Meals, upkeep, and all that are included, so it keeps things simple. If we moved to Omaha, we may have extra money I suppose, but what would we do? We really like a big city—being near friends and our jobs. We will keep working as long as we can!”

In other words, the cost of living in the surrounding area may not indicate the actual cost of living for most retirees. In fact, the median costs for L.A. retirement communities are similar to national rates. Retirees can enjoy the benefits of living in Los Angeles while paying prices similar to what they would in most U.S. cities. Another positive for retirees is that California excludes Social Security benefits from state income tax.

Regardless of where you choose to live in retirement, planning wisely for your financial future is a good idea. A recent Merrill Edge® report showed that “while non-retirees are anticipating stress, the majority (65 percent) of retirees in [Los Angeles] are not stressed about finances in retirement based on how they saved.” The report explains that retirees who have executed simple plans for smart saving enjoy financial peace in Los Angeles.

Sally Sussman, who has lived in Los Angeles with her husband since 1970, echoes the findings of the report:

“One of our children lives in Berkeley, one lives in Indiana. I didn’t have the desire to live in either. Others are moving to L.A. because their children are here. I did not choose to move near my children because I don’t want my children to be responsible for me. They’re wonderful people, but they have lives of their own and should continue lives of their own and not worry about the old folks. We’re fortunate to be in a position to take care of ourselves. We planned well, so, financially, we’re not in bad shape.”

Retiring in Los Angeles is not only possible but more affordable than many assume. L.A. retirees enjoy all the benefits of living in a large city while feeling minimal effects from the higher cost of living—studies report low stress levels when it comes to L.A. retiree finances. When seniors can live so comfortably in such a beautiful city, it’s no wonder why Los Angeles is home to more than 80 independent living, senior apartment, and retirement communities.


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