What Does It Really Take to Live in Seattle?
Annual income: $191,000
Monthly housing costs: $1,353 monthly mortgage
Other household income: $200,000 (spouse)
Student debt: $0
Childcare: $1,080 monthly school tuition and $320 in after-school care
Amount in savings: $60,000
Amount in retirement: $1 million
Last splurge: Season ski passes to Snoqualmie Pass for himself and his son.
Are you living comfortably in Seattle? “I do feel like we’re living comfortably in Seattle right now, although the housing market is intimidating. As much as we’d like to change locations and have more space (e.g., for aging parents), we’re not sure if we can afford to anytime soon.”
UX Research Manager
Annual income: $165,500
Monthly housing costs: $4,020 monthly mortgage
Other household income: Over $200,000 (spouse)
Student debt: $3,927 left from over $125,000
Amount in savings: $25,000
Amount in retirement: $133,000
Last splurge: A new couch.
Are you living comfortably in Seattle? “Yes, only because both my partner and I have been extremely fortunate to have high-demand professions that not only persisted through Covid with minimal disruption but also because we made investments at the right time. Had either of us started our careers even a few years later, it would be a much different story. We also both came from relatively well-off families and above-average public education, privileges that I know are not universal and opened a number of opportunities for us to get to where we are now.”
Annual income: $79,900, plus overtime
Monthly housing costs: $2,325 monthly rent
Other household income: $0
Student debt: $0
Amount in savings: $10,000
Amount in retirement: $120,000
Last splurge: $700 on a new laptop.
Are you living comfortably in Seattle? “I am living pretty comfortably but am stretched very thin to the point I have little actual spending money and I have a constant low-level worry I’ll be priced out of my apartment if rent continues to increase without much change in income (or worse, laid off). I choose to live in a somewhat costlier apartment and neighborhood for the convenience of being walking distance from downtown, the waterfront, and my job. The tradeoff for the cost is I have a very easy, short walking commute and hardly ever have to drive or pay for gas regularly.”
Annual income: $68,000 before being laid off; $2,400 per month in unemployment
Monthly housing costs: $700 share of $2,205 monthly rent
Other household income: Living expenses shared with two roommates
Student debt: $0 left from $58,000
Amount in savings: $0
Amount in retirement: $0
Last splurge: Before being laid off, about $700 for a vacation. After getting laid off, $45 to split the cost of a road trip to the coast.
Are you living comfortably in Seattle? “I am still housed, so I am living much more comfortably than many folks in Seattle. On the other hand, this month is the first one my bills are really, really tight after getting laid off. Unemployment pays less than my monthly bills (rent, car payment, insurance, groceries, other debt payments) and my savings is now gone. I live much more comfortably than many, but in the 13 years I’ve lived in this city…I’ve always lived paycheck to paycheck.”
Annual income: $120,000
Monthly housing costs: $2,300 monthly mortgage in Seattle; $1,400 monthly mortgage in Jefferson County
Other household income: $55,000 (spouse) and $500 per month (roommate)
Student debt: $4,000 left from $20,000
Amount in savings: “A couple thousand.”
Amount in retirement: $10,000
Last splurge: A prefab shed for $12,000.
Are you living comfortably in Seattle? “Yes, but only within the last couple of years. I never planned on being able to retire and couldn’t really afford to put any income into a 401K. What’s there now is really just from an autosave program at a previous employer. We bought a house in August of 2013, and we couldn’t really afford it. My mom helped us out a lot back then, and I’m so grateful. In 2019 I got a pay increase that put us where we needed to be, and in 2020, we used equity from the house to buy a small cabin on three acres on the Hood Canal. We feel secure now, but it was a lot of luck and help that got us here.”
Annual income: About $100,000
Monthly housing costs: $1,895 monthly rent
Other household income: Living expenses shared with partner
Student debt: $0
Amount in savings: About $40,000
Amount in retirement: $60,000
Last splurge: A king-size bed.
Are you living comfortably in Seattle? “I feel financially comfortable, but I have some other financial goals that I’m worried I’ll never meet. We’d like to own a house in the city and have a child. I’m earmarking most of my savings for a down payment on a house, but that dream still feels far off. And between rent for a larger house (our current apartment is much too small for another pet, let alone a child) and childcare, I’m afraid both of my goals will never happen. We prefer living in cities and my partner has a disability that prevents him from driving, so it’s important that we live somewhere with public transit.”