Getting the Most out of Life

Living in Portland: What to Know Before You Move

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Ready to find your ideal city? Many areas across the U.S., from big cities to small hamlets, are becoming increasingly popular with Millennials who are eager to pursue their career goals, personal aspirations, financial security, or social agendas.

While the newest “best of” lists may seek out as-of-yet-unreported-on towns to share with the world, don’t write off some old favorites just yet. Before taking chances on an unknown town, consider if living in Portland, Oregon, is right for your next move.

Making Money and Dealing with Taxes

One huge factor for Millennials to consider when choosing a place to live is the job market. Many of these young professionals graduated right in the middle of the Great Recession, and intimately understand the challenges associated with finding and landing a job that allows them to pay the bills. This can be difficult in Portland, a place where the job market isn’t exactly booming. The Bureau of Labor Statistics measured Portland’s unemployment rate at a 6.1 percent, which is exactly on par with the national average. Meanwhile, the cost of living continues to rise.

However, it’s not impossible to make a livelihood in Oregon’s hipster haven. While traditional jobs may not be easy to find and secure, Portland’s unique culture may provide good opportunities for freelancers, independent contractors, and creative entrepreneurs.

Regardless of how you make money, everyone living in Portland needs to understand the tax implications of calling the city home. Oregon doesn’t impose a sales tax, and that can present some relief to a Millennial budget. But the state’s income tax rate for the highest income bracket is at 9.9 percent. In fact, the Tax Foundation states that in 2012, state and local income tax collections averaged to $1,500 per person. That’s the 5th highest in the nation.

One potential workaround? Live just across the river in Washington state, where there is no income tax at all. That’s like receiving an immediate 9.9 percent raise at work.

What to Do and Where to Go

Financial blogger Kathleen Celmins of Frugal Portland provided several great tips for Millennials interested in living in Portland. “Portland is a fun town with a ton to do,” she explains. “There are urban walks, great places to run, bicycle, and even hike.”

Celmins also listed off some of her go-to spots to grab a bite. “Some of my favorite restaurants include Tasty n Sons, Pok Pok, Sunshine Tavern, and Bamboo Sushi,” she says.

Need more suggestions? You can’t go wrong with exploring the landscapes and nature of the Pacific Northwest. With no sales tax, you can also enjoy some tariff-free shopping (Powell’s Books anyone?). And if you want to enjoy the night life, Portland has no shortage of clubs, comedy venues, and live shows to catch.

Is Living in Portland Right for You?

Quite frankly, Portland is a fun place to live. But potential Millennial residents should come armed with a plan for finding work — or working for themselves — as the job market isn’t exactly hopping, and, as mentioned, the tax situation can be funky, too. However, many members of Gen Y will be happy to pay that price for what they receive in exchange.

As Celmins put it, there’s a vibrancy in the town. Plus, there’s downright coolness infused into the culture. Let’s face it: You can’t be famous for slogans such as “Keep Portland Weird” without supporting an offbeat and unique vibe in your city.

“We are weird,” admits Celmins. “So if you’re weird, come visit! If you’re weird enough, move here!”

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Kali Hawlk is a financial writer and the marketing manager for XY Planning Network. She is passionate about helping others do more with their money, their careers, and their lives. You can find her on Twitter @KaliHawlk.