I’m living in Portland, Oregon at the moment. Previously, I lived in San Diego for 5 years, Los Angeles for 10, and Irvine for a few. Before the US, I lived in 2 other countries, one of them Germany.
I’ve been slowly making my way to Spain but it hasn’t been easy. Both times that I tried to move there, I got called back because of medical board drama. It’s been expensive, frustrating, and educational.
For now I’m back in the US and expect to be here for at least another year while I’m dealing with more medical board stuff. I’m not optimistic that things will get settled by 2019 so I need to consider my options while in the US.
What am I doing in Oregon? I love the city of Portland but it’s a very busy city and my medical license is no longer welcome here. We have among the highest state income taxes, lots of traffic, and a vibrant homeless community.
When it comes to taxes, I pay federal taxes regardless of where I am in the US and I pay state income taxes in whatever state my ass is in. It doesn’t matter if I earn the money from Washington or California, living in Portland means Oregon state income taxes.
Oregon state income taxes
Oregon’s state income taxes are about 9.0% and go as high as 9.9% for income above $125,000. On par with Cali.
It makes sense to pay this money if I had a need to live in this state or if I had investments here which I needed to babysit. Other than the condo, I don’t own anything physical here.
I have to ask myself, what am I getting for 9% – or ~$7,000/year?
Is it worth it to live here for nearly $600/month?
There is a lot of value in Portland. It’s a great place for the young to retire.
Great public transportation. From buses to light rail to Amtrak. There is ride sharing and bike sharing and car sharing. Owning a car here isn’t even a luxury, it’s a nuisance.
It’s a very safe city. Violent crime is minimal and when it happens, it’s out in the hood. I can walk around safely at night, any time of the night. I’ve been mugged twice in LA in brought daylight, but not yet in Portland.
It’s a very bike friendly city. Lots of designated bike lanes with drivers who are aware of cyclists.
The people of Portland are rather progressive and friendly. It’s easy, very easy, to make friends here.
I happen to love the weather, though I know it’s not sunny enough for many and too rainy for the rest. It’s nearly the end of December and it’s a 54 degrees crisp cool morning with some sunlight poking through.
Entertainment is cheap here and people tend to want to enjoy life instead of working their asses off. A dive bar for a $4 beer or a $4 movie with friends is good enough for the local barista as well as the high-income physician.
Portland has changed
The past 2 years our homeless population has been neglected. Homeless camps and needles everywhere. Human shit on top of dog shit.
Traffic has exponentially increased.
There is an active construction going on every few blocks, which brings lots of construction trucks, noise, and pollution to the city.
Dive bars are disappearing and LA-style cougar bars are replacing them.
Washington – the cheap neighbor
Above Oregon, there is Washington. It’s a 10-mile or 1-hour bike ride away from downtown Portland.
State income taxes in Washington are 0%. Capital gains taxes, for when I’m retired, are also at 0%.
It would make more sense for me to have a physical address in Washington so that I can avoid state income taxes in Oregon. That’s a guaranteed $600/month raise.
For a full-time physician, it would be a $20,000/year raise.
Other states to consider
I can consider other states with no state income taxes:
- South Dakota
It isn’t all about taxes but each state in essence is a business and tries to entice tax-paying customers.
Texas is too crowded but Nevada is a good option.
Florida isn’t too bad either. But the cost of living there is jumping up quickly. Jacksonville is an up and coming city from my research.
I bought my condo in 2015 thinking that I wanted to retire early and live off of my investments. The purchase was meant to curb my housing spending. But that hasn’t worked out exactly as I planned it.
This post highlights my housing options back in 2015.
In hindsight, buying my primary residence wasn’t the best financial decision. I still have plenty of ongoing expenses such as HOA dues, property taxes, insurance, and property maintenance.
Additionally, real estate is rather illiquid.
I can cash out my index funds overnight. I can get to my CD’s in a jiffy. But the condo is a tougher asset to turn into cash.
This particular condo would make for a decent rental but the idea of being a landlord, the headache of it, it’s not something I’m crazy about.
Leaving Portland Oregon
I don’t have kids. No pets. No significant other. 3 plants – one of which probably won’t see the new year. ⚰️
As for possessions, I have a full-size metal bed, a light sofa, and one suitcase of clothes. Leaving Portland Oregon won’t be complicated in practice.
I only got the fancy sofa & bed because I was dating at the time. I stopped that nonsense a while back so I’m happy to go back to a mattress and a couple of thrift store chairs.
Being a tenant isn’t completely headache-free. Still, it’s easier being a tenant than a homeowner.
I’ve been a landlord 2x, homeowner 3x, and renter 9x.
I can move to any of the above no-income tax states and find a place for rent in the $700/month range.
I would have to figure out if it’s best to rent out my condo in Portland or just cash it out. My financial advisor has done the math for me, so it’s mostly a ventricular decision now.
I’m also waiting to see what California will decide in regards to my medical license before leaving Portland Oregon for another state.
If they decide to terminate my medical license, OR and WA will likely do the same.
As it is, I’m not employable due to my medical license suspension history. With a termination, I’d become leprosy boy. That scenario would suck but would ironically allow me to earn a decent unemployment income.
Unemployment income is state specific and if I’m gonna milk the system then I’m gonna do it in luxury. Some states pay more than others.
Being unemployed comes with many other perks too. Topic for another post.
There is a reason why I’ve written about unemployment, FMLA, and disability. Too many medical professionals get fucked over by the system and are too conscientious to take advantage of the same system which fucked them over.
I’ll keep fighting this medical board stuff out of pocket, by hiring lawyers in each state. But I have a limit to how much I’m willing to spend.
In the end, should the decision be unfavorable, I’m comfortable exercising my rights as a citizen.
That’s the most I can say about that, for now.
Emotional attachments to states
A lot of our emotional attachments to certain cities, states, and countries don’t stem from a healthy reciprocal relationship with that locale. Much like a jaded married couple, we stay out of habit.
A part of us is afraid to start over new somewhere else or with someone else. Another part doesn’t want to leave behind the friends we have.
Change is fun
It can be exciting moving to a new city. You make new friends, learn new things, and new opportunities arise.
And yes, it’s nice living in a beach town or near a mountain resort. The problem is that others have the same idea. They’ll move there even if they don’t have the means and live unsustainably for 2-3 years before needing to leave broke.
Those spendy transients will party away those few years while driving up rent and entertainment costs for locals. Traffic increases, waste increases… you get the idea.
The right place for the right time
San Diego was perfect for me back when I was working overtime. I was able to earn a lot of overtime. In fact, I would pay other physicians money to buy their shifts. That’s how I earned $430k at Kaiser as an urgent care doctor.
Portland Oregon was great when I was winding down my career. I was able to go carless and save on living expenses. Entertainment was cheaper and the people far nicer.
Spain has been my ideal place now that I’m retired. It’s a cheap place to live with lots of opportunity for growth and entrepreneurship. Health insurance, housing, transportation, and food are all cheap.
Capitalizing on your location and choosing the best place to live during each phase of your life can make life easier and living cheaper.