I grew up in Los Angeles so it’s delightful being back here. But it’s also one crazy ass city. Living in Los Angeles is a truly unique experience. It’s different worlds depending on which block you’re on.
I grew up in a wealthy suburb of Los Angeles, so I got to experience the best of LA. Later we moved to West LA, next to UCLA. So I’ve known LA for over 2 decades before moving to San Diego and Portland.
The city has changed the way you would expect it to. The fancy suburbs have gotten wealthier. And the downtown has seen many of its neighborhoods turned into fancy highrises.
Cost of Living
It’s expensive living in LA. But because of the income inequality, you can live on the in Los Angeles.
Over the years there has been a growing divide between the rich and the poor. As they say, the middle class is disappearing. This has forced cities to support the poor; or those who choose to live on less. Like yours truly.
Commuting and housing expenses are the most costly things when it comes to living in Los Angeles.
Another huge cost is the amount of time you lose commuting. I have friends who are on the road 3 hours per day, sometimes more.
And this lasts factor is harder to avoid than you think – lifestyle inflation. It’s so easy to get caught up living the fancy lifestyle when you’re living in LA.
Housing in Los Angeles
A few friends have bought $1m condos here in Downtown Los Angeles. These are 1-br or 2-br apartments with parkin and HOA’s in the $600/month range.
Property taxes on these condos can be as high as $1,000/month.
But you can find smaller studios in less desirable parts of downtown for $400,000-600,000. These will have high HOA fees as well but will still be in safe neighborhoods.
Single family homes are more expensive. They tend to be in far less safe neighborhoods or far out in the burbs. It’s fair to say that they are quite unaffordable for most Primary Care doctors.
Even though it’s Los Angeles, you can still get organic tomatoes, lettuce, beans, and potatoes for cheap.
If you’re willing to and have the time, cooking for yourself can save a lot of money.
It’s the dining out and shopping at Whole Foods or Sprouts that might break the bank.
A decent food truck burrito will cost me $15. A healthy prepped meal from the grocery store would be $10 for a tiny portion.
We’re coming up on winter and so the air quality is rather pleasant. It’s the end of November as of this writing.
But once summer hits living in LA can be unbearable. Not just hot but the air quality is absolute shit.
The clinic I’m working at has been using the A/C up until a couple of days ago. Which means you’re freezing your ass off in one exam room and sweating in the other.
The People of LA
I grew up living the fancy life in LA. I had expensive cars, expensive clothes, and would eat at fancy places. This, unfortunately, made me interact with the kind of people whom I don’t care for so much now. That was my own fault.
But I’m surprised to have met more ‘normal’ individuals in LA. People who don’t care much for living the fancy pants life. They just want to do what they enjoy and live a good quality life.
However, there are a lot of expensive cars, name dropping in conversations, designer clothes, etc. Just walking around Melrose or West LA for a few minutes will quickly remind you of that.
If you’re willing to work hard, living in LA can be the opportunity of a lifetime.
For a physician you can easily earn $150/hour doing Primary Care or Urgent Care. And there are tons of clinical settings to choose from.
Even better, if you’re thinking of starting your own medical practice, this is a great place to do it.
You can open a practice in Beverly Hills and pay a lot for your office space or you can open up shop in Lancaster and pay next to nothing for real estate.
I don’t enjoy the culture of LA but I love the variety of cultures you can experience here. From Little Tokyo, where I’m staying now, to Little Ethiopia and straight up Iran in Westwood.
But these experiences don’t come cheap. You’ll be commuting far to experience the incredible nightlife. And you’ll pay top dollar to dine at the ethnic restaurants.
It’s fair to say that unless you’re filthy rich, Los Angeles is a terrible place to retire in.
The traffic, the taxes, the air quality, tourism, and the constant change can wear you out.
Even if you own your home outright, property taxes and HOA dues will drain your bank account.
You are sort of locked into your particular neighborhood. That’s fine if you can afford retiring in Westwood or Palos Verdes but it’ll suck if you are in the Valley or Gardena.
People ignore the stress of living in LA. You’re constantly getting pulled in different directions in city like this.
There is a lot of pressure on you to live a certain way. You’re perpetually trying to avoid traffic and worrying about living expenses.
There is also a lot of stress you’ll feel from others. People are just stressed in this city. That’s very obvious. People are in a rush and you’ll interact with some very pissed off individuals.
The Patient Culture
The patient culture here is distinctly different.
The majority of us will interact with low-income patients. Many of whom don’t have the rosiest views of doctors and aren’t afraid to speak their mind.
Speaking Spanish as a doctor here is a rather necessary. And the patients are very sick. There is a ton of chronic disease and chronic pain to deal with.
Litigation is big here too. Not only is your malpractice expensive in California but you are going to deal with some very hungry lawyers.
Fortunately, when it comes to the state medical board, they have their hands full with the worst of the worst. So it’s not hard to fly under the radar as long as you don’t piss anyone off too much.
Accumulating Wealth in LA
What I loved about San Diego and Los Angeles is that they are ideal places to accumulate wealth in. In fact, California is one of the best places to accumulate wealth, if that’s what you’re truly after.
If you’re willing to live on the cheap in these cities, you can earn a very high hourly rate. Live close to work, pick up a lot of shifts, cut your expenses, and you can accumulate insane amounts of wealth.
I suspect, however, that once you build that life in a particular city it can be hard to leave it. So you’ll need a long-term plan so that you don’t grow too many roots there.
Household Spending in LA
I figure that I could get my spending as low as $3,000/month compared to another city like Portland.
I would rent a studio apartment in Downtown, pay for my gym membership, and take Uber everywhere.
I would need $500/month for healthy groceries and another $300 for entertainment.
The lowest householding spending I had was in Spain. And I can get it to as low as $1,500/month in Portland.