There’s no doubt that the cost of living in Denver has skyrocketed. If you’re a millennial and you follow the financial tips the professionals give, what would it take to ‘do it right’ in Denver?
Before we begin, it should be noted that we’re going to be examining averages to achieve a general figure. We already know that you have a friend who does really well doing B2B sales for some start up and lives comfortably in LoHi. We also know that you have a friend who has a MBA from a good school, is intelligent, eloquent, and is working at a restaurant. With that said, let’s avoid becoming too pedantic and examine what it takes for your average college-educated millennial to live by themselves and do it “the right way” in Denver.
First, let’s define “the right way”. For the sake of the article, let’s divide your average monthly expenses into essentials, savings, and personal needs similar to how the popular 50/20/30 rule does. Essentially the rule advises you to allocate 50 percent of your net income to essentials – this includes housing, utilities, food, transportation, and insurance. Then 20 percent should go to savings and debt repayment, which includes student loans. The 30 percent is for your personal needs, including your cell phone, cable, internet, travel expenses, gym memberships, and dining out.
For this article, and the bourgeoisie sake, we’ll just determine what you need to make, just to barely cover these three categories in Denver and not necessarily what you need to fit them into the 50/20/30 percent constraints, otherwise that figure would be higher.
To keep things in proper order, let’s start with the essentials (again these are general figures). According to rentjungle.com the average cost of rent in Denver for a one bedroom apartment is $1,367 per month. Then your average Denver apartment utility bill – electric, heat, water, and garbage is measured at $116.52 per month. Add a moderate-cost food plan, which for males ages 19-50 is $298.00 per month and for females ages 19-50 is $254.10 – that’s according to the most recent Official USDA Food Plan: Cost of Food at Home U.S. Average. We’ll use the average of those two which is $276.05. Then let’s say that you get around day-to-day via RTD, even though it’s almost impossible not to have a car here, that’s $99 per month. Now, let’s tag on your health insurance, which for an employee enrolled in a group plan with a high deductible would be about $200 per month.
For “essentials” our total comes to: $2,058.57
Let’s take a look at saving. The average student leaves college with approximately $25,000 worth of debt. At 6.8 percent interest and a 10-year repayment plan that’s $280 per month. Then, if you wish to retire maintaining an income of today’s equivalent of $43,600 per year, Entrepreneur magazine says that a 25-year-old starting to save right now must save/invest $610.42 per month for the next 40 years.
That brings our “savings” total to: $890.42
Finally, let’s assume a reasonable “personal needs” spend. Say you elect to have internet, Xfinity’s basic plan starts at $39.99 per month. Add a very basic AT&T wireless plan, that’s $45 per month. Luckily, your apartment building has a gym you can use, so that removes gym membership fees. Then a few trips to your favorite local coffee shop is probably around $15, a basic trip to Target or other retail is a conservative $50, and two nights out at your favorite brewery is $40.
“Personal needs” – while very conservative – comes to $189.99
The overall total comes in at $3,138.98.
According to smartasset.com, to live this life in Denver, you need to make at least $51,000 per year. That doesn’t include any skiing, Red Rocks, car repair, car payments/insurance, eating out, a parking ticket, owning a pet, saving for a down payment on a house, saving for graduate school, buying a few new clothes every now and then, and most importantly paying for healthcare until your deductible is reached.
But let’s say you’re not ready to have kids, you don’t care about entertainment, you don’t want to buy a house, and you want to come to Denver for a few years to get in touch with your inner Ralph Waldo Emerson. Does 51k-plus per year sound obtainable in one of the best job markets in the country? It’s possible, but not probable. According to Andrew Hudson – the same Andrew Hudson from Andrew Hudson’s Jobs List – told the Westword on why it’s so hard, especially as a millennial, to live in Denver:
It’s been widely reported that the cost of living here is extremely high, and salaries aren’t matching what’s being paid in other parts of the country. Entry-level jobs, in terms of starting salaries, are coming in between $32,000 to $40,000. Those are about the same numbers I would see when I graduated in 1989. And mid-level jobs for people with five to ten years’ experience typically have starting salaries from $40,000 to $55,000. I’m hearing from people who have MBAs who are starting at that level.
He also notes that 70 percent of those searching his website currently have work, and
he he thinks they’re looking for better opportunities:
“I think the last recession had a big impact from the employer and employee standpoints,” he says. “We’re seeing that a lot of employees are jumping from one job to another more frequently. The tenure of people at one job used to be eight to ten years. Now it’s two to three years. That kind of job-hopping used to be a negative thing, but I think employers are settling into the idea that it’s okay or just the reality. Put it from a recent college graduate’s perspective: If they’re not moving up quickly enough or their salary isn’t increasing enough in a short period of time, they’re going to look for a position that will help them pay their bills.”
So, if you’re a millennial who is only a few years out of school, planning on going back, looking to buy a house or have kids, and lack a trust fund, then Denver may not be the place for you to build a strong financial base. As for the rest of us, we’ll have to keep driving for our choice ride-sharing company, asking our parents for money, and hope that someday we can pay our student debt and retire.
What do you think? Colorado is one of the most educated states in the country – do you think competition is letting companies pay lower wages? Are these ripples from the 2008 sub-prime snafu? Or a combination of both? We want to hear what you think! Let us know your thoughts or struggles in the comments below!