I would have guessed that the average income for families in Hawaii was higher. It does make sense why everyone is griping about how expensive everything is – when the average is pretty low in comparison with the prices for everything.

It’s safe to say, at these income levels – you need A+ credit to buy a home in Hawaii – well, anywhere but Big Island where they are actually still affordable!

From Census data, Honolulu Magazine (HonoluluMagazine.com) made some lovely charts full of interesting demographic information about how people in Hawaii live, and who they are.

Now, what they didn’t say was exactly how the US Census takers qualified these totals. Household income – loosely defined, could be taken to mean everyone’s income in a house. We all know that mother, father, adult kids, and grandkids live in the same house often times because housing is just so expensive. If the chart above was just husband and wife and included singles as well – that would make sense, but if it includes everyone – more than 2 adults at the most – that’s really saying something.

$75K per year for two people is $37,500 each. Twelve thousand of that goes to taxes from each – which leaves $25K each, $50K total for two people. That isn’t so great at all.

Fully 1/4th of all households are pulling less than $35,000 per year in income. That’s plain unlivable.

I really think that anything over $50K per person is ‘enough’ to live in Hawaii  – any island. If you’re making any less than that you’re going to be too stressed that you aren’t making enough. My most recent stay in Hawaii had me racking up $800 in food bills per month, and that didn’t include nights out drinking – just food!

Even if you’re staying in a studio in Waikiki, you’ll be paying $1,000-$1,400 per month (as of 2016) just for that. Want 1 bedroom? Pay $1,200-$2,300. Keep in mind that the low-end of these prices are for “bottom of the barrel” type quality. You’ll want something in the middle. Want a roof-top pool and barbecue area in your building? We had this on Hobron Lane – 400 Hobron, if you want to look it up – amazing rooftop pool area. But it will cost you dearly as those kinds of amenities demand the highest ranges of rents.

Every time we went to the grocery behind Ala Moana shopping center we shelled out $200+ for our groceries. In Pennsylvania, where I grew up, you could fill the back of a truck for that! In Hawaii? You might get 5-6 bags if you’re lucky. I remember going to the fresh fish shop on Maui in Honokowai and paying $50-70 per trip there for some tuna, swordfish, and shrimp. It’s THAT bad – really! Who can go without fresh fish though? You gotta pay the price!

Car insurance, car payment, health insurance payment, kids’ private school costs, personal taxes, emergency costs, going out costs… all of these add up to eat up your entire paycheck if you’re making under $50,000 per year.

Life is what you make it – and life in Hawaii can be done at less than $50,000 per year in personal income, but I wouldn’t really recommend it unless you are ready to live VERY frugally and without some of the perks that others have. There are people that can do it on even $30,000 income per year. I’ve seen them do it. They don’t eat well, and they don’t do anything at night. Some are happy that way, and others tolerate it for a while before they move back to the mainland and raise their standard of living back up to what they are comfortable with.

Your standard of living is kind of built into you. You were raised in a certain standard – and that usually becomes someone’s minimum they are willing to go down to.  If you made $70,000 back in the mainland – in a town like Gibson City, Illinois – you could have whatever you wanted. Move to Hawaii and it’s like you’re making $40,000. You have about the same amount of spending power.

Think hard about moving to Hawaii – can you live on less so you actually have some savings at the end of the month? Should you spend the next year before you move to Hawaii so you can learn skills that will help you get a better job? Should you start an internet business that provides residual income in addition to what you make at a regular job, working 8 hours per day? Should you sell your car and get a bike in Hawaii?

There are so many questions… so many ways to make it work if you really want to make it work. Don’t take your move to the Hawaiian islands lightly. Consider money very carefully, especially if you have a family relying on you.

Best of luck and life!