How Much Does a Working Professional Need to Retire in San Diego County?

By Brett Gottlieb

There are plenty of reasons why you fell in love with San Diego County. The stunning coastline and beaches, the mountainous state parks, and the vibrant cultural scene make San Diego County a choice destination for retirees who want to spend their golden years soaking up the California sun.

Before embarking on this dream, a key aspect of planning is considering how much you’ll need to retire confidently here. Let’s cover the costs you’ll need to account for along with a general retirement savings goal.

Cost of Living in San Diego County

There’s no getting around it—San Diego’s cost of living is notoriously high compared to other parts of the United States. The most recent data from RentCafe found that San Diego’s cost of living is 44% higher than the national average. Some categories contributing to this cost include housing, healthcare, transportation, utilities, and food.


At 123% of the national average, buying or renting in San Diego County is expensive. According to a May 2023 report from the San Diego Association of Realtors, the median price for a detached home in San Diego County cost $955,000 in 2023.

Renting isn’t much better with the average monthly rent coming in at $2,917. Of course, these housing prices could fluctuate depending on the neighborhood you live in and other market conditions. Overall, it’s better to plan your retirement expenses around a higher-end estimation.


Access to quality healthcare is vital during retirement, and as you continue to age, those costs can increase. San Diego’s healthcare costs are slightly above the national average. To better illustrate the common healthcare expenses you may encounter, the average cost of a doctor’s visit was $116.25.

A trip to the dentist averaged $118.33. Finally, an optometrist appointment cost an average of $126.18. If you have more complex medical needs, you’ll want to budget for much more in retirement. This may include the cost of long-term care, extended hospital stays, or prescriptions.


San Diego County’s public transportation system is relatively limited compared to other major cities, which means retirees may rely on a car to move throughout the area. If you’ve been living in San Diego County for a while, you’re probably familiar with high gas prices that average about $5.51 per gallon. You’ll also need to account for vehicle maintenance or even other forms of private transportation in your estimates.

Daily Expenses

Groceries, utilities, and entertainment expenses are 10% to 13% higher in San Diego County compared to the national average. These everyday expenses vary widely from household to household, but can quickly eat away at the overall budget for retirees.

Retirement Savings Target

A sky-high cost of living helps San Diego rank as the fourth most expensive major city to retire in by Business Insider. Their report estimates that a homeowner in San Diego would need an income of $137,826 annually. If you’re a renter, that’s slightly less at an annual income of $120,786.

For homeowners, that totals up to a retirement savings target of $3,445,650. Renters will still need over $3 million to retire ($3,019,650 to be exact). 

Social Security and Retirement Savings

Social Security may make up a good portion of your retirement income. The amount of Social Security received depends on an individual’s earnings history and the age at which they decide to claim benefits. Although it’s a healthy part of a retirement strategy, you won’t get to your target retirement income on Social Security benefits alone.

To meet your retirement income goals, build a robust retirement savings portfolio that capitalizes on the power of compound interest to grow your money. The most common options include:

  • Employer-sponsored 401(k)s
  • Individual retirement accounts (IRAs)
  • Roth IRAs

Making early, consistent contributions to your retirement savings accounts is an essential part of a strong retirement strategy. The returns you receive on your investments can propel you toward your retirement goals.

Plan to Retire in San Diego County

San Diego County offers a rewarding and vibrant community for retirees to plant their feet. However, the higher financial targets may present a challenge for some pre-retirees looking to uphold their current standard of living. While the amount you need to save is higher than average, it’s not impossible to reach.

To strengthen your retirement plan, it’s essential to work with a financial advisor who approaches retirement planning with a comprehensive strategy that helps you move closer toward your dream retirement. To find out how Comprehensive Advisor can help you plan for retirement in San Diego County, email us at or call (760) 813-2125.

About Our Advisors

Brett Gottlieb is the founder of Comprehensive Advisor and a financial advisor with nearly two decades of industry experience. He graduated from California State University-Chico with two bachelor’s degrees, in business administration and economics, and is Life Insurance licensed in several states. He is passionate about guiding his clients on retirement income planning, helping each client pursue their specific retirement goals, and defending the assets his clients have worked so hard to achieve. Brett is a California native and currently resides in San Elijo Hills with his beautiful wife and three children.

Our team of qualified professionals have experience in the financial service industry, and our advisors hail from some of the largest independent broker/dealers and banking institutions in the country. They have dedicated their professional careers to creating personalized financial solutions for individuals and families who seek successful retirement planning and currently offer investment advisory services through AE Wealth Management, LLC. Our advisors take a common-sense approach to the planning process and work with clients to create a retirement road map to help ensure their assets are protected and they receive the income needed to enjoy their future. Based in Carlsbad, California, they work with clients throughout San Diego County and beyond. Learn more by connecting with Brett on LinkedIn or email them at

Investment advisory products and services made available through AE Wealth Management, LLC (AEWM), a Registered Investment Advisor.  C.A. Financial & Insurance Services, CA Ins. Lic. #6000262. This material is intended to provide general information and is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal. Any references to protection benefits, safety, security, lifetime income, etc., generally refer to fixed insurance products, never securities or investment products. Insurance and annuity product guarantees are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company.  1924044- 8/23


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